Thursday, June 29, 2023

A little VT125 beta


Vapor Trail 125 Ride Breakdown

A little break from what the New & Improved Teamvelveeta blog. Just gonna publish this. I wrote it back when I was still a bike rider and a manager within the vast Vapor Trail 125 organization. So, just because I'm publishing this now doesn't mean I'm not still a fat slob who doesn't ride peddly bikes any more. 

As of the writing of this, for the sake of reference:
Aid 1 was near where the Colorado Trail hits a dirt road, above Chalk Creek.
Aid 2 was Snowblind.
Aid 3 was Monarch Pass.
Aid 4 was Marshall Pass.
Mini Aid 5 at the western terminus of the Rainbow Trail.


The course of the Vapor Trail 125 is pretty well described on the official website (, but what's it like to ride it during the event? How far between Aid Stations? Where are the biggest challenges?

This document breaks down the ride from Aid Station to Aid Station, giving a rider some idea what the day will be like.

How I arrived at this description: I sliced up the GPX file I recorded when I rode the course on my own early in August of 2013 and analyzed it with my gps software. I am not fast, my sustainable pace is generally barely fast enough to make the event cut-offs. When I did this I was going with no support, so that cost me some time. I was on a pace that would have gotten me through cut-offs, but not by much. So this is kind of the analysis of a slowest possible finisher pace.
  1. Start to Aid Station One. 26.5 miles. Between 4000 and 5000 feet of climbing. Took me a little over 4 1/2 hours moving time. Some pavement climbing, then a dirt road climb that is quite mild, but with an increasing grade. Nearly 3000 feet of climbing. Better be there in two hours or less or you're already looking marginal to finish. Then it's Colorado Trail, a very rugged and technical bit of it.
  2. Aid One to Aid Two. 33.5 miles. Between 5000 and 6000 feet of climbing. Took me a little under 7 hours. This is a big section. Through the night, coldest temps, most remote part of the course. This is the first and most important real test of the event. Leave Aid Station #1 ready for a long, cold, dark ride that you'll remember forever.
  3. Aid Two to Aid Three. About 2,500 feet of climbing 14 miles. Took me 2:15. Aid #3 is where you'll have access to your drop bag. This is the Good Morning section. The main feature is the climb to Old Monarch Pass. It'll be getting warm, so you'll have that to get used to. It's a fairly mild climb, but a long one. It's about 2500 feet of gain. Just a little on the tedious side. Wakey wakey!
  4. Aid Three to Aid Four. 10 1/2 miles. About 1000 feet of climbing. Took me an hour and 40 minutes. Monarch Crest Trail. This is a piece of candy that always seems to go by easily even when exhausted.
  5. Aid Four looping back to Aid Four. 11 1/2 miles. 2,500 feet of Climbing. Took me 2 1/2 hours. It's a little inner loop, so you visit Aid Four on Marshall Pass twice. This loop is what cracks many of the riders who don't finish. Be prepared for a honkin' big effort from a tired body. This little test is probably the most often-discussed part of the course at the after party.
  6. Aid Four to mini-Aid Station at the Rainbow TH. 7 3/4 miles. About 800 feet of climbing and then a long descent. Took me about an hour 15 minutes. This is mostly candy. The climbing isn't bad, and it's broken up with lots of nice descending.
  7. Last mini-Aid Station to Finish. Rainbow Trail then pavement down the highway to Poncha Springs and on a County Road back to town. Around 20 miles, a little over 1,000 feet of climbing. Took me a little over 2 hours.


So it's 5 aid stations, 6 aid station visits.

Saturday, June 24, 2023


I burn wood in a stove for heat in the cold months. The economics of wood-burning require that the burner get the fuel for a minimum of cost, in either money or time and effort. It takes effort not only to get the wood but to keep the fire going. At least every 20-30 minutes I have to get up and tend the fire. If the fuel ain't cheap, you might as well turn up the thermostat and sit your wide butt into a chair and pay the power company for the BTUs. 

Buying split, seasoned wood doesn't work unless you get a brother-in-law deal. Normal market price would make me pay over a grand for a winter. Bad juju. You really need to acquire and process it yourself. Find a source of raw wood that is cheap or free, hopefully that's been limbed and gathered. 

For last winter's burning season I had primarily cottonwood that I salvaged from down by the creek. 

Back in July of 2016 the Hayden Pass Fire burned a very large percentage of the Big Cottonwood Creek drainage. In places it was a very hot fire, burning even the dirt. My place was far from the burn, and firefighters kept it away from all the houses even the ones 3 miles west toward the fire. But in July 2018 the creek flash flooded.

My creek, which is half a mile from where it dumps into the Arkansas River, is one that you could almost jump across at lowest water. Never any more than knee deep. But it was more than knee deep that day.

It devastated the stream bed and vegetation along the way. Root systems of trees, primarily cottonwood and willow, were torn up. All of this happened almost 4 years before I ever owned the place, so it was not an injury to me. However, cleaning up down there has been a very large consumer of my time.

Probably 20 or more years ago a tree house was constructed between a cluster of cottonwoods on my place maybe 20 yards from the creek. The floor was like 20 feet off the ground. The trees were all dead, from the flood or the copious hardware that had been driven into them to hang the little shed. It was a hazard and an eyesore. I was trying to figure out how to get it down with killing myself.

Then early in 2022 the wind took care of the problem for me. It fell and became gravitationally safe. But it was a huge pile of debris. In April of 22 I broke my right fibula and mangled my ankle by yet again using poor judgement with my motorcycle. So the logs and debris laid there for much of the year.

The Tree House

'How does all this relate to firewood sir?' the curious reader might ask. Well I'll tell you. There was lots of crappy old lumber, sheet metal, windows that shed broken glass all over and hardware like lag bolts. But there was also about 6 cords of cottonwood logs. In addition to the trees that were holding up the tree house there were two others I felled and one huge one that came down on its own.

I blocked it and hauled out what I could that way. Some of the blocks were too heavy for me to lift into the truck so I took a splitter down there and split and hauled them. There are a number of them still down there that I can't even lift onto the splitter myself. Remember, the economics are thin on this deal. If I get a hernia and need surgery that's going to blow the whole thing up.

As firewood, cottonwood kind of sucks. It burns hot, and it's a very clean wood with little sap. But it generates a lot of ash. And it's kind of stinky. On a really cold day when the fire is burning from pre-dawn through evening the coals pile up. They are very durable. I've almost needed to go get the steel bucket and a shovel to take them outside so I have room for fuel in the firebox.

This year I have a good strategy and I'm starting early. First, I met a guy who runs a fire mitigation crew. He works with property owners to thin their woods to help with wildfire. He called me once and I went to his site that day with my trailer and came back with about a cord of mixed ponderosa, juniper, and piñon. It's green for the most part, but I processed it right away and put it under a tarp. 

Also I bought 3 cords worth of fuel gathering permits from the Forest Service for $10 each. That's to be a good guy, and in the rare case that anyone from Forest is even at the gathering site to check your permit. If I want I could easily take 10 cords. But 3 is a lot. That's about what I burn in a while winter. 

I brought home a load of mostly aspen last week. Aspen is very good, but not my top favorite. That is juniper, followed by high country fir and spruce that have been standing dead for a while. I've been processing it off the trailer for a couple hours in the morning before it gets too hot.

It's hard work. But I'm trading my labor directly for BTUs rather than paying a public utility to burn fossil fuel on my behalf. Now that I've given up on participation in society and I've stopped mountain biking, I need to put my labor somewhere and break a damn sweat once in a while anyway.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023


Fred came to live with Vicki and I (and cats, goats, steers) in January of 2022. In the last post, I described his genetics, but specifically he's half Great Pyrenes, 23.3% Australian Shepherd, 17.3% Border Collie, 9.4% Miniature/MAS-type Australian Shepherd.

He's probably around 100 lbs and strong. He has forced adaptations one after another. He was probably a little over a year old, maybe 15-16 months when I got him. On day one he got my butter from the counter. Adaptation #1, butter goes up into the cabinet. If it's on the counter, it's probably going to be his.

Then there was extensive poop eating. Then there was the car chasing. Every time he encountered a new kind of livestock he would try to play with it and then bark at it when that didn't happen. My neighbors have horses, pigs, sheep, and chickens. They have a beautiful pair of Pyrenes sisters as guard dogs for the sheep. Every one of them has been barked at extensively. Luckily my neighbors on both sides are very patient. And Fred doesn't chase. When he first got here he barked at my steers. He barked at my goats when they came along. 

Ever since the morning when he chased off the lion, his urge to be protector has surged. 

The day before yesterday I needed to go into Salida for some things. When I got home he'd tried to dig his way out above the dog door. I hadn't finished up the job, and you could see daylight through a small gap. He opened up a hole in drywall that was 18 inches wide and close to 10 inches tall. Big mess, but also a sign of change. In the 18 months he's been here, he's been locked into the house when I leave because he'll try to follow me otherwise. Now he's lost his tolerance for that.

Yesterday I had to go into town again (to buy a set of tires, ugh). While I was gone he pulled the trim off the latch side of my door, dug for while, then figured out how to unlock it. He got out. 

About 45 minutes before I got home there was a big thunderstorm. He was out, and close lightning strikes made him bolt. A neighbor came to the house with his four wheeler from a mile up the road to tell me Fred was up there. While we were talking I saw Fred running for home. The scared dog ran right into the house and up to the bedroom to sulk on the bed.

So, he's forcing another adaptation. I don't think I'll be able to lock him in for any reason. Which means I'll have to teach him to not follow me when I leave.

Such a wonderful friend. And such an incredible pain in my ass.

Friday, June 9, 2023

My Home


I live about 25 miles east of Salida now, on a 3.3 acre place. I'm on Cottonwood Creek, and my eastern property line is the middle of the creek. This is facing west, with a nice view of the northern part of the Sangre de Cristo Range.

I have great neighbors. We get along, cooperate, and respect each others' privacy. We get a little bit of ditch water, and we have to communicate about that.

There is a community here, but very small. Houses are pretty well spread out up the creek. To the east of us is a big area of rugged BLM land of the piñon/juniper variety. No houses for miles in that direction. If you go 3 miles south up the creek you run onto BLM land, then State Trust, then Forest Service, then the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area. To the west is ag land and disbursed residences. Half a mile north is highway 50 and the river. I'm at 6600 feet elevation.

I moved here in March of 2021. I have a cheap security camera setup, 3 cameras with motion sensors. I have seen fox, coyote, bear, lion, skunk. The most troublesome are the lions. Especially for a goat rancher. In early March a lion took one of my goats, a nannie named Maude. I bought her from a stock sale with her sister Marilyn and bottle fed them for about a month then weaned. When you bottle feed an animal, you will forever have a special relationship. It made me sad, but it was because I didn't put them inside that evening until twilight.

Later last month my oldest cat Butters didn't come home. He showed up on the security cams in the week following, so I thought he might have made it and would show up one morning. But it's been a week and a half. He's always been independent, and he just would not come in that night. And the lion has come back at least once since Marilyn was taken.

These videos were captured by my home security cameras. They are close to my house, in the 2nd one he walks 10 feet from the door I use to come and go. Roughly 4:25-4:30 am. 

At the beginning of 2022 I adopted a shelter dog, a boy I call Fred. I had him DNA tested to confirm my theory that he had a lot of Great Pyrenes blood. Yep, half. Other half is a combo of Australian Shepard, mini Aussie, and Border Collie. Those herding breeds may have provided Fred with some of his abundant intelligence, but his personality is 100% Pyrenes. He's a goddamn magician. He finds things, makes things disappear, he gets into and out of locked things. Leave it on the counter? Sure, it's Fred's now.

Pyrenes were bred to be livestock guard dogs. Since he had figured out that an open window with a screen in it was just an open window, I knew I needed to get him a dog door. I mean, he's already destroyed some screens. And in summer the windows are open, period.

So that morning was one of the first when he'd figured out the dog door. I was asleep, but I woke up because of the racket outside. He went out there and started barking his big, bad dog bark. 

To see what happened a few minutes after my cameras by the house picked him up, one of my game cameras captured a fleeting glimpse of him heading for the woods and willows down by the creek, and he wasn't waiting for Fred to catch up to him. To see the action you have to look carefully at the lower right. He's gone within a second.

My home is in a wild place. Salida gets some fat lazy bears that want to cruise the alleys for garbage, and deer so tame and stupid you could punch one in the face if you want. Here the deer are wild and wary. We also have bighorn sheep, and elk now and then down from the high country. Lots of cows and pasture land. Irrigation ditches running with cold water.

No pizza.