Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BMX Training

Yesterday Sean and I decided to take the big bikes down to the Gilles Creek BMX track. We figured that pushing our mountain bikes around the course would be a challenge in both skill and endurance, and it's definitely more fun than a road ride.

A few of our buds that ride BMX were down there when we arrived. They were surprised to see us with our bikes and immediately wanted to give the track a spin on our heavier, longer, and springier bikes. The result was the same for everyone - one lap around and the rider would return to the start line gasping for air and laughing at the inefficiency of our bikes on that course.

We stuck around for a couple of hours and shot through the track as many times as possible. As the sun began to lower over the horizon we headed back to our homes. The last challenge being the climb from downtown to the Fan District. I was completely drained by the time I reached Belvidere on my 43-pound Glory and have a feeling that the month of April will be a very productive time, assuming that I follow through with this ritual at least two or three times a week.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Now that we've arrived back in Richmond, it's time to get back on the grind. The bus needs some repair and modification, I need to find a workshop and apartment, and my bank account needs a serious infusion of funds.

The trip was great though - an adventure I'll remember for the rest of my life. We racked up 9,788 miles in all, and I've driven the bus 18,144 miles since purchasing it last February. There will be some great trips this summer too, just as long as I can make the most of April in order to prepare the bus for another great season!

Keep an eye on the calendar [below] and send me an email if you'd like to come along on any of our trips. I also hope to have t-shirts for sale soon, so watch for that too.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Asheville (North Carolina)

On Saturday Matt took me on a cross-country ride with a few of his friends. I always count on being exhausted after one of Matt's rides, since he excels in long climbs. I knew this would be an especially tough ride when I noticed that my bike was the heaviest of the group - probably by more than ten pounds.

The ride was great though! The climb was long, but not brutally technical or steep. I had to hike some of the sections, but the company was good and the sights made it all worth it.

The descent was stellar and my bike made up for its weight as it blasted through the rough, rocky trail.

There were a bunch of stream crossings, which supplied a quick challenge to cross.

At one point we crossed paths with a herd of horses. It was strange to see them there, saddled and clearly tamed, without a rider in sight.

Brevard, NC

After a ruckus night in Knoxville, the four of us rolled to our feet and into Sam's Diner for breakfast. With full stomaches and a mere 130 miles ahead of us, the drive to Asheville seemed almost effortless

We pulled into Park's driveway in Brevard, NC in the late afternoon, but with just enough time to squeeze in a ride with Park and Chris. An out-and-back just under a mile from Park's house in the woods. It seems every time I visit Park he's somehow managed to find the most amazing house to live in. The first time it was a small log cabin in the woods. Last summer it was a farmhouse; and this time he's got a small house on more than an acre of land. I'm not sure how he finds these places, but it's always nice getting to visit them.

Last night Park took me to the Brevard Rock Gym. I haven't seriously climbed since I was in the Boy Scouts, but all the kids in the gym pointed me in the right direction. One of the employees, Liz, helped point out some fun routes and good techniques, which I was in dire need of. The gym is mainly all set up for bouldering, so you don't have to wait around to be belayed which is a nice change. It didn't take long for my forearms to completely cramp, but I think that proves that it's time I start climbing regularly. It's tons of fun and one hell of a cross-training technique.

After the gym we walked over to The Square Root where James and Adam were killing the trivia competition. With a team of two, they were in second place. Quite a feat considering that the first place team had about ten team members. When we arrived, we did our best to help, but the questions were getting increasingly difficult. Our score dropped to fourth place, but we rallied at the last second when we wagered it all on the final question, bouncing back into second place overall - a $25 gift card helped pay for our drinks and made second place even sweeter.

The next day Park took me to a secret trail that he was working on and showed me the ropes. The trail was almost invisible and sometimes following the correct path was a challenge.

It was the closest thing to the trails I'd ridden out west. The trail basically consisted of a few jumps and hips following the steep side of a ridge.

Park ruled it and I tried to match him, but my pedals were fighting me due to a broken bar on my Mallets.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vail, CO

All I can say is that it's definitely time to retire my board for a new one. The second day was about as successful as the first, so I think I might take a season off and save for my next board. Even with worn out gear, Vail is unbelievable and the experience of being on the mountain cannot be duplicated anywhere else.

Today's drive lasted 21 hours! We made some SERIOUS distance - Vail, Colorado to Knoxville, Tennessee! We were given some veggie oil from Green Guru in Boulder before we started the long haul. It totaled over 1,500 miles!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Vail, CO

Now that we're in Vail, it's time to shred the gnar! Martin and I hit the mountain this afternoon to see what good snow we could find in these late-season conditions. I've got to admit, I wasn't exactly tearing it up out there. There are probably several reasons why, but the main two are the fact that it's been over a year since I've ridden and the current shape of my board. It's made it through three seasons, one of which lasted over 90 days. Last year when I came out here I rode it from the slopes all the way to Allie's (Martin's girlfriend) house, which included some snowy streets with scattered road salts and gravel. I remember saying something to the effect of, "whatever, I need to get a new board before next year anyway." Actually, I've said that for the past two years. Anyway, it rode like a piece of plywood, but we still made it across most of the frontside of the mountain and plan on riding the frontside trees tomorrow.

Being out there brought back memories of my time out here two years ago. I mean, I basically lived in paradise for five months and had the ability to ride one of the finest resorts in the United States every day. Oh yeah, I was also reminded of what a workout snowboarding can be. I thought that mountain biking all winter would have me in tip top shape, but there are clearly plenty of muscle groups that just don't see much action on a bike. We took things easy today and I doubt I'll be sore by tomorrow morning, but tomorrow Martin and I are planning a much more strenuous day, which I'm absolutely looking forward to!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Drive to Vail

Today we drove from Salt Lake City to Vail, CO. It was, in my opinion, the most scenic drive so far, and I seriously doubt that we'll see anything more beautiful in the rest of our travels.

Utah had giant mesas and long, flat expanses with perfectly clear skies above.

Colorado was much rockier and jagged. The difference was obvious as soon as we passed the border.

It's been a few days since I've ridden my mountain bike and every time I saw a drop off or great ridgeline I'd imagine myself flying down it on my Reign. There were fences bordering the shoulders along the entire drive, however, which made that almost impossible. We did find a small set of hills in the center median, so I pulled over immediately and pulled out the mountain bike.

Travis and I climbed up the slippery surface to the crest. The sand was like silt and it merely sat on top of a layer of slick dirt - almost muddy, but completely dry.

I mounted the bike and took off towards the cornice. I bunny-hopped at the edge and landed a little bit down the other side. It truly was tiny, but the runway was only about twenty feet long and the surface of that hill was impossible to control.

I tried it another time to see if I could go bigger, but a county sheriff pulled up when I reached the top, so I was a little rushed in my takeoff and I only had one foot clicked into the pedals [yeah, and I have clipless/flat crank bro's]. I hit the ground with my tires first, but I knew my head was next to land. It was like falling in snow though, with the full face and soft soil.

Speaking of snow, I'll be shredding the gnar for the next two days...sure am glad I brought the snowboard!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Utah Snowmobiling

Last night one of our awesome hosts brought me along on a midnight snowmobile ride. I'd never driven a snowmobile before, but Ed (our host) did a great job of showing me the ropes. We rode up a snowy road for a while as I got the feeling for it, then we pulled off into some fields and really started letting loose.

The views of neighboring mountains and the full moon were insane, but I couldn't capture any of it on my camera. I guess you'll just have to take my word for it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

24-Hour Drive

Two nights ago we loaded up in Seattle and headed for Covington, WA to visit my Aunt and Uncle. They cooked us a great meal and we all got to share stories from the road. We left there around 8pm, destined for Salt Lake City, Utah. The drive was beautiful as we passed snow-capped mountains and canyons.

Some time around 7 or 8pm the next night we pulled into the parking lot at Adam's brother's apartment. We continued our DVD marathon [which began in Portland] and I woke this morning to The Dark Knight. Since then, I've been scouring the web for local trails to ride after my normal day of rest after the long drive.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Colonnade Park (Seattle, WA)

Today's our last day in Seattle, so we drove down to the Colonnade Mountain Bike Park under I-5 this morning to check it out before departing.

It was pretty fun; certainly the best use of such a small plot of land. They packed in as many jumps, drops, and log rides as possible. Nothing seemed too challenging, but it would be nice to have something similar back in Richmond.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Port Angeles, WA

Somewhere around 9am we left Portland. I think everyone was a little tired, but a quick bite to eat on the road got us rolling. Our destination was Port Angeles, WA. Along the way I called a veggie oil hookup in Tacoma. He had a barrel ready with pump when we pulled into the driveway - a quick fill up for a six-pack - can't beat that!

We crossed the bridge into Port Angeles in the early afternoon and stopped at a local bar to ask about camping spots. Apparently it was our lucky day - an offseason campsite across the street with bathroom, fire ring, and picnic table - for free! We had a couple brews and some delicious home cooking before setting up camp.

The next morning I slipped into the driver's seat and started heading for the day's event while the rest of the guys slept. By the time I'd pulled into the parking lot, everyone had woken up and a few minutes later I caught a ride to the base of the day's event - the 2009 Port Angeles Shuttler. The Olympic Dirt Society was shuttling riders to the top of a local trail, offering lunch too, as a fundraiser for the club before the official start of the spring season.

The trails were fun - super slippery and muddy wherever the ground was visible and just pure white snow everywhere else. Some of the trails had wooden features too. If you weren't aimed perfectly straight, you were going down. No chance to correct the line on those icy, slick planks. I took a few runs and we hung out around the fire until about 4:30, then loaded up the bus for the next destination - Seattle, WA.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hood River, OR

When we were riding Black Rock, James and I ran into some locals and talked with them about their trailbuilding techniques. They advised us to check out Hood River while we were in Portland, so we assembled a crew of Portland natives to hit the trails on Friday. There were six of us in total, two of which were our hosts in Portland, Shannon and Gabe. Also along for the ride were Spencer, Rev Phil, and Dogeye.

The ride began with a long, steep climb along a fireroad - eventually into the snow of upper elevations. Quickly, however, we decided to turn around and take one of the spur trails. It also contained a steep climb, this time traction and angle meant hike-a-bike only. The trail leveled out and contained a few skilled features, some of which were topped with snow. Soon, though, the trail met a section of land that had been clear-cut, completely obliterating the trail and our forward progress. We climbed through the fallen logs for more than thirty minutes before reaching the other side.

When we reached trail again and started uphill, I noticed a step-up jump next to the fireroad. It was steep and fast, but the ground was about five feet higher and the soil was soft and forgiving. I scoped it out and hit the ramp three times, just lofting it up into the air and landing softly on the ground above.

I guess everyone was feeling it, and Rev Phil actually decided to give it a try. I lent him my bike and Dogeye gave him his leather jacket (with padding) and full face helmet. The first attempt was scary. He took my advice and approached it with tons of speed, but was bucked forward immediately and landed square on his face. Once we realized he was okay, we all shared a laugh and joked about his epic attempt. Phil started asking our opinions on "what went wrong" and then announced, "okay, I think I've got it this time." We were all blown away - he was going to try it again! I shot video of the second fall, since I'd foolishly snapped a still photo the first time.

Surprisingly enough, we had to coax Phil out of trying it a third, fourth, or fifth time.

The rest of our ride was nice, despite having to back-track a bit to return to the bus. We did also find the most rewarding treat for us near the bus. Apparently we'd parked just a few yards from their skills section. Upon discovering this, we rode the three areas - Family Man, Middle School, and Drop Out. The largest of the three, Drop Out, had eight large features, three of which were increasingly larger ladder drops. They were built so well and the entire area flowed perfectly. I ran the set three times and we even snapped some video of the lower section.

Phil hit the first drop on his rigid, way too big, mountain-ish-bike. Spencer and I saw it happen twice and pretty much left us speechless. He's not really scared to try anything, even after a tough fall.

After that we loaded up the bus and headed back to Portland. Today the bus is headed North to Port Angeles, WA. Tomorrow's festivities include a day of downhill shuttling through another stellar system of trails.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Black Rock, OR

By the end of our "one day" drive, the bus was parked in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Salem, Oregon. We camped out, made some food in the bus, and fixed the rear brakes and leaky tire on the bus. It wasn't spacious, but it sure was cozy sleeping in the bus (four dudes, one dog, two bikes). Travis even shared his sleeping bag with Dignon.

The morning comfortably rolled in and we slowly crept from our mummy bags. Breakfast oatmeal in the bus and coffees at the bikini drive-in were our tickets to ride. In about an hour we were flying down a loose country road, drifting corners due to understeer up front. We followed a minivan with rooftop bikes, but apparently went through some gates that they left unlocked, so I whipped the bus around in the middle of the climb [scaring all three occupants] and headed back to the parking lot that we'd missed. A truck pulled up around the same time and James and I hopped in back for a shuttle up the road.

The trails were EPIC! The forest service designates this area as an experimental forest, which allows cutting-edge trailbuilding techniques to be "tested." Everything that we saw was immaculately built. Dangerous to rider - YES - degrading to the ecosystem - NO.

James and I walked up the fireroad a bit further and turned into the first black diamond that we saw, Granny's Kitchen - James on foot and me on my bike. I'd shoot ahead for a second, find a bawlsy stunt to try, and then wait for James to catch up. He would listen for my yell and bushwack straight through the woods in my direction, so he was usually there in mere seconds.

I'd try just about anything we saw. Failure meant broken bones, but the features were well built so you really just needed to take a long, hard look at it before the first attempt. Well, that AND you have to commit to these things - no bailing out at the last minute. Anyway, we have a couple of shots that came out, but all the action shot were a blurfest.

During the ride down my derailleur hanger broke (second time too). I removed it, along with the chain, and rode chainless the rest of the way. I walked some of the flatter sections with James and we were able to pay more attention to the beautiful scenery.

At the bottom, when we reached the fireroad, James and I doubled it. I rode on the handlebars with braking duty and James sat on the saddle in charge of steering. We'd come flying around a corner, moving way too fast, screaming "SLOWER!" "LEFT!" "NO, SLOWER!" "NO, FASTER!" the whole way to the parking lot!

Rogue River

Okay, I'll be honest - I'm not positive that it was actually the Rogue, but it was cool nonetheless.

Pacific Coast

The next attraction on our drive felt just like The Goonies. The beaches are epic, viewable from the cliffs above on Highway 101. Once we reached sea level the bus was promptly parked and emptied onto the rocky shore. It was cold and windy, not perfect conditions for swimming, especially with sneaker waves about. Long story short, James and I just couldn't resist.

The place was gorgeous!

The drive had similar views for almost an hour.

Redwood National Forest

I woke from my nap at 1:30am (read: in da mornin'). The bus was packed, a pizza was in the oven, and I was loading my semi-drunk passengers onto the bus. I figured they'd be easy to motivate with the promise of pizza, more beer, and sleep. I, on the other hand, was lured by the pleasure of driving through two states in one day, mountain biking in Oregon, and not much sleep!

The first attraction was the Avenue of the Giants. The trees almost scare you when they first appear, lurking around every bend. One thing that surprised me was how much it felt like driving along a rock wall in the east. Some of the trees are large enough to create the inside wall of a long switchback. It feels comfortable and familiar, just like the granite walls of the appalachians. Then you remind yourself that it's a TREE and you're lucky to close your mouth before your head explodes! I mean, these things are HUGE!