28 February 2011 - 23:35Stand by…
Important updates to follow…
Chronicles of mountain bikes with 29 inch wheels.
Gravel Grinder registration is open! Sunday April 10th is the day.
Do you like riding your bike? Do you want to be in shape for the upcoming summer?
Do you like to meet new people? Do you love awesome Mexican food?
The 4th annual Gravel Grinder will not disappoint.
Around 30 miles of riding on some of Central Vermont’s most picturesque gravel roads will challenge you, and a fabulous post ride feast provided by Frida’s Taqueria will reward you. This is a great ride for most ability levels, and all the proceeds directly support the Perry Hill Trail System.
The course features some tough climbs, speedy descents, and is a mixture of paved and gravel roads. There is a mile or so on busy Route 100, but for the most part, the course is away from the main roads. For the more adventurous rider, an optional “bonus loop” will be available, conditions depending. In years past it has been clear of ice and mud, on others, buried in snow, so that will be announced as the we get closer to the big day.
While we have increased the number of participants once again, we still manage to over sell the event, so don’t be a slacker, sign up today!
I was going through the video footage I took while I was out on the White Mesa trails. Some of it was really good, except that it was filmed upside down. I had managed to screw up the pretty basic task of affixing the camera to the helmet mount. The mount itself is semi broken, so I had removed the camera because I was afraid of loosing it. Then I decided that I just needed to suck it up and put it back on my head and keep filming.
Well, thankfully I managed to figure out that iMovie is pretty forgiving, and I was able to correct my mistake. This movie is on the other side of the canyon from the other video I put up. It’s pretty much a contiguous section, though there are a couple of breaks in the filming, I tried to splice them as best as I could. Hopefully by summer I’ll be a much better videographer.
Seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
I decided that I would try out my new heart rate monitor watch thingie on a little bit of a hike. The roads were not suitable for riding on, and the windchill standing still were such that riding a bike would be downright silly at best.
I havent been hiking in a while, but with my re-charge from being out west, I wanted to do something awesome. Winter hiking in VT can be quite good you see. All the people that think they need snowshoes, show up and beat the trails down, making them much easier to negotiate than they would be in the summer. Snow buries rocks, makes bumps and ledges flatter, and speeds up the hiking up a lot. I aimed my sights on Hunger Mountain, a 5 minute drive from my house.
I went light and fast. I grabbed one of my old Camelbaks, rooted through my boxed up old Mammut gear I don’t wear anymore, and got my hike on. I’m very rusty when it comes to choosing the appropriate outerwear for cold weather aerobic activities. I chose poorly. It was cold enough outside (15°) where if I was standing around, I’d be totally fine. But I was hiking, so I sweated my ass off.
I will say that my attempt at dressing appropriately was better than previous attempts this winter, but it didn’t stop me from sweating out of my eye sockets. It was a pretty unsettling feeling actually. First I lost the gloves, then the hat, then all the vents were opened, then the main zipper, which was zipped right up as soon as I came into any shadowed part of the hike. Seems I only misjudged my layering system a little bit this time. Of course I grabbed my smallest (and oldest, and probably sketchiest) Camelbak, so I had no room for cargo. It froze solid in about an hour, so I didn’t have to worry about it too much. If I did this more often, I bet I’d wear less clothes…
It was a great hike all in all. Close to the house, burly as hell. 2200 ft in 2 miles. I was up and down in 2.5 hours.
When I went to Avis to pick up my rental mini-van, I was informed by the surly counter lady that they didn’t have any mini-vans, and I was going to get a Suburban, and that she hoped it was OK because that is what I was getting. I thought about it for about .02 seconds, and decided I was fine with it, especially seeing as how I was paying mini-van rate for it. It greeted me in the parking lot, huge, dark grey and rumbling. I got in. We were going to be very good friends. I named it The Executor, after Lord Vader’s personal command ship. If you haven’t yet figured it out, I like Star Wars. Deal.
While the “real Executor” crashed into Death Star II (Electric Boogaloo) over the forest moon of Endor, this one has done a splendid job of executing people and equipment to fro SSAZ and everything else that happened around it.
It was stuffed to the gills with bikes and crap. Driven for 36 hours straight. Parked. Driven in some of the sketchiest road conditions I have ever driven in. Farted in. Eaten in. Slept in. Unloaded. Played airport shuttle on 6 different runs. Visited a strip club. Was pissed on. Puked on. Partied in. Brought people and bikes to and from rides. Got rallied off road in. Drifted. Rockford turned. Cranked tunes in. Got washed. Got pulled over in for a bullshit reason, searched, not once, BUT TWICE within 20 minutes (screw you Illinois Super Troopers! Don’t you have anything better to do?).
But most importantly, it brought people and things to the places they needed to be.
It got us there. It was dependable. It was beloved.
In fact, everyone who was ever near it referred to it as The Executor, not because that was the silly Star Wars name I had given it, but because it was exactly what it was and what it did. Without it, this trip would not have been as “easy”.
It was the party wagon. It was witness to all of it, and very much part of the story. And I will miss it. As you read this, I’ll likely be handing the keys back to the counter person at Avis. I’m a little teary eyed to be honest.
21 days, 6225 miles.
I’m not saying Slick is old, but he got a little beat up on the White Mesa. It was not as “intermediate” as I would have given it credit for, but hey not my trails. They scared the crap out of me as a first time rider from New England, we just don’t have type of exposure on our trails. It was a pretty demanding ride for as short as it was.
Well, dogs needed to be walked too, so I was let loose on the Foothills of ABQ at the base of the Sandia Mtns all by my lonesome, while Slick took care of Niyah. The directions were pretty self explanatory. Keep the mountains to the right, the plains to the left on your way out, and swap for the return journey. Seems pretty easy right. Well it is, but there are a myriad of offshoots that were as tempting as the devil’s candy, but being a newbie, I decided I would try and stay on the path most beaten.
The trails were mostly dry.
At least by Vermont standards. Plus the dirt was very coarse and didn’t seem to get moved around very much by traffic. It was however much like having wet Grape Nuts thrown all over your legs and it somehow managed to get into my shoes. While my extra gravelly footbeds weren’t what you would call comfortable, it didn’t slow me down that much.
The trails were fast and flowy, and when they were closer to the mountains, became a little more technically challenging. I found some really fun stuff, but I am almost positive I was riding it backwards. Regardless, I had a great time, and have found yet one more reason to return.
As Dicky pointed out to me, no one goes to Old Mexico anymore.
After leaving Tucson, it was a 7 hour stint at the helm of the Executor. I got to ABQ a little before 8pm, and was greeted with some more of Di’s awesomely delicious cooking and a couple of hop bombs from Marble Brewing Company. I was beat from my drive and the previous week’s debauchery, and needed to rest up for the next day’s ride.
We were going out to White Mesa, a trail that is billed as intermediate in skill level, but failed to describe that despite it’s infinite beauty, certain sections requires nerves of steel. You see, the first part of the trail rides along a ridge where there isn’t a lot of room for error. Add the constant howling wind and it became a challenging game of stay on target. There were a series of false summits, it seemed the singletrack kept climbing to the top of a peak, with nothing on the other side of it. It was pretty unnerving. I managed to grab some helmet cam footage.
After the first part, the ride became very enjoyable. Slick and I dropped off the back of the ridge into the valley, and rode along a jeep road to an old dwelling. It was very easy to stop and gawk, and gawk we did. I got a lot of pictures. The climb back onto the mesa was challenging in spots, but fun all the time. I somehow managed to clean all the sections I attempted, and some of the sections were downright vertical. I have no idea how I did it. I think the fun factor overpowered my elevation/fitness handicap. My bike was riding great, and my knee was cooperating.
One section featured a very exposed section, absolutely terrified me, but I was having such a good time on the singletrack I managed to not flip out and fall off the edge. WIN!
I have to say that if I had a few more times on this trail system, my fears would be greatly reduced. I already can’t wait to go back.
As much as I wanted to stay, I eventually had to leave. Day 8 was a day of decompression, and I used the time to pack up the Executor and make it ready for the first leg of my return trip east. Deciding to take some time off the bike, we hung about the house hunched over our laptops until lunch time.
We headed to the industrial part of town in search of Sonoran Dogs. Dejay is a closet foodie, and knows where all the best eateries are in town. A Sonoran Dog is a hot dog wrapped in bacon and covered with chilies. Pretty damn awesome. While I probably could have eaten 3 or 4, but one was just enough to set me into food coma.
Then we went for a tour of Genuine Innovations, which was not too far away. It’s a pretty impressive operation. They bench test 100% of their products, and make CO2 type devices for medical companies, and more importantly, the mini-kegs of beer. Who knew? We left with a new appreciation for the products that they manufacture, but by then, the food coma had combined with a wave of exhaustion from a solid week’s worth of partying.
We barely got back to Dejay’s house before we all pretty much passed out. I needed a nap super bad.
The evening had us headed over to the U of A campus to watch Thursday night Bike Polo. at this point, it was just Devun and I watching. After polo, we tried to find some food, but because it was so late, our options had vanished. Instead, we bellied up to a bar, and proceeded to make total fools out of ourselves. Mercifully, one of Dejay’s lady friends showed up to extract us from our debauchery. Sometime around 4am we ran out of tequila.
Friday morning was rough, to say the least. It took me until noon to get on the road to ABQ. I was sad to leave, but happy for all the experiences I had, and new people I met. You know it was a good time when Dejay had to say goodbye to the Executor…
I’m summing up days 6 & 7 in one post, because they are pretty much the same magical experience. The previous night we had made plans to meet up and rally in the morning for breakfast and then head to a B&B just north of Oro Valley. The owners are good friends with Dejay, and we were headed up there for a night of relaxation. Boy did we ever need it, the hullabaloo around SSAZ is hard on a person.
The goal was to get up there early, so we could get a good ride in. We got settled in, and changed into our riding gear and headed out. The 50 Year Trail (one of my faves) was right out the back door, in fact, it was so close you could see the Chutes from the back yard.
Info on the B & B can be found here. If looking for somewhere to get away and relax, you will not find a better place. The location is far enough from the beaten path that you feel like you are truly out in the wilderness, but not so far removed that if you really needed In-and-Out Burger, it was only 10 minutes away. The setting is absolutely gorgeous. Located right at the base of the Catalinas, the area is rich with wildlife. There were so many types of birds, chirping and flitting about , it was easy to just sit there and watch them and have the day melt away. It was very relaxing.
After our ride, we got ourselves changed again and sat around in the hot tub for a while. By this time, night had fallen, and all eight of us were jammed into the tub, passing around three keg cups of Barrio’s Mocha Java Stout. We were visited by a herd of javelina, rooting and snorting around the yard. Dinner was a gourmet offering of turkey tacos, guac and all the fixins. We pretty much demolished the meal in mere seconds, but we sat for at least an hour jabbering with the proprietors, before finally retiring to the theater room for a showing of The Big Lebowski.
After a thorough night’s sleep, it was time to hang out in the sunshine again. Breakfast was a spread of freshly made muffins, fruit, and a delicious spinach, cheese and bacon frittata.We ate well again. Dejay had to run some of our group to the airport, so the rest of us opted to hang out and watch the birds. Eventually, we got the motivation to get out and ride. It was a much slower paced version of the previous day’s ride, which my knee really appreciated. Four of us went out, and two of them were novice riders. We worked on some “skills” and stopped a lot to give words of encouragement, and by the end of the ride, the newbies were riding stuff they had previously walked. It is always awesome to see someone get hooked on riding and watch their confidence bloom.
Eventually, it was time to say our goodbyes, pack up and head back to Tucson. Our numbers dwindling, we ate dinner at a fancy restaurant called Wilco before heading back to Dejay’s house to try and kill that keg of Stout.
The Airport Shuffle.
Monday morning came way too quickly. Keller and Doug were the first needing rides to the airport. I was in a haze from the previous night at the Barrio/Buffet, and our o’dark:30 departure was a little bit rough. After round one, I returned to a giggling Dicky, and an utterly destroyed hotel room. Opening the windows and door didn’t help.
There was nothing really left to do but saunter down to the bagel place and get some breakfast and coffee.
Once the fog in the room had cleared, I did a little re-organizing of my pile of stuff, and loaded up the Executor with Dicky’s and Mandy’s stuff. They were the mid morning shuttle. Follow that with bringing Emily to Dejay’s to box her bike up, drag it and Darkhorse George’s to Fed Ex for shipping, and then the third and final trip to the airport. I think I can now successfully get there without relying on my map app on my iphone.
Tucson sure is hard to navigate for a city built on a grid system.
Niner Mike and I spent the afternoon “working”, which consisted of lunch at Monkey Burger, a few errands, and then hunkering down in the hotel hammering out emails. I took the opportunity to remove my ridiculous mustache, which at this point was just creeping me out. By the time Mike and I had caught up, it was late in the afternoon.
We loaded up and went to Fantasy Island for a short loop, and got off the trail just as the sun was dipping below the horizon. I had messed around with the position of my helmet cam, but again, I had it pointed too low. Still, fun times were had, then it was off to forage for dinner, and head over to Dejay’s to hang out for a while and plan out our Tuesday.