Friday, September 30, 2011

Winding Stairish Loop

Oh, it's getting dark earlier now. Before long there won't be enough time for these afternoon road rides any more. It'll be night rides or nothing. To get ready for all that, me and Tim headed up for a Winding Stairish loop this afternoon, with a few diversions.

The weather was cool, especially up on the north side of the ridge.


I haven't felt genuinely cool weather in a while. I almost forgot what it's like. Actually, there's no almost, I did forget what it's like. In a month I'll probably forget what warm weather is like too and when we get an 80 degree heat wave I'll be crying.

One of our diversions led us down by Edmonson Pond. From the road, unless you knew a pond was there you wouldn't know a pond was there and I insisted on running up in the woods to check it out.

My god!

 Edmonson Pond

When I first moved to Georgia, the edge of the pond extended right up to the road. Beavers have been attacking it every year though with row after row of dams and the edge has moved further and further back. Somewhere in this blog I have a photo of it from a year or two ago and it was at least 3 times as big. Today it was all shrunk up and only 4 or 5 inches deep. We could see the bottom all the way across. Wild!

As I understand it... A dam, whether produced by man or beaver, is like a big, abrupt water bar. When the creek flows into the pond behind it, the water slows down and drops any sediment it's carrying. A muddy slope forms along the bottom, deep at the dam and tapering up toward the head end. When the pond fills in to 2 feet of depth, which almost always occurs at the head end first, plants start to grow and catch even more sediment. Then it REALLY starts to fill in. As such, man-made lakes have a known lifespan and fill up quickly near the end of it. For a little pond, all you can do is dredge it. Big lakes have a small silt pond at the head end to catch everything and they just dredge that instead of the whole lake.

With beavers on the left and siltation on the right, I'd bet in another year this one will be a creek again, or at least a swamp. They'll have to change the signage to Edmonson Swamp.

Climbing back up to Hightower Gap (or Etowah Gap as I recently discovered it might be more correctly called) our toes got cold. Tim thought his were getting numb from the effort, but no, it was actual cold. What is this "cold" I keep experiencing anyway? How does it work? I have no memory of this thing.

Another diversion shredded my arm with briars.


It looks worse than it is. Thorns must have some kind of anti-coagulant on them or maybe they're just really sharp. Whatever it is, you bleeeeed.

We barely got back to the car before dark. Actually, I'll back up on that. It was dark when we got back to the car, but not so dark that we couldn't see. We barely got back to the car with enough light to still be able to see. Time to start carrying lights I guess.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sawnee Mountain

For our walk today, Kathryn wanted to tackle Sawnee Mountain again. It's been years since she's been there and a while for me too. So long, in fact, that the interpretive center had just been built when I was there the last time and wasn't even open but today we parked there and even walked through to get to the trail.

 Sawnee Mountain Interpretive Center Building

Inside, there was an amazing set of photos of the piedmont to the north from the top of the mountain. The first was from 1927 and the second from the past year or so. The photo mentioned something like "this is what it looked like before all the development" but what struck me was how completely cleared of trees it was back then. It was just tilled fields as far as the eye could see with only tiny little rows of trees between them. Yeah, there are neighborhoods there now but there are also large tracts of woods. I wonder which is better for the land.

We climbed up to the Indian Seats. It's really steep and Kathryn was feeling the burn.

It looked different up top than I remembered. There were scrubby little pines growing all over and big areas were cordoned off with orange fencing and somebody had cleared the ground of debris inside the fence. I'm guessing the idea is to get more of those little pines to grow between the official trails. The soil up there is really thin and it barely covers decomposed granite. Barely any traffic wears away the soil and the crumbly granite is like walking on marbles. I'd noticed in the past that people kind of walked all over the place and the clearing was growing and growing. I guess they've been managing that though. There are distinct little trails now and dense clumps of pine everywhere else.

We sat in the Indian Seats and looked out over "The Whole World"...

 The Whole World

...while The Whole World looked back at us too.

 Me and Kathryn

When Kathryn's calves recovered we hiked back down. I always contend that a down hike walk down is just as bad, but Kathryn had an easier time coming down because it required less cardio. I forget about the cardio aspect sometimes.

It was cool to get back up on Sawnee Mountain. It's the first real outdoor place I ever took the kids and we got so burnt out on it, but it's all new again. I'll have to go back with them sometime soon too.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Roswell Riverside Trail and Vickery Creek

Not knowing how crippled I'd be after Jackrabbit, I didn't make any specific plans for this Sunday. It turned out all right though. I slept in till noon, but other than that, everything was fine. My almost-teenage daughter even slept in later than me, so hah!

We wanted to do something but none of us felt like being in the woods, or for that matter, the mountains. We ended up in Roswell, on the Roswell Riverside Trail. It was a dead flat, 8 mile out-and-back. Good enough.

The Iz:


The Gerch:


We ride!

 Ride Out

The trail ran through a bunch of parks and one of them had a little pier that led out into the river. The Chattahoochee looks a lot different in Roswell than up by my end of the world.


After going under some really tall bridge the trail became gravel and went for another mile or two before dead ending anonymously.

 Gravel Section

There was a side loop out that way too but we decided to come back for it another day.

The return trip went by quickly and when we got back, we played in the park for a while. There was a boat ramp and we walked around down by the river.

 Lots of Geese  Girls by the River

Sophie swung on the swings.

 Sophie Swinging

A lady rode up with low tires on her bike and I pumped them up for her.

That was about it for the Riverside Trail. We headed back toward the house.

In downtown Roswell I remembered wanting to check out "The Old Mill" and we had plenty of time so we stopped by. The mill itself dates back to the late 1800's. The main building has been turned into shops but the machine shop still stands as it originally did, only boarded up.

 Old Mill Machine Shop

They'd also build a covered bridge across the creek (Big Creek, AKA Vickery Creek), but that was done in 2004.

 Covered Bridge

There were apparently several dams across the creek at different times too, one on a shoal right below the bridge.

 Big/Vickery Creek

There are a bunch of old buildings and trails and all kinds of stuff there. We'll have to go back and check it all out some day. One more destination for the list.

We ate at Diesel on the way home. I'd seen it a few times before and it looked cool. The food was OK. Not outstanding and more expensive than good, but it got the job done. There was a guy playing acoustic guitar too and he played a bunch of good songs, so we dug that.

I did learn something, or rather had an epiphany about some really obscure information that no one will care about except me but I'm going to write it down anyway. There's this gap in the mountains called Hightower Gap and a creek that flows down from it called Hightower Creek. I read somewhere that Hightower is believed to be a mispronunciation of the Cherokee word Itowa meaning town though there is no evidence that there was ever a town up there. I assumed that the gap got that name because from it you could see various towns in the Piedmont. Back in the day, the closest was Two Run and further off, Dahlonega and you can still see all kinds of towns from up there, especially at night in the winter when the lights stand out and there are no leaves on the trees. Today I read several interpretive signs along the Riverside Trail describing the Cherokee Nation and the fate of the Cherokee people. One mentions that the "Etowah Trail (Hightower Trail)" formed the border of the Nation... Wait! Hold up! The creek that originates below Hightower Gap (Hightower Creek) becomes the Etowah River right above Camp Merrill. Is Etowah really pronounced "Itowa"? Should Hightower Gap and Hightower Creek really be Etowah Gap and Etowah Creek? That would really make sense but I've never read anything like that anywhere, and I've looked harder than you might think for info about that area. Am I the only one who's figured this out or is it really common knowledge and I'm just really late to the party? Well, whatever the case, that was my epiphany today. You learn something new every day, and it was weird that I ran into this little tid bit, probably 100 miles away from the gap and creek in question. Crazy.

Jackrabbit 6 Hour

Jackrabbit is probably my favorite trail to race on. It's long and fast and swoopy. It's not especially technical overall but there are a few technical sections. There's actually quite a lot of climbing, but you just roll right through it. There's only one climb that you have to really sit back on and you're rewarded with a beautiful view at the top. As one might expect, I'd been looking forward to the race for weeks.

My bike was even working reasonably well. I'd finally replaced my busted pedals, though that operation was a little anticlimactic. The new ones work great but they're noticeably heavier than the old, despite just being 2011 versions of the same pedals. I'd fixed the slipping rear derailleur cable last weekend too. The Rolling Junk show was substantially less junky than usual and again, as one might expect, I was looking forward to riding it.

I didn't get as much mid-week riding as I wanted, but I did get plenty of sleep...

My Outback was back from the shop so no more chucking the bike in the trunk of the rental...

Tim texted me Thursday night, wanting to carpool, so I'd even have good company on the way up and back...

 Bikes on the Roof

Glory was inevitable.

For some reason, Google wanted me to go through Ellijay and Blue Ridge to get to Hiawassee. I guess you can go that way but it seemed crazy so we went through Helen instead.

We stopped at Chik-fil-a in Dawsonville for a chicken biscuit and again at McDonalds in Hiawassee to go to the bathroom. At McDonalds we got the most hateful staredown of all time through the window from some older guy in McDonalds. And it wasn't just me misreading the guy, ask Tim. I should have taken a photo. I know the look and I've heard the words that go with it a dozen times, all over North Georgia: "God damned bikers." Actually, who knows, he could have been pissed that his coffee was bad or his arthritis was acting up or any number of things. It's just... when you've seen that exact look and heard that exact phrase follow it, over and over, it's hard to imagine it meaning anything else. I might just need to update my imagination though. I hope that's the case.

We got to Jackrabbit at 8 AM. Technically the sun was up but you couldn't really see it.

 Foggy Mountains

The race started at 10 so we had plenty of time to get set up. We'd parked right across from the South Georgia Cycling boys and pitted with them. The line was short at registration. I was set up, kitted up and ready to roll at about 8:45. Most of the riders hadn't even arrived yet.

I rode around for a while, hoping to make up for the lack of mid-week activity with a long warmup. Tim had rebuilt his entire bike the night before and needed to shake it down so he didn't screw around either.

Tim, not screwing around:


When I got back it seemed like there were twice as many tents in the pits. Some tough competition had arrived. Josh Fix and David Sagat were guaranteed to take the top two spots. Mark Johnson was likely to crush me again. Chris Brown showed up too. I keep being surprised to see him, but he's ridden most of the series and most of last year's too, so I guess I shouldn't be. He was doing the 9 hour though so I didn't have to worry about him. Still, there were so many strong riders rolling around. Perhaps glory wasn't as inevitable as I'd been thinking earlier.

I ran into Matt Kicklighter and he told me all about the Ironman he and Becky had signed up for. It's conceivable that I have the cardio for something like that, but if I didn't drown on the swim, my toenails would fall off on the run. I'll have to leave that to them for now.



I was legitimately surprised to see her. I think the last time I saw her was at one of these things last year and before that was the year before, randomly at Oak Mountain. She's great, I miss riding with her. She's also absurdly fast. I need to email her and see if she wants to ride some Georgia trails this winter.

We lined up down the road just like last year and just like last year, the start was incredibly fast. We had a half mile or so of road to spread everyone out. The course was backwards from last year, I knew there wouldn't be any tough climbing for a while, I figured I'd be bound up in traffic as soon as we hit the singletrack, so I buried myself on the road to get up to the front.

Lap 1:

Yep, flattish trail for a while. I was bound up in traffic but we were fighter-jetting through the woods at incredible speeds. I can't overstate how fun these trails are at race pace, following other fast riders. A hollywood-style fighter jet dogfight is the only worthy analogy. You're just flying, banking hard, climbing and diving and pushing the envelope to hold on to the rider ahead of you. If I ever get to where I can't do it any more, it's the kind of thing I'm going to remember fondly.

I got pretty thirsty before there was a chance to drink, downed about a third of my bottle right there, fumbled trying to put it back in the cage and dropped it.

Not a minute later I inhaled a bug and it would have really been great to have something to drink after coughing it back up.

I got by 5 or 6 riders but about 2/3rds of the way around I had to pee so badly that I just had to stop and go. I finished two seconds to late to get out ahead of the chase group and about 20 guys rode right past me. I barely caught half of them by the end of the lap.

The lap was 10.1 miles, substantially longer than every other course this year, but it went by so fast, I could tell it would be a 7 lap day, even without looking at the clock.

In the pits, I grabbed a new bottle and some Clif Blocks. I was trying something new. A few races back, at Blankets, I realized I didn't need as much salt as I'd been taking. I confirmed this at Tribble Mill by just taking less. For Jackrabbit, I went with the margarita flavored Clif Blocks, which have a bunch of salt in them and passed on the Enduralytes entirely. Would it work? No idea, but I gave it a try.

Lap 2:

My bottle was still lying there just off trail. I planned on picking it up during a later lap when I was moving slow anyway.

I still had energy for days but ended up riding almost entirely by myself that lap.

The chamois in my club kit has this high-tech gel inner layer but it has a fatal flaw. I'm sure it's fine if you only ride on the road, but off-road you gerch around so much, the gel tears and randomly folds back on itself. If you put it in the wash, it straightens itself out and it only does the weird fold-over thing every 3 rides or so. My other club bib is at the shop, back from being warrantied for the same issue. I have a third one but the club bib fits so well that I almost hate riding the third one any more. I gambled, rode the club bib and lost. During the second lap it folded over and no amount of picking at it did anything. The padding on my right butt was now double-thick. For the duration of lap two it was uncomfortable but it didn't affect the ride too much.

In fact, I kept forgetting that I was racing altogether and probably made some minor strategic errors; riding a skinny, pushing hard on a downhill or two, and so forth. I didn't care though, it was so much fun. There was a guy out there taking photos and I'm sure I have a big grin on my face in all of them.

Lap 3:

I still had crazy energy for lap 3. My bottle was still there. Travis Fowler got on my wheel early in the lap and just sat on. He's another one of those murderously strong riders, but fortunately he was doing the 9 hour and was happy to just sit on. Nothing notable happened during that lap except that the extra pressure from the double-thick chamois began to hurt and burn and there was no position that didn't hurt other than standing.

Lap 4:

My stray bottle was gone. Maybe someone picked it up.

I still had energy but my legs needed a little rest so I sat up for the first half of the lap.

Travis was still on my wheel. Carebear passed me with authority. He's really fast this year. About half way around there's a tough, technical climb, followed by a tricky, technical descent. I managed to catch back up on the downhill and sit on his wheel for most of the rest of the lap. There's some magic that happens when you're riding with someone else and it's not drafting. Drafting doesn't matter much in the woods. At least that's what I've always believed. Maybe it is drafting though. I don't know. All I know is that I couldn't have dropped Travis on my own but the two of us pulled away easily. It seemed like Carebear was fading but he's crafty and I didn't trust it. He might have been resting up, knowing there's no good place for me to pass. He might have been goading me into an attack and then counter so hard that I'd give up the chase outright. You've got to worry about that kind of thing with him. He's crafty.

I was worried but it was moot because, dangit, I had to pee again. Eventually it was so bad that I just had to stop. I had to stop and pee no fewer than 4 times during this race. It was terrible. What the heck?

Travis passed me. I recaught him later but Mark was gone for good.

I didn't notice my right butt pain while riding with Mark but it came right back when I was by myself again.

Lap 5:

My bottle was still gone, I didn't just miss it last time. I still had ridiculous energy and my legs felt great from that little rest I'd gotten on the last lap. A train of riders were walking the steep climb. Four of them let me by but the fifth didn't want to. I asked him twice and finally he just stopped and looked at me with contempt. I sneaked by but it wasn't the most courteous pass.

The right butt pain became excruciating.

Travis caught me again.

Lap 6:

I'd mixed a couple of my bottles a little weaker than the others and it caught up to me on Lap 6. I had a rough time of the first few miles but recovered completely before the tough climb.

I saw a big Black King Snake on that climb too. It was thinking about crossing the trail but drew back suddenly and turned back uphill when it saw me coming. At first I thought it was an Eastern King but it lacked the distinctive pattern. It definitely wasn't a rat snake or a black racer, it's head melded too cleanly into its body to be one of them and it had a dotty margin between the black of it's upper body and white of it's belly. It's funny, I saw a black rat snake on that same section of trail last year but it went for it rather than turning back and I had to do a trackstand to let it by.

I'd gotten ahead of Travis in the pits but he caught me and I never saw him again.

The right butt pain had apparently hit some maximum level and transitioned into numbness. If I slapped and kneaded it, the pain would return but then it would go numb again in a minute or two.

Lap 7:

I had just over an hour left, it had taken me less than an hour to ride lap 6 and I felt way better than I did starting lap 6. No problem. Unless something broke, I had plenty of time.

I put it down as hard as I could and caught a dozen or more riders but I don't think any of them were in my class.


The SGC crew was already done and I kicked back with them for a while.

 Bill and Josh  Mitch

Tim came off the course a few minutes after me.

I ended up with 10th. Out of 13. Yeah. The craziest part is that I probably rode the race of my life. If I hadn't had to pee and hadn't had such a rough 6th lap, I might have gotten one place better. The rest of the field was just that good.

Bill Riddle said that he was in a train of riders and the leader got sideswiped by a deer. I see deer all the time. At most trails, they are so habituated to bikes, they have zero fear and I've had to wait for them to cross the trail before. I guess it was just a matter of time before somebody got whacked. Crazy.

Everybody I know did well.

Clydesdale: Mark D in 2nd and Bill Riddle in 1st...

 Mark 2nd Bill 1st Clydesdale

Single Speed: Tim Winters in 2nd...

 Tim 2nd SS

Women: Ursula in 3rd...

 Ursula 3rd

Expert: Josh Fix in 1st and David Sagat in 2nd...

 Josh 1st David 2nd Expert

Mitch even got 5th in beginner. Mark Johnson beat me by 2 places in expert.

Me and Tim grabbed some Mexican food at El Cabana in Helen. I called Clark but he wasn't around.

We took the scenic route home, through Gainesville. It was Norma's birthday so we stopped by for an hour or so to eat some cake and listen to some stories. They'd recently ridden the TNGA route from west to east and they'd had all kinds of adventures. She got a new Subaru Forester too and Johnny's going to sell a couple of cars, his motorcycle and a couple of bikes to buy another one for himself. Niiice.

Ok, so the margarita Clif Blocks worked well. Good show there. My bib needs some surgery though. I'm going to rip the gel out of my chamois here in the next day or so. Hopefully I can just ride it like that. We'll see. I also realized that I need to put my seat further back and maybe get a longer stem and drop it a little bit too. My legs or lungs are usually the limiting factors but this time it was my lower back and neck/upper-back region. They were tired and sore and constantly needed to be stretched out. I've noticed the same thing on a few long rides recently. On my road bike, my posture is more stretched out and I don't get it at all.

The next race in the series is at Oak Mountain. That should be a heck of a ride too, but I'm not sure if I'll be doing it or not. The Cross Florida Independent Time Trial is the same weekend and it is oh-so enticing. It follows much of the same route as the Huracan 300 and I have unfinished business on that route. I'll have to look at the series points when they're posted and go from there. I doubt I can place, but if I can, it might be worth it to ride Oak Mountain.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Big Trees

Kathryn and I have been taking walks around our neighborhood just about every day for the past few weeks. She's been wanting to get back in shape and I'm almost always up for a ride or a walk.

She's fit enough to walk all over our neighborhood now, so today I suggested we go walk somewhere else. I used to see this place called Big Trees on the way to work every day. I always wanted to check it out, but I never had the time before or after work and there aren't enough miles there to make it worthwhile as a weekend outing with the kids so I kept kicking it back to the end of my list. Today seemed like an ideal opportunity to get out there though, so we went for it.

 Kathryn at Big Trees

Google said it would take about 25 minutes to get there, but I should have studied the suggested route rather than just following the route I used to take to work. It ended up taking about 35 minutes, due to both traffic and a wrong turn at a new traffic circle on Warsaw Road. Ugh. Don't trust me to get you anywhere.

Despite being off Roswell Road, in Sandy Springs, effectively in the middle of town, Big Trees was alleged to be a "visual, mental and spiritual oasis." The entrance to the trails was definitely all cute and woodsy.

 Big Trees Entrance

And after the first hundred yards of pavement, it began to deliver pretty well on that allegation.

The trail system did turn out to be a bit of a maze though and while just about every intersection is marked, the signs can be confusing. For example, the same trail may be marked differently on each end. We suspected that maybe in some places the signs refer to the trail and in others to a route that you can take which includes several trails, but it was very confusing. I think it would have helped if I'd been able to download a map from the Big Trees website ahead of time but the link was dead.

Adversity notwithstanding, we managed to explore just about every inch of trail out there. Given that there were only about 2 miles to be explored, it took less than an hour, including a couple of stops to take in the sights.

Kathryn wants to come back and take photos of the girls here soon.

 Beech Hollow Creek  Roswell Road Bridge

There were some interesting rock outcroppings but no "cliffs" as the website suggested there would be.

 Rock Outcropping on Backcountry Trail

The rubble along this creek looked cool from across the draw. It turned out to be man-made but it still fit in very naturally.

 Spring Hollow Creek

On the way out we noticed this odd daddy-long-legs. He had stripey legs and a strangely shaped body.

 Whip Scorpion


It was a perfect walk. Not too long, not too far away, just the right amount of both for a mid-day diversion. The only minor disappointment was that on the way out we passed by at least 5 interesting local restaurants but we didn't have enough time, or money to eat at any of them. Maybe next time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ellijay Big Loop

My brother texted me yesterday, asking me if I wanted to ride at Bear Creek. We back-and-forthed a bit but it was really late when I finally got a when and where to meet him. Between having taken a nap earlier that day and having to stay up late to put a comforter in the dryer, I got over-tired, tossed and turned all night and got exactly zero seconds of sleep. I've been up late most days this week too, so I couldn't count on that got-good-sleep-2-nights-ago thing either. When the alarm went off, I stumbled around the house and eventually around town. It took most of the ride to Ellijay before my head felt right. Sometimes I can snap out of it but sometimes it just ends up being a long day. I was hoping for the former.

I met my bro on Gates Chapel Road and the first thing I noticed was that the brush along the road had grown into and 20 foot tall stand of Poplar since the last time I'd parked there. Had it really been that long? It seems like I've ridden up that way a dozen times over the past few years, but I guess I was always parked at Mulberry Gap or riding it as part of the TNGA. We were thinking back even. The last time we were both there together, we'd watched a pair of turkeys walk across the adjacent field with a brood of little turkey babies. That would have been impossible today.

Independent of the local foliage, we had a ride to get done and we hit the road quickly.

The weather was perfect. Blue sky, mid 60's, cool but not cold. Perfect.

It was an easy spin up to the Bear Creek Trailhead. I was feeling the lack of sleep but it wasn't killing me. I had it. Sometimes it's like that for a couple of hours though, then bam! Dead. I was encouraged but I wasn't confident yet.

At Tribble Mill a few weeks back, I'd had trouble with my rear derailleur. I'd forgotten about it, but as we pulled onto the Bear Creek Trail proper, it reared it's head again. I'd thought the cable might be frayed but it turned out that the cable had just slipped in the clamp. It took 5 minutes to diagnose and fix but it didn't give me any trouble after that.

John kind of pulled away a bit on Pinhoti 1.

 John on P1

I just didn't have much when it got sufficiently steep. The lack of sleep was a factor, but I was also having trouble with my right pedal. There was too much play in the spring and my foot kept popping out. I even have a new set but once again, I forgot to change them. Come on! It was manageable but it had to be managed.

The climbs on P2 aren't as steep and it was easier to keep up.

 John on P2

The descent on P2 delivered, as usual, retaining it's spot as my favorite downhill in the area. The frere kept pulling away from me though. Nobody can catch him on good descent these days. Maybe Chris Brown. Nobody else that I know. I'm not sure if he's faster now or I'm slower. Either way, I had to put it down on the climbs to keep him in sight.

We hung a right on Conasauga Road and rolled past Mulberry Gap. Having spent a few days up there recently, it felt weird not to stop. If we rolled up in there though, we'd probably end up sitting down and eating something and talking to people for an hour. As great as that would be, we had a long way to go, we were feeling good and we really wanted to keep moving.

The run along Holly Creek was gorgeous. I wish I could have gotten a better photo of it.

 Holly Creek

John showed me two different swimming holes that he'd been to before. We declined today. It was warmer that when we started but it's got to be in the 90's for a swim in a North Georgia creek.

On CCC Camp road we were treated to some scenic views of Fort Mountain and the northern ring of the Cohuttas.

 Fort Mountain

So far it has been easy and fun, and I hadn't hit the wall. The tough part was coming though. I wasn't exactly worried but it definitely kept coming to mind.

We hung a left on 208 and rolled up to the Windy Gap Lot. John took a few minutes to stretch. I took a few minutes to use the facilities. There were a couple of trucks in the lot. On had a sticker on the back glass indicating that its owner was a bow hunter. It's bow season now. I usually stay out of the woods for the first week of each major season altogether and out of the woods until after 10 AM for the rest of the season. It's past the first week now though and it was way past 10 AM. I figured we might see them on the way out.

The climb up lower Windy Gap was tough but not as tough as I remembered. For a while I even had it in the middle ring.

We passed through a section that's recovering from some old tornado damage and it yielded a great view of Fort Mountain and the Mill Creek Valley.

 View From Windy Gap Trail

Eventually I had to abandon the middle ring and my bro pulled ahead for a while, but he pushed it too hard and I caught him just short of Milma. Haha! Sometimes the turtle wins the race.

We did pass a guy and his son on an ATV, heading back from an apparently unsuccessful hunt. I don't imagine this will be good year for deer. There's been a coyote explosion and they've been preying on fawns. I even saw a photo of a coyote carrying one off on the cover of this month's Georgia Outdoor News magazine. It's crazy.

Milma was easier than I remembered too. It's been years since I rode it in that direction. Somewhere on the Sorba website there's some description of Windy Gap and Milma where they refer to them as gentle rolling hills or something like that. I used to laugh at that description. Clearly whoever wrote it hadn't actually ridden the trails. Today though, Milma did feel like gentle rolling hills and we carried and flowed.

 Climbing on Milma

At the end of Milma though, there's Tibbs.

 Milma/Tibbs Sign



Tibbs is very steep, and 90% of it is either shifty, loose boulders, half buried in sand or exposed shelves of rock. You're either picking your way through something or yanking your way over something, all the way up. I've done it a dozen times and it's always hard. Today though, for the first time in my life, I was able to climb it comfortably. In the past, the challenge was whether I could sustain that heart rate for that long or whether I could still kick over the next shelf with anaerobic legs. Today it was I could keep moving and still get over everything, but not be jammed up against any limit. Don't get me wrong. It was still a tough climb and at the top, my legs hurt just from sustaining that level of force for that long, but I never ran into that desperation that I'd always associated with Tibbs. I was able to push hard if I wanted and sit up if I wanted. I could choose.

My brother was having the same kind of day. I got ahead of him once or twice but he pulled back on. He's somewhere at the very back of this shot.

 John Climbing Tibbs

There's a sign most of the way up: "Slow. Watch for Oncoming Traffic." or something like that. When you hit that, you're most of the way up but the most technical sections are still ahead. At the very top there's another sign: "Trail Head 300 Feet." When you see that, you're home free.

We took a snack break at the top.

 Tibbs Trailhead Snack

It's dangerous to stop for too long up there. Invariably when you get moving again, you get super stiff legs. There used to be a road across from Tibbs leading down to a campground and we'd go down there to get water and rest. It's since been obliterated, but back then if you rested for too long, you'd be guaranteed to cramp on the climb back out.

Neither of us were really ready, but we got going again out of necessity.

The road runs along the north side of the ridge up there and the tread was soft and slow. There's a bit of a climb up to a gap where you switch to the south side, and a much drier and harder road, then a nice downhill, then a long grinder almost all the way to Potatopatch. There were some new cabins up by Potatopatch, or at least new to me.

We bombed down to the upper Bear Creek Trailhead. Even on a dead straight downhill, John was still pulling away from me. Neither of us were pedaling, I just couldn't go as fast. I was sketchier through the turns too. I'd felt sketchy on the downhills all day, but Potatopatch is so long, it was really apparent and annoying. My tires were a little low. I hadn't checked them at the car. They felt low, but OK. Maybe they had more of an effect than I'd been thinking though. Who knows.

John missed the upper trailhead and kept going. I rode down the switchbacks though and met him where they tee into the main trail. He was stopped there, talking to a family of hikers. There was a guy there with a crossbow too who said he'd seen several bear earlier. We hoped to see one on the way down. I think it's been more than a year since I've seen a bear and we hadn't seen any wildlife of any kind all day.

No bear for us though. The only animals we saw were dogs. Below the Poplar we ran into several groups of both hikers and riders with dogs.

My rear derailleur has some weird magnetism for sticks and debris. This is well documented elsewhere in this journal, but here's further documentation of this phenomenon.

 Full Wrap

This stick wrapped itself completely around my rear cassette. All the way around. This doesn't happen to you, or anyone you know, only to me. Ok, if you know me, then it happens to someone you know, but you get the idea.

The last group of riders we ran into included Greg Holland. Of all the people to run into. I'd just seen him last weekend at the Bull/Jake Work Party. We talked for a while. They'd ridden up and down Bear Creek and they were headed off on an out-and back on Pinhotis 1,2 and 3.

Man, what an absolutely perfect day. John and I talked for a while about how perfect it had been. If I were to imagine a perfect day of mountain biking then list out the components, that list would very closely match the list for today's ride. We had clear blue sky. We had cool temperatures, but not cold. We rode a very diverse set of trails: pavement, gravel roads, doubletrack, ultra modern, swoopy singletrack and old-school singletrack. There were long tempo climbs, grinders, tough punchers, ultra-technical rock-crawls, long flowing downhills and steep, sketchy, warp-speed runs on gravel. There were scenic mountain vistas from above and below, creeks of every size, rustic cabins and farms and deep views into the wilderness. We ran into other bikers, hikers, hunters and guys on ATV's. Everyone was friendly. We faced an appropriate amount of adversity. We rode reasonably fast. We had fun, work and even a bit of suffering but we didn't hammer ourselves into the ground.


The one thing that could make it even perfecter was Mexican Food and as fate would have it, there's a shopping center in Ellijay with 3 different Mexican joints to choose from. We chose El Rey.

 El Rey

I got sleepy on the drive home but it wasn't too bad. I caught the end of the Saints game then fell asleep in the middle of my living room floor for an hour. At some point I got back up on the couch but I have no memory of doing that. Now I'm writing this and it's way too late to still be up doing that. It's time to put an end to this sleep deprivation.

Good night.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Scorpion in a Spider Web

Well, here's something you don't see every day.

 Scorpion in a Spider Web

That's a dead scorpion, suspended in a spider web. So, if you were wondering who wins in the fight between a scorpion and a spider, it looks like it's the spider.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Weekly Beatdown

Ahh, the weekly beatdown. Today's ride was as average as a group ride can be. Nothing notable occurred during the actual ride that was bike or ride-related.

The Stronger Cyclist rode with us today. I also saw Wes prior to the ride, there with a buddy of his who is new to group rides. Matt's got an Ironman to train for so he's probably in the pool.

Prior to the ride, I spent a few minutes showing my bike to a guy, his wife and son who live out on the route. They happened to be by the shop, they see us go by every Wednesday and the guy was mentioning it to his son. They were intrigued by the seemingly non-existent seat and pedals. I explained the whole "sit-bones go here" thing and showed them how the pedals clip into the shoes. As surprised as they were by the bike, they seemed even more surprised that I spent time talking to them. We hear "F'n bikers!" so much, I imagine there are folks who live out in the country that expect widely directed reciprocity from us, even if they don't have a negative attitude. I remember running into that when I started working with the equestrian community. A few kind words go a long way.

During the ride, a guy passed us on a bad ass, exceedingly rough and home-built-looking chopper with the highest bars I've EVER seen. I have such duality about things like that. On the one hand, it's impractical to ride and cries out for attention. But then, it is also legitimately impressive. Both the "engineering" of the bike and the size of the guy's balls to ride it so confidently. I wouldn't likely build such a thing but I'm glad that there are people who would because then I get to see it. It's the same thing that makes me want to go to Dragon Con and Monster Truck Rallies.

Long live diversity.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jake Mountain Work Party

Today, the girls and I hacked at the ground up on Jake Mountain. We met Debbie and the rest of the volunteers from the Chattahoochee Trail Horse Association up there at 9AM and got to work. Greg Holland showed up too with his cool dog Rogue. Eddie O joined us about half an hour later. I usually start recruiting for the work party about 2 weeks out but with the Fool's Gold and TNGA, my efforts in that regard were weak this month. We've got another one November 1st though.

Be there!

My little trail crew got suited up.

 Trail Crew

After a quick safety briefing, we hiked out on Jake. The goal for the day, for our group, was to finish the nicking on Jake from the point that last month's work party finished, all the way down to Jones Creek and deberm what we could as well.

Me, Sophie and Iz worked down toward the creek. A couple of groups went down to the creek and worked back toward us as well.


Iz was moving slow. She's still recovering from a cold and really couldn't put in the effort that she usually does. She did build an entire nick by herself and proved it with the soccer ball, but that was about the extent of her impact today.

Sophie, on the other hand, was a trail maintenance machine. She and I really got our deberming technique down. I'd use the Pulaski and plow a 8 inch wide region along the edge of the trail for 20 or 30 feet. I'd basically just dig it in and pull it toward me like a plow, chopping here and there if the soil didn't break up. Usually two of these in parallel was sufficient to break up the entire berm. Sophie would then follow with the fire rake, pulling what I broke up downhill. She'd start working as soon as I got past a 3 or 4 foot section. We worked in concert like a pair of old-timey riveters. When I was done, she'd be done a few seconds later. Sometimes we'd make a light second pass if the trail had gotten cupped or something.

We knocked out hundreds of yards in an hour or so. I wish we'd gotten the technique wired earlier in the day. We made so much progress, so quickly that it was actually fun. I need to make a video, demonstrating the technique.

Several groups on horseback passed us.


We only saw one guy on a bike though, a mid 90's Stumpjumper with V-brakes.

On the way out, Eddie and I chopped out a bunch of stubby little stumps and he got stung by yellow jackets. Hah! Good he's not allergic.

The CTHA fed us. Man it was good.


I don't think any beverage tastes as good as Coca-Cola when I'm thirsty. Yeah, pure water quenches the thirst but Coke is just so delicious.

The plan for next time is to start working on Moss Creek from FS28-1 toward Jones Creek. There is less work to be done on that section. I don't believe that there are any CTHA work parties scheduled for December or January, but maybe I can get a few SORBA parties going. We'll just have to see.