Monday, May 4, 2020

Texas

I've been in Texas for a day shy of 4 weeks now. Long story, but it looks like I may be here for a little while longer too.

I have been riding a lot though. Like every-day-a-lot. I've also been as slammed as a person can be with work, which may seem unlikely, considering the pandemic we're in the middle of, but is, in fact, the case. This has left little time for journaling, and I don't really have a lot of time now, but maybe I can spend a few minutes, and capture some semblance of the experience, for future reflection.

Let's see...

I'm staying with my folks. My Dad broke his arm a while back, but while healing, bought a new Blur. He's been dying to ride it, and was well healed when I arrived, but it's been raining in Dallas, and when it rains in Dallas, all this black clay:

...becomes black cookie dough. All trails are closed, and it's pretty well hopeless for the average mountain biker.

But!

Being off to one side of the average mountain biker, I had a plan. There's still a ton of paved trail in and around Dallas. I've never ridden any of it, and my Dad was so antsy to get on a bike that he jumped at the chance to ride on it as well. As such, we did a couple of really long rides, right out of their house.

Some highlights:

There's a MiG-17 in Forney, Texas. For some reason. Just sitting there.

Bluebonnets are everywhere this month. Everywhere you look.

One ride was so long that we stopped at Sonic for lunch.

On that same ride, we crossed Lake Ray Hubbard.

I noticed a bunch of what looked like gravel roads at Samuell Farm, and called the Dallas Parks Dept. to see if the park was open to bikes. Turns out yes, so I spun a couple of laps out there to explore the place...

It turns out that most of the trails out there are fire-roadish and hold up well to rain. A good option if it's been wet.

There's also an old rail spur that once led from the main line south of Hwy 80 up to the power plant on Lake Ray Hubbard. Turns out a good bit of it is rideable, but I managed to walk into a piece of barbed wire, stepping around the end of a fence, exploring one section of it, and had to do a little eyebrow repair.

I eventually took my Dad out for another long ride where we hit a bunch of stuff that I'd discovered during the previous week, including a lap around Samuell Farm.

We ended up having to outrun a storm, then shelter under the porch of the old park office while it blew over.

But it blew over quickly, and it was dry before we even got home.

Later that week, it had been dry long enough for Rowlett Park to be open. I hadn't ridden there in years, but it's my Dad's favorite place to ride, so we didn't miss the opportunity. We had a great time on the south side trails, and a decent time on the north side trails, until we hit "14", where my Dad had the hardest crash I've ever seen. The trail dives back and forth across various ravines. The first sketchy drop was missing a big chunk of concrete that had been used to armor it, and a bunch of dirt had been eaten out all the way around the armor. We made that one. On the second sketchy drop, 8 inches or more of dirt had gotten washed out, leaving a mat of roots suspended over the old line. You had to go left or right. Right was wide and good. Left was super narrow and still had roots at the bottom that you'd have to get over. He went left, for some reason... where his new bars are just way too wide to fit. He caught a tree, got his bars spun, went flying, and hit the ground head first from like 4 feet up. No time to get his hands down. It didn't look survivable. I was sure I'd just watched my Dad die. But, then he got up, seemingly uninjured. Everything worked. His face was scraped up, but he hadn't broken anything. His right shoulder was stoved, but even that felt ok a few minutes later. He didn't have any signs of a concussion. It couldn't believe it.

My Dad's Busted Face

There are like 6 or 8 more drops that you have to get through to get out. We rode the next one, and I could immediately see what was happening. He was accelerating into these drops as if he knew what they're going to be like. In theory, he does know every drop out there, but in practice, he hadn't ridden any of them in over a year. The rain had been particularly hard this past winter too, and some of the drops were very different than he remembered. He'd get committed before he knew what he was committing to, and then have to adjust. This had not traditionally been a problem, but it had become one. That was one issue. To make that issue just that much worse, he'd never ridden that bike on singletrack, and it turned out to be wildly unstable. He looked like he was WAY too far forward. I could see him do stuff to try to control it and the bike just wasn't doing what you'd expected it to do.

We walked the remaining drops and spun another lap around the south side, which was totally fine, but I was honestly just antsy to get done and feel safe again.

It turned out later that he'd destroyed his helmet and beat his right shoulder up pretty good, somehow. I don't understand how though, because he landed on his head and left shoulder. Maybe his right hand was still holding onto the bars real hard when they got spun and it straightened that arm violently? His neck was stiff for a few days, but the only lingering problems are with his right shoulder. So weird.

At any rate, he's now off the bike again. I told him, this is how I quit skateboarding. I'd get injured and spend more time healing than I spent before getting injured again. At a point I had to hang it up. He needs to go a very long time with no crashes, and in the mean time, stay off of 14.

We did all kinds of measurements on his bike setup too. Indeed, between the longer wheelbase, and much wider bars, standing, he was almost 4 inches further forward of the center of his pedals than on his old bike, and the wheelbase is only 1 inch longer. Seated, he was 3.5 inches further forward. He cut the bars down a bit and moved the seat back. Seated, he's only an inch forward of where he was. Standing, he's still 2 inches though. The center of gravity seems to be about an inch further back though, so maybe, with the new geometry, it's enough. Another issue was that he only had about 60% of the air that he needed in his fork, so that was just diving on him every time he'd hit the bottom of anything. He only had about 75% of what he needed in the shock too. After all that fiddling, it felt way more stable to him, just spinning around. We'll have to see how it goes on the trail.

I was now short a riding buddy, but there was still plenty to do. Over the next few days, I scoured the general Forney area for anything marginally fun to ride, and managed to find a bit of it. I also hit some singletrack at Squabble Creek and some paved trails around a lake next door.

There were ducks.

And they were cute.

The next weekend, I rode Boulder Park and Oak Cliff. It looks like most of Dallas proper sits on a thin layer of oily black clay, which, in turn, sits on limestone. The creek that runs through Boulder Park carves deep into a limestone bed. There was exposed limestone everywhere at Oak Cliff. It turns every little kick into stair-steps when it deteriorates.

At Boulder, there's this weird trail called 1+1=1, which bombs down below a dam, then makes you climb right back up Porter Hill.

Oh, man, tell me that's named after Ray Porter. I really hope it is.

At Oak Cliff, someone had, somehow, gotten a hoarded out Ford Ranger well into the system before finally getting it jammed hard in between some trees.

I'm going to bet that alchohol was involved in the decision to do that.

The trail is mostly really easy, except where it's punctuated by steep, extremely technical, and arguably dangerous descents. There are a bunch of jumps out there too.

Good times.

Over the next few days, I figured: "It's Texas. There must be dirt roads here somewhere." and proceeded to search for said roads in what looked like more vacant regions of the map south of Forney.

I hit paydirt, as they say:

...and spent the next week exploring all of that. Somewhere in there, I stepped into some grass and got bitten by some horrible ants that left dime-sized welts on my leg, the centers of which died and peeled off. I saw the ants, and brushed them off, so I know it was ants. Some weird Texas ants though.

This past Saturday I shredded some singletrack at Harry S. Moss park, followed by a long grinder all the way up and down the White Rock Creek Trail, and a long spin around the White Rock Lake Trail. My goodness, the wind. The trails on the west side of the lake were modern and smooth. On the east side, they were super old and rough.

I did run into this long slithery guy out there near the lake.

There was some kind of water snake below the spillway too, slowly swimming against the current, but it went under as soon as I tried to get my phone out.

Well... that's the spillway at least. The "waterfall" section of it.

Today I rode Windmill Hill, which was quite the spiderweb. It's definitely more of an enjoy-the-woods kind of place, as opposed to an enjoy-the-trails kind of place. I felt like I missed out on a good hike by bringing my bike. Much like Oak Cliff too, it was super easy, except where it was all of a sudden treacherously technical and steep. There were 2 climbs that I tried 3 times each, and, between the roots and rocks, just was never able to make.

There were a bunch of families out there today. Lots of parents with kids, babies even. It really made me smile.

Windmill was fun, but it was only 4 or 5 miles, and the day was young enough to check out Goat Island Preserve, which was about 20 minutes away, right down the same street that Windmill was on. Goat Island was also more of an experience-the-woods than experience-the-trails kind of place. The trails out there just run on, with long sight lines, kind of a welcome relief from the small intestine twistiness that you see in the in-town trails here.

It is rather bumpy though, and the grass encroaches.

There are a few spots along the Trinity River where you can see super-creatively-named "Lock and Dam #2".

Which looks pretty impressive, but is apparently way more impressive when the water level is lower.

There are various overlooks out there, and each is tagged with this cute sign.

When I first read it, it didn't strike me as meaning that hazards may exist in this specific location, rather that it was just reminding me that hazards might exist, you know, in general... maybe. They MAY exist.

Goat Island proper is just a chunk of land that's separated from the mainland by a cut-off of the river itself. The cut-off is only full after significant rain, and today it was just a series of pools that had drained down until they wouldn't drain any more. The trail crosses it over a concrete-armored spillway. Some folks were fishing from the spillway when I rode by. I talked to them for a few minutes, and during those few minutes we both watched gar after gar surface in the pool. They weren't huge, considering how big gar can get, but any one of them would have been the biggest fish I'd ever caught.

So it's been. So it will likely be for at least a few more days. Maybe even a few more weeks. I've got things to do back in Atlanta, and I'd like to have been back already. I guess we'll see what tomorrow brings.

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