Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Busy Memorial Day weekend

Wow, I'm so worn out from our Memorial Day weekend that I'm ready to go back to work to get some rest. We started out with a drop into the canyon on Fri night to get out of the house. The ride over to Drivers Flat and back is not far, but you do see the river which always means a lot of climbing. So, 12.6 miles and 2,800' of climbing later we were back home, nice afternoon stretch!

The Middle Fork of the American River

On Saturday we headed out on the Western States for a little singletrack fix. We had the trail pretty much to ourselves. The Western States 100 running race is at the end of June so we saw a few runners out checking out this section of the route. We managed to pass each other without issues and everyone was in a great mood, likely just happy to be out on a beautiful day. Got about 80 miles and 9000' of climbing in for the day.

Mary headed down Western States to the bottom of El Dorado Canyon

Pretty good stuff here!

A little tougher on the way back out!

On Sunday I headed down to Auburn to meet Todd and Roger for the start of what would be an 8 hour day for me. Roger was a no show and Todd only had a small window of time so he and I headed up to the top of the big Auburn Loop where we parted ways and I headed out for parts unknown. (Well, very known to me.)

I headed up Ponderosa Rd. and down Yankee Jims Rd. to Shirttail Canyon Rd.and up to Sugar Pine Lake. I've done this ride dozens of times but I am always happy for the solitude and beauty of these Sierra dirt roads. 

The North Fork of the American River

Sugar Pine Lake under puffy clouds 

From Sugar Pine lake it was back home via Western States and Volcano Creek.

Stats for the day
Mary and I had talked about going for a hike or possibly an overnight backpack trip somewhere on Sunday night after I got home from riding. I still felt pretty good and it was still early so we thought "what the hell, lets do it". 
We packed up our gear and headed up the hill to the Mumford Bar Trail. This used to be a killer ride down to the river and all the way to Sailor Flat just below Robinson Flat. Unfortunately a huge fire roared through the area about five years ago and wiped the landscape clean, this would be our first trip down the trail since the fire. We started our decent down the trail about 6 pm, neither of us could remember how far it was down to the river, I thought it to be about 3 miles. The road grade down to the trail had some of the best Dogwood trees we've seen this year, really stunning flowers down there. 

Dogwoods overlooking Royal Gorge. 

As we progressed the trail became more and more faint and overgrown, it was apparent that not many had come down the trail in the past few years, we could follow it fine in some areas, others were a bit of a challenge. 
The good....

The Bad....

The Ugly....

After a little over 2 hours, 2.6 miles and 2,800' of descending we reached the river and a nice little spot to camp. We quickly set up camp, hung out a bit and headed for bed, tomorrow was going to be a bitch!

Mary showing her fire making skills.

Someones ready for bed!

Packing up with a view of the river

We both awoke fairly early, Mary had slipped crossing a log and tweaked her ankle a bit, during the night it swelled up and freaked her out a bit as she knew we had a tough haul out of the canyon. Just as we were getting packed up Mary noticed something stuck in Sasha's tail. As she went to remove it Sahsa turned around quickly and I could see it was a piece of fishing line with a three pronged hook on it. Just as Mary was trying to get the hook out of her fur, she turned an the hook flew right into Sasha's mouth and stuck all the way through her upper lip.... shit! I'm usually a gadget freak and always have some sort of tool for such things, but in our haste to leave the prior night, I had nothing. 

We tried and tried to pull the barbed hook out of Sash's mouth, it was clear she was in pain but there was no way we could leave it in there as she would just get her tongue or lower lip hooked on the remaining barbs. After what seemed like an eternity we still hadn't removed the hook and all of us were pretty shook up. It was apparent to me that I had to find some sort of mechanical advantage to be able to get the hook out. I finally settled on the handle for one of our pots, so as I held Sasha down Mary proceeded to grasp the hook with the handle and pull as hard as she could.

 It took a few shots, but finally it came out. We were all exhausted, but Sasha seemed no less worse off for the incident and was her happy self pretty quickly. 

The offending hook, f'ing fisherman!

So we were off on our adventure, Mary's ankle was hurting quite a bit, but she soldiered on and we made the top in under three hours with water and picture stops, not bad for people who don't hike unless we have a bike over our shoulders!

All in all a pretty stellar weekend, but boy were we sore on Tuesday. I was pretty much shot for the entire week and took it easy on the bike till the following weekend. I needed a vacation from my vacation for sure!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Arizona Trail Race Fail......

Wow, where do I start. I've been training for 3 months for the Arizona Trail Race, managed to get myself in pretty near the best shape of the past 5 years or so and was really dialed in to put the hurt on myself in this race.
We had taken 2 weeks off of work, a big deal for me, and had a really nice time getting to Tucson with a trip up the central coast and stops with friends and family. We started our trip off with a trip to Monterey and the Aquarium. From Monterey we headed down coast to Cambria for the night at a great little 50's motel in the heart of town.
Mary and Sasha in Cambria
 We had a great couple of days at our friend Johns house in Los Osos. He treated us to some spectacular rides and of course was his warm and lovely self which made for a great visit.
Mary riding in Los Osos

The views and riding are really good here.
  We headed from Los Osos down to Ventura to Mary's uncles house for a nice dinner and a sleep over. Ben and Lani are really wonderful folks and I wish they lived closer as Ben was a great inspiration to Mary.
 Ben and Lani have a beautiful home overlooking the Catalina Islands, Ben is a surfer and he told us how happy he was that he never has to call in for surf conditions, he just looks out the window!
Surf's up!
From Ventura we headed to Tucson for Tuesday night before heading to Sonoita for a couple of days before the race. When I woke up in Ventura I didn't quite feel right, I had a bit of a cough and a definite fever. As we progressed across Arizona, so did my flu symptoms. By the time I woke up on Wed. morn. I had a 102 degree fever, not good......
We pressed on to Sonoita but I knew at that point my race was over if the fever didn't break that day. It didn't, in fact it was 5 days before it got below 100 degrees which necessitated a visit to the urgent care for some antibiotics and some cough medicine(for what had become a horrendous, nasty cough) so I could sleep, something I hadn't done for 3 days.

The race was officially over before it began.

In between feeling really bad we did some nice tourist things. We hit up Karchner Caverns which was incredible(no pictures as it's a living cave) as well as our second trip to the Sonoran Desert Museum which is always a very cool experience and something I highly recommend.
Blooming Yucca plant
River Otter

We made the Raptor show which was really cool, 4 of these guys diving and flying inches over your head!
Beauty everywhere!
Mary had considered going on a horseback ride after taking me to the start of the race and I was glad she kept her appointment even as our plans had fallen apart. She had a great time and I was really glad she was able to go, she hadn't been on a horse in years after growing up on a 1500 acre ranch as a kid.
I guess it's like riding a bike, once you learn.....
From Sonoita we had a couple of days in Tucson, I would have been racing so Mary was just looking for a place where she could hang out for a while before picking me up. I felt really awful and spent most of these couple of days in bed, lovely.....
We didn't have any plans for Sunday or Monday so we decided to head up to Payson and camp a bit and to get out of the heat of Tucson. We hit up a couple of spots where the race gets close to the road so I could feel even more disappointed, not really, it was cool to see where I would be racing next year.
At the Gila River in Kelvin
Wonderfully built trail here
Still a lot of flowers out
Massive Copper mines dominate the landscape in this part of Az.
 We had a lovely time in Payson although I was felling pretty bad still, the antibiotics were helping and I finally got a good nights sleep with the hydrocodone cough medicine, that was some strong stuff....
We stayed at a Forest Service campground that was immaculate and had showers. It was also empty on a Sunday so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. I tried to ride but got about an hour in and imploded, barely made it back to camp, ugly it was.
Sasha looking for something to chase
Candlelight dinner!
From Payson we were off to Cottonwood to Deadhorse State Park to stay in the camping cabins for 3 days. We did a day hike in Sedona that I thought might kill me but managed to have a nice lunch at the Brewery none the less.
I was now a week and half out on being sick and my patience was running out, I was trying to be a good sport, but sometimes it was difficult to say the least. My cough had continued to be a problem, I was certain I had pneumonia but the chest x-ray in Tucson didn't show it so I just had to be patient and know that the huge case of bronchitis I had would eventually go away(3 weeks out and I still have it...).

Sedona, amazing as always
Remnants of the snow and rain of the previous week.

Yucca plant.

Beauty in the desert.
We spent a couple of days in Sedona and one day in Flagstaff trying to ride our bikes and going to the observatory, this is the first time I've been to Sedona and not ridden a single day. Although I had felt as bad as I could remember in recent memory, our vacation had gone along pretty well.
 I was ready to go home though, two weeks of feeling really sick away from home is tough and I was ready to be done with it. We decided to head home a day early by way of the Grand Canyon, the Eastern Sierras and Lake Tahoe, a great choice as the weather was perfect and the recent snows in the Sierras made for a beautiful backdrop on our drive.
I might be hiking that with my bike strapped to my back next year....
Not a bad lunch spot!
14,000' Mt Whitney
Arkansas Hills
Mono Lake
What a strange couple of weeks. I am glad I didn't get sick before we left as I think we are both glad we made the trip. I always look forward to time with my wife, it makes me happy and it's something that I cherish and have great memories of, for that I am thankful.

 Totals for the 14 day trip:
4000 miles driven.
18 miles ridden on my bike.
Memories to last a lifetime, too many to count....
4 days feeling well. 

Missing the race is nothing in the grand scheme of things, I am hugely disappointed that I missed the adventure, these things get harder to manage the older you get and my time is running out on doing these sorts of things. I'll move on and hopefully be in a position to do it next year. For this year I'll try and set my sights on the Colorado Trail Race, not sure I can make it happen but I'll keep it in the background and go for it if the opportunity presents itself.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Postman....

Wow, I saw just about every weather phenomenon today. I started off in the snow at home , rode through high winds, rain, sleet, hail and even a brief moment of sun. Perhaps a career in the Postal Service is in my future.

It's been a really wet week, no outside riding and work in the shop has been wet and cold for the better part of the week. It was a bit of an off week after this ride last weekend:

I had my field test on Friday and killed it, almost a whole mile an hour faster than my last test and 3 beats per minute higher. I averaged 180 bpm over the 20 minutes, that hurts a bunch for an endurance athlete who's used to trying to keep my heart rate at the lowest possible rate for the longest period possible. I woke up Fri morn and was up a bit before I checked my heart rate, 41 bpm after I've been up for 20 minutes is a good sign I'm not overtrained yet.

Today was a bit rough though. I hate riding in the cold and rain and today brought both. I was dressed in all my gear, waterproof pants, jacket, gloves and socks as well as shoe covers and a beanie as I headed out the door. It was pretty apparent that I had not recovered from Fridays effort pretty quick. Heavy legs and not much motivation to ride for 6 hours in the rain were the theme of the day. Luckily the recent rains had all the little creeks flowing and there was water in places I hadn't seen this winter which has been pretty dry by historic standards.

Water coming over the spillway at Camp Far West

I made my way out to Camp Far West and the Spenceville Game Refuge for some dirt road riding, we've had over 12 inches of rain at the house this week so trail riding was most certainly out, at least for me, there were idiots parked at the trailheads.....

 It was quite pretty in the refuge, I forget how nice and quiet it is here and how much wildlife is out and about. I saw many hawks, a coyote, lots of geese, ducks and egrets as well as cows and horses as you get closer to civilization.

Quite the menagerie.....

I made my way up to the pavement on McCourtney Rd and headed up towards Grass Valley and Lime Kiln Rd. I got a little misplaced and missed my turn, the end result was a 10 mile stretch of busy Hwy 49. Everybody was cool, but it was pissing down rain as cars were wizzing by at 55 mph which is a bit unnerving!
At Lake of the Pines I headed out Magnolia Rd and down to the Bear River on Dog Bar Rd, no pictures of the raging Bear River as it was raining pretty good, which was better than the hail and snow I encountered as I crested the hill and headed into Meadow Vista. 

By the time I hit Meadow Vista the "fun" had finally worn off. I made a bee line for the truck in Auburn and called it a day. Final tally was 84 miles and 7500' of climbing in a little under 6 hours on full knobbies on the mountain bike. The 14.1 MPH average was pretty pathetic....

 Man I was really soaked as I peeled off my clothes at the truck, a raw ass and feet were the end result of being wet and sweaty for the better part of 6 hours:(

Made it home just in time!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

End of an era?

Well the 20th Annual Cool Mountain Bike Race is officially over. Mary and I have been a part of this race for 18 years of it's existence. We raced the 3rd, 4th and 5th years on our tandem and have done most of the structural work of putting the race on for the last 15. Working together with Lisa at Auburn Bike Works has been a great experience.

 Mary has had the tireless job of organizing the volunteer base and handling anything related to personnel and race day jobs or co-ordination. This is really a tough and time consuming job and I am thankful she has done such an incredible job, she has just the right balance of personality and organizational skills to make it happen flawlessly.

My job by comparison has been pretty easy. I secure the permits, meet with State Parks, get the infrastructure stuff going, do the course layout and the staging area set up. Nuts and bolts stuff, just what I'm really good at.

These are the behind the scenes stuff that nobody knows about unless you do something like this. We enjoy doing it in almost an anonymous capacity, we've never done it for the attention, it has always been a labor of love. I would hope that those of us who worked behind the scenes for so many years, some in not very easy conditions, will also take pride in their accomplishments.

 I'm always amazed at how much people give to this event, we have had a fairly consistent group of volunteers for the past 15 years, some have been to every one, many have been to at least 5, for that we are eternally grateful, our jobs would have been so much more difficult without these wonderful people. I always give a silent chuckle to people who think they know what goes on behind the scenes in the making of this race. "Wow that went really smooth!" they say only because they have no idea how much stuff went wrong that they will never know about. I just smile and say, "Yeah, it just runs itself...."

This year has been a bit of rough go to say the least. We started this endeavor to make sure the original intent of the race, as a fundraiser for the construction and continued advocacy of multi use trails within the Auburn State Recreation Area, continued. The race has raised tens of  thousands of dollars towards that goal and we feel much pride in that. Without monies from the race it would have been very difficult to build the Foresthill Divide Trail and the Connector Trail, wonderful additions to our park and a real benefit to the local MTB community.

The function and personalities of the race have changed and the benefits of the race really don't match what we feel are areas worth the considerable time and money that we voluntarily contribute. I think both Mary and I wanted to make it to 20 years, well we made it and it's likely time for someone else to take the reins. I think we may have said this the past few years on Monday morning, especially if it was a wet year, but this may actually stick this time.

It was great to see all the racers and it ended up being a pretty nice day, I was completely soaked from setting up the course in the early morning rain, but by the end of the day the sun managed to poke out a bit and I think I even saw my shadow, a rarity for the Cool Mountain Bike Race.

Perhaps that's the way I'll always remember it....

Friday, March 2, 2012

Why the rest of the world hates California........

Got out today for a 5 hour ride after working a bit this morning. Computer troubles put me a bit behind my desired starting time which wasn't all that bad, it allowed the temperature to get a little above freezing by noon, whoohooo! I bundled myself up for the ride to town, we've had snow and a decent amount of rain this past week so I knew I'd be off to ride the canyon dirt roads instead of trails today.

 I settled into a reasonable pace on my way to town, I was supposed to keep the heart rate at a mid tempo rate on the climbs  which was not a problem since I'm a bit tired. I made my way to town and headed down Yankee Jims Road, the original 49er route from Colfax to Foresthill. At Shirttail Canyon I made the right to head up towards Iowa Hill, I knew there would be snow towards the top but figured I could make it most of the way. At about the 5 mile mark I hit snow, muddy and slushy was the theme for the next mile or so. As I approached the top of the dirt road I came upon a mini-van sideways into the ditch, not good....

I made my around the van as it was mostly blocking the road. As I came around to see if anyone was inside, the sliding door opened up and two very relieved ladies stuck their heads out. Turns out they had been there since yesterday morning and were not relishing the thought of spending another night in the cold. As they opened up the door I could see another gentleman in the front passenger seat, turns out he is an 80 year old blind paraplegic.

O.K. now it's a bit more serious.

I check to make sure they have water and the car will run and has gas, all is good on these fronts. They want me to get them a tow truck, but I'm not real comfortable with leaving and hoping some tow truck driver saves their ass. I tell them I'm going to ride back down and up to Colfax and give the Sheriff a call and let them figure out the safest way to deal with the situation.  We say our goodbyes and I assure them they will not be spending another night out there and head off down the slippery slope.

As I get out of the snow I see an approaching SUV. I flag them down and explain the situation.

Me: There's three older folks up there stuck in the snow and someone needs to call the cops to help them out.
Him: What, there's cops up there?
Me: No there's some folks up there blocking the road and they've been there 30 hours and they are blocking the road.
Him: Well Fuck, I'm not going up there, they are not going to ruin my fucking day!
Me:Stunned......I don't need you to go up there, I just don't want you to not be able to turn around, could you go to Foresthill and call the Sheriff?
Him: I'm not calling the fucking Sheriff, fuck I can't believe this!
Me: More stunned..... Look asshole, karma's gonna be a bitch if you ever need help.....
Him: Wait, what,  listen you fucking.......
Me: Look I'm gonna go get help, I'm out of here.

So there you have it, perfect Californian, can't go out of his way to help three 80 year old people who have spent 30 hours in the cold in the middle of nowhere. I really was stunned and couldn't really believe I was experiencing this, it felt surreal almost.

So I busted my ass down Shirttail knowing this asshole was trying to get turned around and had time to get more pissed about his lot in life and likely run my ass over just for the hell of it. I knew I was safe going down, I've gapped dual sports on this road, but I had a 1200' climb on the way up to Colfax. I'll tell you what, I was surely out of my heart rate zone trying to get to the pavement before this asshat decided it would be fun to pinch me off in the ditch, or something even worse. I generally feel really safe on my mountain bike, but I had a really bad feeling about this, even if he didn't care about me, he seemed the type to be hauling ass around blind corners without any regard as to what was on the other side.

I finally made it up to cell phone service and got a hold of the Sheriff, let them know the situation and they were on it . A call awaited me when I got home, apparently someone must have come along and pulled them out as the Sheriff was unable to locate them. I had taken a picture of their license plate so I passed that along to the Sheriff so he could check to make sure they were O.K.

I finished up my ride out onto Ponderosa Road and down Drivers Flat to McKeon Ponderosa, saw the river 4 times today which is always a tough day. 52 miles with 7,700' of climbing in 4:26 is a good day!

This is my second bad experience in the past year. Last fall I blew a bearing out on the front hub of my road bike about 15 miles out Mosquito Ridge Road. Mary was with me so she took off towards home to get the car and come back and pick me up as I walked back towards Foresthill. I walked for 8 miles and was passed by over 2 dozen cars, only one stopped....... a couple of really nice old hillbillies in their Ford Explorer loaded to to roof with firewood, man the bumper was just about dragging. I was passed by Suburbans, $50,000 dollar Ford diesel trucks and all sorts of other nice cars, not one stopped or slowed down. I think the worst part were the  two roadies who came screaming down and didn't say a word or stop either.

Now I wasn't waving people down or jumping in front of cars to get their attention, had Mary not been coming for me perhaps I might of, but I cant count the number of times I've turned the car around to make sure someone was O.K.

Karma isn't working for me on this particular item......

So there you have it in a nutshell. I think this is a perception that many outside California have of us. Too many news stories of people walking by looking the other way while someone is robbed, beaten or worse...I guess they may not be that far off:(

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cool Winter Ramble....

Found myself working in the little town of Cool Friday and decided to bring my bike along. I've been training for this: The Arizona Trail Race - 300 and 750 Mile Mountain Bike Races. I'm about five weeks in and it's been a tough five weeks. The training plan is pretty rigid, lots of heart rate this and power zone that.

This week was particularly tough, long 1 hour intervals at a really uncomfortable pace over the course of the past 4 days, but Friday was a screw off slacker day, nothing but riding my mountain bike for 3-4 hours on an absolutely stunning afternoon. I managed to finish up for the day around noon and was off to the Olmstead Loop. Out on the loop you can find your way out to Rattlesnake Bar Rd if you know the way, soon enough I was on my way to the end of the Salmon Falls Trail.

I made my way to the Salmon Falls trail via the trail that heads up from the campground pay station, it's been so long since I've made my way through the campground that I doubt I could find the far end of the trail out there. Salmon Falls fell off as I remembered it, I often ride that trail, but generally as a looong night ride/overnighter from Foresthill, I'ts been a couple of years since I rode that trail in the daytime and it was a really nice treat.
The bridge at Salmon Falls/South Fork Trail

The rugged South Fork of the American River

At the end of the trail I rolled across the street to the South Fork of the American River Trail and proceeded up the switchbacks towards Cronin Ranch. This is a really lovely addition to our foothill trail system and really makes big loops possible. Once again it was just a wonderful day to be out on my bike, up to this point I'd not seen a soul, nice
I finally came across a couple of equestrians about halfway out, a nice exchange of pleasantries was had and I was on my way to the end of the park and Pedro Hill Rd. for the climb back up to Pilot Hill. I really enjoy a nice country back road on my mountain bike, Pedro Hill and Rattlesnake Bar are really nice this time of year with so little traffic.

I made my way back up through the subdivision to the back side of the Olmstead Loop and was off on some of the little known trails of Cool. The conditions were just about perfect as I mad my way along trails that few people know about.
Off trail Trail?
The Locals
The "Cool" stuff
More fun stuff!

The time was getting thin, Mary and I had theater tickets in downtown Sacramento so I motored back into the town of Cool along the paved service road that would have become the road to Auburn had the dam been built.
All in all a most wonderful day!