Saturday, December 22, 2018

Lambert Cabin (Luray, VA)

One of our favorite adventures each winter is the pilgrimage to a PATC cabin within the Shenandoah Park. This weekend's trip to Lambert cabin was especially enjoyable, since this cabin had WATER and ELECTRICITY! What luxuries!

This cabin was actually inhabited by a very special couple as recently as 2006. Darwin and Eileen Lambert were both authors, as well as being great stewards of the land around their house. In fact, Darwin was the first employee of the Shenandoah National Park. It was exciting to learn about them while staying in their old home.

During our trip to Lambert, I snuck in a ride near Catherine's Furnace. My ride began just as the sun rose and I pedaled over frozen ground as the sun slowly warmed us both.

Relive 'Bird Knob'

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Friday, November 23, 2018

Elizabeth Furnace (Strasburg, VA)

The day after Thanksgiving, I decided to head to Elizabeth Furnace for an abridged loop of the Figure 8 of Hate.

The temperature on the dashboard read 28 degrees when I set out for the trailhead at 6:30am. This would normally be a dreadful sight, but I must admit that nearly any temperature is bearable as long as I'm using my Bar Mitts and Louis Garneau ear covers.

The loop did feature several water crossings. Most could be rock-hopped, but some required me to remove shoes & socks and simply trudge through the cold water.

Relive 'Loop of love (half of figure eight of hate)'

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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Daniel Ridge Loop (Brevard, NC)

After my morning at the Overland Expo, I headed back to the AirBnb to rendezvous with Rebecca. The cold was creeping in and the cabin was warm & cozy, so convincing her to don riding gear & head outside wasn't exactly a simple task. Eventually, though, we made our way to the trailhead of the Daniel Ridge Loop.

The loop seemed like a perfect afternoon ride for us and the dogs, with under 800 feet of climbing and a simple route to follow.

The descent was wild, with rutted lines and some rather ambitious drops. During this time of the year, another aspect of the ride is the mystery of what rocky gnar lies beneath the carpet of leaves. This caught Rebecca once, tossing her to the ground on an already bruised knee and hip. She triumphantly pressed on, though, insisting on getting back on the bike to pedal it out rather than allow the pain to set in.

Eventually, the pain subsided and she regained her typical demeanor, getting shifty on a log pile with some radical parkour moves!

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Overland Expo East (Brevard, NC)

My first experience at the Overland Expo was great - the event featured an unbelievable amount of eye-candy in the form of outfitted rigs.

The last time I visited the REEB Ranch, it was something altogether different - the home of my riding buddy. It was almost eerie knowing that I'd been a VIP guest before and actually had the opportunity to stay inside this spectacular barn-turned-dwelling.

The event was packed with a multitude of vehicles. From Pinzgauer rescue vehicles to baja bugs.

Some of the larger vehicles even dwarfed my old schoolbus.

One of the all-time most revered off-road vehicles is the Toyota Land Cruiser. The expo had no shortage of them either.

One company in particular, The FJ Company, had two models on display that were absolutely breathtaking. I'd highly recommend taking a look at some of their featured builds.

In addition to vehicles, there were plenty of expedition trailers on show as well. One company, ROVE, offered trailers for rent. What better way to test the water than with a weekend trip towing and living out of one?

Although the expo was chock-full of gear, I tried to limit myself to one purchase. With that said, I set my eyes on the GoTreads tent. Their traction mats appeal to me especially since I'd prefer to outfit the Crosstrek with lightweight recovery gear instead of weighing down the 2-liter engine with a heavy winch or bulky traction aides.

I purchased a set of mats, plus a carrying case at the show special and continued down the rows of vehicles. Just before I joined the line for the shuttle [back to the parking lots], I placed the traction mats on the ground to snap a photo. Moments after that I spoke with a couple of guys just feet from where I'd set the mats. When I turned around to pick up the mats, they'd disappeared! I was furious!

I asked anyone standing in the area if they'd seen anything, but had no luck finding them. One of the campers said that he'd had two of his camp chairs perform the same disappearing act that morning, which just backed up my fear that they'd been swiped.

I contacted GoTreads while on the shuttle bus and heard back from Aaron, who'd personally sold them to me just minutes before. He offered to replace the mats for me, which instantly made up for the unfortunate theft. With that said, I'd HIGHLY recommend this company! Their product seems to be top-quality, and their customer service and support have proved to be superb!

Despite this last-minute blunder, I was thoroughly impressed with the event. After showing photos to a few friends, I believe I'll be returning next time with a crew!

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Moonshiner's Enduro (Blue Ridge School, VA)

Photo by Jack Looney.

Over the years I've taken part in XC and DH mountain bike events, but this weekend marked my first experience competing in an Enduro Mountain Bike race. The verdict: THIS is the way it should be! The format of Enduro is simple - you're fitted with a transponder to log your time into and out of stages. Between stages you can determine your own pace, allowing riders to enjoy the feel of simply being out in the woods with friends for the day. I was delighted with my introduction to this format and will certainly sign up for more events next season.

Perhaps the best part of this race was the trail network that supported it. The trails at The Blue Ridge School are phenomenal! The arrangement of stages was great, too, highlighting some of the best segments of trails in five stages overall.

Photo by Jack Looney.

The atmosphere on the trails and at the timing/registration area was great. Upon completing the race, riders were greeted with burgers and brews. After receiving transponders, the results were quickly tallied and the podiums announced. I experienced one hiccup, as my results were not recorded somehow, but I've contacted the timing crew and will hopefully iron out that kink.


The missing transponder was added to the results and I actually bumped the time-keeper (who was in my category) off the podium! I came in fifth place and he in sixth. What are the chances of that?!!

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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Shark Wake Park (North Myrtle Beach, SC)

Two days before my trip to Shark Wake Park, Hurricane Michael passed through Richmond. The next morning I surveyed the damage, concluding that we'd fared well with only minor damage from fallen limbs. One of those limbs, however, had landed on one of my SW Motech boxes, denting the corner but still leaving it usable. That afternoon I pried open the crushed eyelet and loaded up the bike for a five-hour drive to North Myrtle Beach.

Early the next morning (5am) I hit the road, reaching the wake park just before they opened the facility.

The manager of the park allowed me to bring all of my gear and motorcycle into the park so I could keep an eye on it all while I took runs on the cable. This was the inaugural test of my newly purchased [used] board - a Ronix Press Play. The board felt great and I was glad to be riding it & my bindings instead of a rental setup.

After a few hours under the cable, I took a break on their sunny patio & bar area. I figured a couple beers would give me the motivation to push myself, but the fatigue was setting in, which was noticeable as soon as I got back on the water. I had to relegate myself to seated starts, after several unsuccessful nosepress starts after lunch. I made a couple more runs, but eventually threw in the towel before I injured myself by pushing through the fatigue.

I packed up the bike and headed toward Lumber River State Park. Once there, I setup camp and started a fire - relaxing as the sun set before retiring to my hammock.

The next morning I struck camp and hit the road, reaching Richmond around 1pm. The weekend was a fitting end to another fun season. I'm glad to have discovered an alternative to riding behind the boat and am excited to work on my park skills next summer...or perhaps sooner if we make a trip to Florida this winter!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

I'll typically take any chance possible to visit a new national park, and this most recent work trip to Watertown, South Dakota was no different.

I was visiting Worthington Industries in Watertown to test their operator cabs on two of the Morooka machines we produce. For each test, the "crush frame" and cab must be rigged, then cooled to -20 degrees Celsius. This process takes just over a day to complete, which gave me a decent amount of downtime to explore.

Although Watertown is roughly 250 miles from the Badlands, I jumped at the opportunity, driving the 5 hours as soon as I'd completed a conference call with Morooka on the morning of one of the "setup/teardown" days.

It was well worth the effort! I was blown away by the colors within the park, even on a dreary, overcast day.

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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Freeman Park (Carolina Beach, NC)

I'm beginning to think that the Crosstrek might not be perfectly suited for SOME types of off-roading. With no ability to enter 4LO and a manual transmission instead of an automatic, it certainly doesn't like to putt along at a slow pace.

This characteristic isn't much of an issue when I'm able to drive 10mph or greater, but when stuck behind other vehicles (e.g. Trucks in 4LO), the Crosstrek bogs down and is forced to slide the clutch, which will eventually result in a completely burnt clutch, leaving us stranded.

When we approached the entrance to the park, there was a long line of trucks waiting for their turn to drive on the beach. There were several park officials there, collecting entrance fees and lending advice to those unfamiliar with driving in the sand. One of the officials gave a doubtful glance at the Crosstrek and asked "is it four-wheel-drive, or all-wheel-drive?" To that, I answered simply that it had been on the beach before (even if not THIS beach). Past her, we were met with the final official - a local police officer directing the extraction of several vehicles that had been buried axle-deep in the soft sand. He too had to give the Crosstrek a second look, but kept his comments to himself and agreed with me when I told him I'd just have to "give her hell!"

I let the vehicle ahead of us get a healthy head-start, then I pounded the gas pedal and took off in first gear. Surprisingly, the Crosstrek plowed through the deep ruts [with no low-hanging center differential]. As we quickly caught up to the crowd of trucks ahead. I tried my best to get around some of them, but eventually we were forced to slow, bogging down in the deep sand and coming to an eventual stop.

I was nervous that we'd be stuck there for the remainder, but decided to air down a touch further and try my best to give it the old "back-and-forth" - and it worked! The main issue came every time I had to slow for another truck. In order to mitigate the slow speed, our poor clutch had to allow some slippage, emitting the foul smell of a burning clutch. I tried my best to keep this to a minimum, but just had to let it eat itself alive from time to time.

With that said, we were still able to make our way down Freeman Park in the midst of a sea of stuck trucks - all the while confident that we were the ONLY car out in the sand that day!

Our luck was far better that one fellow wheeler whose Ford Ranger caught fire and practically burnt to the ground.

Rebecca and I felt terribly sorry for the guy, hoping that he at least had comprehensive insurance coverage to help lessen the agony of this terrible mishap.

On our way out, I again tried to baby the clutch as best as possible. Luckily, the engine can operate at a relatively low rpm (somewhere around 1200 or above), but all the while I just wished I could skate around the slow trucks causing the Crosstrek to wallow in misery.

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Whetstone Ridge (Vesuvius, VA)

Rebecca and I have become relatively experienced AirBnb users over the years, staying everywhere from Zion National Park, to Puerto Rico, to Nicaragua. When we decided to choose an AirBnb for our 1yr wedding anniversary, I opened up the search filters and began picking anywhere that looked interesting and allowed dogs. The result was fantastic - an Airstream trailer nestled just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway!

We were greeted by a heartwarming card and two mini-bottles of champagne to celebrate our anniversary when we arrived on Friday night. As we settled in, we kept discovering tiny compartments and neat design aspects of the 1971 Airstream - it was truly one of the most cozy stays we've had through AirBnb.

On Saturday, we percolated coffee & prepared a light breakfast, before touring the property with one of the hosts in his Kubota. The land was impressive and Joe clearly took pride in it.

After getting the lay of the land, we set our sights toward a mountain bike ride at Whetstone Ridge. For this outing, I dropped off Rebecca and the dogs along the Blue Ridge Parkway, then drove the car to the endpoint of the ride before pedaling back to them where we'd enter the woods. Although the elevation profile made it seem like the majority of the climbing would be suffered during my ride back to them, we soon discovered that there were several short, but impressively steep climbs awaiting us & the dogs once in the woods.

Although grueling, the ride was enjoyable. Eventually, though, the dogs' paws began to wear out, so we did our best to control the pace in order to minimize their pain. As usual, I put Ruprecht on my back and pedaled him for a bit to give his paws a rest. Eventually, we reached the car and were able to dunk the dogs in a nearby creek to allow them to recover.

The next day we packed up the car once again to head home. The dogs were so worn out from the previous day that we hardly noticed they were in the back - not a peep from them the whole way home.

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Cape Lookout (North Carolina)

Heading to the Outer Banks is a summer tradition for nearly every family in Virginia & North Carolina. For years I've been going to Nags Head, Corolla, or Frisco. Once or twice I've been to Ocracoke. Never before, though, have I tried staying at Cape Lookout instead - that will change forever after this trip to the National Seashore!

Finding a remote stretch of beach to enjoy by oneself is always the challenge, but at Cape Lookout that scene is abundant! With miles of beach to drive on and only a handful of visitors, finding your own piece of paradise is a breeze ;-)

For this trip, Rebecca and I invited another couple, Lindsay and Chris, to join us. We each drove separately, then consolidated gear into the Crosstrek before taking a ferry to the island.

The park has cabins for rent at a very reasonable rate and there are (2) ferry services available to transport a vehicle, along with several other ferries offering passenger transport. We used the Davis Shore Ferry Service and were extremely pleased with their friendly attitude along with the ability to order firewood, water, or ice to be delivered with one of the scheduled ferry stops. The best part of the ferry ride was watching the captain dock on the Cape Lookout side. His control of the large boat was amazing as he pivoted it around a set of pylons and gently spun the vessel 180 degrees into port.

When we first arrived, we met the volunteer, Doug. He was as amiable host, willing to give us the lowdown on the beach, cabins, and even working with us to upgrade from one cabin to another when we discovered that we'd accidentally reserved what was regarded as "the dumpiest" cabin (#21). Once we'd settled into our new digs (cabin #24), Doug came by to see how we were doing. We joked with him for a bit about how that decision may have saved the weekend, to which he agreed, adding "no one has a good time in 21."

Once settled, we loaded up the Crosstrek for a drive down the beach. The car did rather well, although its power is a bit lacking. Keeping momentum in second gear was a bit difficult, so eventually I decided to lower the speed and simply cruise in first gear instead. Traction, however, was no issue at all. Eventually I aired UP the tires to provide less rolling resistance which helped with the engine's lack of torque. All in all, though, I'm still confident that the Crosstrek will be a fine offroad vehicle, especially now that it's fitted with knobbier tires and the 2" lift.

On Saturday morning I headed to catch the 8am ferry to the mainland, then borrowed our friend's car to drive to Morehead City where I'd reserved a kiteboarding lesson with Blown Kiteboarding. Around 10am I'd arrived and we set off to a sandbar in the Bogue Sound. My instructor, Ayub, was easy to follow and learn from. He went over the dynamics of the wind, controlling the kite, and combining it all to propel oneself out of the water. It was nice having the wakeboarding experience under my belt, which allowed me to focus entirely upon finessing the kite control. At one point I was heading towards the sandbar without much clue how I'd stop. The only "panic" move was to release the handle, so I did. At that point, though, I had too much momentum, so I instinctively pumped the board and ollied over the sandbar. Ayub's panic quickly turned to relief when he saw me clear the obstacle. Later he shared stories of other first-timers digging into the sand and catapulting face-first into the ground.

After the lesson I returned to Davis Shore and boarded the ferry for Cape Lookout. When I returned, I found Rebecca, Lindsay & Chris at our cabin, about to return to the beach after a short break. We hung out by the water for a few hours, returning to prepare dinner. Later that night we returned to the beach for a fire while we watched the moon rise before us.

On our final day, we cleared/cleaned the cabin before setting out for another drive on the beach. I'd speculated on the possibility of driving to the lighthouse at the southernmost tip of the island then taking a ferry from there, but found that the only ferries at that point are passenger crafts. With that said, we had a couple hours to spare before we were scheduled to meet the Davis Shore Ferry, which we used to relax by the surf.

Leaving was not easy, but we'll certainly be returning in summers to come.

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