Thursday, January 31, 2013

New Year, Old Me

My winter home
 Well, I just couldn't keep away.  It's been months since my last blog and I had almost given up on blogging due to the lack of photo-ops and AMAZING moments, but then thought and said, "WTF, I'm still running and fishing and drinking whiskey..." 

A little Jack Daniel's
I'm not cycling a lot right now due to the crappy weather, so I'm cross training to the likes of JD's Single Barrel Select Tennessee Whiskey and Kettlehouse Cold Smoke Scotch Ale.  Ha!  That said, I guess that I had better start to reel it in a bit, drop the 10-or-so odd pounds that I've packed on this winter, and get moving again.  I guess that the honeymoon is over...

So I've signed up for the Missoula Marathon in July, and I hope to run a "fun" 50K in central Washington this spring.  Cycling will come as the weather improves and if I stay where I am currently, will have a bomber spring Steelhead fishing season.  Needless to say that I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

So far this year, I've dropped two of those 10-odd pounds, but am gearing up to get rid of the rest.  Also, I'm hoping to race a little with my boys here in western Montana.  We put on the Rocky Mountain Roubaix every year and there are a couple more "Spring Classics" that are fun to ride.  Maybe I'll get lucky enough to ride them, too.
A skinnier me last summer

PS.  Come on up and run the MM with me.  It'll be a blast!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mt. Tam Tam and a Wildflower

With the sun quickly racing toward the southern hemisphere (and with only a few weeks left in Northern California), my new friends Tedd and Dave decided to take me on some of the area's iconic bicycle rides.

So three weekends ago, Tedd suggested that we ride up Mt. Tamalpais (or Mt. Tam as the locals call it).  Mt Tam is in Marin county and is part of the coastal range that separates the inland valleys such as Napa and Sonoma, with the coast and Hwy 1.  It is covered with redwood cedars and pine trees and offers incredible vistas of the ocean and the bay.   It's not too far from good ol' Colusa and it's quite a good climb to get to the top!

So on Saturday we loaded up the bikes and headed to Fairfax for the official start of the ride.  Meeting us in Fairfax was Tedd's brother, Bob, a local cyclist from near by.  So we prepared our bikes, loaded up with plenty of Hammer Product and took off.

The ride was incredible!  The roads were full of other cyclists, but few cars and the terrain was challenging.  We took it in stages, giving us time to stop and enjoy the ride.  I got a few good pictures and they can be seen here in my Web Album

The ride was only 40 miles, but took us about 3 hours.  I think we climbed about 4900 ft of vertical (you can check it out on My Strava in the right margin).  The climbs included several pitches of 12+% and humbled us as we dragged ourselves up to the top.  The views made it well worth it and I recommend all cycling enthusiasts to try it at least once.

Fast forward to this past weekend and once again, Tedd, cooked up another big ride.  This time we would be tackling not one, but two big climbs that the Chico area cyclists tout as their best.  Normally cyclists will do one or the other, but Tedd thought we should follow a part of the popular Wildflower Century and do both Honey Run and Table Mountain. 
Tedd and Dave
Honey Run climbs up a beautiful canyon along Butte Creek, then climbs up to Paradise for about 1300 ft of climbing in 3 to 4 miles.  It must be a popular hanging out spot for many of the Chico State students, because of the creek and the forest, and the road is tagged with "I heart yous" and 420 friendly slogans.  The graffiti is so thick in some areas that it almost has the feel of a Tour de France climb...You can check HERE for some pics of this ride!

From Paradise we dropped down to Oroville.  We hammered down an awesome descent at 46+ mph that got my adrenaline up, then cooled our jets for a while.  After Oroville, it was across the Feather river and up onto the Table Mtn climb.  What a great climb!  Table Mtn stair steps up about 1000 ft or so and has a couple of nasty, prolonged pitches that make you want to turn back around.  And speaking of turning back around, it wasn't long into this ride that I realized that it would probably be a whole lot longer than 50 miles and I certainly didn't bring along enough food (or cash) to get me through.  So at the top of the mountain I bib farewell to Bob (#2 man to the top) and began to make a beeline back to the cars.  I remember seeing 49.9 miles on my GPS somewhere on top of Table Mtn and I thought to myself that it must be at least 12 miles to the cars.  I wasn't too worried as it was going to be downhill and then flat.  Well, it turned out to be 21 more miles of rollers, downhill, more rollers and then flat.  I ran out of water at mile 58 and officially hit the wall (Bonked) at mile 60.  I could barely turn over the pedals for the last 45-50 minutes as I crawled back to the cars.  Thankfully I had plenty of water and calories to consume when I finally got back to the cars.  Turn out it was a good thing that I did what I did as the guys didn't make it in for another (almost) hour and would've been absolutely toast had I stayed out any longer.  So I hope the boys can for give me for bailing on them, but they should know that I still really enjoyed riding (most of) the route with them!

Both rides were memorable and I won't soon forget my stay here in the North Valley of Northern California!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Colusa Life

Forth of July Parade on Market St.

Life here in Colusa is different.  It's different like so many other places I've lived over these past four years.  Colusa has it's own people, space and pace.  I like Colusa.  It is a quiet community where everyone is friendly and will go out of their way to help you.  Colusa is Americana.

I have been here for three months now.  I have endured the unrelenting heat of summer and I have welcomed the cooler days of fall. On the eve of the new season and under a waxing quarter moon, life is peaceful.  It's harvest time now.  They are cutting the rice and picking the tomatoes.  The farm community is busy.

It's also salmon season.  Much like any rural region, the locals love to fish and hunt.  The great Sacramento river runs along side of town, and with it brings tons of shad, striped bass and salmon for the sportsman in us all.  I live on the river.

Sacramento King

There are two stop lights in Colusa.  There is a one screen movie theater.  Jeff's Freezette has the best milkshake.  There are more Mexican markets than gas stations and grocery stores combined. I speak Spanish everyday.

Mixed cultures
I am one of four cyclists in town.  Yes, there are only three people that ride with haste in Colusa.  I am number four.  Colusa is in the valley and is at near-sea level.  I miss Montana and it's peaks, but I have enjoyed riding on the small farm roads throughout the county.  Lawyer Tedd and farmer Dave have kept me company and given me someone to talk to.  I thank you guys.

Tedd and Dave

Riding along the levee

I have two more months here in Colusa.  Colusa is different, but I will miss it when I'm gone.  Isn't it funny how life goes?


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tour de Lassen (National Park)

Northern California has been hot, just about a hundred degrees every day, since May.  I think I've only had a week or two of respite since coming up here more than two months ago. The Tour de France has been on to distract me from the relentless heat, but I've been doing the TdF Challenge on "Map my Ride" where I've tried to log in one quarter of the total miles (544 mi) during the 3 week tour.  Of course, my running mileage  doesn't count, so when I saw that Chico Velo was going up to Lassen National park to ride, I jumped on the chance to top off my miles (and escape the heat!).

Lassen National Park is a mini-Yellowstone, nestled in the northern Sierra Nevada range.  I remember going there as a kid on our way to Crater Lake, OR. where my little brother, Marc, famously recalled the correct depth of the lake to the park ranger to win a huge piece of firewood (I think).  We were maybe 12 and 10 respectively.  What I remember of Lassen were the narrow, winding roads, the mountains, the crystalline lakes and the geothermal pools.  It was just too cool!

Susan and I took a day trip to Lassen three winters ago when I was working in Quincy, CA.  The park was only open to the Visitor's Center, but was spectacular to see, even if it was nearly buried in snow.  But we never made it into the park and I have been wanting to return to see the interior that I only vaguely remember.

So on Sunday I awoke at "o dark thirty" to drive up to Chico, CA and meet the club at 7am.  We loaded up and headed into the mountains.  The ride was a "you choose the distance" ranging from 30 to 92 miles.  "Great," I thought, there will be a nice group of riders, of all levels, that I can ride with.

About 15 of us rolled out of Mineral, CA. headed for the park.  We took the Mill Creek loop to add about 12 miles to the route (and a nice little climb) and then turned to head into the park.  It was a left turn onto Hwy 89 and up, up, up, the climbing began.  Be sure to have a chrono-look at the ride here, or on the web album to the right--->

The day was spectacular.  It was much cooler at the higher elevation and the light was incredible.  Our ride started at about 5000' and topped out a about 8600' on Lassen Summit.  I could've been in the French Alps riding in the "Tour" for all I knew.  My legs felt good (after riding 60 mi on Saturday) and the change in elevation was a nice change to the flats of the Sacramento valley.

Sierra Mountains as far as the eye can see!
Chico Velo is a club, but have a racing team in the likes of Chico Masters Velo (I think).  In California there are two Master's groups, a 35+ and a 45+ group.  Four years ago I tried my hand at racing with the 35+ Cat 1,2,3's versus just racing with the Cat 3 kids, and got schooled!  Fast forward these 4 years (and at 44) and I felt right at home with this group of fit, forty-somethings.  These boys (and 4 girls) were ALL fit.  Wow!  I don't often ride with folks, and when I do, I don't know what to expect.  I was surprised to see just how in shape everyone was and how many people went on to do 70+ miles of the route.  I decided to ride with a couple of Mikes and go the long route (although we took the short cut back) for a total of 84 miles!  Check out my Map My Ride upload for the stats. Only complaint is that MMR left out the second big climb to the summit.  It was about 8 miles and 1800' of vertical, or something like that...It was our own private purgatory as our spent legs strained to keep the pedals turning over.  Oh, the sweet pain!

Back at the cars we were all smiles, bodies numb with endorphins and stomachs to soon be filled with burgers, fries and chocolate malts before heading back down the hill to Chico.  The park was awesome to see from the bike. Though we didn't stop at all of the geothermal sites, we did get some great views of the pristine lakes, lush forests and high mountain peaks, not to mention fierce climbs and adrenaline filled descents!

And perhaps best of all was meeting a fun group of avid cyclists just an hour or so north of Colusa, CA.  Thanks guys and girls for putting on this wonderful ride.  I will surely be back to ride up your way again.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I just wanna ride a bike

Me in the Sierra, almost 4 years ago!

As with all good intentions...I have meant to post more, but life seems to get in the way of my story telling.

Four months ago, I was cycling with the (Vandenberg) Village Dirt Bags, a solid group of guys and gals who just love to tear up those sandy trails.  I rode with them a fair bit and really got my MTB mojo on.  Being mostly a leg-shaven-lycra-sportin' roadie who dusts off his MTB a few times per year by request of his friends, I really began to feel like I could really ride one of those blasted machines.  And to ride Randy's "Porsche," a 20 lb. all carbon, rigid 29-er just made me want to go out and drop three grand on a new steed!

Don't worry honey, I won't (yet).

Fast forward through a couple of weeks off and now a stint up in Northern California and things are cooking.  The 90+ degree daily temps and lots of sunshine are doing my "cyclist's tan" some good.  Riding where I am isn't that good, but there are plenty of hills to be had in the Sierra foothills.  And my friends, Jay and Maria, in Placerville have been kind hosts so that I can to the infamous Sacramento River Ride and also get my share of climbing in El Dorado county!

So I have been able to get out there and mix it up a little bit.

What about fishing and running you ask?  Well, I always try to keep up my running base.  It is a necessity.   I run to really kick in the endorphins, to let my mind get lost and to allow myself the ability to eat just about anything I want.  This spring was superb for trail running in the Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara mountains.  I camped up there and went big, getting way back there on some four to six hour runs.  I felt great, like I could run forever...

And now, camping along the slow moving Sacramento River, I am getting the itchin' to go fishin'.  I missed "Striper" season, but salmon season is coming.  Hmm, I wonder if anyone will invite me out on their boat?

Doing some Salmon fishing in Alaska, three years ago!

So the adventure continues.

PS.  I have posted some new Dirtbag  web albums in the margin.  Enjoy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Miles from home

It may seem that I've been lost, with the lack of posting on FBR.  I guess, in a way, I have been.   Since that wonderful, moonlight ride through Yellowstone N.P.  I have traveled 1500+ miles to the south.   I landed in Ventura, CA after an awesome trip through remote eastern Oregon and Nevada.  Along the way I rode and ran in some lonely places.  Along with my solo drive, it made for a good decompression from the work and remodeling work over the past six months.
Taking in the waters at a hot springs near Denio Jct, NV

Hot Springs creek

I think that the decompress was good for me.  It freed me up physically and mentally so that I could get back to running, cycling and even some swimming.   Fishing in southern California is for the birds, so that one will just have to wait until I get back up to Montana later this year.

The Ventura cycling scene is unreal.   Weekly rides hammer up and down the coast and through the coastal canyons, over their passes.   I hooked up with a group called Metal MTN Cycling, aka "The Hammerheads."   We would ride on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7:30 am and tear it up for 2.5 to 3 hours.  Every ride would be 30 plus riders, all in great shape.  Even the fat guys (like me) were fast.  It was a great environment and really got me back on the road bike.  At best guess, I logged 2000+ miles in the 3 months that I was there.
On an open road...

And since we were living at the beach, what a better place run!  I began running more consistently and even found some trails to run up near Ojai, CA.   Susan even clocked in many a 2 or 3-miler up there.

Oak grove in the Ventura River Preservation Area

Now we're in Lompoc, CA, home to Vandenberg AFB and quite a cycling group called the Village Dirtbags.  I just happened across these guys when a co-worker of mine, when she found out that I was a cyclist,  handed me her cell phone with one of them on the other line.    On the line was local chiropractor,  Gene Pritchett,  an avid cyclist and honorable member of the Dirtbags.  I talked my way into a Wednesday night road ride with Dana Manchester.   We rode (under the full moon no less) for 30 or so miles, talking about all the heavenly local cycling there is here, and by the time we finished, Dana had offered me his old MTB and an invitation to ride with the Dirtbags.   The rest, one would say, is history!

These pictures are of my first Sunday morning group ride.  It was a gray, drizzly day today, but the riding was fabulous as usual.  Everyone has been so nice and welcoming.  These guys (and girls that ride too) are a class act and I hope to enjoy many more MTB rides with them.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Yellowstone by Moonlight

The Clock Strikes Midnight

Last Friday night, Susan and I drove to West Yellowstone so that I could ride with some of the Billings cyclists on their annual West Yellowstone Moonlight Ride.  I was excited to go because of how close it was to Dillon (about 2 1/2 hours), that we haven't been to Yellowstone yet this year and it's something we have wanted to do.  So we packed up our camping gear and headed for the park.

We got to West Yellowstone about 9:30 pm and went to my first campground choice (FULL)  so we had to drive about 10 miles out of town to set up the night's camp.  "So much for me riding to and from the starting point of the ride," I thought.  'Oh well."

The West Yellowstone version of this ride would take us from the Park's entrance to Old Faithful and back, for a total of approximately 62 miles, or 100 kilometers (a metric century).  The start time was to be midnight and the return time was to be 6:00 am Saturday morning.   Yes, we would be riding all night long.  The overnight low was to be below freezing.  This was going to be interesting, to say the least.

I awoke after a 30 minute power nap and got dressed to go.  It was 11 pm and not that cold out, so I opted for leg warmer vs. tights, a base layer with jersey, arm warmers and my rain jacket.  I have winter gloves and a fleece head band to cover my ears.  I felt good at the time, but would soon find out that I was under dressed.  I was fooled further by seeing one of the riders, Mike, dressed in baggy shorts with knee warmers and not much on top.  

DJ Mike and his Pimped Ride
 "How cold could the park be in early September?"  I thought.

We got all our gear together (I didn't have anything extra to bring along).  Joe would be our sag support, while ride leader, Spencer Stone, Mike, Dick and I would ride.  Miked finished his cigarette and we rolled out at 12:15 am.

Dick on the Long Road into the Park
Captain Spencer
The nearly full moon was high by then.  It was quiet and we had the roads all to ourselves.  I think I counted only two cars passing us on the way in, and Joe kept a good distance away and drove with only his parking lights on.   I was using my new headlight, a 350 lumen light (normal headlights are about 50 lumen), that I got just for this ride  (and for early am or late pm commutes).  It turned out to be a spotlight and made us feel like we were riding in a parking lot, so early on in the ride I shut it down and rode without anything.  (Note: We all had flashing tail lights for safety.)

Riding in the dark with only the moonlight MADE this ride.  I have been through the park in all four seasons, but never at night.  It is a magical place any time of the year, but the moon gave it a completely different feeling.  We could have been on Venus or Mars, or on a haunted trek through the wilderness.  It was eerie, to say the least. 

It was very cool.

My riding mates were cool, too.   I'd only ridden with Spencer before, on a club ride in Billings, a year and a half ago.  Dick and Mike I just met this night.   Mike was a character.  An engineer, 24 hour MTB racer, smoker and lover of vintage music, Mike provided the music, via MP3 player and speaker on his bike rack.  We were serenaded by Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead and  countless others as we rode in the darkness.

"Sugar Magnolia" at 1:30 am.

Like I said, this ride was going to be interesting.

The ride went off without a hitch.   I got really cold about 5 miles from Old Faithful and I began to question my ability to finish the ride off.  "At least we have the sag,"  I thought.   But when we finally got to the Old Faithful Lodge and sat in the warm, cozy and quiet great room, I began to feel better.  We had the place to ourselves and we spent nearly an hour refueling and thawing out.  It was sublime!

A little bleary eyed at 3:30 am

Old Faithful Lodge...the next day.

But alas, we had 30+ miles left to go and after we all accepted this, we mounted up and headed out.  It is here that I have to give big props to Dick, who furnished me with a long sleeve jersey as a fourth layer.  Man did that make all the difference on the cold descent back to West Yellowstone.  All was good on the return trip, but I did get cold about 5 miles out from the finish.   It was pre-dawn and at the coldest part of the day.  Joe said that he saw 32 degrees, but Susan had 28 on her thermometer.  I'll take the average and just call it COLD.

Dawn ride.

We thawed out in the lobby of the start/finish motel along with 150 Asian tourists, getting their breakfast buffet.  Their presence seemed to add to the dream-like state that my sleep deprived, cold induced body was in.  

It was interesting and then it was over.  Spencer and my new friends were on the road, heading for Chico Hot Springs for a soak and snooze before heading back to Billings, the tourists were loading up for a busy day of sightseeing and Susan would soon pick me up and take me back to camp for a nap.   It still feels strange as I write this, but it was an incredibly fun (and interesting) bicycle ride that I would recommend to any and all adventure seekers.

If I'm in Montana next year, you bet I'll be on this ride again.