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Thursday, July 2

There's pineapple elephant, lemon elephant, coconut elephant, pepper elephant, elephant soup, elephant stew, elephant salad, elephant and potatoes, elephant burger, elephant sandwich...

Three weekends in a row of riding in Knoxville has taught me at least one thing.  Despite being known for having so much flow, they certainly have a lot of sharp, pointy fuck-faced rocks as well.


Odd.  I pointed out something like three or five large slices to Bill Nye on Sunday, and now when I went looking for them on my soiled tire, I couldn't find them all.  I swear...

I find myself very thankful for EXO casing.  Although I did wake up twice to a slightly flat'ish rear tire, it held up fine (and still is tip top)... when I refreshed the TruckerCo Cream after discovering the first slow leak.  I blame multiple runs down Giddy Up, Plan B, and Party in the Woods trying (and failing) to hold on to the wheels of my fully squash biked counterparts.

I guess other than random trips to the high(er) country, I haven't talked about life in general much.    Well, here goes.

I'm imagining that the average reader here has a certain tendency to push their physical limits from time to time on a mountain bike.  I'd like to think every mountain biker has this trait, as it lends well towards the growth of an endurance mindset.  While it's been some time since I've tested my mettle whilst doing a pedal, I have general stiktuit attitude when it comes to things in life.

I might stumble back when hit with something unexpectedly, but the whole "You know how you eat an elephant?" mantra kicks in pretty quick.

Step One: Put on your stretchy eating shorts.

So, the whole pandemic thing we are doing so remarkably well with here in the US?

Ummm... yeah.

Of course, when the state of North Carolina started shutting down, they were all "two weeks, mebbe four... tops."

They assume mebbe we don't have the internet with access to "information" and/or brains, I guess.

I immediately went to the closet and grabbed my stretchy eating shorts like it was Thanksgiving morning in 1986 Ohio.  Bring on the roasted elephant with a side of stuffing (that's what we call "dressing" up north), and gimme some elbow room.  Things are gonna get messy.

Like many others, I thought (okay, hoped) that with a lot of cooperation and working with our fellow Americans, mebbe August would happen in a sorta normal fashion.  Gotta be good by September.  On the outside, October will be so buenos... right?

I'm starting to lose my appetite for elephant.  Most days, it feels like I've forced down at least ten pounds of USDA Prime pachyderm steaks (bite by bite, natch), only to find out that the elephant I'm trying to fully consume hit the Wendy's drive-thru while I was sleeping... twenty times.

All the while, I remind myself that all that's being asked of me is coming to the dinner table and do my part...

I know others doing the same thing... but as their trying to eat their elephant, it's sitting on their chest, shitting on the lives, and basically running around like a bull in a China shop (but with a big nose and ears and their pokey bits in other places).

Don't get tired now.

Keep reaching out to friends and others to see that they're doing all right.

Keep making the most of your time while not losing your mind sweating the things you can't change.

Keep hugging your family (the ones you can).

Keep getting outside and away from the TV and computer (or whatever electronical object you're ready this blerhg post on).

I'm not going to say:

"Keep wearing your mask."

"Keep social distancing."

"Keep washing your hands."

"Keep posting your political opinions on FaceBook."

"Keep arguing with strangers and classmates from high school that you haven't seen in decades."

Because you've already made up your minds on most of those activities.

Be that as it may, if you would like to discuss anything (and I mean anything) with me socially distanced in my front yard (no masks!), feel free to contact my assistant for an appointment.

The lines are open.

Be patient.  I have Sprint.  Also, there's a good chance that I'll be in my happy place, in the woods with no cell signal.

Keep eating your elephant, kids.  It ain't gonna eat itself.

Tuesday, June 30

Threeeeee-peat

Another #vanlife with Bill Nye.

Another late day boogie to Bent Creek on a Friday to keep it going before the sun go down.

We kept it.  Going.

Met up with Dubuc (again) and knocked out a quickie.  Was all the buenos.  Photo ops kept to a minimum for sure.

I do not know what this Blair Witch rope thing is.

Over to Dubuc's to sleep it off in his driveway... and on the way there, this:

Picture snapped outta respect.  This man is a lifestyle.  Support your local wrestler... a man who may or may not be area legend Ricky Morton.  He is owning it, and my only question is "Does he have a lot of those SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL WRESTLER shirts and does he ever leave the house not wearing one?"

I would not.

Anyways...

We got up kinda early and headed out towards... you guessed it...  Knoxville.  Third weekend in a row.  Probably the last... tho.

Breakfast #mountainpizza because the real breakfast didn't stick all the way through the drive.

Stone wall that pukes rocks for a living.

Wooden wall that pukes Bill Nyes for a living.

Tiny drop at the bottom of Devil's Race Track that pukes Dicks... just as a hobby tho.  Not a way to make a living.

Second #mountainpiza at the top of our second(?) run down Barn Burner.

Bill Nye and I stayed on the flowier side of things all day long, not wanting to be too wasted to not be able to enjoy a lift service day at Beech Mountain on Sunday.  At least that was the plan.

It was a rough night of sleep.  Intermittent storms and Bill Nye with his red flashlight vigilantly monitoring a leaky roof situation right over the bed.  We set our alarm early for the drive back towards NC... to find an absolute shit forecast for Beech.  Poop.

We reset our sites for Fire Mountain, as it seemed like that was our best chance to dodge the rain that was sticking towards the north...

Quick stop at the quarry at an actual open public bathroom and some uncrowded scenery gawking.

Without anyone around disturbing the peace, you could certainly hear the methane bubbling up with your nose.

Back on down the road...

Because we're idiots, we just followed Google Maps like 99% of the general population does when you really don't know how to get where you wanna go.  We had seen signs promoting Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg on Interstate 40, and we both wondered what it is about these places that draw the crowds of people that aren't the crowds of people we find ourselves in normally.

Then we pulled up to a light, saw this, checked Google Maps... and discovered that we were in Pigeon Forge.

 And we drove the length of it.  And people watched.

And because Bill Nye missed a turn at a bypass, we got to see Gatlinburg.  And People watched.  And then elk watched.

I don't know if I've ever seen an elk before, but judging by the three we encountered, elk do not give a fuck.

Drove to Cherokee, town number three in a row that seemed as if Greek god had eaten Myrtle Beach and pooped it onto the mountains.

We arrived at Fire Mountain... in a drizzle.  Guess it's time to see if these famous machine-built w√ľnderkind trails drain as well as they say.

They do.  Also, #mountainpizza.

We didn't ride all the downs, but we got all the ups... aside from the Fire Tower trail.  Somehow climbing 571 feet over .7 miles with grades approaching 30% didn't seem like all the buenos.  Everything else seemed extremely fun, which is a shame.  Fire Mountain is sooooo far away from Charlotte that it would be hard to justify a day trip out there, but if you could incorporate it into a road trip, it's a gem.  None of the features are super huge, but the trails flow in both directions just fine (aside from the one way DH trail, Kessel Run).

That makes two trails that I know of called Kessel Run, which makes me wonder if George Lucas knows about them.  If he does, is he proud of the name being used for a mountain bike trail?  Would he want paid royalties if he knew?  Has he already made enough to buy a planet of his own and couldn't care less?

Dunno.

Thursday, June 25

Stuff and mebbe some things

I don't really understand "kudos" on STRAVA.

Yesterday, I recorded a ride so I could share the completed cut-through that makes a very safe route between Park Road Shopping Center (Bike Source) and over to my neighborhood... which then gets you to the Backyard Trails.  The installation of a pedestrian signal and the completion of some housing construction makes for a quiet ride without the nerve wracking sidewalk surfing past busy parking lot driveways AND cuts off a big incline.

But in order to share the route (and not just a shitty screen shot), I had to make it public. Make it public, and...

get kudos.

A less than one mile ride at a very slow speed... gets kudos.

Mebbe they're to encourage me to make more rides public or... I dunno.

Either way, I hope my friend looked at the route, because I'm turning it back to private like all my other rides. I still don't know why I have STRAVA, other than for correcting Wahoo generated elevation on rides that I'm recording for the Breck Epic in Place...

Which I already completed distance-wise... and I'm almost at the suggested goal of 72,000 feet of elevation (I think)... so essentially, I did it for a t-shirt.  Oh, and a good cause.  So there's that.

Topeak sent me a tool.

I know, if you've read the blerhg long enough, you know I have lots of torque tools now.  What can I say?  I'm a sucker for tools, especially of the torquing variety.  What makes the Torq Stick different from the others?

It comes with a bunch of Allen bits.  Most do.  It's not digital, so there's no beeping, and it's also not the clicking type where you kinda have to listen for that subtle noise indicating proper torque. 

The head of the tool kinda just pivots slightly (and clicks quite audibly) when you hit the set torque.

No more muting the Pandora Tool station, asking my family to not speak and shooing the dogs outside so I can hear "click."   Also, that little thumb wheel allows you to spin the bolt with your fingers to speed up the loosening/tightening process.

A nice thumbprint on the tool to make sure you hold it in the right place...

and thank.

Easy to set torque ranging from 2nm to 10nm, pull out the end of the tool, and one turn equals one nm.  A good enough range for just about "everything bike" outside of cranks, sliding dropout bolts, and mebbe pedals (does anyone even use a torque wrench on pedals?).

Idiot proof torquing.  More than likely just gonna save the digital wrench for the big jobs and break this one out 95% of the time.

A keen eye might have noticed the random seat post collars on my work bench...

Speaking of torquing things, member when I was convinced that a Thomson collar would alleviate the binding/slipping issues with my Fox external drooper?

I member.

It was perfect at first, but for some inexplicable reason, I was finding the fine line between having the post slip back down into the frame or having binding issues all too often.  Seems like something you should never have to futz with once you set it up, but there I was... futzing.

I was back to looking for solutions... and the random collars are indicative of failures.  I had a feeling I knew what would solve my problem... throwing money at it.

Meet the Engin Seat Collar, designed by Peter Verdone.  If you think you can't spend more money on a collar, you'd be wrong, as I didn't opt for the ti bolt option.  It has almost twice the stack height of other collars and has two bolts for even clamping force.

It's almost as tall as the slot on my seat pipe.

Upside.  My post has not slipped... since...

Downside.  I had to go slightly higher than the recommended 5nm of torque.  That said, there is zero stiction in the post action, so I don't care.  I'd like to not be thinking about this problem anymore, so I'm calling it $65 well spent.

Other upside tho?  Despite it's double stack height and two steel bolts, it's only a few grams heavier than a Thomson (and most other) collars.

Was this post random enough for you?

I think I'll ride Knoxville again Saturday, if only to give you a sense of consistency and normalcy.

Tuesday, June 23

Opportunity knocks...

and I look out the peephole, peep it right in the eye, pace around the room, wonder if mebbe another opportunity might come knocking later, wonder why I never fixed the doorbell (that's for real), and after much consternation, I welcome it into my life.

Nick had Friday off, and I had Friday off, so why not pack up and head west... again?  No Bill Nye style van life, but good ole camping in tiny science fabric houses.

First stop, DuPont.

There were some leftover appreciation biscuits at work the other day, so I made sure to secure enough for a long weekend's worth of trail food.  I felt bad about leaving mountain pizza off the menu, but when life gives you sausage biscuits, make sausage biscuit-ade.

We tried to not get too aggressive with our day one plans.  Chances of thunder boomers and wanting to get into Knoxville at a reasonable hour and whatnot.

A loop out to Ridgeline and such and then over here..

To watch the dark clouds rolling our way... complete with lightning bolts and impending doom.  We only had to hunker down once and wait for the rain to stop before heading back to the car... and after we got all packed up, the bottom dropped out.

On to Knoxville...

Show up at the Brown Bike Farms... which is way more "farms" than "bike."  All I can say is that if you're looking to pitch a tent and nothing more, this is your place (okay, the lightning bugs were cool).  If you wanna poop somewhere other than a hole you created with a stick, or bathe in something other than a somewhat murky creek, or have a sign that tells you that you're even in the right place.... mebbe somewhere else.

Nick and I watched people pull in, drive around aimlessly looking at available "sites," shrug their shoulders... and go, "this must be it?"

Same as us.

Anyways...

Up with coffee and looking for a place to make a deposit and then over to ride the Urban Wilderness.

Devil's Race Track and also Satan's Biscuit.

Same drop as when I rode with Bill Nye and same same blurry photo.  The outfit might be different.

We headed over to some of the trails I didn't get to ride with Bill Nye last week.

Nick wasn't a big of a fan of these.

Down to the AC/DC part of the world... which Nick insisted I wanted to ride just because AC/DC.

Walls are for riding, not for keeping people out of your country.

Droopy dropping on Lost Chromosome.

Nick banging it through the bamboo to get back to his happy place where the trails flow like shaved ice at Mead's Quarry.

More than thirty miles and most but not all of everything because leaving meat on the bone ain't always a bad idea.

Into downtown to get some Falafel to be eaten in the shadow of the John J Duncan Federal Building.  Back to the "camp" where were relieved to see that our tents were still there... not like they were gonna get stolen... it's just... leaving a tent in an empty field in the middle of nowhere?

I guess the black market value of a used tent isn't what I think it is.  Sit and drink beer and watch more people drive in and look around and shrug shoulders... and nobody else in the Bike Farm has a bike... again.

Up and out and headed to Pisgah.

Spencer, Fletcher and Trace on the plan-o-gram today.

I mighta started the day with a "what, another bike ride up a mountain?" kinda attitude, but after we got going down Spencer, I was much happier.

Also happier after a biscuit.

Looped everything around in a way that got us twenty miles... and taught me that there's a better way to get around that part of the woods to maximize the smiles per mile.

What to do this upcoming weekend?

I heard Knoxville is nice...

Wednesday, June 17

Excess Baggage

I have many bags that I use for travel.  I usually determine which one I utilize based on how much crap I'm going to need to bring with me.

I have a giant dark blue duffel from the 2005 Trans Rockies that's seen better days.  It's so big that I can crawl in and zip myself into it.  The tears on the bottom have been sewn and Shoe Goo'ed, and it's so capacious that if I fill it up, it's way over the current airline overweight limits.  I hardly use it anymore, and to be honest, it might take some searching around the house to put my finger on it.

I think I have a smaller blue duffel from the 2006 Trans Rockies... somewhere?  These Trans Rockies duffels are like ghosts, popping up all uninvited and never when I need them.

There's the 2013 BC Bike Race bag that sees the lion's share when I'm traveling like a normal human.  I can't fit in it, but when it's full, it's probably in that oh so sexy for air travel 50 lb range. Also, it's red and sticks out like a sore thumb on the luggage carousel.

The yellow bag from the 2007 La Ruta is perfect for shorter trips that don't require camping gear and tons of spare parts.  These are the kinda trips I rarely take tho.  It's almost always ALL or next to nothing.

Lastly, my old PAC messenger bag is for day trips and one day races where I leave the house that morning and come back that night.  One huge compartment, one small zipper compartment, and one pouch on the front.  It's not easy to organize my belongings, and getting ready for a ride usually requires some searching around in the dark nooks and crannies for small things like my Shuffle, mustard packs, Wahoo, lip balm... sundrious small items and some piece of black cycling garb amongst all the other black cycling garb.

So, this last time that Topeak was like, "Hey, look at our new stuff.  What floats your boat?  Mebbe you'll get it... mebbe not."

I'm a man of few needs, so it's always hard to pick something.  It has to fit the bill.  With so many travel bags already at my disposal, I somewhat reluctantly put the PakGo® Gearpack on my wish list.

My rationale was that when the nervousness of pre-race preparation only adds to my anxiety, mebbe a little organization would help.  Also, when everyone is standing around waiting for me in the parking lot to go for a ride while I dump my bag out on the ground looking for some tiny widget I can't ride without or a vague layer that I can't remember if I packed or not...

Back when I put it on my wish list, the details about the bag were fuzzy.  I was concerned about where I'd keep this giant cube in my house...

To find out that it folds down pretty flat.

BTW: Those are drain holes that are located under the waterproof side compartments for wet clothes, thank you very much.

It also looked like it couldn't ever hold that much gear (when staring at two dimensional images for months while I waited for it to show up), what with the helmet and shoes taking up a what looked like a fair amount of the internal space.

I was wrong.

For that last extended weekend trip I took, I managed to fit in three riding outfits (shirts, bibs, gloves, socks, humble shorts AKA baggies), shoes, helmet, Shakedry rain jacket, vest, two pairs of glasses, pressure gauge, fanny pack, Wahoo crap, Shuffle, various chargers... and whatever sundrious items I can't remember.  And there was still room for a lot more stuff.

And if I needed more room...


They added a three point attachment system to store the helmet on the outside to increase the space inside the pack.

Then there's shoulder straps so you can... ummm... put it on your shoulders... which would be nice for something like hands-free cruising around airports with your gear... but at 16.1” x 12.2” x 11.8” it falls a bit outside the 22" X 14" X 9" limits for carry on luggage in one but not two dimensions... but who's gonna let that stop them?

Man, I just wasted too much time trying to find an image of Marty Feldman in Yellowbeard trying to board the ship carrying a crocodile-shaped suitcase.

Oh well.

Mebbe that image isn't needed... and speaking of something not being needed, the straps can be removed entirely or tucked away at your leisure.


Dare I say that it's overwhelming size and ability to carry so much gear might be the only reason to even consider giving this my...

SEAL OF SEMI-APPROVAL.

There are times (like right now) that a day trip to the mountains might not be all that gear intensive.  The kinda rides when I'm wearing close to the bare minimum amount of clothing to not get arrested for indecent exposure climbing up 181 under the hot sun.  If you count a pair of shoes as "one thing," I'd bet I have less than ten things to pack and keep sorted, so this pack might be a bit too roomy.  That said, as the weather cools, I've fallen into the habit of bringing way more than I need... better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.  I certainly learned that lesson this past winter... several times... again.   Keeping all those layering options well sorted should net me a lot fewer impatient side-eyed looks at the trailhead in the future.

And when racing starts up again?

I can't wait to have gadgets here, shoes there, nutrition over in here, shoes where shoes go, glasses in a location that doesn't take google maps to find...

Etc.

Should allow for more time to finish my coffee and get in line for the porta-potties... for the third or fourth time.

I know some folks are gonna say it's nuts to pay more than a hundred dollars for a gear bag when you've got this potato sack you've been using since middle school, and it's been to the top of Mount Whatever that one time you were on a class field trip.

That's fine.  Totally fine.

You enjoy your thing, and I'll enjoy my peace of mind.

While I still can have it.

Speaking of...

Today is my 51st birthday.  I think I'll go to work to celebrate.  My dad died at 61 when I was only 39.  I used to have his age as my benchmark, but now it's only a decade away.   That and the fact that my friend Bill died just before his 51st birthday...

That may make me sound like a morose mother fucker, but if I ever needed a reminder to live each day to its fullest, I got plenty now.

Hug your family, pet your dog (under the chin where he likes it), and reach out to a friend.

I think I'll head to Knoxville (again) this weekend and celebrate my birthings with Nick by riding squiggly circles in the woods.

Monday, June 15

Back to tripping?

Got the chance to squeeze out for a last minute Vancation with Bill Nye over the weekend.

Conveniently, just in time (literally) for a return to travel, the Topeak Pakgo Gearpack showed up so I could load it up with two and a half days of riding shit.

More about that later tho.

I assembled my current favorite ride nutrition in proper portions...

And after meeting up with Chad from Colorado, we made a late go at some Pisgah classics.

Back to practicing my steeps... a "skill" that's needs some refinement after so much city woods riding lately.

We knocked out Black and Avery, Chad needed to get back, but I talked Bill Nye into throwing something at Bennett before the sun went down.

Someone's gonna be sad they lost their Revenge of the Mummy hat.

Bill Nye rocking the Enduro™ line at Qbert rock...

Whilst I took my first stab at the OG Qbert line for the first time in probably over a decade.

I can't exactly explain why I've avoided it for so long.  It's probably 2-3 sequential moves with a bit of exposure... and I'm sure locals don't even let it phase them.  Mebbe I had a close call once?   Dunno.  Anyways, it's gonna be back in the full rotation when I get up to get down Bennett.

Bill Nye seeking cramp relief on Upper Lower Bennett.

Anyways, dope ride finishing under some diminishing dappled sunlight, back in the van, over to Dubuc's pad to sleep in the driveway, and then over to Knoxville to ride the Urban Wilderness in the morning...

I.  So.  Love.  This.  Place.

My first time all the way down Devil's Race Track... I can see why Tennessee Valley Bicycle's owner Scott didn't take Watts and I all the way down to the bottom on rigid single speeds back in October.  It's the closest thing to a bike park without a lift that I've ever ridden.  We did ride everything in the area that I knew was good... Giddy Up, Plan B, Party in the Woods, Turnbuckle, Barn Burner, Best Medicine... so buenos.

Bill Nye had to show me how it's done...

I'm a talentless huck-to-flat dead sailor kinda guy.  Dropping down into a transition intimidates me... I don't care how much sweeter the landing feels.  It looks terrifying when I'm dropping into something I can't see.  Whatever.  Done and dusted.

Speaking of terrifying, I wanted to hit the drop on Giddy Up that you have to clear a boulder on the backside when you go off it... that I did rigid and blind back in October... shrieking in terror as I watched the large detritus pass below my wheels.

Post-drop but whatever.

That night, we returned to a quiet spot that Scott had hooked us up with... behind a sweet mill/wood shop. 

It was idyllic.

Woke up early, headed back towards NC for an early rendezvous with Dubuc in Bent Creek...

To ride a Bent Creek that I've never known.  It was raining when we started, but the skies cleared up and the good times were had.

A short and sweet ride to end the trip that wasn't necessarily  "epic" but the biggest thing I've been able to do in this upside down world we call 2020.

Speaking of which, Nia turned 18 yesterday, and today we're doing her drive-through graduation.

If you're asking yourself if a million years went by just like that, the answer is yeth.

She came into our lives soooo long ago, a four year old person that I met the day she came home, and just like that, we raised an adult person.

Another chapter begins, I guess.