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Monday, June 18

Happy Happy

Yesterday was my 49th birthday.  What did I do?

I went for a ride with Mills and Colin, had porch beers at 10:30 AM, knocked out the grocery store with The Pie, visited my mom, and then came home and got a bunch of shit done around the house.  Oh, I put some flat pedals on my beer getting/wheelie practice bike.

My weekend leading up to yesterday was good enough that I didn't feel all that bad taking it easy and piddling around the house.  We went up to Charleston on Friday.  What can I say?  I'm enamored by that city.  We were headed up to meet The Boy and his wife and loan him his sister for the weeks leading up to the birth of the child that will essentially make me Grandpa Dillen (or something like that).

Anyways, while in Charleston, of course... I ride.

Instead of using ride time to drive all the way over to Kanawha State Forest where I've ridden probably about ten times now, I opted for a more in-town trail system, Little Creek Park.  Google offered a "bike route" to get there, and despite it being on roads labeled "highway" and "turnpike," I went with it.

Suffice it to say, the ride sorta sucketh.

A semi-harrowing journey to a point I found on Google street views to get to an entrance to a trail that when I told my local friend Birdman that I was entering here, he replied, "that stretch doesn't get much use and is usually mud holes."

He was correct.

Regardless, I ride in on the north end of Trace Fork, which was more renegade ATV trail than anything else.  Eventually, I get into the "trail system," and somehow manage to get on Damn It Ball Field Trail.  At the top, there is a kiosk and a woman who is asking me about the trails.  I tell her "good luck," and from what I'd seen so far, that it was a spider web of short trails with little to no trail markers.  I did find the paper maps tho, so I hand her one and head back into the woods.

The analog map offers up some info that isn't on Trailforks, and so I decide to look for longer loops and also the red trails because they were labeled "Steep Trail.  May not be bikeable."

Which sounds perfect to me.  One one trail, another... then somehow back on the same trail I already rode earlier...

Sigh.  Short unmarked trails and Trailforks getting GPS confused on my location and almost no phone signal and a paper map with trail names that don't all match up with Trailforks... another sigh.

I'm running up short on the time that I'd promised The Pie I'd be back so we could go eat something.  I still had to ride the "highways" and "turnpikes" back to my hotel, but I want to see some red trails tho.

I seek out Boiling Springs because it looks like it should be at an obvious trailhead.  I enter into a disc golf course, run into some "golfers" I'd talked to earlier about stuff and things, descend some more but it doesn't seem as gnar gnar as described, traverse over to Cave Trail, giant tree down, crawl over, the rest of the trail is grown over... impassable.  Hike back out.

Shit.

Traverse some more trail looking for Devil's Tea Table.  I think I've found it to my left, look up and right...

Obvs I've found it.

It actually is the business, but it's super short, and the fun is over just like that.  I'm super down low elevation-wise.  I kinda put a route back into my head, tuck away the map, and then make the unfortunate decision to take the southern portion of Trace Fork (again?) to get out of the woods.  It's more ATV trail and portions of it make long, shallow angled crossings of a wide creek.  At times, the trail just is the creek for hundreds of feet.

Meh.

I miss a turn off this infernal stretch and commit to going even further away from where I want to be.  I end up way the hell out in the middle of farm country, surrounded by no trespassing signs.  My phone kinda knows where to go... and I'm now way further than I'd ever planned on being from the hotel and unbeknownst to me, a shit ton of steep Costa Rica-like steep climbing away from my original route to get here.

At least it's an "adventure," I guess.

I manage to get back around the time I intended (somehow), clean up, go eat an unfortunate but convenient meal, and then spend the rest of the evening with my immediate family watching the free concert on the riverfront... an event that is just awesome.  Every.  Single.  Time.

Wake up the next morning, ride along with The Pie as she does a five mile running race that also starts across from our hotel (same place as the concert), breakfast with the fam, and back to Charlotte for my big birthday "celebration."

Thursday, June 14

New Post

Sorry.  I just thought it was funny that I clicked on "new post" in order to create a blerhg post about my "new post."

You had to be there.

The things that you think are funny when the chemo coon hound gets you up a half hour earlier than your alarm which is set a half hour earlier than you really want so you can squeeze in more morning junk miles.

Anyways, I won a Fox Factory drooper post in a raffle.  I considered putting in on the JaBronSSon, being that it felt under-drooped in certain scenarios these past few months...

but I couldn't do it.

Knowing that full squish is just a fad and that I'll probably only keep mine for 1-2 years, I don't want any more money or spare parts for this bike.  I already have a box full of Eagle bits, a saddle, grips, etc put aside for the painful moment when I decide to say goodbye.  One can not deny the decline in value of a plastic shifty bike after more than two years.  Five years and you might as well give it away.

So anyways, I decided to put it on the Vertigo Meatplow V.7.

Two things of note:

1. Yeth, I had a Fox Transfer almost two years ago. 

I had some issues with back and forth play (not rotational) that I decided was way too early in the post's life, and after some correspondence and some face-to-face with Fox, I decided to cut my losses and let it go.  After seeing other people's new drooper issues over the past many years, I'm going to always advise people to not jump on the next new drooper offering.  Give it a year (or two).  See how other people fare.  Then buy.

2.  I did have a pretty sweet Thomson on there.  It was running along pretty well... sorta.  I started getting the same kinda fore/after play that I consider unacceptable, but then again, mebbe sorta my fault.  I'd forgotten when this happens that it's probably just the collar coming loose... which shouldn't be happening to begin with.  After the first gen, they put a set screw in there to keep the collar in place.  Unfortunately, I've still had issues.  That and the you-got-me-what-size cone wrench you're supposed to get on those huge flats to tighten the collar.  I just apply some Loctite to the threads and get it was tight as I can with rubber coated channel locks.  Meh.  Also, it's just a 125mm drooper, and at this point in my life, I want all the droop I can get.  I'll keep it around tho.  Nothing wrong with a spare (functioning) drooper.

I'm still trying to sort out my Boost mess issues so I can get some hard tail with a fjork action, but also thinking long term and whether or not I'll get another long(er) travel hard tail single speed thing going and what that's gonna look like being that it's a dump money into outdated stuff situation or throw more money at all new stuff scenario or just crawl under a rock and die inevitable fate.

I'm heading up to WV tomorrow.  Not entirely bike ride related, but I will ride my bike at some point.  Something new this time, not high adventure, but what I have time for while I'm there.  A mini-adventure, if you will.

So, mini-excite.  I guess.

Tuesday, June 12

Chubbed Up

This is how I see the next couple months going for me:

I'm fully converted over into non-racer boi status with the 32 spoke NOX/Industry Nine wheels and big Maxxis meats.  I've got too much fun coming up in the next couple months, what with the trip to Grand Targhee and the Dirt Rag Dirt Fest WV later in July.

Last year's event produced some of my best memories of 2017.  Except for waking up that first morning with that vaguely familiar "God, kill me," my heart's pumping gravy feeling, it was a nonstop fun.  I went on about a thousand rides with a thousand different people, never had to light up a camping stove, and took exactly one shower (and also bathed in an overflowing ditch once).  I've talked a few more Charlotte folks into joining me, so I expect this year to be even better.

I would like to think that I might make at least one or two of the organized activities (not yoga), but somehow I imagine I won't be paying close enough attention.  I don't get decent phone signal there, so my time keeping abilities are pure shit since I just toss it in the glove box when I get to Big Bear.

Which is truly the beauty of it all.  Unplug.  Disconnect from the (shitty) outside world and pay attention to the people around you.  This is why you came all the way out into the woods.  Ride bikes, make friends, drink beer... do yoga?

Mebbe not.

But you can, emphasis on "you."

Oh, and back to the racer boi topic.

There's a certain part of me that knows that I'm not gonna get through 2018 without wanting to do something that hurts.  This will be the second year with no hundie since 2006 and the first year with no stage race since 2004.  Yeth, I guess you could consider il Giro a stage race of a sort...

It's just that the Grand Tours are just an animal unlike any other and beyond categorization and proper labels.

Sure, I plan on going to SSWC '18 in Bend, but that's less of a race and more of a multi-day party with some riding bikes thrown in occasionally.  I just can't figure out what to do right now, but I'm sure it will come to me.  I need some kinda motivation to get out and "exercise" on these typical Charlotte summer mornings.  Yesterday's hour long extended commute shirtless junk miles had me pretty much drenched in sweat by the time I rolled up to work.

Yeth, I'm sure my coworkers love it when I "train" on the way to work.  At least I have the decency to sit on an upcycled cardboard USPS Priority Mail box instead of directly on the office chair.

I'm gross, but not terribly gross.

Wednesday, June 6

Hate me. I do.

Once again, I find myself in a situation, and I'm not sure how exactly it happened.

I've been asked to go on a "media trip" to the Grand Targhee Resort.

Why me?

Dunno.

It got very real last night.  The email with my flight confirmation came in, and I sat there looking at it and going "hmmmmmmm."  When asked a couple months ago if I'd be interested in going, all I could think was that eventually I'd get bumped off the list by a more legitimate candidate.  I figured nothing would come of it, mostly because if I've learned anything by being the most relevant irrelevant person in the "industry," 25% of all things that are 100% actually come to fruition... half the time.  Always prepare for disappoint, and sometimes (close to rarely but not quite) things will work out in my favor.  It's a pleasant surprise.

This must be one of those times.

I'll be honest.  When I got the first email, I had to google where Grand Targhee is on the map.  Wyoming?  How about that?  I've never been there.  And what's that?  The same part of the planet where the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park happens to be?  I've fallen into something good, and that's not even talking about the mountain biking part.  I might have to invest in some footwear that isn't flip flops or cycling clicky-clacky shoes.  I mean, if they ask me if I wanna see some of those things in a once-in-a-lifetime-hell-yes scenario, I don't wanna be flip-flopping around.

They're probably having me come for the mountain bike stuff tho.

"Voted #2 in the Top 5 Best Bike Parks in the Northwest region on MTBparks.com three years running."

That's a good start.

2,200 feet of lift service downhill trails, 61 miles of XC, DH, and whatever else you might wanna do trails.   I've been staring at pictures and reading trail descriptions all morning.

I'm a lucky POS.

And here's the crazy part.  They actually asked me if I wanted to bring my own bike or get hooked up with something from the Grand Targhee demo/rental fleet.  I had to be honest.  Nice bikes are what they are, but my bike is muh behk.  I've had enough experiences sorta like this to know that I'll spend the first few rides fiddling with things, just trying to get the bike and I on the same page.  I might get one good ride once the relationship has found a happy place, and then I'm back on a plane.

As much as I hate air travel with my bike, it's better than wasting ride opportunities because I'm fiddling with squishy/shifty/stoppy/cockpit bits.

So, yeah.  I asked if I could bring my Vertigo Meatplow V.7.  I just looked up the elevation... 7,408 ft at the base, 9,862 ft at the top.  Oof.  Remind me to put the 32X20 on there before I leave.  I sorta wished I had a suspension fork for the bike before heading out there (for pure pleasure), but I've been researching lately, and I've found that I've fallen into the money pit butthole between Boost and non-Boost.  I'm suffering from analysis paralysis, cart before the horse, chicken and egg sadness scenarios.

I've gotten nowhere trying to solve this problem, and I don't expect that I'll make any progress before June 30th.

Have I mentioned that I vibrate with excite?

Because I do.  I really do.

No "racing."  No planning.  Just show up at the airport, ride my bike, meet new people, eat, drink, and be a human in a place that I've never been a human before.

Pinch me... not too hard tho.  I bruise like a ripe banana.

Tuesday, June 5

Earning my Weed Patch

The Enduro™ was canceled.  The EMS crews that Eric "PMBAR Honcho" had booked for safety purposes had plenty of other E in the area to MS.  So.  Much.  Rain.

So those of us that didn't wanna spend our weekend demanding refunds from Eric (it's rescheduled for August) did what we could to find something better to do.

A last minute plan was thrown together, and it looked like Jim, Kürdt, Gwen and I were headed off to explore the recently opened Weed Patch Trail (and Buffalo Creek).  I was warned that there might be a lot of trees and limbs down, so we all agreed that we'd pack tools and a pleasant Helpy Helperson attitude.  I mighta spent too much time at The Spoke Easy after work on Friday, and just mebbe when I woke up the next day, perhaps I was hoping Jim wouldn't show up, and I could go back to bed.

At 7:50 AM, he rolled up in front of my house.

Meh.  This better be good.

At 10:00 AM on the dot we all got there, despite the detour around a washed-out road.  Loaded up and headed out, starting at the top of the balloon on Buffalo Creek (far right) towards the out-and-back string that it Weed Patch.

Almost as soon as we got on Weed Patch, there were two big downed trees, much bigger than our tools could deal with.  Meh.  Could be a long day.

We start up the switchbacks.  There's... like thousands of them.  At certain points, I could look back and see everyone negotiating their own section, one tier per person.

At one point, I'm behind Kürdt on a super steep left hand hairpin.

"Who built this switchback?  The hubris!"

Eventually, we get to the first landmark, Trout Creek.  Kürdt rolled this most dangerous piece of trail into the creek crossing.

Note the man on the sign getting broke off.

We considered our water options here.  No one was smart enough to take a photo of the trail map at the kiosk.  Seemed too soon in the ride to filter, but mebbe too far away on the return trip to make sense.  Whatever.

Push on to Grey Rock.  It's 12:45 PM or so.  That took some time.  Eat things.  Check out the view... waterfall waaaaaaay in the distance.  A giant rock face looking right as us.  Kürdt surmises that we must be looking at our final destination all the way across the valley... and much higher than where we're sitting.

We press on and at some random creek crossing, Gwen decided it was time to turn back.  She mentioned something about the distance we'd traveled and the elevation we'd gained thus far.  It's been a "loaded" ride.  Jim and I Steripen a bottle of water out of a creek and continue on, whilst Kürdt joins Gwen for the trip back.  Being alone out here on a mountain bike is probably a no bueno.  We might be the only people out here today... all day.

From here, Jim and I put our heads down and accept the sadness, relieved that sometimes the trail goes down but also keeping in the back of our minds that eventually we'll have to go back up.  Move forward... sweating... not drinking my creek water.  Only if I have to.  I wonder if we're mebbe being stupid by continuing on, but I don't wanna ask Jim.  He doesn't understand "stupid."

"Stupid" is disregarding the advice I was given to not underestimate the difficulty of this twenty mile (and change) ride.  Two water bottles and some beef jerky.  Prolly not enough.

Eventually, we pass Flapjack Rock, stupidly miss the spur to Tunnel Trail (AKA Hiker's Hole), and we get to the end at Eagle Rock.




We scramble around for a bit...

eat some more food, consider our only option (go back), and do just that.

Through the massive rock piles (thanks, Shrimper!) near the top, and then we manage to find the Tunnel Trail and hike it real quick.

Such impressive work making all those stone stairs in the middle of nowhere, sadly not fully appreciated in our semi-wasted state.  Back down the trail, get to the sad (but expected) steep switchback up portions of the return trip... I'm alone.

Wait for Jim.

Wait some more...

Shit.

Go back from whence I came.

Find Jim with his bike upside down in the trail.  Flat.  In the massive rock gardens.  Imagine that.

Plug the hole, roll a bit more... look back.

No Jim.

Once more, go back from whence I came.

Another flat.  Time to take stock.  I have one CO2 after the last repair and a 27.5" tube.  Jim has 1.5 CO2s and two 29" tubes.  I ask Jim to toss me a tube so I can inflate it with my mouth while he unseats the tire.

"Jim, is your rim drilled for Schrader valves for some odd reason?"

"Whuh?"

Make that, "Jim has one tube."

Toss in the tube, take our CO2/tube stock down to just one remaining of each, head back down the mountain... towards the black clouds and rumble of thunder.

Jim's slowing down from our pace on the way out, and when I stop to wait for him, I wonder if he's actually tired or if he's stalling just so we can get stuck in a thunderstorm on top of a mountain.  He wouldn't admit it if I ask, so I don't bother.

Eventually, we get up over the ridge to descend (mostly) back down to Buffalo Creek.  I'm down to just my creek water bottle, but I've vowed to not drink it unless it's an emergency.  So many things floating in there, others sunk to the bottom.

It's obvious that it rained on this side of the mountain, so Jim's flats actually saved us from a proper soaking.  Hitting the other side of the balloon on Buffalo Creek, we head down (mostly) until I run up on a guy doing trail work.  He asks me about overall conditions and also tells me that they're gonna close the trails for a few days.

"Don't worry.  I won't be coming back here any time soon."

Back at the parking lot, they've put up barricades since we got there this morning.  The lower Buffalo Creek trail is closed, but... burrito?  How else were we getting outta the woods?

Anyways, this is a one of a kind trail in our area.  I liken it to the North Fork Trail in WV (without the hours of shuttling).   The kinda trail you're gonna want to do at least once a year, even if it's just for the views.  It's 360° at the tippy top and simply insane....

Oh, and while the whole ride is quite arduous (Gwen ended up with 2800 ft elevation gain in 12 miles, so yeah), the trail is incredibly well built.  On most of Weed Patch, you could hardly tell that they'd been hit with two weeks of deluge.  We were expecting all these downed trees, but as Jim pointed out to me, the Lake Lure fire a couple years ago had really cleaned up the "widow makers."  We only had to do a minimal amount of trail clearing to get through.

That said, at our leisurely and somewhat mechanical-addled pace, we were out for over six hours... on a twenty mile ride.

You need to go do this... but pack smart(er than me), and you'll be duly rewarded for your (intense) efforts.

Thursday, May 31

In and Out: Sad Dad Burgers™

I'm leaving tomorrow for the Pisgah Enduro™.  I basically had enough time to undo all the things from last week and put them in order again for more bike race making (be it great or not so much).

I can still feel il Giro in my legs, but at least most of the courses are primarliy downhill this weekend (with a deadly amount of climbing transfers in between).  The overall life-timing is tight, but with my family out of town and knowing what a good time this event is from previous years past?

It's almost a no-brainer.

"Almost" because I still need to get all the right shit together.  If my lack of preparation for il Giro taught me anything, it's that over-prepared is actually just prepared.

I still need to sort out if I'm racing the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 or the JaBronSSon.

With Thomas "Hat Man" Turner off doing a stage race in Wakanda (or some other fictional place), the Hard Ass Class (full rigid) is wide open.  He's been known to best many of the squishy goggle faces, even getting into the top ten overall last year on the world's least endurbly bike.  I know Tonyan will put up a fight (on the course and quite possibly in a ditch) in the Hard Ass Class, but the JaBronSSon is still an untested-in-battle-work-in-progress.

I've still yet to get it to the mountains, and I just added an oval ring to the mix on Tuesday to further muddy the waters.

So, I really don't know what to do.

In the end, all that thinking don't matter much.  Just going there to have fun hanging out with the tribe and fill two of my remaining days on this planet with bike-related distractions while my body can still "enjoy" it.

... and it just got postponed until August as of noon today, so... doh.

Wednesday, May 30

il Giro: Hearts and Farts

I've got to finish day one on a 2.8 front tire with a tube in it.  I think with a rigid fork, it's a bit like riding a basketball down the mountain.  Suffice to say, I descend with even more trepidation than normal.  I manage to get through it all, fortunate that at the second sag stop, I was able to down about a pound of guacamole to make up for missing out on the food the first time.  Back at my car, a quick creek bath, drive up to the secret parking spot, load my gear into a truck, ride my bike down to the secret camping spot.

Once my stuff meets me there, I commence with the tent set up.  Knowing that once my place to sleep is established, I need to grab a beer and start sorting out my tire issues.  What follows is a mult-beer, what else could go wrong, plenty of helping hands, and a new valve core that wasn't mine own kinda fix.  A fine dinner, followed by fire and beer and stomping around the swampy property in flip flops ending with a campfire sing-a-long until it was just Carp, Buck, and I at the fire.  Buck might have talked me into a sad dad leftover burger patty from the cooler... at 1:30 AM.

I might have dreamt that tho.

Up early and covered in mud from knees to toes, blueberry pancakes for breakfast to turn that frown upside down.  Slowly get dressed and ready.  Ride out from camp... and up.

I get a lesson from Sam about this high mountain we're riding on and then a mostly downhill stage that hugs a cribbed-in trail down most of the way.  I think... ?  Who can remember?

Live through that and we're all the way back down at the reservoir where we started from yesterday, so now I know relatively where we are on the planet... and that we need to go all the way back up and over Mount Jeebuscripessummabitch.  Knowing that my only advantage here is going up, I make good time.  I can hear Carp and Buck behind me a couple switchbacks below.  I pick up the pace so mebbe they won't catch me riding back down to the finish in camp.

I barely make it.

It's the little things.

I do much less stomping in the mud after dark this time.  I've located the safe passages around the wet spots, the campfire pit has been moved so it no longer saddles the spring runoff, dessert meat is cooked in the hot embers, and I'm pretty sure we made it to bed much earlier than 1:30 AM this time around.

The next day, we're up super early.  il Giro needs to move to another location.  I load my shit into a truck, and always taking all the opportunities I see, I've secured a seat so I won't have to pedal up four miles to the secret parking spot.  Along the way, four skitchers grab the truck and only one of them has their front wheel destroyed in a manner that one might imagine might happen when four people are holding on to the sides of a pickup going up an incredibly narrow gravel road on the side of a mountain.

Drive down to the new camp spot, prep things for the day.  Roll out from camp, climb, climb a lot more...

From here, things are blurry between days three and four.  I know I took a few sprint points... mostly because they go five deep and only three people cared enough to try, leaving scraps for those that climbed up behind them with a little gusto.  We had two rains come in on us pretty hard, but at fortuitous moments when 90% of the riders were able to dodge 95% of the precipitation.

photo cred: Coco
I had at least one stage that played more to my skillset, but at least three or four that didn't.  I also remember day three going a little long and for a brief moment, I thought mebbe they would cut it short in the interest of getting us back before dark.

They didn't but we still did so okay.

Anyways, the memories are mostly a twisted jumble of confusion.  One hose shower, two creek baths, numerous keg beers, no personal items lost, one tire sacrificed to the flat gods, so much incredible trail, new faces, old friends, good times, and lessons learned (soon to be forgot).

I missed this moment because I was on the road and headed home before 5:00PM, less than fifteen minutes after rolling back into camp.  I need to figure out a better plan or at least get a travel partner for the next Grand Tour I attend.

Before I left the hotel Friday morning, I'd grabbed a scrap of paper and a pen and tossed it in my bag so I could take notes.  I'd thrown my camera in my duffel bag so I could capture images of il Giro as well.  I did neither.  I was either too busy having a good time (or getting ready to) that I never bothered. 

I'm 100% positive that I left out something between twenty to thirty good stories...

Regardless, dog bless il Giro.  Dog bless.