Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Standard By Which All Others Are Measured: Sugar Bottom

I remember when Sugar Bottom became my measuring stick for mountain bike trails. I think it was around 1994. Even though I'm not sure of the year, I am sure that I was screaming down the front side of a gravity cavity (think giant V in the earth) the locals call Cyclocross Hill. Repeating the fate of many would-be hillclimbers, I stalled out about halfway up other side, running out of momentum and leg power. Inconveniently, I was still fastened to my bike via toeclips (how's that for old skool?). At some point, while trying to yank my feet off the peddles so I wouldn't cartwheel backwards down the hill I thought, "You know, this Sugarbottom place is pretty hard.......and sweet."

Luckily, I was able to bail out sideways, but my trusty old Trek 7000 wasn't so fortunate. She flipped and flopped her way down the hill, probably very disgusted with her inept rider. She was fine though, sturdy ole' gal she was.

Since then I have rated every trail in relation to SB. For those that don't know, Sugarbottom is a trail system located in the recreation area next to the Coralville Lake right outside North Liberty and near Iowa City. It sports 10.5 miles of trails that are one directional and rated according to IBMA's standards, similar to ski runs. They've got a very nice mix of twisty, rooty and hilly tough singletrack along with some beginner and intermediate trails you can just fly on.

Unfortunately it got hit very hard by the flooding eariler this summer, so only a small portion of the total trail is open. I had heard that nothing south of the service road that bisects the area was open. I stuck to the 101, 102, 103, 104 trails and just did a few loops around. I didn't take my trusty map with me and now, after the fact, I think I missed out on some riding over in the 2's and 3's that are back from the (newly defined) shore. I didn't see the T intersection on 101 to get over there...or maybe it was blocked off (?) I probably just missed it. I'm such a freakin' idiot.

You need to ride up the park road from the beach to the highwater access point to begin.

Made necessary because of:


Jackie worries about me when I ride alone. I told her SB was popular, so I wouldn't really be completely alone. She called BS. Now, I produce this visual evidence:

Ha! I was RIGHT. Okay, maybe a couple of those cars belonged to people who were using the disc golf course, but the others were bikers.

Here's a rooty drop into a sharp turn that's pretty typical of the black trails at SB. The view is looking back up after the ride down. I didn't capture the hairpin very well, but it heads straight right at the bottom.

And another one right after the first. This view is looking down from the top.

Here's a rooty climb, I actually think this is on an intermediate trail. I might be mistaken about that.

it contines to be steep and rooty after the inital section. This is looking back down the hill. It doesn't look too intermediate to me.

The pine grove areas (there are a couple of different ones when its not flooded) at SB are very enjoyable. They are basically long twisty climbs and decents, they really inspire s-p-e-e-d.

I cleaned (rode up without putting a foot down) this climb for the first time ever (x3). Pretty pleased with that.

Semi sketchy rock drop off.

There are certainly trail systems that are bigger, technically tougher and physically more demanding all over the country (don't get me wrong SB holds its own). Places like Decorah can even challenge SB's title as best riding in Iowa, but there's just something about Sugar - for me anyway.

In closing I couldn't have asked for more this weekend. I got to ride at Beverly and Sugar and do-up the waterpark. Now I'll turn it over to my main man, on his trike, to send us out proper.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dah, da Wasserbahn es Gude, Yah

Jackie pulled an ultimate Ninja Mom move on the kids this weekend. She told them she was taking the day off to do some school shopping, but she didn't tell them it was out of town, at the outlet mall and she failed to mention there would be an overnight stay at da Wasserbahn included in the package. Just getting the chance to get some off-the-hook fresh skool gear had the kids pretty stoked. Incidentally, Katie tells me "off-the-hook","fresh" , "skool" and even "stoked" aren't cool anymore.

"Nobody says that anymore, Dad."

"I still say it."

(get a teenager look)

Apparently people now say and spell cool - "kewl".

I'm not doing that.

Anyway, Ninja Mom moves in the cover of night as well as the light of day. She told the kids Captain was going to the boarders because we didn't trust him alone all day.

They bought it.

She secretly packed clothes and swimsuits for them. She shopped all day and then told them they we going to meet me for lunch/dinner.

They bought it.

She even told them we were going to eat at the restaurant in the Holiday Inn.

They bought it hook, line and sinker.

It was only when Jackie went to the check in desk did they put it all together. The reaction was priceless. Everyone in the lobby were well-informed of Katie and Allie's approval of the ruse.

The kids were right, da Wasserbahn is pretty sweet.

They've got it all swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, swirling whirlpool, water basketball hoop and more....

Mountain bike trails are not the only places with stunts. The Millrun requires courage, strength, balance, mental toughness......okay maybe that's over doing it. I woulda liked to try it, but I could see me pulling the tower down like Godzilla.

They had two slides. Red=fast. Green= still pretty fast. Red ups the ante 'cuz its dark. They were both fun.

They also had a little arcade next to pool. It was nothing special, but it did give Jackie a chance to continue her dominance in the on-going, 20 year skee ball competition between the two of us. She's a natural, skee ball is in her blood.

Jackie did a great job arranging everything. We all had a splashin' good time.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Sheesleys Aren't Home Right Now....Leave a Message After the Beep

Feeling the summer start to fade a bit, Jackie and I started hatching a plan for a mini-end-of-summer-event of some kind. Jackie was thinking she would take the kids to the Tanger outlet mall to do some school shopping and surprise them with an overnight stay at da Wasserbahn Waterpark in the Little Amana Colony. Selfishly, I thought, "Hey, the Sugarbottom Trails near Iowa City are actually open (amazing considering the floods)". I could head up the road a bit to ride while the ladies are separating me from the all that extra money I had just laying around. If SB was closed I could shoot up I380 to Cedar Rapids to check out the Beverly Park trails, which I have heard a lot about. So it was: I would ride and then meet the ladies for some strange Amish/German wasserpark fun.

I saw on the ICORR website that the SB trails, which had been open, were now closed so I decided to make for Beverly. While driving up 380 you pass right by SB so I decided to swing by on the off-chance the on-site signs would show the trail to be open. Pulling into North Liberty I started seeing a lot of little road signs with all kinds messages. Just as I was really starting to wonder what was up I saw the first group of RAGBRAI riders. Yes, I rode (drove) part of Ragby this year. I have to say it was a great experience. A lot easier than I thought it would be. In reality, I drove pass small groups of maybe 100 total weary road warriors. Anyway, when I got to SB the signs did indeed say closed - ride subject to fine - yikes, okay I get it. I said a quick prayer to the no-rain God so I could ride SB Saturday and rambled on.

I had a little trouble finding Beverly. It looks easy enough, right off 218, so I didn't spend a lot of time making my google map exact. After a couple of loops of the area, and a look at a Casey's map, I found what I was looking for -- kinda. I was purdy sure this was it, but there wasn't a parking lot like I thought there would be.

A ramp, I smell singletrack.

By the way, this was my first ride with my spankin' new Garmin 305. I think I'm really gonna love this thing. My model came bundled with a heartrate monitor and a cadence sensor, so I think it could really improve my riding, especially during winter training. Its the cat's pajamas.

Upon initial testing it was determined that remembering to start the timer really improves its accuracy. By the time I noticed it wasn't recording I had made it through quite a bit of trail and stopped in the real parking lot. Calling it a parking lot is a stretch, but they have this very nice kiosk. The local club, LAMBA, has done a ton of work clearing old trash and building some very sweet singletrack that really offers something to every XC rider. They've done an amazing job.

My Garmin said I rode 8 miles, with 1065 feet of climbing. I will add a fudge factor of 2 miles and 250 feet, since I was gadget challenged, for a total of around 10 miles and 1300 feet of climbing. Iowa continues to prove that it is not flat. There were tons of stunts and features all over the trail. I am more a fan of tough, twisty and flowing singletrack, with natural obstacles like roots and rocks. Good thing they have that too. Even though there isn't miles and miles of trail here and the multi-directional routes split and converge all over the place, it doesn't feel all confusing and disjointed. Just like Hillside, after awhile you just know how to fit sections in to keep things moving and fresh (freaky fresh even).

I rode a little less aggressively since I was without:

Its a wingman. When you're in singletrack far from home it is especially important to have a Goose with you, someone who can put out the fire and collect your charred remains when you crash and burn.

I did I try it? Yes.
I did make it? Up: No. x3 Down: Yes x3

Try it? Yes
Make it? Sure, it'd be slicker than snot wet, that would get interesting real quick-like.

Try? Yes, fun.
Make? Yes x #? I don't remember how many times I hit this one. It is very well constructed, its harder from the other direction (coming from the "parking lot").

Attempt? Hell no.
Succeed? N/A;, When they were younger, Katie and Allie would've said, "Daddy, that makes owwwies. ".

Giver-a-go? You're damn skippy.
Get-er-done? Oh yeah, I did this one several times. This ramp is sturdy and perfectly placed. Its a blast. Magazine cover shots were to be had, too bad I had no Goose. This ramp is almost worth the drive all by itself.

Take a whack at it? Yes x3
Hit paydirt? No x3. I'm terrible at skinnies. This one is at the bottom of a little hill. When I fell off I got my shoe muddy (x3). Great, now I'm in trouble. I wasn't supposed to get muddy.

No stunt here, but as I was rounding this corner -- you know with the creek looming there on the right -- a fowl o' the forest was tucked just behind the tree on the left. That damn woodland chicken, it flew up all-flappin' and everything. It almost scared my Egg McMuffin breakfast right outta me.

Did one for the Gipper? Yes x 3
Come out on top? Yes x 3. You can get mad air off this thing. From there the trail sails into some fast flowing singletrack. The loop seems pretty new in this section, but once that gets smoothed out you could produce some muy rapido bike riding along there.

Obviously, they have a plethora of stunts and it looks like they're ready, willing and able to add to the madness. Generally speaking Beverly rides like a cross between the freewheeling Thunderdome of Hillside and the twisty, mixed with flowy, singletrack of Denman's (ah, poor flooded Denman's we hardly knew ye).

I'll do another post on Wasserbahn and SB when I'm not so tired. As for Beverly? Bev, ole' gurl, you had me at hello.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ya Know, Sometimes You Just Overhear Things

I was at McD's, feeding my kids and getting my own dose of health food, when I couldn't help but overhear the conversation of two guys sitting in the booth in front of us. Apparently, there had been some mistake at their work and the boss, or somebody, was mad.

The one guy says to his friend, "Yep, then he gave me an all-Tim-ate-im" (or perhaps, ultimatum) "He said, you either have no common sense or you're stupid." "Yeah, can you believe that? So I said, I'm stupid."

I really have nothing to add to this other than, this all-Tim guy must be a (hungry?) jerk. I mean, just 'cuz you don't know what an ultimatum is doesn't make you stooopid.....although choosing the "I'm stupid" comeback might qualify you for said label.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday at Work, Phone Rings.........

The voice on the other end is trying to sound as cute as possible, (and she is really nailing it) "Uhmmmmmm......Daaaaadddy?"

"Yes, Katie."

"Uhmmmmm, Daaaddy, do you think that we could.......uhmmmmm, after you get off work.....could we go for a bike ride?" "Pleeeassssse?"

What was I gonna say - no?! Riiiight, not happening.

"Yes" was the only plausible answer to the question because, after all, combining a bike ride with some father daughter time is right up there with other classic combinations such as Mr. Reeces' ingenious amalgamation of peanut butter and chocolate in "cup" form. Hats off to you Mr. Reeces, for your tasty treats. Sorry to nitpick, but while they are deliciousioso, they are most certainly not cups. I don't know what they are (besides delightful) but they are exceptionally un-cup-like.....but I digress.

The only thing that would've made the ride better is if Allie would have gone too. Unfortunately, she is still reeling from her rose bush vs. bike incident over a year ago. She didn't brake in time (or at all) coming down the hill right behind our house. Simultaneously the handlebars froze in the straight-ahead position, resulting in her plunging headlong into a giant rose (thorn) bush. She and her entire bike were inside the bush. I was able to extract her carefully to prevent further damage, but she had LOTS of little thorn nicks. She freaked a little, "I'm bleedin' good Dad" she said as if I were an Army Chaplin giving her last rights on the Normandy beach. There is still an Allie-sized hole in that bush.

For this ride we just went out to Easter Lake. Katie was pretty fired up. She wore her helmet in the car on the way over. Even though we live close I drove into the park so she could ride some areas she hadn't ventured into yet. When we parked she looked at me and said "Let's do this thing." That one cracked me up. Besides just talkin' the talk she did great on the ride too (backin' it up). Evidently, she has finally figured out gears. Its a whole new world when you can shift to get up a hill. I was really proud of the way she grunted up some pretty steep hills and restarted herself when she got stuck. Judging by the number of "whoa" and "cool" comments I was getting I'd say she was enjoying herself.

We stopped down by the lake and I tried to teach her how to skip stones. We went over proper rock selection, arm angle, wrist action, and aiming out in the water away from the shore. After a couple of wicked cool Dad demonstrations. She was ready........

Spaloosh! no skip, big splash.

"Okay Katie, remember arm angle, wrist action, aim........."

Spaloosh! big splash but again no skip. Oh well, maybe next time.

Jackie thinks I'm a Sucker for a well-placed, sappy-sweet "Daaaadddy?"

I think she's right.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Camels & Ostriches + Jockeys + Racing = Funny

Prairie Meadows held ostrich and camel races this Friday. The exhibition races (1 beast, 1 bird) were held in between the regular old horse races. I had been fired up for this fer weeks. I really think giant bird racing is the wave of the future. Someday all racing will be like this. On top of witnessing the next big thing, I was figgerin' there can't be anything funnier than tiny men riding giant birds.

Well, I figgered right.

You would not buh-lee-vuh how many people were at the races, I guess I wasn't the only one that had done some figgering. We got there just as the camels took off. I accidentally had my camera on the video setting. It turned out to be a happy mistake because I captured some wicked fast humpback action outta the gate.

The ostriches were just plain funny. They corralled them into this little house-like trailer in order to get them on the track and into the starting gate.

The camels and ostriches were next to each other in pens. They didn't seem to like each other. I think the ostriches were talking a little smack and the camels didn't like the disrespect.

I was a little slow on the start button, but I captured one jockey (Yellow) taking a sweet digger right out of the gate. If I was an ostrich jockey (and I'm considering it) this is how I would ride. Yellow Jockey eats dirt and his mount gets back up and wirliebirds his way down the track to catch up to his friends. Toward the end you can also see the Pink Jockey eat it. It looks like Green is battling hard to stay birded (is that right?) and he is successful. Apparently, they all ran well past the finish point of the race. Those big, mutant chickens - there's just no quit in 'em.

Does anyone know where I can get a good racing bird with a little beefier suspension? I'll probably need the Sports Package - the Ostrich GT with a little NOS in the trunk. Oh yeah, Professional Bird Racer, I like the soundah that.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Doubling Down

Not one, but two, two, two tough trails this week, Hah, Hah, Hah.

Thanks Count, I'll take it from here.

Corey and I had been off to a great start to the prime mountain biking season by getting a trip in to Arkansas in early in May, but since then the pickuns had been kinda slim. Saturday we headed out to Lewis and Clark near Omaha. Not a new trail to us, but certainly a challenging one.

Today we added another notch to our belts - the trails at Crowder State Park in northern Mizzu. They call this area the "Nozarks" because it is a lot like the Ozarks, only further north - oh so clever. The drive is a little over 2 hours from DSM, and man is it worth it.

Crowder consists of four main loops with three main connector trails thrown in. One interesting feature is the connector trails were some of the toughest stuff out there. You typically think of connectors as boring flat little trails that only serve to link the interesting stuff together, not so at Crowder. The connectors were steep, rocky and technical. We inadvertently rode them in the reverse order from the recommended route, but that's just how we roll. They were both steep up and down so I don't think our transgression really mattered much.

I don't know exactly what makes a good comparison. It certainly reminded me of Syllamo in Arkansas. Locally I guess its a little like a cross between Sugarbottom and Boone, with ROCKS. It a little like Ingwanis on STEROIDS.

They warn you not to venture into the Thompson trail area without a map or knowledge of the trail system. They had nice topo maps at the trailhead and I had some local tips downloaded from the Earthriders website.

If you trying to freak me out, its working.

We learned quickly that when they say "rugged" and "steep" they are not kidding. We started with the River Forks Trail, which was kinda separate from the others. It was only 2 miles in length. Normally, you'd like to start with a nice little warm up - this is not a warm up. There were very technical climbs with these log stairs that were not easy to navigate around, you had to try going over them. Uff Dah.

Here is something gross. Katie would say, "Eeeew".

My only mishap of the day was spinning my peddle around to take another chunk outta my shin. Its the same spot that was injured in Arkansas and then again
when I crashed my road bike. I am beating that section of leg like it was a detainee at Guantanamo Bay.

There were a lot of "creek" crossings, except the "creek" was absolutely filled with rock. It was kinda weird. It must have been indigenous rock, but it looked like some massive human effort was made to fill the creek bed.

There were other spots were it was pretty clear the trail builders had armored the path with stones. It was a lotta work, super cool.

The loops are all relatively short, but they wear you out with the elevation changes and the technical roots and rocks. We did about 13 miles all told, skipping the North Thompson loop. That was kinda a bummer because there was supposed to be some great views on that trail and a creepy old 1830's manor house. Oh well, it'll give us something to look forward to seeing our next time there. Like we need an excuse, Crowder is sweet. We will definitely be going back.