Sunday, December 25, 2016

Florida Keys

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Originally, Rebecca and I had hoped to visit the Dry Tortugas National Park, but were surprised to find that reservations for camping onsite must be made approximately 11 months in advance.

We decided to change the scope of our trip instead of scrapping it altogether and quickly booked some hotel rooms in The Keys.

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For this trip, I would be riding my motorcycle south while Rebecca flew to Orlando. After three days of riding, I would meet her at the airport and we would continue on our trip together.

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On the way down I camped at Lumber River State Park in North Carolina. I had the park to myself, so I chose from all available sites to set my hammock and start a fire. Although the temperature was unseasonably high when I left Richmond, the overnight temperatures dropped and I was woken on day two by the cold. I emerged from my hammock to find my bike had toppled onto its side overnight when the kickstand sunk a bit further in the soft ground. Once I'd righted it, I quickly struck camp and headed on my way down 95 South.

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The next day I was planning on improvising a campsite in the Ocala National Forest, but after several hours on the bike I opted for a roadside motel with the promise of a hot shower and electrical outlets to charge all of my waining electronics. I was especially grateful for that decision the next morning when I woke fully rested and prepared to finish the drive.

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Since I had some time to waste before Rebecca's flight arrived, I detoured through the sandy trails of Ocala National Forest around Blue Sink. It was quite the challenge, as my fully loaded V-Strom (with 80/20 tires) struggled to stay in the ruts left by larger, 4WD vehicles.

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Later that night I checked into the hotel, unloaded some gear, then drove to the Orlando Airport to pickup Rebecca. The next morning we loaded the bike to full capacity, with bags strapped onto the exterior of the fully loaded boxes. Since Rebecca's sister lives in Vero Beach, we arranged a rendezvous with her to unload my camping and riding gear. After that, we continued our drive south along the A1A to our final destination of Hotel Biba in West Palm Beach.

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The following day we continued along the A1A on our way to Hollywood Beach. Our friend Mambo was visiting family in/near Miami, so we met him there for lunch, before continuing to our hotel in Sunny Isles.

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At this point in our trip, it was time to leave the "mainland" and begin our journey along The Keys! As we approached Key Largo, traffic began to slow. By the time we reached Islamorada it was time for a break, so we pulled into the The Island Grill for lunch. The remainder of the drive was relatively smooth and eventually we pulled into our accommodations for the night in Marathon, where we kicked up our feet on the balcony, sipping black strap rum cocktails while we watched the sun set.

In the morning, I headed towards the uninhabited Boot Key to get some shots of the harbor and the lush, green key. The bridge leading to the key was disabled, allowing it to return to nature.

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While I was flying over the harbor, Rebecca ran to Sombrero Beach. Once I'd packed up the Phantom, I met her there and we sat by the beach for awhile before packing up and continuing on our drive south.

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Our destination that day was Key West. Along the way we stopped at Cuba Coffee in Big Pine Key, followed by a walk along the bay in Summerland Key.

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All during our trip, we'd pull over at a whim. Nearly every bridge had something to explore at either end. Usually, we tried keeping the cameras/phones off. Every so often, you'd be accompanied by others at these "attractions" - instantly reminded of the benefits of simply taking it in :-)

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That afternoon we reached Key West. Just before sunset, we headed to Fort Zachary Taylor to attempt, unsuccessfully, to snorkel from the beach. Luckily, Rebecca did capture a great photo before we left the park to watch the WV/Miami game at Charlie Mac's.

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On the ride North, Rebecca and I tried to hit all of the stops we'd missed on our way towards Key West. We pulled over to enjoy a roadside beach on Missouri Key, then explored Blue Hole within the Key Deer Refuge.

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A cold front moved in on the final day, which was relatively convenient since we decided to visit the Everglades National Park on our way out. We chose the less traveled route along Card Sound Road, pulling over at Alabama Jack's for breakfast.

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The next morning I took Rebecca to the Ft. Lauderdale airport before making my way north, riding nearly 1,000 miles over the next two days.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Brevard (North Carolina)

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I've been getting pretty slack on my XC riding. I'm a weekend warrior at best, and I've been deferring to DH for way too long. This winter needs to be a change in the pace. In that vain, I jumped at the invite for a "locals only" ride in Brevard on my friend Park s hand-built trails. My friend Joey joined [Ruprecht and] me for this ride on some FRESH trails that needed some traffic.

Park has ALWAYS found some epic locations to call home, including one that has now become The Bike Farm. Keeping to this tradition, a group of over 30 riders met at his house and rode from his driveway to start the ride.

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I was delighted to ride with some familiar faces. Many of the Asheville/Brevard crew lived in Richmond years ago, and I don t have much opportunity to ride with them other than these sparse trips.

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The ride was, well, interesting. It began with climbs to a ridgeline, just as most rides would. On the way up one of the climbs, however, one of the riders' derailleur snapped at its anchor bolt. After attempting to shorten his chain and go without a derailleur, it was clear that the bike would not accept such an arrangement. I volunteered to give up my derailleur since my Canfield has sliding dropouts. I shortened and tensioned my chain and we installed my derailleur on the mangled bike. We made our way up the trail without issue and were soon united with the rest of the pack. Not long after that point, though, my chain decided to climb the cassette, which folded a ring and left the bike stranded. I pushed it for awhile and eventually traded with the repaired bike. I finished the ride with the group while the other rider, Si, took my bike back to town to replace the cassette and chain on my bike. I was bummed that the repair hadn't saved both of our rides, but was impressed with the gesture from Si to limp back to replace my broken components while allowing me to experience the trails.

Once we returned to Park's house, he lit the grill and we made trips to Food Matters for supplies. The group of roughly 30 riders shared stories of the ride including one fall into a creek that left my friend Chris scrambling to the house to dry off and don some warm clothes.

The next day we woke to rain, so Joey and I decided to head home via Roanoke, VA in hopes of finding less saturated trails. We arrived at Carvin's Cove around 1pm and made a quick lap up The Trough and down The Gauntlet before finishing our drive to Richmond.

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Turducken (Richmond, VA)

Aside from bad filter choice, I'm relatively pleased with this edit. I was playing in the tournament this year, so filming wasn't my top priority. I did score plenty of footage with (4) batteries to burn each day, though. As chance had it, I played at the Randolph courts both days, so I wasn't able to film at the Church Hill courts.



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Saturday, October 22, 2016

C&O Canal (Harpers Ferry, WV)

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I should make one point clear before explaining this weekend's activities - my Mom and stepdad are BEASTS! They are the most active retirees I've ever seen. With that said, onto the details of our weekend...

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Rebecca and I joined them to take on the C&O Canal Towpath from Harpers Ferry, WV to Hancock, MD - a total distance of 64 miles in one day. This would be ambitious enough under normal conditions, but this weekend was unique. The forecast warned of a constant wind from the North and it was not exaggerated in the least. The wind was relentless! It was so strong that I heard the emergency siren when we took a short stop in Sheperdstown, WV. To add insult to injury, every rider we passed seemed to glide along the trail, having the benefit of a tailwind and a descent, as we were ALSO pedaling upriver to our destination.

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Despite the challenges, the ride was beautiful. Our timing was perfect to see the myriad of Fall colors on either side of the Potomac. The series of locks and old infrastructure of the Canal were fun to explore also.

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After several hours of slow progress, we decided to modify the ride to ensure completion. At around the 40 mile mark, the other three rode into Williamsport, MD while I kicked it into high gear to arrive at the vehicle in Hancock before dark. The wind was so punishing that the remainder of the trek still took me two hours to complete.

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The second day of our trip began at Guide Shack Cafe to get the much-needed kick of caffeine to jump start our bodies post-ride. After that, we explored Harpers Ferry. It's a pretty unique town, preserved as a National Historical Park and built into the steep mountains of West Virginia. It was the site of John Brown's raid and much of the historic buildings are open for inspection by visitors.

Eventually we hopped back into our respective vehicles and headed back to Richmond, spouting ideas for the return trip to tackle another section of the 184 mile path.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Big Bear Lake Fall Funduro (Bruceton Mills, WV)

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My first experience riding a Dirt Rag event was the Dirt Fest - which was stellar despite the fact that it was basically rained out completely. When I caught wind of another event to close out the season, I jumped at it!

This event was being held near Morgantown, WV - a region of the state I haven't spent much time, but hope to return to after seeing the terrain.

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There were several group rides during the weekend. I chose to follow along on the advanced ride, hoping to see the best of what the area had to offer. The trails were a mix of technical climbs, rocky gnar, and features built by the local shredders.

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That night Rebecca and I made some friends with nearby campers and cooked hobo-packs on the coals of their fire. The next morning we slept in until the bright sun forced us out of the tent, then packed up and headed to Cumberland, MD for breakfast on our way home.

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Honestly, the chance to meet and ride with the locals was one of the highlights of the trip. Everyone we met was happy to spread the stoke, and riding some sick trails together is always and instant camaraderie builder.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

New Orleans, LA

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Rebecca and I have had a whirlwind summer schedule of weddings to attend, and to top off the tour was her brother's wedding in New Orleans. Matthew and his bride Rachel went all out for this celebration, arranging three days of nonstop events/preparations for the wedding party.

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Being outside the immediate wedding party, though, meant that I had each day to explore before meeting for dinner or that night's event.

Rebecca's first day started around 2pm, so we were able to enjoy our trip to Honey Island together. It was the calmer, non-Air-Boat version of the Louisiana experience and I was glad to hear the sounds of the swamp instead of the yell of an exhaust pipe.

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The wildlife was abundant. Alligators, turtles, birds, spiders, raccoons - surprisingly no snakes! The show stopper, though, was Lola the alligator!

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The next day Rebecca would be tied up preparing for the next day's ceremony, so I ventured off to Lafayette, LA to visit the only wakeboard cable park in Louisiana, CajunXCables.

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It was actually my FIRST EVER time riding in a park. The finless board and sliders were definitely an adjustment, and the jumps had an unpredictable nature, but I didn't feel like too much of a noob since I was definitely approaching it conservatively.



Of course, now I'm scouring the southern states for more parks to help extend my summer into the latter months ;-)

That night was the ceremony. It was spectacular, living up to the rather high standards we'd adopted after being to four previous weddings this summer. They each had their own style, and each left us smiling ear to ear. And just like that, the wedding season and, indeed, our summer are behind us with the colder weather ushering in the next round of adventures.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Massanutten / Bear Creek Lake (McGaheysville, VA / Cumberland, VA)

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After trying unsuccessfully to secure a CAT1 day license for this weekend's race at Massanutten, I decided I'd be better off simply riding on Saturday. MAN am I glad that's what I did! I am SERIOUSLY out of shape, as evidenced by my inability to make a run down the course without stopping to catch my breath. The course was killer, but a bit too fresh-cut to be particularly enjoyable. Just a series of ankle-high tree stumps and rocks that grew further and further out of the ground - a result of the soft loam, soil, and sand packing down after each tire crossed over it. I was relieved to have the option of riding the old course since I didn't need to practice for the upcoming race on Sunday.

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I didn't bother mounting my GoPro on Saturday, so the only media I have from the day is a set of photos by Phil Kendall. I did whip the drone out on my way through Gordonsville. It's one of my favorite towns to visit, so hopefully this clip doesn't bore you to death:



Since my friend Joey was driving to the event, he schlepped my bike for me so I could ride the motorcycle to/from Massanutten on Saturday. I headed back to Richmond that afternoon and prepared for the next day's adventure - a motorcycle group ride to Bear Creek Lake (Sports Lake shown in video).



A group of five met the next morning for breakfast before heading west toward Cumberland, VA. Whit led the pack and took us on a great route to the park, combining narrow country roads with gravel and dirt.

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Just Friends Day

In the past, our friends have celebrated an event we call Just Friends Day with a camping trip near Brooklyn, NY. This year, however, we chose the house of our friends Mike and Alison in Chesapeake, VA. They have an impressive tract of land with plenty of space to setup a sprawling camp.

Rebecca and I were only there for Saturday afternoon and night, but had a great time catching up with old friends and making some new ones.

I pulled out the drone for a few minutes to catch the guys tooling around on motos in Mike's backyard, which made for a decent edit:



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Sunday, August 7, 2016

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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