Sunday, August 22, 2010

High Country Brevet and some Down Time

That's one small step for Paul, and one giant bill for his insurance company.....

Somewhere down below me, there are a bunch of riders on a brevet.  How do I know?  Well,  I started them off.  I'd thought the ride started at 7 so it was good I arrived an hour early as it started at 6 so I was a bit sheepish and apologised and got everyone off by 6 after 6.  I waited at the first control for them and then was off to go bike Sunrise Ski Area with my sons.  I didn't ride the day before this this year.  My Dad dieing has shifted my priorities a bit lately and I decided I needed time with my sons.  Not dissing shiny little metals or anything but, I think right now I have more important things to concentrate on, so I am working on bringing my kids into cycling more.  Since no one makes an affordable road bike for 8 year olds I have been forced to get them mountain bikes and as such, I figured they'd be OK at Sunrise.  I've included pictures from the brevet at the bottom.

All I said was "Smile and say 'We're all gonna die!'"

My older son thinks the ski lift is boring having ridden it with me awhile back.  My younger son thinks it's the coolest thing since sliced bread (and we all know how cool sliced bread is).   They both are not bored when we get to the top.  In fact, the younger one crashes before we even get around the first corner due to loose gravel and he is the one that's a little more skilled at these things.  Needless to say they are both a little freaked out as we start down the road which is pretty steep.  I keep having to talk my older son through things and I get more than a little frustrated at his negative attitude but I stop take a deep breath and keep working on it.  An offer of a blizzard at Dairy Queen if he soldiers through this works wonders and he has found new courage and the folks riding on the lift above our heads can now stop thinking I am the devil Dad as my son has stopped wailing and has started working on getting this downhill thing going.

The boys take on a rocky section of road

I have to admit,  the road was steep and was also on the steep side of a mountain.  I guess most people would freak out a little.  They did good though.  In fact,  they did so good that they had a good time by the time we got to the bottom and I am afraid I got a little too confident in their abilities and made a rather bad mistake.  When we went back up to the top I decided we could try the Fungus trail.  It was marked beginner green so I figured it would be doable.  Beginner doesn't really mean mountain bike beginner.  It pretty much means a person who isn't super good.  I didn't have problems with it but it is not as easy as it is made out to be I think.  Granted,  it's likely boring for the thrill seeking crowd out there but it's a pretty good terror to real beginners I found out.

My younger and more adventuresome son recovering from a most impressive crash.

I told my boys to walk the first few switchbacks and I'd meet them at the bottom of them.  Just as I got to where I was going to wait I heard a yell behind me and turned just in time to see my son fly through the air and go over his bars and down to the ground in an unhealthy melding of man and machine.  He usually cries until you give him a hug but this time he was hurt worse.  I was a little concerned he might have broken his leg but when I touched the other side of where it hurt he didn't have any pain.  In the end he just had a pretty healthy bruise and a whole load of shattered confidence.  In fact,  both boys mostly walked the trail from here on down.

A very frustrated son pushing his bike down the Fungus trail.

It took us forever to get down, occasionally someone would come riding through and give the boys encouragement (and if your reading,  thank you thank you thank you).  Eventually we got through to the fire road again and I managed to get the boys down.  My older son rode way ahead and ended up taking a wrong turn but I knew his tire tracks so we followed him to the wrong lodge where we could make our way back to the car in the lower lot.   Once we were in the car all was well again.  Mental note to self, less is sometimes better. 

The brevet riders would find similar suffering though.  The road to the resort was being repaved and so was not paved at all.  To make matters worse they got creamed for most of the late afternoon with wicked heavy rain.   I have to say if you are not expecting dirt,  it could hamper your ability to enjoy the beautiful ride back into the ski area.  I hope it wasn't too awful for the riders.  Sounds like some didn't have a problem and some did.  I suppose it is one of those glass half full things.

Patrick and co. arrive for a signature.

The Breakfast Club

Joey working to catch the breakfast club

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Under the Milky Way....

Saguaro Moon

Aug 13 is a day I'd been looking forward to all week.  I made sure to get everything ready when I left in the morning so I'd have it after work and I could go straight to McDowell Mtn regional park for the McDowell Mtn Moonlight ride on the Pemberton trail.  There were rumors of a barbeque put on by the Slippery Pig Bike shop with brats and other tasty treats at the end of the ride.  The start time was 7:30 and everyone had to be off the trail by 9:30.  These times would be harder than I thought to meet.

First thing I discovered was my back tire was flat, but since I was late to work I figured I'd just fix it at the trailhead.  I wore my bike shoes to work so I wouldn't forget them and then changed into my work shoes that I keep under the desk for when I bike commute, but this would be all for naught.

I got out of work later than I should have and found myself heading out with an hour to go and still needing to stop by the bike shop.   I spent a good 5-10 minutes riding around the parking lot waiting for a space to open up.  When I ducked into the shop I found a cheap mini pump quickly (first thing I forgot) and the guys hooked me up with a slime tube to fix my flat.  After getting some gatoraid, water and a pack of Dolly Madison doughnuts in Bashas (doughnuts were to replace the gels I forgot to bring) I was off to battle traffic up Shea and then to get lost in Fountain Hills while downing the gatorade to get ahead of the hydration game.  In the end I got to the parking lot around 7:40.  I figured I was still good but I hurried as fast as I could to fix the flat and setup all my lights and fill my hydration pack (forgot my water bottles,  I was fortunate to have had the pack in the back from a campout a month or two ago.

In my hurry I put my main light on and tested it.  It was dead.  That was why I brought a spare battery which worked.   I put on my two blaze 3 watt lights on my handlebars and between my helmet HID light and the two handlebar lights, I was throwing out a ton of light.   I then went to get my biking shoes out of the car....  Hmmm,  where are they?  they were supposed to be here... no, wait,  they're supposed to be on my feet since I changed back into them after work right? Wrong.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my biking shoes were still under my desk where they would do a fat lot of good.  I was heading into a 2 hour mountain bike ride on hilly singletrack at night wearing my office shoes on Time Atak clipless pedals.

I girded up my spandex, put on a stiff upper lip,  and signed in at the register.  Then I was off into the night alone.  I'd get passed by several others who were late.  I couldn't believe I was going that much slower but I was working as hard as was prudent seeing as I had only ridden this trail once before in the daylight, going the opposite direction.   It didn't matter a whole lot though as we progressed up the hill a good number of the speedy guys would be stopped waiting for friends or checking out their bike or something else yada yada yada.   Guess I wasn't so slow after all.   I hate riding in wieners.  My motto is stay on the bike as much as you can instead of riding fast, stopping, riding fast, stopping and so forth.

It was a bit challenging climbing the rocky ridges heading up to the mountain and I found myself breathing hard and still getting passed by a few people.  Near the top I would pass several groups though.  I paused a moment to take the picture above at one point as the moon was about to take a header behind the mountain.  It was cooling down around in here and the evening breezes made things extremely pleasant.  I started to pass people who honestly admitted they were tired and when I asked one guy if he was ok,  he said he was just tired but he would really like my light.  I must admit,  I was in the lap of luxury.   I was throwing out more light than one of my car headlights and rabbits, and desert rats were vaporizing before my eyes.  Well, not really,  I saw a couple of them though and thye at least ran away from my light.

The rolling hills around the top of the loop made me glad I had all the light as we twisted and turned and rolled around various obstacles.  A bush here a bush there...oops,  no that should be a cactus here,  a cactus there.   Did I mention I was really glad I had all that light to help me avoid the "bushes"?  Towards the end of the rollers (and I was good and ready to hit the long descent let me tell you!).  I passed a lady on a hill and then not too long after that my HID blinked out.  I thought it might be the battery but I pulled off to the side and fiddled with it anyway to no avail and she passed me.  I figured since my two handlebar lights didn't throw out nearly as much light I'd ride behind her and not pass her again.  I held her until we started to descend and she pulled away having the more light to see by.  I didn't do too badly though since the trail is wide and smooth on this part of the loop.  Still,  I had to slow a lot more at the places the trail made a sharp turn since my helmet light wasn't there to let me look at the end of the turn.  I got passed by one guy in here who was really cooking.

When I found myself alone again I discovered that you could see the milky way out here despite being so close to Phoenix.  There were a lot of stars overhead and several times I hit ruts while I was looking at them and nearly biffed it.   It was a beautiful night to be riding in the desert.  The temps had cooled off, it was mostly downhill from here,  and I was on a bike cruising through the whoopdi doos.   I got my helmet light back on through here, not too long before I saw the familiar lights of the parking lot off in the distance.

Upon arriving I was informed by an apologetic cook that they were out of everything but bacon which they were currently frying up since they had an unexpectedly high turnout (140,  when they usually only get 100).  The bacon tasted really good.  I guess with a name like "Slippery Pig"  they have to serve good bacon.  They did have soda's left too (I think this is because they were giving out beer too and I suspect much of this crowd didn't opt for soda).  After I signed out I stowed my bike and then remembered my doughnuts which I enjoyed on the way out.   It was a really good ride and I am definitely going to do it next time I can.

As to feeling like I was working harder and not keeping up with other folks?  Well,  rolling the bike across the lot I discovered my back brake had been rubbing all night.   Nothing like some resistance training huh?  Tonight may have been the night of the living dead equipment problems but it was so worth it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy boys....

So, I decided to commute in the other day.  I'd been off the bike for two weeks and figured everything was all good to go.  Bike...check.  Helmet...Check.  Shoes....check.  Good to go.   I am forced to take the short commute due to time restraints but decide I'll take the hilly route.  It's a warm morning and I am feeling weak having been off the bike so long and also lugging the laptop.  It takes me forever to warm up.  Through the shady neighborhoods of Scottsdale I ride heading in to Paradise Valley.  I am starting the hills and as I go to stand up..........  I spy one of my crank bolts sticking out of the crank.  Yes.... in my zeal I had forgotten that I had moved the crank bolts from this bike to my Mountain Bike many weeks ago and just left one of the mountain bike ones stuck in the side of the crank loosely.   I got a hollow feeling in my stomache as I thought about what could have happened when I stood up and stepped hard on the wheel.  All the guys out there probably get the same hollow gut punched feeling just thinking about it too.   To add insult to injury I could have gone down and broken a collarbone or something too.  It was fortunate I noticed that. 

What a wonderful opportunity to practice a nice round pedal stroke.  There were about 6 miles left to ride and I had my fingers crossed I'd make it.   I figured the good guys at the Trailhead Bike Shop Cafe would have me covered for new bolts on the way home so if I could just make it to work,  I'd just coast down to the bike shop on my way back and be right as rain (of which I wish we would get some,  this monsoon is really lame this year,  other than the three days after my Dad died of course).

Up and down the hills I was on pins and needles but in the end it turned out fine.  I waddled out of the heat and into the health club for a ncie cold shower before work.   On the way home the shop did not disappoint me and I got back to the car without incident.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Passing on...

My Dad gave me my first bike when I was around 5 or 6.  It was a training bike with big fat plastic wheels.  I rode it a lot and one day it broke in half as I rode it out of my friend's driveway.  Since I was balancing good at that point I got a cool bike with solid tires that had flames painted on it.  My friend and I pretended it left a flame trail behind it and put cards in the spokes to make motorcycle noises.  Then one day,  I was careless and left it in the driveway behind the family car.

My next bike was an interesting no name brand with a bananna seat on it which became almost un sittable after I put a bumper sticker on it that made the seat slippery.  I can't remember what the whole draw of bananna seats was.  Maybe it was that you could ride double?

My next bike that I remember was one my Dad said he'd meet me halfway on since I needed one for my paper route.  We trucked on down to Cosmic Cyclery just south of downtown Flagstaff (this was in the old days of the late 70's) and I had the choice of a redline frame,  which wouldn't have done me a whole lot of good or a nice complete Rampar.  Rampar is one of the earlier Japanese or Taiwanese brands.  Apparently it was part of Raleigh after they got sold to Huffy.  It was a BMX bike with a chromoly frame and alloy wheels (which I trashed, still at the stage of learning to take care of equipment).

After this a friend sold me his old cruiser type bike (which he said jumped better than my current bike humorously enough,  I was pretty stupid then)  for $20 and my Dad shifted my BMX bike to my brother who left it out on the front porch one day to be stolen.  I moved up to a Murray Mtn bike after that which I managed to freeze the bottom bracket on after a lot of riding and newspaper deliveries..

Sometime while I was in Junior high I spied an old ten speed that had been scooped up with the snow removal equipment and dumped on the lot where they put snow to melt.  I ended up turning it into the police department at the request of my Dad.  They told me that it would be mine if no one claimed it and then they stuffed it into a storeroom somewhere and forgot about it.  Well, a year and a half later someone was cleaning the room and low and behold,  here is this bike they forgot to give back to this kid when no one claimed it.  It was poorly painted black with green paint showing through, and I don't know what brand it was but it was a good ride and it was my first real education in working on bikes.

Once I got my drivers license I didn't ride much anymore.  Hiked yes,  rode no.  It wasn't until I got back from Japan with a determination to own a "real"  bike of quality that I would start riding again.  My Dad (are you seeing a connection here?) took me down to SingleTrack bicycles in Flagstaff to buy a previous years model of a Fila Taos Mtn bike which just happened to be my size according to the salesman who was trying to unload old stock.  He also told me it had a sealed bottom bracket.  He was wrong on both counts but I rode the stuffing out of that bike and only recently have moved on to another mountain bike with front suspension.

I rode that bike to the tops of the Peaks (well at least to the inner basin) and on nearly every dirt road or trail within 10 miles of the Flagstaff area.  I rode it through the desert to the woodbury trailhead and the trails around Lost Dutchman state park and most notable on my failed attempt at the Dirty Mogollon Madness permanent in it's former form.  It was a faithful steed despite times of neglect after I bought a motorcycle or married and moved to the valley.  There are many good times put in on that frame over the years.

I bring all of these bikes up as my Dad was related to them all in some way.  He used to ride his bike to work all the time and sometimes would take me on his kid seat on the back.  Amazingly enough he was able to make it up Cherry hill with me on the back.  He rode an old Raleigh 5 speed.   Many is the time I rummaged his bicycle box for tools or parts to fix bicycles or to marvel at his prehistoric frame pump with the hose that pulled out of the handle and screwed on to the bottom.  I never rode with him much on long rides or anything but family jaunts around the neighborhood or to the Junior High pond and back yet he influenced my cycling in a pretty big way.

The reason I have not posted in the last few weeks is that he died on the 27th of July of a coronary failure.  It's been tough losing him.  He often would ask me about my Saturday rides and where I had gone.  Occasionally he would share concern about me riding alone in certain wild areas where there was no help available, but mostly he was pretty supportive.  He stopped riding his bike to work in the 80's and not too long after put on weight which he would carry with him until recently when he was starting to pull it back down.   I haven't ridden for 2 weeks while I have been tangled up with all the details that ensue when a loved one passes away.  

It's about time to start riding again.  I think though,  and I was thinking a bit on these lines before he died too, that it's about time to spend more time riding with my kids and perhaps cut out a few long rides here and there and work on getting my kids in better shape and also get them into a few events like the Tour de Phoenix and Tucson (the 30 mile coarses at first of course).  In the long run it will lead to more cycling (maybe with my own private paceline even),  and in the short run it will lay a great foundation and relationship with those I love most.  Here's to you Dad.