Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sherando Lake / Stokesville Campground

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In my opinion, the biggest discovery of this summer has been the Stokesville campground and the trails their crew has been busily improving. In April, we scratched the surface and I've been eager to return to explore the rest of the trail network running throughout and around the campground.

Another of our favorite XC destinations is Sherando Lake. We primarily enjoy this spot due to its proximity to Richmond, the ability to shuttle from our campsite, and the beautiful lake at its base. This time around we leap-frogged down the mountain from our campsite. First, Rebecca and I (and the dogs) rode the slacks trail. We met Joey at the slacks parking lot on the Blue Ridge Parkway and then let him enjoy the rest of the descent while we grabbed our vehicle from the top. After that we relaxed by the lake before bidding Rebecca farewell and heading to Stokesville.

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Joey and I arrived at the Stokesville campground with enough time to squeeze in a short ride on their campsite trails. In the morning I snuck in another before breakfast.

For the day's ride, we decided to try a variation of the Narrowback Mountain Loop. An extended ride on road and fireroad helped warm our legs for the singletrack cliumb ahead. Once on singletrack, the climbing was cut short when I spotted a bear cub and decided to turn around before meeting momma bear. The descent was great! The guys at the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition have been hard at work adding water drainage and a fast, flowing trail that absolutely screams down the mountain! An easy pedal down the road and we were back at camp, ready to pack and head home. Another excellent weekend in the mountains.

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

New River (Fayetteville, WV)

After our trip to First Landing in June, Rebecca's brother Scott suggested we plan a trip to the New River before the summer slipped away. Later the next week he'd found a groupon for River Expeditions and we made plans to redeem the voucher the second weekend in July.

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On our drive to the campsite we were met with rain, but it let up by the time we'd reached the facility. The next day we woke to a clear, blue sky which stuck around for the duration of the weekend.

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The river was high and running fast, which made our trip short but exciting. I actually preferred the express trip, since it left ample time for us to explore the town of Fayetteville and the nearby New River Gorge Bridge.

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That afternoon we decided to drive to Babcock State Park. We were delighted to find that the cabin rental rates were very reasonable, so we sprung for a cabin over tent camping the final night. We hiked from our cabin to a few of the landmarks listed on the park map before returning to the cabin to cook dinner over the charcoal grille.

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The next morning we packed up and headed home, making a stop for food in Lewisburg, West Virginia. We picked up the dogs from their first visit to Dog's Day Inn and they collapsed on the couch soon after we were home like tired children after a week at summer camp.

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Monday, July 4, 2016

Snowshoe (West Virginia)

After years of making the trek to Snowshoe, through the winding roads of West Virginia, I've been looking forward to experiencing those same corners on my motorcycle. The problem with this, however, is the inability of bringing along my DH bike. Luckily, my fantastic fiance Rebecca and trusted riding partner Joey were willing to schlep all of our gear so that Ian and I could ride our motos.

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Ian and I set off Friday afternoon once the morning's rain had subsided. We took a leisurely route along Route 250 instead of Interstate 64. The ride was a bit longer, but put us in camp just before dark. After starting a fire and polishing off a few cold ones, we began to wonder when we'd see Rebecca and Joey. They'd both driven separately, but actually crossed paths on the fire road just before the campsite and arrived simultaneously.

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The next morning we rode at Snowshoe - Rebecca took her XC bike to 6,000 Steps, while Ian, Joey, and I rode the park on DH rigs. The trail crew has been hard at work, as we noticed several improvements including a totally revamped road gap.

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After her ride, Rebecca loaded up the dogs and pointed the Fiesta for home. Once we'd thoroughly exhausted ourselves, we said goodbye to Ian as he also headed back to Richmond.

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Joey and I took the lift to Shavers Lake before heading towards Slatyfork to camp another night.

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The next morning we brewed coffee and began to discuss the rest of our trip. The original plan was to ride at Timberline on Sunday, but the looming inclement weather kept us at Snowshoe until the drops began falling.

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The ride home was a bit wet, but over by the time the heavy downfall set in.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Blue Mountain Resort (Palmerton, PA)

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This season I decided to buy the MTBParks Pass instead of a season pass at a single resort. I figured it'd be a good incentive to travel beyond the regular West Virginia destinations that have become commonplace.

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I have only ridden Blue Mountain once before, during the final stop of the 2010 Gravity East Series. Since I was relegated mainly to the race course back then, I was excited to see what other trails the park had to offer.

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As chance would have it, I saw a familiar face while registering for my lift ticket. My friend, Jarrod, was riding at Blue Mountain also, so we ran laps together.

The park was great! Rocky gnar mixed with carved berms and jumps. Although some of the tabletops were a bit small to boost with much steam, the large jump line, Empire, featured longer transitions between lip and landing which allowed much better hang time.

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While I rode, Rebecca took the dogs to explore the woods via the Appalachian Trail, which actually crossed directly through the upper section of the resort.

Once we rejoined at the parking lot, Rebecca and I searched out a spot to take a dip in the nearby creek before heading to dinner at Slopeside Pub and Grill.

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That night we found camping along the AT and in the morning we packed up and headed home. Considering the traffic we encountered in either direction, it was a lot of effort for one day of riding, but certainly worth it to put my tires on dirt I haven't seen in nearly six years.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Chickahominy River (Lanexa, VA)

We are VERY, VERY, VERY lucky to have good friends that allow us to use their boat every summer. While we were there last, I whipped out the drone for a quick aerial shot of the dock and surrounding land.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

First Landing (Virginia Beach, VA)

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Rebecca had planned a trip to First Landing the rainy weekend in May that I headed to Raystown Lake. Luckily, she canned the trip and made plans to try again in June.

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The weather was MUCH more agreeable this weekend!

After long weeks for both of us, we were delighted for a weekend of lounging by the shore - napping in the sun, drinking Palibu's, and playing in the water. We brought the surf board, but didn't feel like hunting for waves and settled for the leisurely approach.

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We were curious how Lola would handle the ocean. We'd witnessed her attempt at swimming briefly when she encountered a semi-deep creek on a mountain bike ride, but otherwise had no clue. She was GREAT! Her speed nearly matches Ruprecht's and she keeps her head well above the water easily.

Ru, of course, constantly drank (by means of biting) the water - especially the salty whitewater. I let him have at it most of the day, only forcing him to stay on land after he'd exhausted himself somewhat, puking/shitting saltwater for a few hours.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Austin, TX

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When I decided to drive my new motorcycle to Austin, TX in two and a half days (and back in even less time), I had my fair share of naysayers. Even I was beginning to doubt the possibility of making the trip in such a small amount of time.

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I began the trek on a Wednesday afternoon, leaving town around 2:30pm. My goal for the first leg was a nearly nonstop haul to Roanoke, where I'd meet up with Scott Hailey for a few hours before finishing that day's ride. Catching up with my ex-coworker and roommate was great. His son, Alec, is living with him now and I thoroughly enjoyed joking with the two of them about a mixed bag of subjects. The Roanoke Natural Foods Co-Op is just down the street from Scott's house, and he made us all some hamburgers from local-sourced meat before I hit the road to finish the night's ride.

Instead of rejoining the highway from Roanoke, I decided to jump on the Blue Ridge Parkway for the remainder of the ride to Asheville, NC. Although riding rural roads at night is never a good idea, I lucked out and didn't find any deer standing in the middle of the road as I cornered through the parkway's thrilling set of twists & turns. By 2am I was spent and decided to tie my hammock near one of the parkway's overlooks.

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The next morning I made my way onto the highway and set my sights for Hoover, AL to meet with Robert Perkins for the second half of that day's ride. I was caught in the rain twice, but eventually dried out and arrived at their house just outside Birmingham. I plugged in my electronics while stretching my legs and preparing for the next segment. Soon we were off again, headed to Mathiston, MS to join with the Natchez Trace Parkway and camp at Jeff Busby Park.

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When Robert and I emerged from tent and hammock, we packed our respective bikes and said goodbye. I continued south on the Trace Parkway while Robert aimed his cycle back to Hoover, AL.

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The Natchez Trace Parkway sports a slightly higher speed limit as compared to the Blue Ridge Parkway, but its lack of turns makes you wish it was a few mph more. Eventually I reached Jackson, MS where I left the Parkway and continued west on Interstate 20. Another rain storm or two had me drenched, so I stopped near Shreveport to dry off and recharge.

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Once back on the bike, I reached Texas in short order. Near Longview, TX I left I-20 for Route 31. Despite having access to driveways and businesses along the road, this route was 75mph at most points, slowing only for small towns. Near Waco it met with Interstate 35. Unfortunately by then it was rush hour, so I traded the highway for frontage roads until the congestion subsided. Within a few hours I was in Austin, and soon after that I'd unloaded the bike and made my way into our AirBnb to take a hot shower and kick my feet up for the night.

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Rebecca and I slept in the next day and eventually made our way into the city center to do the usual tourist walk along the Colorado River. The city of Austin has plenty to see, so we just wandered aimlessly in the bright sun while taking in the sights.

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The following day we met with my friend Puck. He's a Richmond transplant that made the move to Austin a few years ago. He's a freelance graphic designer, so he has the luxury of a flexible schedule and has found himself becoming a tour guide of sorts for visiting pals. He and his buddy Jack took us to Barton Creek since we were searching for a place to swim. The recent rains had supplemented the normally docile creek with a heavy flow, so staying planted on the slippery rocks was a fun challenge.

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After a dip in the creek, we hiked to a small cave, then Puck took us to the local skate park to watch for a moment before we parted ways. That night we met the bridal party (oh yeah, the ORIGINAL REASON we came to Austin) for dinner at a local Mexican Restaurant.

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On our final day in Austin, Rebecca and I toured the hills to the west of the city on the motorcycle. Our wandering course took us to Emma Long Metropolitan Park, where we took another dip in the Colorado River before heading back to the AirBnb to escape the sun which had already given us some pretty impressive farmer's tans.

That night we packed up and early the next morning I took Rebecca to the airport before hopping on I-35 to start the long ride home. By that night I'd made it to Hoover, AL where I stayed with Robert and Elizabeth Perkins. The next day began early and had me within the Virginia border by afternoon. After so much time on the highway, I opted to take 460/360 from Radford to Richmond. Aside from the expected congestion in Roanoke, the drive was easy-going. By 9pm I was pulling the bike into the backyard at home - exhausted after nearly 3,500 miles total.

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