Monday, September 1, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hard Living

First weekend of Fall.

Was up early on Saturday with nothing to do and nowhere to be and decided it was Duma’s lucky day and we took off for a hike. I was considering exploring a few little pieces of wildlife road off of Yellow Gap but wanted to make sure the D-Man got in some climbing so I decided to do Art Loeb > Connector > The North Slope


It was a good route choice and had me excited for the opening of the seasonal trails just weeks away. The North Slope is a great little trail and is the perfect way to finish out a winter ride!

After we finished up the hike and had a little something to eat and drink I headed out on the road bike for a spin. I combined my usual after work routes for a longer ride and just went out and enjoyed the nice weather. The forecast had been for rain all day but other than a couple of threatening clouds there was nothing all day.

Sunday morning and I was up early again and with nothing to do. Since I’m waiting on my new wheels to get here I decided to stick to the road bike but wanted to still go to Pisgah and I didn’t want to drive there so I threw some stuff in my jersey pockets and headed off to 276 shortly after 8am. I didn’t really have a plan and only had a vague idea how to get to Pisgah Forest. My plan had been to take King Rd. somehow but I couldn’t find it and wasted a lot of time wandering around before I finally made my way to Crab Creek Rd. and a better vague idea where to go from there. Once in Pisgah I stopped at Coontree for water and tried to decide of I wanted to commit to the big ride of dropping off the back side of 276 and then taking 215 back up through the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness areas to the Blue Ridge and then back down to Roseman. I decided to come up short and just go up 276 to the Parkway to the store at the Pisgah Inn. The climb up was tough and as I was climbing I was able to notice a complete change in the climate. While it had been sunny with a few scattered clouds down at the bottom up at the top it was cold and the peaks were still covered in a thick, heavy blowing fog. I had to get out my arm warmers and was thankfull I wore my knickers. After a few Little Debbies I was finally descending and within minutes the fog was a thing of the past and I was back in the sunshine.


Another quick stop at Coontree and I was on my way home. I knew the way this time and tried to make quick work of the return trip. I had been thinking about hitting the top of Jump Off Rock on the way back but when I got to the top of Hebron I was out of water and already tired so I skipped it and made it home in just 85 or so miles.

Posted by clay at 00:25:15 | Permalink | No Comments »

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wednesday Night Ride

Lake Imagining Rd. > Jim Branch > Buck Forest Rd. > Conservation Rd. > Reasonover Creek > Turkey Knob > Poplar Hill Loop > Pinnacle Mtn. Rd. > Joanna Rd. > Grassy Meadow > Joanna Rd. > Grassy Creek > Sandy Trail > Tarklin Branch Branch Rd. > Hickory Mtn. Rd. > Ridgeline

Found a map during the ride and as far as I can recall this was the route. Good times!

Posted by clay at 02:59:18 | Permalink | No Comments »

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Autumnal Equinox

Ah, the last days of summer and the first days of fall. This summer went by all too fast and while I already miss the long daylight hours I welcome the cooler temperatures and all the fun that is to be had after dark. The equinox is a time of balance and balance is what I had in mind going into last weekend.

Saturday morning I met Jonathon at the ranger station at 9am and we set out for a sort of big ride. Our ultimate route for the day would be:
Black Mtn. > Turkey Pen Gap > Vineyard Gap > Riverside > Bradley Creek > Squirrel Gap > South Mills River > Buckhorn Gap > Clawhammer > 477 > 276

Black was a good climb as always and with Jonathon running gears and climbing strong I had to run up some of the hike a bikes to stay ahead of him. It was all in good fun but what singlespeeder wants to be beat going uphill by a gearie? I was feeling good and trying to stay on the bike but also knew if we were going to be riding for most of the day I’d have to walk when appropriate. I took a pretty good fall on the way up trying to clean one of the water bar sections and managed to bruise my ass pretty good in the process - ouch! Before we knew it we at Turkey Pen and what a sweet trail that is. The first descents into Muleshoe and Deep Gaps are quite simply as good as mountain biking gets. After that the trail is still superb even if it is a little like a sinister game of shoots and ladders. Here is Jonathon on the switchback on Turkey Pen:
And coming down to the road:
After that it was very similar to my ride from last week with the Vineyard Gap > Riverside > Squirrel medley. I managed to clean two of the river crossings on Riverside and when we got to Bradley I pulled out the map and differed to Jonathon as to where we should go from there. I was pushing for the whole length of South Mills but he picked Squirrel and off we went. I was still feeling okay but seemed to loose my rhythm on Squirrel and had to dismount a whole lot more than I had the previous week. When we got to the mud hole just past Cantrell PAS was out there working to clean it up. I felt a little bad about not being there to do trail work but just a little. They seemed to have more than enough people for the project and after watching them watch someone cut down a tree we pushed on through to Wolf Ford:
From there it was just the usual little climb up to Buckhorn Gap where we both decided to skip the trip back over Black and just headed down the gravel instead. It had been a long day on a lot of singletrack and the gravel felt surprisingly good. We made it back to the cars after a total time of about 6:45.

With balance in mind Duma and myself headed out Sunday morning for a good hike. Not wanting to encounter horses or bikes we headed to the most logical of spots:
Our route for the day would be the classic Shining Creek > Old Butt Knob loop. It was my first time going all the way up Shining Creek and Duma and myself were both really enjoying it. What a great morning to be in the woods! Shining Creek starts nice and mellow and scenic with many good campsites and chances to play in the river.
But before you know it it gets steeper and steeper and steeper and then rockier but eventually it spits you out at Shining Rock Gap. I took Duma around and then up onto Shining Rock itself. He was becoming very hesitant on the rocks and I was worried that his paws might have been bothering him but he is a trooper and followed me up to the top:
From there it took a little looking and backtracking before I was confident which trail was Old Butt Knob. Shining Rock Wilderness is just that - wilderness and should not be taken lightly. With no trail signs or markings you should not go unprepared and I was glad I had Duma with me and was also glad I knew the way back down. We did our best to make quick work of the descent but were both tired and moving a little slow over the difficult terrain. Just past Dog Loser Knob we saw a few backpackers who could not help but to comment on how good looking the D-Man is. He’s cute and he knows it! A good while later coming down Chestnut Ridge we met a hiker who asked where the trail led. When I responded Big East Fork he asked if that was the same as Little East Fork where the boy scout camp is. Um, no, not even close. Exact opposite end of the wilderness. He was wearing blue jeans and was carrying nothing and I was a little bit worried. It turned out he was with the hikers we saw earlier and he had decided to run down the trail to see where it led as they were lost. Not the best of ideas. The stretch of trail down Chestnut Ridge is as serious and technical of a trail as you can get with a huge elevation gain. I don’t know how far down he had gone but he still had a long way to go back up to meet his friends. And then from there they still had to go across the narrows on the Art Loeb to get back to their cars. A big hike and it was already 2pm and they didn’t even have a map! I would have given him my map and compass if I would have known for sure I wouldn’t need it and knew that they knew how to use it. I offered to write down the directions as well as food and water but he declined so Duma and myself pushed on. I hope they made it out okay and without further incident.

The final descent was very technical. We were coming down the spinal cord of the mountain and with Duma on a leash (good wilderness manners) it was slow and cautious going. There was a recent thread on MTBR where cyclists suggested that bikes should be allowed into Shining Rock. I couldn’t help but wonder if they had ever been on Old Butt Knob or any other of the trails out there. I can’t imagine trying to ride a bike on that stuff and carrying one would be even more dangerous.

In the end we made it back to the truck in under 5 hours. Duma drank a bowl of water and then jumped in the truck and went to sleep before I could even get my boots off! Today I was feeling it and went for a little after work roadie to stretch my legs out.

Happy Autumn!

Posted by clay at 03:45:17 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dupont on a Wednesday

All day at work yesterday I could only think about one thing:


I worked really hard and then before I knew it I was Dupont and riding with friends. I wonder what trails we rode? Reasonover > Mine > Shoals > Cedar Rock > Burnt > Shoals > Airstrip > Mine. Maybe? I don’t know and it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it was a whole bunch of fun. So much fun that if other people knew about it there would be laws against it. First intentional night ride of the year and it isn’t even fall yet! My camera batteries died before they snapped the first picture so a crappy pic of a crappy saw is all I’ve got.

I went for an usual after work roadie today and was feeling so good as I was going through town I forgot where I was headed and missed the turn onto 5th to Jump Off Rock and went for my Big Willow loop backwards instead. Nothing much to report. Just a fast little spin.

Posted by clay at 03:13:45 | Permalink | No Comments »

Monday, September 15, 2008

Right outside this lazy summer home

I decided to get the weekend started on Friday with an after work roadie and headed out for my Big Willow loop. Before I even made it out my neighborhood the ride got exciting. There are a couple of dogs that live around the corner that love to chase me as I peddle past. They just chase and bark and have never acted too aggressive so I’ve never been very concerned about them. Well they came after me as I started down a hill and one of them got in front of me and I hit him square on at about 25mph. I skidded to a stop, came unclipped, managed to bang up my knee pretty good on something and the dog scurried off. His owners told me they wished I would have hit him harder so he would learn. I was really concerned for the poor dog as I hit him hard but he seemed fine so I continued on. Later as I was coming down Willow at 30+ a squirrel was in the road. He saw me and then ran this way and then that way and then the wrong way and I ran straight over him! I don’t think he fared nearly as well as the dog did. I couldn’t believe it - I had hit two animals with my bike on a single ride. A little bit later I was climbing a steep hill very slowly and a pit bull came charging at me breaking through his invisible fence. I was going so slow I had no choice but to stop and hold my ground. I think he knew that I had already hit a few of his brethren and was after revenge as he was coming straight at me and was acting pissed. I managed to make a direct hit with a spray of water as soon as he was in range and he immediately headed back to his house. Tragedy narrowly adverted.

Saturday morning I was up early and headed to Asheville to watch Terri run in the half marathon. It was my first time at a running event and what struck me was how serious everyone seemed. Before I knew it Eye of the Tiger was playing and they were off!


My plan was to ride my bike to a few places along the course and watch as Terri ran by. I don’t know Asheville very well and had a very poor map of the course. I thought I would try and ride off the course so as not to interfere with the runners. I asked for directions from a few people and thought I had a good handle on where I was going. After an hour or so of single speeding around and around Asheville I was at the mall and realized I was nowhere near where I was supposed to be.


I quickly backtracked my way to the race course and decided to follow it and was eventually able to watch Terri pass by a few times around the 9 mile mark. At the finish line I couldn’t help but notice there wasn’t a keg or even a single beer in sight. What a contrast to mountain biking! It was a fun time and I’m glad I went. Next time I might just have my running shoes instead of the bike.

After the race I headed to Mills River where some friends were riding. They had gone up Laurel earlier in the morning and then the group was splitting with most folks climbing Big Creek and a few heading for Trace Ridge. As much fun as pushing a bike up Big Creek is I decided to try and meet up with those who were doing Trace. I figured my best option was to climb Trace and hope our paths crossed. Trace was a nice climb - not nearly as steep as I thought it might have been. Near the top Mike Brown was coming down and we chatted for a few minutes. Nothing like stumbling across friends in the middle of the woods! By the time I got to Spencer I hadn’t seen my friends and went on down Spencer Gap and then took Wash Creek Rd. to Bear Branch. It was a fun ride and I got to do trails I ride a lot in a different direction which made them feel completely different.

My route for the day was:
1206 > 5050 > Yellow Gap > North Mills River > H.R. Road > Trace Ridge > Spencer Gap > 5000 > H.R. Road > Trace Ridge > Fisherman’s

When I got back to my truck Jonathon and David George were there. They had done Bear Branch with Mike Brown instead of Trace. We hung out for a bit and I ogled at Tomato’s new geared and suspended bike - I hate to see how fast he is going to be now!

Sunday’s to relax! Most of my day was spent just lounging around and whatnot but after awhile I decided it was time to ride. Usually I start my rides either from the Mills River campground or by going up Black and as a result it seems like I neglect a lot of good trails. I thought I’d mix it up a bit and started at Turkey Pen. I hate driving up Turkey Pen Rd. as it seems like I always encounter horse trailers so I parked down at 280. My route for the day was:

Turkey Pen Rd. > Vineyard Gap > Riverside > Bradley Creek > Squirrel Gap > Horse Cove Gap > Cantrell Creek > South Mills River > 66 Jumps > Turkey Pen Rd.

Vineyard Gap is a sweet little trail that deserves more attention. It is really just a continuation of Turkey Pen Gap and gets almost no love. There was quite a bit of dead fall and downed trees and I did my best to clear it with my trusty little folding saw. This tree was a little big for my saw but with a little work I was able to get it on the ground:


Shortly after I got done with that tree I came across a very large bear who was rather surprised to see me and took off before I could get my camera out. After that it was onto Riverside where I managed to clean two of the river crossings. Riverside is another good trail that I never hear anyone talk about.


Squirrel was great as always and it felt like I had the woods to myself. I rarely ride Horse Cove and hadn’t been on Cantrell since I broke my hand on it last fall. I was a little apprehensive and managed to go over the bars once (landing on my bad hand, as always) but they were both great trails and I was happy with the ride and my route choice. Pisgah has lots of options and always something new to offer.

My poor dog had been somewhat neglected all weekend (not really but with the way he pouts you’d think so!) so even though it was 6:30 when I got home I did the only logical thing I could think of - I dropped off the bike and threw the dog in the truck and headed for Bad Fork. We went out and back to the Parkway and made fast work of it. Under 50 minutes round trip! Duma is sleeping at my feet as I type and I have a feeling I might be feeling it tomorrow.

Posted by clay at 02:56:49 | Permalink | No Comments »

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Roadie in the Rain

I haven’t been feeling very well all week and haven’t done much since Sunday and didn’t even think about riding a bike until today. Wednesdays are usually reserved for Tomato’s Dupont ride but with the threat of storms and not feeling 100% I decided to skip it even though Jonathon was going to be back on the mtb for the first time in months. Instead I went out for one of my usual after work road routes. I picked Jump Off Rock because I thought it might be fun to look out at Pisgah and Dupont. Well, it started raining almost as soon as I left the house and I quickly put my rain shell on. By the time I made it to Laurel Park it was pouring and I was wondering what I was doing. I pushed on up to the top and didn’t linger long enough to gaze out over the mountains. The downhill was scary at best and I took it easy and still managed to have at least one close call. I tried to take a few peaks to see if it was raining in Dupont as well but couldn’t tell. I sure hope so!
Posted by clay at 00:23:39 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Monday, September 8, 2008

Another weekend in the woods

Saturday I met up with a few friends for a Laurel Mtn. loop. Zach was able to get my wheel true enough to roll and we did the following loop:
1206 > Laurel Mtn. > Pilot Rock > Connector Rd. > Pilot Cove > Slate Rock Creek > 1206

Good times. Here is a shot of my mechanic working on my wheel:

I followed the ride up with a hike with Duma and Terri. We did the D-Man’s favorite trail - Bad Fork. Here he is tearing it up:

I got up somewhat early for a Sunday and headed back out to Mills River and played around in the Trace Ridge area:
1206 > 5050 > Yellow Gap > North Mills River > Hendersonville Reservoir Rd. > Never Ending Rd. > Spencer Branch > Fletcher Creek > Never Ending Rd. > Middle Fork > Spencer Branch > H.R. Rd. > Trace Ridge > Fisherman’s

was the route for the day. I was battling chain drop all morning and figured it was because my chain was worn out. When I got back to my truck I saw that one of my new chain tugs was bent and the wheel was slightly cocked which could have been causing it as well. I measured my chain and it looked good and I took out a link to try and get the chain tugs a little more secure but the chain was then too short so I put the link back in but of course now it sticks. So I need a new chain and new wheels. And I want a new crankset and peddles….

After the ride I headed up to Asheville and watched some guy attempt to ride the world’s tallest bike at the LAFF Festival. After watching lame clowns run around for 30 minutes he finally tried to ‘ride’ the forty foot contraption. He got maybe one peddle stroke and about ten forward feet before he fell off. From my vantage point he never even remotely had it balanced. I had no desire to stick around and watch him try again.

Another fun weekend in the mountains. Can’t wait to do it again!

Posted by clay at 02:53:17 | Permalink | No Comments »

Friday, September 5, 2008

First Blood

Let’s just say that my first ride on my new frame ended the same way my last ride on the old frame ended - with a nice long hike in the woods after dark.

So, I spent this week slowly building up the new frame. I decided that the brown fork just wouldn’t do and spray painted it yellow. It took many coats and gave me an excuse to piddle around with the bike building process. As I was waiting for the paint to dry I managed to get in a few good road rides and then last night put the finishing touches on the new bike. Today I headed out for it’s first ride and did the following route starting from the Mills River Campground:

1206 > 5000 > 5001 > Bear Branch > 5000 > Spencer Gap > Trace Ridge > Fisherman’s

Here is the new bike looking all sexy at Fisherman’s before the ride:
The ride started with me making a few saddle adjustments and other boring uneventful stuff. Then just before making the turn onto 5001 to hit Bear Branch my rear tire went flat. Funny thing is I noticed it was low when I went to start building the bike up and instead of following my better judgment and switching out the tube I just pumped it up and called it good. It took me a good ten minutes to change it and in the process I managed to slightly mangle one of my new chain tugs. A great start to the first ride on the new bike.

Bear Branch is a great trail and once I hit the single track I was loving it. Fast and flowing, rocky and loose - it felt great to be in Pisgah again on a mountain bike and even better on a rigid single speed. I made fast work of Bear and then 5000 to Spencer Gap. I have trouble cleaning all of Spencer Gap on the single speed and was curious to see how I would do after a few weeks off the dirt. Well, I managed to get most of it but still had to dismount on two of the steeper pitches. With an extra tooth in the back I’m sure I could make it but where is the fun in that? Anyway, Spencer was a lot of fun and before I knew it I was at Trace Ridge.

I tried my hardest to clean the final climb to the top of the ridge but once again had to get off and push a little. No worries because a kick ass downhill was coming up. I went into the downhill fast. I was taking chances and feeling great on the bike. Then out of nowhere my front wheel washed out and down I went. Hard. My bad hand and arm took the fall (like always) and I jumped up, realized I was okay and got back on the bike. Then I realized the bike wasn’t okay. The front rim was bent, not tacod, but not just a little out of true either, and the tire had rolled off the rim. I deflated the tube, remounted the tire and reinflated. I also decided to give the rear tire a few pumps of air as it was feeling extra squishy. I got back on and started to make my way on down the trail carefully. The front wheel was feeling very precarious and I didn’t want to take any chances so I was rolling slow - just trying to make it back to the truck. Then the rear tire went flat again. I hit it with some air but it wasn’t doing anything as the valve stem was broken. I tried to keep rolling and considered throwing some zip ties around the tire to keep it from rolling off the rim but with the bent front rim realized my best option was to walk down. So that is what I did - walked from the top of Trace back down to Fisherman’s. By the time I got to Wash Creek it was past dark and I decided I’d better strap on my emergency light for the rest of the hike. The moon and stars were out and I had my ipod for company and made the most of it but would have much rather been riding my new bicycle instead of walking next to it. Here it is after the ride:

A little work and it will be ready for a weekend full of adventures!

Posted by clay at 04:05:21 | Permalink | No Comments »

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend Recap

I headed into the long holiday weekend without too many plans. I was wanting to both do a whole lot of things and not much of anything and accomplished just that in a round about sort of way.

Saturday found me doing a whole bunch of nothing but relaxing until late in the evening when I decided to head out on the road bike for a little spin. Duma had been intimidated and nearly attacked by a wolf hybrid on a walk earlier in the day and my nerves were shot so I figured a bike ride was the only way to burn off the stress. Duma is a big boy and was a little scared himself and didn’t mind staying home while I went out for a quick ride. I decided to do my normal Big Willow route backwards and found the climbs to be much more gradual and the descents much faster and steeper. I’m feeling better descending on the road every time I go out and was really trying to see how hard I could push it. On a few of the steeper switchbacks my bike started to loose traction and was sliding sideways. I took that to be a sign I needed to slow it down a little and did just that. On the way back through town I had to deal with the Apple Festival traffic. I guess these festival goers don’t like bicycles because I got buzzed a lot and heard enough horns to last me a lifetime. I’m just glad they don’t sell beer there.

The plan for Sunday was to watch some sort of road race that was going on around Greenville, SC. Jonathon had invited a bunch of people over to his place for brunch and then we were all going to ride to the top of Paris Mountain to watch the riders as they went by. My plan was to do the only logical thing and ride my bike to his house and then to the race and then home again. Saturday night Jonathon called and asked if I wanted to meet him in the watershed and then ride on to his house so I had an escort and didn’t have to deal with the cue sheet he had provided at all. Sweet! It was a great morning to be on the bike and I left my house around 8 and was feeling good all the way to Traveller’s Rest. Once we got to Jonathon’s we hung out for a bit and had a good breakfast. Broussard showed up and called me an ‘over achiever’ - I guess he was feeling a little self conscious about only having gotten in about 150 miles on the road bike the day before! Jonathon eventually managed to load up the bob trailer with a couple of coolers containing a few cases of beer and we made our way up to the top of Paris:
The race was fun. We hung out, drank and ate and chatted. Then eventually a few riders came by really fast.
There was a beak away and all types of other extremely exciting stuff going on but I figured it was in my best interest to get on my way home so after a quick headset adjustment and attempted clarification of the directions home I made my departure. I was feeling GREAT going down Paris at 40mph with hundreds of people watching from the side of the road.Shortly after that I negotiated my way through whatever town it was we were in and quickly found myself getting turned around. I was trying to read the cue sheet backwards and trying remember all the subtle nuances I was told about the fastest route and made more than a few mistakes. And then it started getting hot. I’d ridden 45 miles in the morning and had to do the same distance home and was second guessing myself a lot and getting lost definitely doesn’t help. I was never very lost but made a few wrong turns along the way. Eventually I made my way to the watershed and the normally gradual climb just about killed me. My plan had been to leave the race early and ride home so that I wasn’t gone all day but in the end the 50 mile ride home took almost four hours and I would probably have gotten home around the same time if I would have stayed and watched the race and then caught a ride home with Dennis…. Whatever, 96 miles for the day. I’ll take it!

Monday’s to relax! Woke to the sound of rain coming down and laid around for most of the day. Massages and big breakfasts and movies were the menu for the morning. After polishing off most of the cake and ice cream Terri and myself had bought the night before we finally decided to get out for a quick hike so we loaded up Walks With Big Paws and headed for Pisgah. I picked a gated unimproved road I’d never explored before and we went for a leisurely stroll. The grass was high and wet and there was no question we were on the road less traveled so off the leash Duma went.
Duma ran and played and I chatted with Terri and we played with my camera. Along the way we found a network of old extraction roads snaking around and lots of open fields. Pisgah secrets that you’ll have to find on your own!

Somehow in the midst of it all I have made progress of building up the mountain bike. The fork has been getting lots and lots of paint (!!!) and tonight I went over to David Cook’s house and he helped me press the headset in. Looks like tomorrow will be the big build day!

Posted by clay at 03:28:16 | Permalink | No Comments »

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