28 November 2011

Singletrack therapy

This weekend was our first-ever Thanksgiving not with family, and obviously the first without Mom. It was T-giving weekend last year when things started to get really bad, though we had a birthday party for Kate that Sunday -- the last "good" day we had as an extended family, wonderful to have that memory. Needless to say, though, 2011 just felt weird -- not only were we not in Chicago, it was in the mid-60s every day and mostly sunny. And when things feel weird, well -- there's only one way to cope ... from one end of Pisgah to the other ...

The weekend started early, with Nolan pinging me Wednesday morning asking about an afternoon ride. I didn't want to jinx it, but I was secretly hoping, and as it turned out, I was able to sneak out a bit early ...

From Fisherman's: 1206 > 5000 > Spencer Gap > Spencer Branch > NER > Fletcher Creek > lower Spencer > Reservoir Road > 5000 > 1206.

This was the first time Nolan had been on lower Spencer, and I was just happy to ride. I'm not a big fan of that section -- seems like every time I ride it, I begin riding like a small child and find myself lying on the side of the trail, up to my waist in muck. This time went alright, with just one small dab on the descent from Trace, and a few down low.

Each of us had a couple of hours in the morning before Thanksgiving celebrations, so I met up with Nolan and Greg for another tour of Mills River. I rode solo up from Fisherman's, they dropped down from BC Gap, and we headed out Spencer Gap together. Good thing, too -- I was having a really, really hard time that morning, and being able to get lost in the woods kept my mind off things.

From Fisherman's: 1206 > 5000 (solo), then > Spencer Gap > Spencer Branch > NER > Middle Fork > Fletcher Creek > Reservoir Road > Lower Trace > Wash Creek > then (solo) 5000 > 1206.

Oh, and it was cold. Numbingly cold. Like, 29 degrees at Fisherman's cold. Thankfully it was warmer up high, and the breeze felt nice -- though the mis-step into Fletcher Creek didn't.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with a coworker of Kim's, and it was nice. Bittersweet. They have a big-ish family, and their college-aged sons brought friends -- it was nice to get lost in a crowd, and fun to watch Kate be all grown up with strangers. My goodness, she's getting to be a big girl.

Greg and I agreed we wanted to sleep in; we didn't want to be cold. And I wanted to hit Bennett at some point.

From the Ranger Station: 276 > 477 > Buckhorn Gap Tr > Clawhammer Road > Black > Club Gap > 477 > Bennett > 477 > 276 > North Slope

That was the first time I've dropped Black Mtn Trail/Rich Mountain down Club Gap (not going over Buckwheat) -- it was a blast. Oh, did I mention that Greg was on his singlespeed? Dang. And I wasn't wearing any warmers -- it was awesome.

By this point, I was clearly coming down with the sickness, but with another 60-plus-degree day on tap, I figured I could stick it out for one more. Greg suggested Squirrel, and we agreed on another midday start -- noon meant Fisherman's, 1 p.m. meant Yellow Gap. Wouldn't you know, we got to climb ...

From Fisherman's: 1206 > 5015 > Bradley - Laurel > Squirrel Gap > SMR > 476 > 1206

This was the first time I've ridden down from Horse Cove to Wolf Ford since it was machined. I've ridden up it a few times now, but have always avoided the down -- before the work, it was kind of stupid, with nasty mud bogs and sketchy narrowtrack. Now, though, it was fun -- from end to end, Squirrel is more rideable but it's not easy -- you have to pay attention or you will find yourself in some big trouble. I did wish for some grippier rubber on the way down, you can fly through that section if you can stick the landing ...

Along the way, Greg and I got to talking about 'cross, and I realized that I could have been in Coralville, and have been on several occasions. But deep down, I also knew the truth: I'd rather be out exploring Pisgah than freezing my butt off in a one-hour race, covered in mud and muck in some field in Iowa. It'll probably come around again, but for right now, this is what I'll focus on, thankyouverymuch ...

Sunday was completely up in the air. I wasn't going to go, as by now the entire family had succumbed to illness. Kim couldn't speak, Daniel was coughing in a scary way, and I was burning up -- only Kate, who was a day or two ahead of us (having already been sick), was doing OK. But it was again in the mid-60s, and Kim kicked me out of the house at midday for just a couple of hours.

From the Hatchery: 475 > Davidson > Cove Creek > 225 > Daniel Ridge > 475 > 471 > 471D > Butter Gap > Cat Gap

I took it slow, I took it easy, but I nailed it. I never pushed myself on the pedal sections, so it took longer than I expected, but I also hit the downhills better than I ever have -- only four dabs on the *entire* ride. I think that's some sort of record for me.

All in all, a good way to kind of forget about things, while still remembering -- there's something about recalling the good times, while you're pedaling through the woods all alone, that makes it all seem OK. Not easy, but at least not as painful.

21 November 2011


I'm feeling a bit of mixed emotions about this weekend, with regards to bicycles and the like.

See, the weekend before Thanksgiving is the UCI cyclocross race in Hendersonville -- the course is just 15 minutes (by bike) from my house, and it's a who's-who of bicycling, drawing a host of SE 'crossers and folks like B-Matter and A-Myerson, not to mention B-Berden the Belgian. Cane Creek always has a tent there, and it was 2 years ago this weekend when I sealed the deal on our move to Western North Carolina.

But this year, I wasn't there.

Not that I would have been racing (more on that in a future post). But it's always a good time getting out there with a Liberty Bicycles cowbell - even if you do work for the competition.
Instead, I spent Saturday as a volunteer, attending the semi-annual Board of Directors meeting for SORBA -- the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, the Southeast region's IMBA affiliate. Earlier this year I was asked to serve on a regional advisory council, so although I get to sit through self-described "butt-numbing" meetings, I don't get to vote on anything. I'm not complaining though -- getting to be on the front line for policy work and getting to help translate that to turning shovels and eventually to better trail is pretty awesome.

Besides, not only did I get to share a wacky car ride with Pisgah Area SORBA Prez Karen Into and Chip from Upstate SORBA, we also got to work out the kinks of sitting all day in hard-back chairs on the fantastic trails of Chicopee Woods outside of Gainesville, GA. So Saturday was a win.

It's Sunday, though, that has me a bit torn. See, I could have headed over to Jackson Park. I could have cheered for the racers; I could have helped out with the Trips For Kids-WNC used gear sale. Instead, I opted for a bit of selfishness -- I got out for a ride.

Things have been kind of crazy the last few weeks since Daniel was born. October was pretty laid back, and I managed a few rides building up to Double Dare. Since then, though, it's been a bit of a madhouse: my family visited at the same time I was laid low by a stomach bug, and then with just a few days off, Kim's parents drove in and her college roomate (and two kids!) made the trip on their way East for Thanksgiving. Yes, I've ridden, but I haven't really felt good now for three weeks, and I just needed to get out.

So I did. I shirked. And on the one hand, it makes me sad. On the other, the ride was so fantastic, and the weather so perfect, and the groups of people I saw on the trails whom I knew were so plentiful, that I'm happy I went. It's been a while since I put together a solid technical ride with good fitness, and it felt awesome to push hard up the hills and bomb the rocks on the way down. So I feel a bit guilty, but I also feel refreshed and recharged, and hungry to be riding again. I think I have a few bits of housework to get through too, but with only a few plans this week and some friends in town and an extra day off work, it should all work out in the end ...

16 November 2011

Gettin' in the Wood

After yesterday's titillating post, I decided to keep it clean today; you know, since the Internet is a family medium. There's a lot of questionable content out there masquerading as "art," and I was determined not to partake.

But then my father-in-law broke federal commerce rules by transporting power tools across state lines without a permit. Aided an abetted by my dad, he even smuggled in some soft-core stuff tucked inside the case, smelling strongly of two-stroke oil.

This one is for the ladies ...
It took me a minute to realize that this guy is doing everything wrong: No safety equipment, not wearing work boots, holding the saw with one hand, blade pointed at his leg ... I was worried Kim's dad had brought us some crazy snuff reading, until I looked closer.

Check out the bona fides on this guy:
Wow, you just can't go wrong with that. Only, I guess you can, as this inscription on the very first page tells us: "John would have preferred to title this booklet, 'Gettin' in the Wood,' because that is really what it is all about!"
As I learned from Farrah "Beauty" Fawcett this past weekend, it really is all about "Gettin' in the Wood." "Trees are great," she said. I'm sure she'd approve of the subtitles that pepper this little gem.
To be sure, I was reading it for the articles. But the illustrations aren't bad either ...
I was really getting into it, until I came across this -- like all good soft-core material, this one tries hard to pass as "art" as well ...
Damn. Totally ruined the mood for me. I had to put the book down. Besides, I wanted to check out my new tool:
And as stoked as I am to finally own a chain saw, I think Kate summed it up best: "I like it. It's orange."

I'll let her mother talk to her about the book.

15 November 2011

Back side

I'm on the back side to the road to health, finally. Lemme tell you: Bad water runs deep. Just sayin.'

Did a quick road ride on Saturday before my date with Kate, just a quick run up Laurel Park to Jump Off Rock and back. It's been a long time since I was up there, and it was a much-needed reminder: one hour, 1,000 ft. elevation gain, one of the best views in the area. My old one-hour route to the Muur de Tower Road just doesn't hold a candle ...

Sunday was a fun Laurel > Pilot > Slate Connector with Nolan, Stephen and Justin from UNCA. I was definitely not feeling completely altogether, but it was still great to get out there ... last time I was that high, Greg and I were chasing darkness in freezing temperatures ...

And Dicky, just so you don't think all I did was ride this weekend, there was a little of this as well -- it's been a long time since I saw Cannonball Run, and I gotta' say, it's aged almost as well as you have ...

14 November 2011

Finding Neverland

Some days you just know will be special. A new apron and books. Jewelry and a pretty dress. Tap-tap shoes and sunglasses. A treat and a trip to the soda fountain for "chocolate." Traditions handed down that will never be broken.

"As you look at Wendy, you may see her hair becoming white, and her figure little again, for all this happened long ago. Jane is now a common grown-up, with a daughter called Margaret; and every spring cleaning time, except when he forgets, Peter comes for Margaret and takes her to the Neverland, where she tells him stories about himself, to which he listens eagerly. When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter's mother in turn; and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless."

09 November 2011

Long road to ruin

I'm starting the road back to health. It's been a week now, and things aren't quite where they should be -- and darn it all, I'm missing some prime riding.

You gotta' love when you show up to your doctor's office and he walks in with a huge scar on his chin. "What happened?" I ask. "Mountain biking," he says. Awesome. Too bad it was only Bent Creek that got him ...

04 November 2011

Game over

Wow. Just need to say it: So glad the season is over. Nine months of solid racing, and two days later, the bottom drops out. Literally. But that's probably more information than you need to know.

I'm finally feeling "normal" today, Friday, a little more than 72 hours after I crawled out of bed and made myself at home on the bathroom floor. OK, that's a little melodramatic, but you get the idea. My dad arrived Monday night, and we enjoyed a bit of Papa's & Beer on Tuesday evening -- by Wednesday morning, things were NOT RIGHT. I'm still not sure it's not just a tough of the flu that's been going around the office, but it also could be a bit of something from the lettuce or even from Laurel Creek on Saturday afternoon. Regardless, at least now I can keep food in my system for more than an hour, which is a good thing.

In the meantime, life has marched forward. I struggled through a planning session yesterday before going home and sleeping it off, and today have another one scheduled for this afternoon. Things are getting done -- but it remains to be seen how much energy I've got to following through just now. I'm definitely glad I don't have a SWANK entry burning a hole in my pocket -- that would just *not* be a good idea.

But what of that planning? Next year is pretty murky, with increased responsibilities and likely more travel, but also some earned (read: free) entries and some big plans ... not to mention some serious family time on the horizon! I'm sure I'll get myself out into Pisgah every once in a while ... care to join me?