Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Opossum Attack

Most dogs are domesticated, nice friendly creatures, ours are the same but we have to remember that they are still animals.

On Friday night at Lake Barkely, Kristin and I were sleeping outside under the back deck on an air mattress due to a nice night and a full house. Buddy and Shade were sleeping next to us but free to roam.

Before bed, it had been one of those nights that you have with your best friend when you haven’t seen each other in awhile. Playing guitar and singing until our eyes, hearts and minds told us to pack it in during the wee hours. I take my contacts out; throw them in the yard (disposable) crawl onto the mattress with Kristin content with sleeping outside.

A couple hours later, I awoke to a tornado of sounds, the big bellowing WOOF WOOF that Shade can produce combined with the small yet ferocious RRRRRrrrk RRRufff, rrrrrufff of Buddy. Immediately I knew they were onto something. It was oddly lit outside, you could tell the sun was about an hour from turning the corner from the East.

In an instant, I am careening out of bed and flying around the corner of the house as I realize I can’t see anything past 10 feet in front of me, I only have my underwear on and I am quite tipsy from the night still as it must be sometime around 4:30 in the morning. The barking and growling increases exponentially as I get closer and I see that they have something trapped between them but can’t quite make it out in the dark.

You have to understand that these two dogs are such great friends that they can be barking and play biting each other’s heads during the day only to sleep with their heads nestled up against each other and now I see how well they “work” together. Shade being the big boy creates a sort of body block on the animal as Buddy dives in and around the mystery animal with moves that would have made Muhammad Ali jealous. All the time, the animal in the middle is hissing wildly and jockeying for the woods across the street which is still about 30 yards away.

The entire time this is going on, I am screaming like a madman seeing his baby snatched from his momma’s arm. Remember that I still couldn’t see well, it was dark and I had no idea what this animal was that they are so viciously going after. However, even if I would have been a Dragon breathing fire onto the ground next to them they wouldn’t have noticed. They were protecting us and the house. I am almost 100% certain they would sacrifice themselves before having the animal get close to the house.

This animal is officially trapped, Shade and Buddy’s circle of death has tightened and every now and then Buddy has an opening so he can dive in with the same head but routine he uses on Shade but this is somehow different as he grabs the animal with his jaws gives it a quick death shake before jumping back to safety.

I realize I can do nothing but harm if I intervene so I run and tell Kristin to get the leashes. When I get back they are still circling the animal but it is just lying there, I assume it is playing dead and realize that it might be an Opossum as I couldn’t imagine that any animal would give up its life that easy. Shade and Buddy are still circling. Buddy incessantly jumps in biting and shaking the lifeless animal into the air and back onto the ground. Somehow in my mind’s eye I imagine him and Shade ripping the thing apart together before they will be done.

With the animal now just lying there on the ground I am eventually able to distract the great hunters and leash them up. We all eventually lie back down with the mystery animal still lying in the side yard. Even if it wasn’t dead, I didn’t figure it would bet on coming close to our house again.

When the sunlight hit my face in the morning, I got up and walked around the side of the house to find an empty yard. It was most certainly playing dead but I imagine all Kentucky Opossum’s have been forever warned of the beasts at 52 Eden Bay.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

1,000 Push-Ups or One Stump To the Chest

So with all the bonking out of the way on Saturday, I was really looking forward to a low-key ride at Dupont with family and friends on Sunday.

A last minute plan was formed, and we corralled at Fawn Lake, some of us by bike, others by car, who rides a road bike to a mountain bike ride anyway? Weird, was it ride to your ride week last week?

Kristin and I had made it early, so I set off up Mine Mountain for a quick loner loop. As always I pronounced my religion over and over in my head “love Mountain biking, love mountain biking, love mountain biking. . . “

Quickly after that, Clay, David George (by bike), Zach (by bike) Cook and Kristin were all ready to ride. Two people were missing so we just made our way on without them.

Kristin had her first taste of what mountain biking is like when a descent sized group is involved. Heading straight up Mine Mountain to complete her second loop of:

Mine Mountain -> Airstrip -> Shelter Rock -> Corn Mill Shoals to Bridal Veil falls -> Bridal Veil Falls Road -> Barn Trail -> Shelter Rock -> Conservation Road -> Lake Julia Road -> Reasonover

WOW, that’s a pretty big loop for a second time Dupont rider!!

After Mine Mountain, I made the quick dash back to the cars to pick up Meghan and Shane. I directed them on the proper route back to everyone and we all re-grouped on the Airstrip itself.

I followed Shane down airstrip and man can he ride for a big boy on a singlespeed! I knew I would have some extra time for the log roll at the bottom of the hill. I flubbed it up a couple times but kept at it. My third attempt netted a clean shot on and off the log but when I landed my back wheel decided to spew some Stans. I aired it back up and made some rude comments to Meghan, bad Karma.

Let me set the stage here as this is quite amusing in lieu of my own safety. The log roll at the bottom of airstrip is pretty easy but also pretty easy to screw up. There are two large logs about 3 feet in circumference from the same tree running parrellel to each other. A smaller log runs parallel to the large logs off to the left but doesn’t start until ¾ of the way down the bigger logs.

There is also a stump, presumably from the same tree that sits at the end of the middle log. The stump makes a nice huck at the end of the middle log as it is the same height as the log but not attached. The middle log is set up to be roll-able on the upside and then you can either speed up and huck the 3 feet back to earth off the stump at the end or try to transition to the smaller log to roll off. Most people I know roll up the middle and huck the log/stump combo at the end..

So after my crude comment, I set up to roll the log again. I transition up onto the log nicely. I start to stand as to give the cranks a couple hard strokes so I can make a run for the end stump huck. Just as I am relaying power into the drive side pedal and pulling with some might on the handle bars, I feel the back wheel shoot off the log in-between the two large logs as I am propelled over the bike headed face first toward the stump.

Short of a miracle, I am able to stretch like Gumbi and get my face over the stump only to hit the stump chest first with all of my inertia causing the stump to roll over along with me onto the ground. I am sure it looked as though I was sumo chest flogging the stump while performing a chiropractor’s backbend delight. I flopped over onto the ground thinking I had hurt myself. After a few seconds I realized I was only bruised. At the end of the ride, Cook pointed out that you could see the outline of the stump on my chest. Monday morning it felt like I had done 1,000 push ups and tricep curls.

I did get back up and ride the damn thing again. I couldn’t let it best me like that. Never go to sleep thinking you can’t ride a log. . .

Since the small freak show had commenced, we continued on our ride. I was impressed with how much of the climb up Reasonover (coming from the lake) Kristin was able to handle. About halfway up, the storm came rushing in on us and we rode the last bit in the cold rain. Luckily, with the rain came motivation and we were back at the cars in quick time. Another great day in the woods was had by all.

My favorite quote of the day by Kristin after the ride: “Riding your bike on Reasonover is sooooooooo much faster than hiking.” I can’t wait to hear what she has to say when we ride it in the “fun” direction.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Laurel, Pilot, Slate, BONK!!

My mental fortitude has been a little off lately. My body and mind are warring parties and I am no mediator. A small bowl of cheerios is plenty of food for a 20 mile ride right?

Zach and I had planned for a later start than normal on Saturday. I rolled up to N. Mills River to see that Zach was already sweating. What the hell? What do you mean you rode Trace Ridge? You think you want to get in shape? Jerk.

After some lulling around and me pretending to wait for our lost long compadre SingleTrack Pig, I got ready to roll. Just as we were ready to head off, Chris shows up out of nowhere from Columbia, “Hey man, you got a bike with you? Cool, let’s ride.”

Off we go up 1206 with me lagging behind almost the entire way to the gap. I took the lead on the short descent to Laurel, I love ripping down the gravel for a nitrous boost into the woods. The initial bit of trail just sets itself up for a nice right hand ripper onto the single track. Just as I was negotiating a car that was parked at the trail head while making the turn I hear “TOMATOOOO!” I turned to see all the Homers but couldn’t figure out which one knew me. Finally I saw Mike R. standing in the masses, shouted our route and he said theirs was one in the same. So I figured our paths would cross again. I know Mike R. and I figured he would be chasing a carrot in the form of a Tomato.

I led for a bit headed up Laurel until we came to some of the steeper pitches that I often walk. I pulled over to let Zach and Chris by as my heart was about to bounce out of my mouth and surely off the side of the trail if I wasn’t careful. It would seem as though I could never catch my breath or legs for the rest of the day.

The day was gorgeous and I just couldn’t imagine being anywhere else but in the woods. While lumbering though my bonk, I arrived at one of the gaps to see Zach and Chris waiting. Soon thereafter Mike came rolling up, he pronounced his carrot catching abilities and we chatted for a bit.

HIKE A BIKE. For me it was CRAWL with a BIKE.

We made it to the switchbacks on Pilot where we picnic’d and goofed around on the switch backs. I for one, had never made all of the switchbacks on Pilot and even though I was having an off day climbing, I was feeling good about my downhill prowess. We had time to goof off and change a flat so I rode the upper section of switchbacks three times and then was having so much fun I just kept popping them off, one right after another.

It had been so long since I had ridden Pilot I forgot about the huge Rock Garden after the switchbacks and somehow pounded my way down this section with only a minor dab as well.


A nice view from Slate where we talked about how much Pisgah sucks and then a short descent and some gravel grinding back to the car. Thanks for waiting up guys.

Pictures in this post are a mix of Clem’s and mine.

Wait till tomorrow, when I tell you about how I tried to chop a large stump in half with my chest to show Meghan and Kristin that its not always how you ride your bike but sometimes it is how you fall off of it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mountain Bike Trippin'

Ripping Laurel lines
Green glowing leaves
Turning wall rides on dimes
Grunting pleas

Icy springtime Little River
Corn Mill Hole Shoal
Falling makes one shiver
Cedar Rock Corral

Big Rock table top
Longside connects through
Rock Quarry, no blackberry shop
Cannon Creek, Its all for you

Out and Back
Cannon Creek love again
Chain slack
What else will remain?

Breaking rhymes
Simple machines
Lost in time
When will we meet again?

How about next Wednesday?


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Could We Get a Tube Over Here?

A great group of folks met up Saturday morning for a loop of Old Toll Road to Heart Break.

What can be said of this old toll road’s climb? Let it be known that I had my only fall up-hill and it caused me to pinch-leak my tubeless Mountain King on the back wheel. I was able to pedal through the seeping and seal the tire back up with a little CO2. Six other tubes would not be so lucky today. That’s right six flats while descending Heart Break.

Some profiles from David George.

Dennis Kuntz, showing us how to roll the steep switchbacks coming down Heart Break.

Eric and Stephen rocking out the last bit of the climb before the overlook.

The prettiest bike move I have seen in awhile was performed by Eric. The old toll road has one downhill during its menacing climb and it is super fun. You get going really fast and then the trail shoots you through some Rhododendron tunnels at speed. As you come out of one of the tunnels, the trail leans into a corner and quickly you realize that the log bridge coming up is really a half-ass death trap. Jeremy had stopped to warn everyone on this ride and laid his bike down in the middle of the trail. When Eric came speeding around the corner he rode a wheelie across the logs only to bunny hop Jeremy's bike to safety.
Good times on a beautiful day.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

PMBAR photos

Thank's to Brad, I have a ton of pictures to reflect on. Good times!!

Here I am saying that my handlebars are #1 in the market for their reparability.

We had a good crew show up last night and for some stupid reason I had it in my head that we were going to hit a long route up. BAD IDEA, I am apparently still wasted from the last couple weeks on the bike.

We took a long way around the forest, including Johanna road down and then went and did the stupid thing of riding down Jim Branch, up Ridgeline and back down Ridgeline only to have to climb out and ride back to Fawn Lake.

Coming down Ridgeline was the highlight of the night. The trails were super dusty with a trail consistency of dirt and sand on top of hard-pack. My tire combo is rocking it out these days so I jumped in behind Dennis and before I knew it, I heard a holler and I was riding through Dennis’ cloud of dust. Apparently on the first turn, his front wheel had washed out but he pulled it out miraculously.

I knew this was my opportunity to catch him and I did. Then we started railing all the turns just as though the dirt was smooth and wet. When we came around one of the tighter turns, I could feel my wheels start to slip out but the tires held true. At this same time I could here Zach burning up my back wheel and I wondered how his bike could be railing faster than mine when I heard “WOOOOOOOWWWWwwwwwwww.” His bike had done the “I will go where I want, when I want” trick on him and sent him flying through the woods. I was grinning and laughing the entire way down the trail. Good times.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Back In Action

I was able to get some new handlebars on the bike just in time for tonight's ride. Saahhhweeeeet.

If you are interested, check out my partner's race report from PMBAR.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Time Off

For my own musings, I need to sit back and reflect on what has happened thus far in 2008. You see, I am not a racer in any form. I am a recreational mountain biker that happens to be in good enough shape to finish upper/middle of the pack in Endurance races and last in Cross Country. “Racing” for me, really does nothing besides ensuring that I am in a particular shape at different points in the year. Prime time for me is normally fall through winter as I don’t take too well to the Southern heat wave during the summer.

In years past, most of my racing accomplishments were simply finishing races without dying. This year I am starting to realize that I can finish some races and with proper nutrition, not feel like death. This was the first PMBAR where I can say that I didn’t feel like puking coming down Black in the end. I am a desk jockey after all but for some damn reason my desk/computer never breaks. Maybe I should get one made of Aluminum or Steel. . .

Sorry about that, I got side tracked, back onto the topic here:

I have competed in the following races so far in 2008:


FATS benefit Ride

The Most Horrible Thing Ever

Snake Creek Gap Time Trial

Race to the River

Cohutta 100


That’s 360 + miles and 370 or there about dollars. Damn, only a few more miles in TMHTE or PMBAR and I would have equaled out to $1.00/mile. In today’s mountain bike market, that seems to be a fair deal. The only way this happens for me is to compete in some free races like TMHTE.

That’s a lot for me already this year. I attribute most of my fitness to getting ready and competing in The Most Horrible Thing Ever. I honestly think that combined with my Tuesday night rides to Paris and back has been what put me on top of my game this year. It has been rare, that I ride more than four times a week.

I have also broken two Steel Surly frames and most recently a Bontrager handlebar. I had a comment on Monday’s race report that said I should shop for a fork. Ummmmm No, the last thing I need is more moving parts that spew oil onto the forest floors. Its not that I am some crazy maniac that thinks technology is bad, I just don’t see where putting suspension on a frame that comes with a rigid fork will alleviate any problems. It may prolong some problems but it will not alleviate them.

I do have a yearning for gears and suspension. I sometimes miss the feeling of truly flying through the woods. Big ringing downhills while floating on a cushion of air is quite nice. I haven’t felt that in almost two years now. I just can’t justify altering my UDM, I will always have a Karate Monkey (As long as SURLY always makes one) and it will always be rigid.

I have no particular plans for the rest of the year. I have not signed up for another race in 2008. The next “event” on my schedule is to accomplish a task that I have yet to complete. I will be riding the NORTH/SOUTH trail sometime during Memorial Day weekend in Land Between the Lakes (LBL). I have always wanted to complete this 65+ mile out and back but never really had the motivation nor time while I was vacationing at the Lake. This year will hopefully be different as I have met some new nut cases/friends out of TN that are likely candidates to participate in such a silly notion during “vacation.”

Something will probably come along that I want to do but for now I just plan on riding and continuing trail work and Advocacy with SORBA. I have to tally my trail hours this year but I know I am already pushing 60+ for 2008 and I can’t wait for National Trails Day but that is another topic altogether.


Monday, May 05, 2008

What’s That Creaking? PMBAR 2008

This year’s Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race would be Team Trippin’ On Lactic Acid’s third attempt and completion at the race.

The rules are simple and go as follows. There are seven checkpoints strewn in and around Pisgah’s Ranger District. You must make it to four of the seven checkpoints to finish and most likely all seven if you want to vie for first place. There are two mandatory checkpoints that you can choose from. You must either choose Farlow Gap or Turkey Pen, two polar opposites when it comes to riding in this vast National Forest.

After head honcho Eric’s speech on how not to die in the woods, we had our passports in hand and were told to go. The passport is your guide to knowing where all the checkpoints are as you get it stamped along the way to provide proof of visitation to each of the checkpoints. After quickly glancing at the passport, I realized that most of the checkpoints were the same as 2007. This made our job of choosing Turkey Pen as our mandatory very easy as we had gone for Farlow last year.

Off we go up Black Mountain to get a quick 1,000 feet of climbing out of the way in the form of a warm-up. At the first sharp turn, there was a sign that read “Where am I?” and it had a Gnome with a blue jacket and red hat on. Why do I know all of this? I figured it was a “special test” and at the end of the race Eric was going to ask “Where was the Gnome with the X jacket and Y colored hat. Soon I saw more and more signs and I realized they were just placed there for no particular reason other than to befuddle the teams.

Joe and I stopped at Pressley for a quick once over of the passport and then I realized it was exactly the same as last year. That meant I already knew our route as long as nothing un-expected happened.

Black -> Turkey Pen -> S. Mills River -> Mullinax -> Laurel Creek (out and back) Squirrel Gap -> S. Mills River, -> Buckhorn -> Black Mountain (out and back from the gap) -> Clawhammer -> Maxwell Cove -> Black Mountain

I asked Jody and Cook if they thought it looked the same as last year and they confirmed my thoughts. So we took off with the masses headed further up Black to Turkey Pen. As we were pushing I started up a conversation with Jody about their route choice. He said something about him and Cook headed to Farlow. I said “Your going to Farlow over Black Mountain?” They would eventually change their minds on this one.

The single track was just awesome this day. The dirt was perfect and my new tire set up was really sticking nicely and sucking up most of the bumps. I had some creaking on really steep sections of trail but I chose to ignore it. I did however, inspect my downtube at every possible moment for potential cracks.

After snagging Turkey Pen we started up Mullinax to see Toby and Kenny headed back down. They had made the same mistake Joe and I made three years ago by miss-reading the passport. This wouldn’t be their only mistake of the day. Pisgah can confuse.

Up Mullinax to Laurel Creek and we had a blast once again on Laurel. This year’s PMBAR should have been called “An awesome day of single track.” It felt great to have the strength to ride the single track at a decent clip.

After nabbing our second checkpoint we took off back up Laurel. For the most part, it was obvious who was in what position in the race. I knew that if we didn’t go for five checkpoints it was going to be impossible to get in the top ten. At this point in the race, I secretly wanted to go for five but that was easy to talk about in my mind at that point.

Onto Squirrel and all I could think about was how easy this trail seems after hiking/riding it in February during TMHTE. We were 18 hours into the race at that point in February and I only wanted to die. Saturday was much different, I felt strong and Squirrel didn’t let me down, that trail is bad ass. Past Cantrell and another checkpoint is bagged. The feeling I had at TMHTE almost caused me to take Cantrell instead of Squirrel but I knew this was a mistake and talked myself out of it. While Joe ate a sandwich, I spied the map for the last time of the day. Confident with the rest of our route, Joe and I started talking “how much longer” and I knew it was going to be four and out for us.

Onto Buckhorn’s climb and I saw a yellow and black team that I wanted to pass, we passed them but got passed back just before the gap. We were off chasing them over black to Club Gap. After Club, we were headed back over the way we came toward the Buckhorn shelter. I knew the road from Avery was quicker but I thought it was off-limits for some reason.

When we got to the staircase, I saw Cook and Jody and just had to ride the staircase. It felt great and I got some compliments from Jody on our aggressive pace. I said a quick thanks and then we were off down Clawhammer as fast as we could. This was the first gravel road we had been on all day as the rest had been fine singletrack. After three or four hair raising turns down Clawhammer, I felt something weird and realized I was holding my Ergon grip in my hand but it wasn’t attached to the handlebars. HOLY SHIT, I AM GOING TO DIE, was the first thought that crossed my mind, then I realized I should probably drop the grip and grab onto something but nothing was there. My handle bars had sheared off about a half inch past the grip. With the grip and handlebar gone, I used my left hand to steady what was left of the handlebars then grabbed two fingers worth of back brake as I clenched the seat with all my butt power (go on laugh at me, this was no laughing matter at that moment).

Miraculously, I pulled it out without going down. I quickly jogged back up to retrieve my grip and went to work getting the handle-bar out of the grip, I thought maybe I could slide the grip back onto the rest of the bar but quickly realized that I was just wasting time. Time to man up and ride this race home.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be going down Clawhammer but I was worried about the descent down Black. I thought I might have to run the entire downhill. I got it in my mind that if I pedaled as hard as possible up Maxwell, I could get enough of a lead on Joe as to not hinder our progress too much on the downhill. I only had to walk once going up Maxwell due to the fact that standing and climbing is tough without a fully functional bar.

I crested the climb and took off up the hike-a-bike. Not too long into the descent and Joe was there. I was having a slow go at it but was able to ride all but the most technical parts. We had managed to ward off anyone from passing us until the turn back toward the finish. Ben and Drew went flying by and beat us by less than a minute. We ultimately ended up 17th out of 70 + teams.

A huge thanks to Eric and all the volunteers! Thanks to SMOKE BIKES for making my new CANINE frame that I won in the raffle. I will get some pictures up soon.