Sunday, September 14, 2014

Silk Sheets

My brother and I tried to coordinate a Silk Sheets ride for 3 or 4 days. I kept getting the times and dates of potentially conflicting events wrong though, and it wasn't until last night that we finally settled on this morning, bright and early.

Except that it wasn't that bright. Just early.

Foggier than it looks

I felt great for about the first 10 miles, except that it was so foggy that my glasses were useless. It doesn't look all that foggy in the photo. My iPhone must have some kind of built-in FLIR that I don't know about because it was seriously wet and damp and foggy.

Along the first few miles of the route we saw some scaffolding set up and a few pop up tents, and small security crews in orange vests. They film the Walking Dead out that way a lot, so that was my bro's first idea, but then he remembered that he thought that they were having the Futureworld Rave out there like a week from now or something. I'd never heard of it but he said it was like the Woodstock of raves. Sounds cool. I'll have to take his word for it though, as I am not plugged into any such scene.

We took a fairly circuitous route in a generally southwest direction. The roads were familiar, but I'm usually on them heading back instead of out.

Around Rico we went through an intersection with 4 things that you don't see that often, all at the same time. There was a firetruck on the left, a girl jogging through the intersection (loaded up and looking like she'd be out there for a while), a pair of dogs running down the middle of the road, and something else that I can't remember now. Dangit I wish I could remember that 4th thing, it's important!

Somewhere around mile 10 or 15 the fun turned into work. I hoped it was just a tough spot but I feared it was lack of good recovery after yesterdays excursion to Blankets, compounded by weeks of bad sleep.

I have this ridiculous schedule these days: work all day, then around 9 or 10 run a process that takes 3 hours, set an alarm and get up to check it, then run another process that takes about 15 minutes. If all that worked then rerun the same 3 hour process in Brazil and set another alarm to get up for that one. If it worked, run the 15 minute processes again there. Then get up at 6:30 with the kids for school. Grab a few hours of rest somewhere during the day, if possible, usually between 9AM and noon. I'll be glad when I'm done with this project, or at least this phase of it.

So, anyway, we headed southwest forever, out past Serenbe, out past the Old Tin Gin...

Old Tin Gin

Around mile 35 or so we'd climbed one hill too many and the work turned into suffering. I couldn't keep up.

No good.

A mile or two later I was sitting on.

We passed a lot of other cyclists, several runners, a guy on a bike that I'm not sure I'd call a "cyclist" per-se, some guy running down the dead-middle of the road, way out in the middle of nowhere, in the fog, and countless other odd things. A flatbed carrying a combine passed us going the other direction once too. It had to come way over into our lane to keep from crushing into the trees along the road too badly.

We stopped at the Roscoe store for a little bit. I wasn't feeling good there so I rested up a little, drank a bunch of Gatorade and ate an ice cream sandwich.


This little dog with an injured leg came limping across the street to see if we had anything for him too.

We have a dog

Cute little dog, but all I had were Clif Blocks and an Ice Cream sandwich and my experience has been that unless you have something with meat in it, dogs are happy to let you throw it on the ground, but then they just sniff it and walk away. No way I was doing that with my ice cream sandwich.

No way.

Right as we got up to leave I realized I had a flat. It turned out that the rubber had just cracked around the valve stem though, no little piece of glass or wire or anything else in the tire. Woohoo! Fortunately I had a picnic table right there to sit on and fix it. Mmmm, hmmm. If you have to fix a flat, then being at a store, with a picnic table, right after refueling and re-hydrating is the way to go. May I be as lucky next time.

I managed to sit on for most of the rest of the ride, until we hit the two kicks on Creel Road. Ugh. It was bad.

And that was it. No additional excitement. The miles were good, and I guess it's good to suffer some, but I usually like suffering when I'm in the mood to suffer and this morning I was decidedly not.

The lack of sleep is the big killer in this equation. Got to get this project finished. Better get back to it now, actually...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Blankets Creek (again)

It's not hard to imagine that I was back at Blankets Creek today.

Blankets Creek and Bridge

This time I was there all alone, trying to figure out what went so wrong the last few times.

In a word: tire pressure. Actually that's two words. All the issues I was having with cornering were purely a function of tire pressure. It would appear that my pump is less accurate in the mountain bike range than in the road tire range. Might be time for a new pump.

After letting a little air out everything felt right and I had about 90% fewer problems than last week.

Not to say that I didn't have any problems. I'm still not as smooth as I need to be. I'm still under-geared all the time. And then there is this:

Bottle on the Ground

Dropping bottles.

I dropped my bottle at least 3 times today. The cage is lower than on the road bike and I end up sticking the bottle like 1/3rd of the way into it. That happened twice. The third time I just rode into some crap all of a sudden and had to drop it. Ridiculous. How did it come to this....

On the bright side, I "discovered" a new trail. There's this little downhill run near the freeride trail. It's even marked at the bottom, but it's not signed at the top, kind-of hard to see, and from the lack of wear, it doesn't look like too many people know about it.

I saw a doe and a fawn together on Mosquito Bite. Could have been the same pair Billy and I saw 2 weeks ago. I almost T-Boned another doe heading back toward the lot too. That's an exaggeration actually. I had plenty of time to stop, but I had to stop to keep from hitting it. It was just standing there sideways across the trail, uninterested until I got about 3 feet away.

Also, I know that hikers and runners are supposed to yield to mountain bikers at Blankets, but it seems wrong every time.

So today wasn't quite shred yet, but I did rip a little. I also rode all over the little skills area and it appears that I still have decent balance. The skinnies didn't seem all that skinny. I cleared the small table top on the freeride run too, and 2 of the three on that rock and shock section. Jumps don't feel natural yet. They are admittedly low on my list of things to work on though.

Plenty of progress but plenty more to go.

Good money says I'll be there again next weekend.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Weekly Beatdown

Can I call it that when this is only the second one that I've done, and not in a row, and it's near the end of the season?

I jumped in with the Smyrna Bicycles guys again this past Monday afternoon. I was still feeling beat up from riding Blankets the day before, but I figured I'd be OK. I was. The ride was OK too.

I got dropped on the first big hill, but pulled on to another group of stragglers and wasn't the last guy to roll up to the regroup. I guess that's a good way to describe the whole ride. I could never hang on to the lead group, but I was always either the first of the rest of the guys, or in the first group. I guess that's something.

I realized that aside from one time 2 weeks ago, it's been like 2 years since I did a group ride. It seems like I used to suffer every year when the season would start back up too. Maybe that's what's happening. Yeah, I'll go with that.

The ride was a lot of fun. The route is crazy. Ten-million turns. The guys are cool and friendly.

It is getting darkish toward the end though, so the rides are numbered. Maybe only 3 or 4 left I imagine. Got to get em before they're gone.

Blankets Creek (de novo)

Well, wonders continue not to cease, and as long as they keep doing that, I will continue to enjoy said wonders.

This past Saturday I found myself at Blankets Creek again with my brother. We planned to get in some decent miles - two big loops of the entire system. I was as excited as I'd have been for a Fool's Gold preride two years ago.

I was looking pretty ratty though, and continued my recent pattern of violating The Rules. Peachtree legs...

Peachtree Leg

...Reality Chest.

Reality Chest

Yeah, that's looking good together. I broke a more obscure rule by cutting my toenails there in the lot too. That's right, I went there.

The frere could have judged me had he not been engaged in some street hooking shenanigans himself.

Street Hooker

His headset was loose and he rebuilt the entire assembly there in the lot. Fixed it though. Even got his bars straight.

We were about ready to go and John was all "Oh, hey, there's Marc."


He'd mentioned trying to coordinate some additional company for this ride but didn't mention that he'd succeeded, so it was a great surprise to see more friends drive up out of the blue.

Marc and Luke

I say "friends" but at the time I had not met Luke. This is Luke:

Johnny Cash, Except for the Gloves

Johnny Cash except for the gloves, which must have been made in the 80's by Vision Street Wear.

We rolled out soon after they arrived and the suffering began. My roadie legs couldn't comprehend the trail. "What is this dirt business?" My roadie brain suffered even more. I wasn't confident cornering. I had no flow. I was claustrophobic in the trees. It was terrible. I got stalled out, John and Luke passed me...

It's going to be a long road back.

We spun a lap around the Van Michaels trail. Marc was off the back for most of the loop, but by the end, he was just gone. We waited for like 5 minutes and he still didn't show up. He'd apparently been VERY sick the week before, but had felt recovered enough to ride. We started to wonder if he'd taken the inner loop and gone back to the car. Right as we committed to go look for him there we ran into some folks who'd seen him, and then ran into him a few seconds later, bike on his shoulder, derailleur wrapped up in his back wheel.


A mechanical hadn't occurred to any of us.

He'd had to walk out half the trail, carrying his bike. I undid his power link for him and wrapped the derailleur up so he could at least push the bike. What a drag though.

Me and Luke and John kept. We rode Dwelling. I did a better job of keeping up there. Better. Still not good though.

The South Loop was a wretched experience. I lost a water bottle, John happened to be behind me and picked it up, then I lost it again a mile later. Some guy passed me and dropped me so quickly it was upsetting. John and Luke had to wait. I thought I popped a spoke but it must just have been a rock glancing off or something. I was so certain that I double-checked later, but no, it was fine.

The second lap around Van Michaels wasn't so bad. I'd actually spun out in one of the turns on the first lap, I mean complete 180, foot dragging on the ground, rolling backwards at the end, hoping I could keep from falling over. I didn't have that problem on the second lap, but I did manage to stall out on the first little rock of that switchback, right after a guy passed me, and with a hiker watching from above. Nothing like having an audience. Woohoo!

The second lap around Dwelling was actually fine until I got indecisive over some roots at the very end, got squirrely, had to power out of it, and never caught back up.

There were dozens of little box turtles on the sides of the trail that lap. Not sure where they all were earlier. Maybe they all come out at that time of day. That's the only wildlife we saw all day, though I did see a dead coyote on the side of 285 on the drive up. I'm not sure that counts as wildLIFE though.

We picked up 3 different water bottles on the South Loop, thinking each of them was mine, only to find that each wasn't. Two were the same exact kind as mine, but not actually mine. Mine is still out there, somewhere. I hope someone finds it and enjoys it.

Luke flatted near the end of the South Loop and we spent enough time fixing it that I recovered enough to be able to hang on until we got out. It's funny. I'm not weak per-se, when we get out in the open I have no trouble, my skills have just degraded into nothing and I end up working too hard all the time. I remember this from a year ago. It didn't take long to recover then though. Maybe it won't this time either.

Back at the lot we were all tired, except for Marc who'd nearly died of boredom waiting around for us.

My legs were filthy and it felt so good.

Righteous Dirt

Screw hosing them off, that's how they should look.

We drove into downtown Woodstock...

Woodstock Mural

...hoping to score some tacos at Pura but there was a wait and Canyons across the way looked like a better choice. Plus, there was a downhill/freeride video playing on one of the TVs and we were drawn to it like so many moths.

The burgers there are good. You should go have one.

Oh yeah, Blankets Creek!

I suspect that I'll be spending time down there on the weekends for a while. So I imagine quite a few posts in a row will be titled very similarly.

I hope to report improvements in my bike handling skills and general, overall mountain biking abilities soon.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Blanket's Creek

Well, miracles do happen, it would seem. This past weekend a little one came my way and I found myself riding at Blankets Creek. The last time I rode there was the 6 hour Race to Sunset in like 2011 or 2012.

Things have changed.

There's some snazzy new signage.

Blankets Creek Signage

And the parking lot is like 4 times bigger.

Blankets Creek Lot

Awesome. I barely recognized the place. That happens out there though, every few years it seems. I first rode Blankets in 2000 and things have been changing ever since.

One funny thing too... Along with the new parking lot comes a new bathhouse with 4 bathrooms. BOTH bathrooms on the front side are for women and BOTH bathrooms on the back side are for men. So, if you glance at one sign, read "Women" and then just figure that the other one must be for men, you'd be wrong! Also, there's a little sign that says "Men" with an arrow pointing around back on the right hand side. So, if you glance at the one sign and read "Women" and then glance in the direction of the other bathroom and read "Men" out of the corner of your eye and figure that the other one is for men, you'd be wrong!!! I didn't make this mistake, but apparently it's easy to do.

My poor neglected mountain bike was covered in spider webs.

The Sled

Everything worked though, surprisingly. I didn't even have to bleed a brake. As much of a junk show as that bike has become, it keeps rolling.

Billy met me after a few minutes and we tore off into the woods...

About halfway around the Mosquito Flats I slid out in a turn and crashed. I might need some new tires but I mainly blamed it on roadie brain and roadie skills. Got to keep the weight off of the front wheel on dirt. Or at least more-off of it. Most everything else just came back naturally though, and I didn't crash again.

To ...

We rode the Dwelling Loop and then hit the South Loop.

Billy Climbing on the South Loop

One thing I noticed on both loops that I hadn't seen in years past - lots of little trails down to the lake, and lots of little trails into the neighborhoods. I guess the people that live in the neighborhoods use the trails to access the lake. Hmm... I wonder what the fishing is like in Lake Allatoona.

The other thing I noticed was deer. An abundance of deer. I passed within a foot of a small doe, switched back, stopped and took this photo of Billy riding past the same deer. Deer on the left, Billy on the right.

Deer to the Left

Then he switched back and stopped and we watched it for a while, figuring it would eventually run away.


We left only after getting bored of watching it. Later we saw another lone doe, a lone buck, and a mother and fawn. Deer everywhere! Unafraid!

The woods out there has changed a lot over the past few years too. The pines that grew up in the old fire road corridors are bigger around. There used to be dense brush from the edge of the old roads waaay into the woods, but now it's only dense right up by the roads. The woods is much more open and you can see a long way.

It was especially pretty on the South Loop.

Me Climbing Through the Greenery

Right in the sketchiest part of the South Loop, there was this pretty big ribbon snake just hanging out on the trail. I like snakes but Billy really DOESN'T like snakes. When it saw me coming, it moved just like 2 feet downhill. The backslope is super steep there, so it had a hard time keeping still and kept sliding really slowly downhill. When Billy pulled up I was all "Cool, check that out..." and he just thought I was pointing down at the slope and the lake before he saw the snake, so he was all "Yeah, check that out... ohhh, F-that, nooo-ooo!"

Ha, ha.


We rolled through Quell Holler, catching only pitiful, pitiful air. My 14-year old self would have been ashamed of me, had it still existed.

For as long as it's been since I've been to Blankets, it's been even longer for Billy. He didn't even know that Van Michaels existed. Ha!

The climbing was crushing.

Billy Climbing on Van Michaels Van Michaels Switchback

But we had a great time descending. I even got a small amount of water splashed up on me at one point. Man, it's really been a while since THAT has happened.

I wish I could say it was some kind of epic ride, but really it just felt like getting my bearings. I fought the bike a little at first. I had to think a lot. I really need to go back and just turn laps until it feels effortless. I'd done that at Sope Creek way back - just rode until something clicked and it felt like old times. Maybe I can do it again.

Blankets Creek... I will see you again soon.