Saturday, March 25, 2017

DHSE #2, Trials Training Center (Sequatchie, TN)

My participation in the Downhill Southeast Series began last season with my first trip to the Trials Training Center (TTC). It was a great introduction to the venue and I've been looking forward to returning ever since.

The drive to Sequatchie takes about eight and a half hours, so I decided to break it up with a visit to Starlight Bicycles in Roanoke, VA to see an old friend. I surprised Scott with an unannounced stop and we quickly began discussing our upcoming motorcycle ride to VIR for the MotoAmerica Superbike Challenge in May. The trip is especially exciting since his son, Alec, just purchased a moto and will be joining us on our ride.

After the stop in Roanoke, I was back on the road, heading southwest. Around midnight I decided to call it quits, camping in the car with Ruprecht about an hour shy of the final destination. In the morning I finished the drive and was ready to ride an hour before shuttles began - perhaps a result of the time zone change after driving so far west ;-)

Conditions during the practice day were phenomenal. The course had plenty of traction and we continually improved upon our times each time down the mountain.

That afternoon, however, the rain rolled in and continued throughout the night and next day. That night, I slept in my hammock while I let Ruprecht enjoy the warm, dry interior of the Fiesta. In the morning I cleaned & repacked my front hub before swapping my worn Kenda Excavator tires for new Maxxis Minion DHF's in the hope of finding some traction in the wet.

After two practice runs, I felt relatively confident that I'd stay on the bike as long as my pace was tempered. As for the run itself, well, it didn't go exactly as planned. I felt relatively loose right out of the gate, then a flat in the rear exasperated that feeling until I slowed to a crawl, just hoping to make it to the finish line with my rear wheel intact.

These things happen, but the final race is NEXT WEEKEND - perhaps I'll have better luck then. Either way, it was tons of fun and I walked away unscathed!

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Zion National Park (Utah)

Ever since our trip to Vegas last year, Rebecca and I have planned on returning for an extended trip to Zion National Park. This year we were fortunate enough to score free airfare from my job to attend Conexpo in Las Vegas. I flew out for the show on Monday and Rebecca arrived on Wednesday night after I'd toured the event for two days.

The next morning we headed North on Interstate 15, arriving at the Zion Canyon Visitors Center around 10am. After grabbing our backcountry permit, we drove to the Weeping Rock parking lot to organize our backpacks and set off toward the East Mesa Trail.

The hike was roughly 2000 feet of elevation gain over 4 miles - through a series of switchbacks winding up the sides of the Echo Canyon. Once we'd reached the top of the mesa, we began searching for a suitable site to pitch our tent. Eventually we'd established a site and were heating our dinner while we watched the sun set over the spines of distant ridgelines.

The next day's hike was a breeze, although Rebecca had a sizable blister to deal with as we stomped down the trails we'd trudged up previously.

Since our progress was so quick, we took the opportunity to take in the sights during our descent, even stopping to filter some water to refill our canteens.

We celebrated our hike at the car before heading to The Park House Cafe in Springdale for our compensatory coffee.

That afternoon we checked into our AirBnb in Hurricane, UT before returning to the park to explore the Riverside Walk, which approaches the beginning of the Narrows "trail." The Narrows are not an actual trail, but a hike along the North Fork Virgin River. We terminated our exploration at the point that dry land ends, choosing not to dunk our boots in the cold water.

The next day we drove to the Kolob Canyon to check out the other side of the park.

We drove until snow covered the road, then turned around and headed to the Taylor Creek Trail. The 5-mile roundtrip hike terminates at the Double Arch Alcove. It is also a trail created by the flow of water, zigg-zagging along the middle fork of the Taylor Creek. By my count, the trail crosses the shallow creek 59 times.

Satisfied with our exploration of the park (given the time of year), we said goodbye to the rocky cliffs and drove back to Las Vegas for our second AirBnb reservation just south of downtown. In the morning we packed up and headed into the city for food and last-minute relaxation at Sunset Park before returning the rental car and flying home overnight.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

DHSE #1, Bailey Mountain (Marshall, NC)

Neko Mullaly's Downhill Southeast (DHSE) series has been a great kickstart to the season. This year's course was a an improvement upon an already ripping track, with berms and jumps added throughout.

Ruprecht and I left Richmond on Friday afternoon to find the gate closed at the entrance to our camping spot from last season. With Bailey Mountain slated as the third stop of the series last year, I suppose the entrance was closed until the first day of Spring - which was coincidentally that weekend. Despite the closure, I found a suitable lot to park for the night and sleep in the car.

The next morning I woke early and headed to Bailey to walk the course with Angelo before shuttles began. The ground was frozen, but Angelo and I knew it would quickly thaw into a layer of mud. For most of the amateur practice that was the case, but eventually the sun dried the ground and traction began to improve. After watching the pros slay the dry course, I formulated a few line changes in the case of suitable conditions the next day.

As luck would have it, the trails maintained their traction for race day and two practice runs cemented those strategies. As far as my run was concerned, I was happy with my performance aside from one line choice that led me to stop and reset on one of the berms. The short course suited my [lack of] fitness level, and I made it to the finish line with a time of 2:36 - enough to place 11th (of 65 riders) in the amateur category.

I intended to film some of the pros from above (with the Phantom), but I was distracted by a dead battery in my Fiesta and missed my opportunity. To add insult to injury, I loaded footage from pro practice only to realize I'd been shooting in the time-lapse mode by accident!

Arriving home later that night, I quickly unpacked from the race and repacked for the next trip - backpacking in Zion National Park!

As luck would have it, Pinkbike chose a photo of me in their race recap - purple pants and all!

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