Friday, March 27, 2020

Social Distance WIN! (Bald Mountain Jeep Trail, VA)

After spending two weeks in isolation (working from home), my friend Mike and I decided to get some miles on our bikes to break the boredom. I tossed a new rear tire and brake pads on my Vstrom on Thursday and we hit the road on Friday afternoon.

Mike did such a great job of describing the adventure, I've decided to use his write-up instead of my own:
Since we are social distancing and you may be home with not much to do. Here is a story of two guys on motorcycles.

“Let’s just see how far we can make it, we will just turn back if it gets bad”.... This is likely how most good trail adventures begin and this is no exception. As the city roads lost their size and the country roads lost their lines we moved further out and found ourselves in the mountain valleys following along the twisties of… well somewhere not in cellphone range and this is where our adventure begins.

The decision was made to leave the valleys and head upwards in search of elevation and views. Opting for the poor man's skyline drive, we hit the Blue Ridge Parkway. The steep ascent up Reeds gap was a great warm up for what awaited. We reach the top and turn left. The parkway was clear and we had the run of the place. Dennis set the tempo, speeds increased and chicken strips were left behind on his newly installed rear tire. Finally reaching a place to stop for a quick snack and check in, we noticed the entrance to Bald mountain jeep trail. How long is it? Well the road down is 13 miles, so likely less than that...right? There were a lot of questions about the terrain, but curiosity won.

The trail started off - well, let’s back up for a second...this is the first “real” off road adventure for my Triumph Tiger Xca. So, the trail started off pretty mild as most trails seem to do, but that changed within the first 5 minutes.

Along the ridge line we encountered our first uphill rock obstacle. It was fairly steep, I spotted my line and began the charge. My charge quickly died regardless of throttle input. The blinking light on my dash quickly reminded me that when riding off-road you should probably turn off traction control. Now with my Tiger set to Off Road Pro the bike functions the way bikes did in the 90’s when the bike really didn’t seem to care about your wellbeing. With all the horses unleashed and the wheels free to spin and slide I was quickly up the rocks.

The ups and downs continued with rocks and then we found the mud puddles or on double track trails it looked more like a small pond. We poked it with a stick to check the bottom and if there was one. The base felt firm enough so we saddled up and charged through. With one under our belt and our record: bikes=1 puddles=0 we felt good. Oh wait, another puddle around the next turn and the next and the next. Some of these we charged others we skirted around where cyclists had made small single track paths.

Then it happened - while picking a blind line through a 2-foot-deep hole I bobbled and gravity came alive. This is where I learned that a mid calf gore tex boot works as a fishbowl when submerged in water. I was able to brace the bike enough to keep it from totally dropping, but unable to lift it back in the position I was in. Dennis, being a good sport, dismounted his bike and came back to give me the extra lift to unleash gravity's hold and set me in the preferred vertical position. The score was now tied: bikes=1 puddles=1. This trend (without bike dropping) continued for a few more slow going miles. Between rock gardens and puddles we found sand which tested us more than the rocks and mud. Soft and deep it let the bike wiggle and wonder and chose its own line.

Our first mechanical: while taking a side route around a large mud hole Dennis clipped his side box on a hidden stump. Crack! I heard it and saw the box flop backwards. A short break and Dennis utilizing his knot tying skills and general MacGyver’ness that only an Eagle Scout can manage, it was secure.

Finally, the trail pointed down and the puddles stopped and the trail changed into a different challenge. This is where the trail got chunky and technical with rocks and small ledges.

Line selection was key. Every rock looked like it could slice a sidewall. Some were embedded and some moved under the bike setting you into a new direction. Encountering some rock drops we both made use of the skid plate protecting the underside of our bikes. I had a little more clearance and was able to sneak by with some different playful lines. The Tigers suspension really impressed me.

As the rocks became more tame I had a sense of relief as the trailhead was close and smooth roads were in our site. “Lets just see how far we can make it”.

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Saturday, February 8, 2020

Subaru Winterfest (Snowshoe, WV)

After posting photos of adventures in the Crosstrek on Instagram incessantly, I eventually received Subaru Ambassador status. With this newfound title, I was happily obliged to attend Subaru Winterfest in order to share the love.

Just as last season, my accommodations for this trip would be the cozy confines of the hatchback. On Friday afternoon I set out for Slatyfork, rolling out the sleeping bags and cracking a cold one by dusk.

The next morning I drove to the summit, walked into the village to geek out on Subaru gear, then suited up for a day on the mountain. Conditions were perfect! The snow the night before had left a fair amount of soft stuff on the edges of the slopes and the skies were blue and sunny! Eventually the clouds rolled in, bringing along some more snow to soften things a bit more.

During my lunch break back at the car, a fellow Crosstrek owner struck up a conversation and we traded stories of aftermarket additions and offroad travels. After lunch I headed back to the village to test my luck at the Subaru gear raffle (no luck!), then boarded a shuttle bus for Silver Creek (the mountain's night-riding destination).

A handful of runs later, I was ready to call it a day. I packed up my board and gear and headed back to Richmond.

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Model Trains & Drift Cars (Richmond, VA)

Perhaps it's a result of following @modeledbeyondbelief on Instagram, but when I saw an ad for a model train swap meet & exhibition in Richmond, I jumped at the opportunity.

Since several of my friends have kids now, I invited a few families to help cover the fact that I'd have gone all by myself!

Upon arriving at the venue, I heard engines revving & tires screeching, so I ran in that direction to see what was going on. I was delighted to find several Spirit.JP cars practicing for the upcoming drift series.

After all the action outside, we tried to satisfy our need for speed on the slot car track.

Before hitting the road, I let one of the conductors take my phone for a ride along one of the tracks.

And with that, it was back to real life as an adult...

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Saturday, January 4, 2020

New River Gorge (Fayetteville, WV)

The original trip to the New River Gorge was well over a decade ago. Since then, we've visited the area several times to rock climb and raft. Strangely enough, though, we'd never mountain biked in the area.

For this weekend trip, Rebecca and I decided to bring along our bikes to explore the Arrowhead Trails on the outskirts of town.

We arrived to rain on Friday afternoon, so I stopped in at New River Bikes to get a feel for "trail etiquette" under the wet conditions. Andy and Jon assured me that the trails would survive a ride in the wet, and that getting on the trails would not be looked-down upon. With that reassurance, Rebecca and I decided to ride on Saturday, whether or not the rain subsided.

While we were on bikes, our friends Warren & Summer went bouldering at Junkyard Cave. They chose the location due to the protection the overhang offered from the rain, but apparently the rock was still relatively damp. Despite these difficulties, they reported that they were able to find some suitable routes.

That night, we had dinner at Pies & Pints as the weather outside transitioned from rain to snow. After dinner, we returned to the cabin and took a soak in the hot tub as we shared stories of our respective adventures.

On Sunday, we packed up and headed to home, taking in the view from the New River before continuing on our way east.

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Dirtbags 100 (Richmond, VA)

One of my local bike shops, Outpost Richmond, has been leading the way [in Richmond] in growing the popularity of gravel riding. In fact, the shop's proprietor, Braden Govoni, has ushered in several cycling-esque fads to the area since I met him when we both worked at Rowlett's Bicycles. Back then, he was deeply involved with track bikes, creating the Sprint Club series. Since that time Braden has actually started TWO shops in the area, eventually finding his niche with the grocery/bike shop on the south-side of town.

In keeping with the community-oriented style of his brand, Braden created the Dirtbags 100 - a group ride highlighting as much off-pavement as possible, meandering through city and state parks just south of the city. His partner in crime for creating the route, Emily Monroe, also shares the unique ability to find off-the-beaten-path ways of linking sections of our city together. Check out her instagram to find photos of her adventures, usually with her two dogs riding along in panniers.

Knowing the kind of rides Emily and Braden are capable of stringing together, I was eagerly awaiting this installment. I downloaded the GPX file the night before and strapped my Bar Mitts on in preparation for the cold, windy ride ahead.

The next morning I met the group of roughly twenty riders at Outpost and we set southward around 9am. The route took us through Forest Hill Park, Ancarrow's Landing, Richmond National Battlefield Park, Dutch Gap Historical Park, & Pocahontas State Park. The best aspect of the ride, though, was the way the parks were linked, using frontage roads and neighborhood "cuts" to zigzag through industrial and residential areas.

At the halfway point, we broke for lunch and I assessed my condition - zero muscle cramps and little more than a sore saddle. I decided to stay with the pack and finish out the ride. The massive group separated into smaller segments and we each made our way through the remaining miles, finishing at Outpost where Braden congratulated us each with a slice of pizza and a high-five.

The ride was magnificent and I'll definitely keep my eyes peeled for the next installment - hopefully featuring a new route through another set of overlooked destinations.

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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Muttontop Cabin (Virginia)

This past weekend we joined four of our friends at the PATC Muttontop Cabin to enjoy the last bit of Fall foliage before the trees become bare for the winter season. We were rewarded with unseasonably warm weather after Sturday night's torrential downpour. On Sunday we woke to bright sun burning off the remnants of fog in the valley, giving way to temperatures in the 70's.

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Saturday, September 7, 2019

UCI DH World Cup (Snowshoe, WV)

Aside from the US Open, I have never had the pleasure of spectating a professional downhill race. When my friends and I heard that the final round of this year's World Cup was coming to our home track at Snowshoe, we quickly made arrangements to meet there.

One group of friends stayed near the resort and the other in Slatyfork, at our favorite camping spot. I split my time between the two, rubbing elbows with the pros up top and slumming it in the woods each night.

The main event was Saturday's race. I decided I'd pack a backpack and cooler and watch the entire course from top to bottom. I ran into several friends along the track and had a great time hooting and hollering as the riders made their way down the gnarly course.

On Sunday, we decided to explore the abandoned strip mine just North of our campsite. It's beginning to return to nature, but the dark pools surrounding bare trees are a reminder of the scarring that occurred.

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