Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rollers ahoy!

It's harder to start this than it is once you're going. I decided that the time had come, especially since we've got rocky mountain winds blowing today. Cold, gusty. Did I say cold?

Yeah, yeah, yeah; I know I should be skiing.

Solstice tomorrow, 5:04 AM MST. First day of winter. The days start getting longer. And that's a good thing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It isn't even that fun, is it?

Last summer when the South Central Racing Omnium was going on we had a local character come into the bike shop to try to convince us to let him ride a Specialized Roubaix from our rental fleet in the road race in exchange for the privelege of having him wear our shop jersey. He was also hoping for us to foot his $50 entry. He would have thrown down for sure, but we don't really often sponsor riders who show up half an hour before the race starts looking for a ride...

Anyway, I was showing him that the Roubaix we had in rental was a nearly $3,000 bike, and we had a new one just like it in his size right there on the showroom floor. He said without hesitation and in complete honesty, "Three thousand dollars for a road bike? It isn't even that fun, is it?"

That's what was going through my mind as I pedaled out of town to get some damned riding in, facing a brutally cold headwind, periodically slowing to near walking speed as I rolled over crunchy ice where the wind was blowing snow across the road.

You have to really want it. Like, really a lot.

I got my rollers out of the garage the other day. I look at them every once in a while, but I haven't gotten desperate enough yet to wobble my way into the beginning of a trip to nowhere.

But you know, the day is coming when I will be desperate enough.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Eye-talian Loafers

Endurance mountain bikers/mtb racers and Sidis go together like cats and cat litter. Sure, there are some paddle-footed riders who hate them for their narrowness, and there are always going to be fans of other shoes, like Lakes and Carnacs. But you see battered black Sidis on a lot of riders out there.

I got a pair of Sidi Techno Fires back in the mid-90s and I was hooked. You remember those? Black uppers and orange soles, fishline loop closure? I rode the hell out of those, stringing in new fishline from my fly reel after one of the loops broke. Then I got my first pair of Dominators. Sidis are nice and stiff, and they last and last.

But Sidis have a dark side (get it? They're black! Get it?!). Sidis are treacherously slippery and quite uncomfortable when it comes time for technical hike-a-bike. During my recent trip down to the Copper Canyon brother Phil always called them Italian Loafers, especially after somebody stumbled or fell trying to walk across bare rock on the silly, hard-bottomed little things.

I have two pairs of Dominator 5's. I had one pair that I got in 2000 or so. In the run-up to my first Leadville in Summer of 2005 I got a 2nd pair because #1 was looking really beat. Since then I've been pretty much wearing the old #1's any time it looked like things would be even remotely tough, to save "the good pair" for posterity. Hell, I pretty much wore the #1's unless I couldn't find them.

So the upshot is, they are beat. The soles are worn down to nubbins. The uppers where they join with the sole, especially near the toes, are peeled back and about to breach. I took them to an outfit that resoles hiking boots and they offered to patch things up for $75-80. Well hell, that's a third of a new pair. At retail no less. So it was obvious what I must do. DIY, baby.

Raw Materials: donor Sidis, old tire, Shoe Goo, power drill, self-tapping screws, cute little stuffed doggy (disclosure: the shoes pictured are my #2's. I had already started working on the #1's when it occurred to me that I should take a picture, so I used the ones I hadn't messed with. Yet.)

At first I considered using something like plastic milk jug material to cover over the toe patches. But then my brain kicked in. Why not use something that isn't slippery? Eureka!

So I dug out an old worn out wire-bead WTB Motoraptor (God rest its soul. Sole? Soul?). I cut a toe patch. I glued it on. I duct-taped the hell out of it so that it would stick where I had placed it. 

Tough Sidis in their duct-tape cocoons, ready to emerge as tough Sidi butterflies

Then I looked at the sole (soul?) of the shoe and decided, if a little bit of mountain bike tire material is good, more is better. Slather on the shoe goo, cut a piece of tire, stick it on there, see if there's someplace where a screw can be driven in to keep it in place. Tape it up. Leave it to cure. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The final product, tough and walkable (I hope anyway)

I'll report at some point after I've had an epic day or two with lots of strolling through the rubble that I love to carry my bike over.

Winter's Icey Kiss

OK, we've finally been touched with real snow.

I'd like to say I'm pleased. I guess I am for some reasons. The mile or so of new singletrack that's been built by Salida Mountain Trails this year needed some moisture really badly to help bed it in. And it's just plain been really dry here, which is good for riding (to a point) but hard on the land. And then there's the good of Monarch to think about. I guess they need to stay in business. And since they don't make any snow they kind of need to have it fall out of the sky.

But I'm bummed about how much our riding will now be limited. There are a few trails that will stay open, and of course tarmac will be open again right away. And then there are rollers.


Sunday, December 7, 2008


Yesterday we got out there and broke ground on a new trail section. We had a publicisized volunteer day and got great turnout. As a result, 1000 ft of new trail is on the ground near Salida.


See Tom pretend to work

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Still on dirt

Another clear dry day. Another ride. Thank goodness.

quite chilly, but still dry and mighty

Saturday, November 29, 2008

PEE-ebluh State Park

On Black Friday, even though we would have rather had a chance to trample a Wal-Mart employee, Kathy and I headed over to Pueblo (pronounced PEE-ebluh) State Park from Wetmore to ride bikes. 

A cold front moved through on Thursday night, so Friday was chilly. It was clear at the foot of the Wet Mountains, but we drove under a thick cloud bank as we approached Pueblo Reservoir and the state park. The air was cold and moist as we got started, and the sun was completely obscured by thick clouds, but we bundled up to see if it would be workable as long as we were there.

Once we got moving the day's weather proved to be fine for riding for the most part. The light was completely flat, which made photos pretty interesting.

Me on the Outer Limits Trail under a gray sky

Outer Limits is a really cool trail. It traces along the rim of the bluff over Pueblo Res. Lots of flowy singletrack with little dips. Good fun, and good scenery.

Kathy on the Voodoo Trail

We started riding the Voodoo Trail, but it was getting a little late and toes were getting cold, so we cut that short and headed back.

The Wet Mountains as seen from the east

As we headed back west toward Wetmore we drove under mostly clear skies. 

The day was good, and it ended quite well with a surprisingly tastey dinner at Merlino's Belvedere in Cañon City. From the billboards I've been seeing as I passed through the area for the last 20 years I just assumed that this place would have to be totally campy. But the people are completely genuine in their desire to please, and damnit, the food is good. I recommend it if you like real Italian Food. And especially if you like having Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin woo you quietly from hidden speakers as you chow down on homemade pasta.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Evening with rocks and sunset

In the cooler part of each year, we Salidans ride the rocky piñon/juniper country that rings the town. Lost Trail is my favorite of these rides. It's a flawed trail, to be sure. Lots of fall-line stuff, some ridiculously technical. Ruts full of baby heads, some flowing open trail full of baby heads, sandy ruts--you know, normal Salida riding.

This evening I got up there just at sunset. Looking for that pink light. Got a little bit of it.

Rocky upper part of Lost Trail

The sky has been full of high cirrus all day. A weather thing is supposed to be here for Dead Bird Day®. This is the kind of sky we get before a weather blip. But those high clouds do make for some nice sunsets.

Sunset as seen from the middle of Lost Trail

The lower part of the trail has some really nice smooth bits. So out of character for trails near Salida.

The lower, smoother part of Lost Trail, my Voodoo taking a breather as the light turns low

Friday, November 21, 2008

Back to our regularly scheduled Indian Summer

Yep, it was just the one day. The front moved through over night, and we had a chilly and clear morning. Down below 20, but up to the 40's by 9 AM. I'm going to be in Denver with Kathy this weekend for the Denver Film Festival, so I figured I better bust out a little ride. 

This time of year it's always so compelling to get a ride in. There's always the feeling that the hard weather is just around the corner and we won't be on dirt much longer. But it's been feeling like that to me since early October, and moreso since we got back from Mexico.

But yeah, it's fuggin' pretty again. Go figure.

Southern Sawatch Range as seen this morning from the Arkansas Hills north of Salida. The peaks are (left to right) Ouray, Chipeta, and Pahlone. Ouray was a lendendary chief of the Ute Indians. The Ute were indiginous to this area before statehood in 1976, which was roughly when they were run out of the mountains and moved to reservations (as was the fashion at the time). Chipeta was one of Ouray's wives, and Pahlone was his son by another wife, Black Mare.

See this article from Colorado Central Magazine if you're interested in knowing a bit more.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

And then it changed--maybe for only the day

Glad I did a nice, long ride yesterday. Today is chilly, windy, overcast, and with the smell of snow in the air. Shiver shiver. We do need the moisture though. And the forecast for tomorrow is back to clear and dry.

So it goes.

On the horizon on the right side center of this photo is roughly where I was yesterday when I took the photo of clear, cloudless southern Chaffee County.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Clear, Dry Arkansas Valley

Eight days ago I declared that our weather was supposed to become stinko for riding. Did not happen. It's been ridiculously nice. Chilly overnight, sure. Down in the teens. But that's standard for the Upper Arkansas in the months between the autumnal and vernal equinox. Clear, sunny, daytime temperatures in the upper 50's and lower 60's, but feeling warmer in the sun. Night rides comfortable until after 8 PM.

Rode the Rainbow Trail between Bear Creek and Methodist a while ago. 9,000 feet elevation and dry as a bone. Too dry I guess, but I like it. I'm selfish--I like to ride.

Glassy clear air. Utterly cloudless sky. Typical for the valley in autumn.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunsets and New Trails

Last week one evening Kathy and I were taking a little hike and noted the compelling beauty of rose-colored light that washed over the land due to a fabulous and sublime sunset. I wanted to get some pictures of some of our new trails winding through the piñon, and I decided that I wanted them to appear in this light. So on Sunday late afternoon we set out for another evening walk, this time with camera hoping to get similarly beautiful soft light.

As we trespassed across the dormant Union Pacific railroad tracks the sun was just touching the horizon and the early evening sky was mostly steel-colored. Seemed like we might just have to settle for flat soft light.

We climbed a steep and direct route up onto Tenderfoot hill. The sun disappeared behind Mt Ouray. We arrived at the beginning of the newly completed trail we've been calling Little Rattler.

At around 4:30 PM we got this shot. The light was gray, the terrain was gray, the trail was gray, but still a pretty nice photo. Note the tire tracks. The trail already has many visitors, afoot and riding, every day. We saw a rider as we ascended.

Then it happened. The sky bloomed.

We headed back, farther north and farther up into the slope of the Arkansas Hills. We got the rose-colored pictures. Here's a sample:

Work in progress, The Backbone Trail

It got dark on us, but we had just enough light to keep from tripping on rocks, and we got a nice view of our little town with a last bit of spectacular and poignant sunset.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Late Rainbow

Today I just had to take a few minutes (well, hours) to ride our local bit of lovely Rainbow Trail. The weather is supposed to get nasty this week which would be appropriate to the season. So I thought today would probably be a good day to go, rather than regret that I lost my chance to ride it one more time. 

There was a bit of wintery weather visible on the tops of the Sangre de Christo peaks that we see up ahead.

Climbing toward wintertime.

Check out the wintertime visible between the trees. Pretty though.

Ah, we locals do enjoy suffering on this pretty climb. I'll miss it when it is under 5 feet of snow.

Slightly snowy singletrack.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

New Trail Construction!

Yesterday my trails organization, Salida Mountain Trails, had a volunteer day. We have done this before, even this year, but this one was special. This workday was the first day that we were able to build trail on BLM land near Salida.

We have built some short trail sections on a limited amount of City of Salida-owned land across the river and north of downtown. But these projects were limited. The City land is nice, but it's quite finite. Perhaps 150 acres. Our mission has been to build a trail system. Western style. Long rides (or hikes, or trail runs). We've been working with BLM to get clearance to start building our plan for years. Four of them. And yesterday was the day when we first operated on the "green light means go" rule. We broke ground on our Backbone Trail, the first level of our stacked loop trail system.

And we got 40 folks! We built about 1/3 mile of trail!

Check the pics:

This is how it starts. Actually, note the guy in the background with the black shirt and yellow hardhat--it starts with him going out and flagging the route. No wait, it starts with him organizing the whole thing while I played in Mexico. Famous GAT Squadder, Andrew M.

End of the day, not yet sculpted to perfection, but trail.

A bit of the last project we did on City of Salida Land

So there you have it, progress out in the Piñon across the river from Salida.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Copper Cañon

Two weeks in the State of Chihuahua in the interior of Mexico. USA is serving up some culture shock. It was sure nice to not hear any news...

Too many stories to blog. How about just some pictures, each telling at least a few hundred words, if not a thousand:

Enrique, our Creel local guide, rides from a tarahumara farmhouse after talking to them

The trip was made quite rich by exposure to the tarahumara people, one of the most culturally intact indigenous populations left in North America.

Friendly tarahumara girl

Tarahumara woman at the lodge where we were staying, bringing goods for sale, her child strapped to her back

Kim cleaning a bike--not his.

The people we traveled with were the best. This is Kim, one of the kindest, most positive people I have ever met. He made the trip special with his humor and attitude.

The mission in the town of Cerocahui, Chihuahua. Pictured from the courtyard of our hotel

Waterfall near Cerocahui, Chihuahua

One of our first peeks at the grandeur of the Urique Cañon.

Most visitors to the Copper Cañon country descend into Batopilas Cañon if they go below the rim country. We traveled into Urique Cañon, a deeper and less visited cañon.

Urique Cañon, with the town of Urique along the Urique River

The Urique River as seen from the bottom of the cañon

The west cañon Wall as seen from Urique

The road out.

On Monday morning, the 11th day of the trip, we climbed up out of Urique Cañon, starting before daylight to avoid the intense heat of the cañon floor. This is the road we climbed. Approximately 4,500 vertical feet from the bottom to this point.

Campfire at the San Isidro Lodge at then end of the day that we climbed back to the rim out of Urique Cañon. Me, Kim, June, Phil, Kyle left to right.


Of all the many, many homeless dogs that I would have liked to adopt, this one who we called Boots was the most compelling. She was smart, beautiful, and surprisingly gentle for a street dog. She followed us all over Creel then slept on the sidewalk outside the hotel waiting for us to come out the next morning.

Monday, September 29, 2008

National Public Lands Crest Trail Work Day

I co-organized a big trail workday with IMBA, the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, Gunnison Trails, and the US Forest Service. It went off Saturday, with over 80 volunteers working to show the local favorite trail some love.

The weather shortened the day a bit, but it was definitely a great success.

Passing storm dropping graupel which is accumulating quickly on the ground

I hauled a BOB trailer with a couple tools out to a work site just north of the Greens Creek Trail intersection, leaving the pass a little before 8 AM and arriving around 9. I worked with three other volunteers for about an hour before the other folks who had been assigned to this area showed up. Quite a bit of good work happened, but then weather moved in quickly.

I finished up one water diversion, after having had a conversation with another crew leader about how we had better get the flock out of there. I was gathering tools that needed to be replaced in the tools cache that the Gunnison Forest Service people had brought in on Thursday. I had just put down an iron rock bar as I organized a small group of tools to carry downhill. Just then, there was a blue-white flash and an almost immediate crack of thunder.

Volunteers started to scatter, looking for cover. We were working right near the 12,000 foot Continental Divide ridge. I dropped my tools and ran down off the trail to a small grove of fir trees. As soon as I got there another close lightening strike flashed and boomed, the noise echoing around the little basin below us. Three women who were riding the trail appeared shortly, disoriented with semi-panic. Those of us who were huddled in the trees for safety 50 feet below the trail called out to them to drop their bikes and come down to the relative shelter of tree cover.

As we sat there, graupel began to fall heavily and the air become much colder and moist.

After the lightening diminished, some still being heard over a mile to the east, we decided it was time to bug out. I grabbed as many tools as I could carry and trotted them down the trail to return them to Gunnison's tool cache. A group of volunteers down there felt that they absolutely had to finish up an open diversion and trail armoring project, but promised to head back to Monarch Pass as soon as possible.

I scrambled back to the top, watching for more Gunnison tools, and blue-painted tools that belong to my group, Salida Mountain Trails. I found the four McClouds that I had trailered in. Back on top of the ridge, I set about re-loading my trailer as other volunteers gathered around their bikes to get ready to roll out of there. The next wave of storm moved toward the ridge from the west.

During the next hour and a half, myself and all the other volunteers headed back to command central to finish up the work day, and get on to the more important business of executing a barbecue.

Barbecue for volunteers after the work was done

The fact that weather shut us down much earlier than we wanted was unfortunate. But the Colorado high country rarely allows for much dallying about during the afternoon. It was far better to get all the volunteers out before things got worse.

And then we got to have a barbecue at Monarch Ski Area.

What's more important, really?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Autumnal Equinox

Our summer has ended. End of summer is always a big deal to me--kind of the end of my year in some ways.

It's been an interesting, transitional summer for me. By contrast, last summer was simply part of my 2007. Which is to say it was ride, ride, ride, race, ride, ride...

This summer was a whole new deal.

Pictures recently were captured of this year's Colorado-style early autumn. Check 'em: