Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Bet You Don't Have One of These

Its a vampire penguin dinosaur snowman. He's a piece of custom, handcrafted snow badness brought to you by Allie and Dad Productions.

You wanna know why his head is so small? I'll tell ya why, - 'cuz its a penguin, that's why. Yeah, and we didn't have a carrot, so a wedge of cheddar cheese happens to look more like a beak than a nose, so.....penguin.

Oh and the vampire/dinosaur inspiration came from trying to secure black olives in place with toothpicks for a more traditional looking snowman mouth, but it didn't work so we were left with toothpick fangs and horns.

Attention all wanna-be's and posers: our snowman kicks your snowman's frosty behind.

Brrrr Out.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bears Can Hibernate If They Want

I'm gonna hike and bike all winter. Well, at least I can talk tough as long as it stays above 10 degrees.

Currently I've got a pretty good streak going for getting out into the great outdoors. I rode Tuesday at the Center and Wednesday at Ahquabi. Even though I didn't make it out to the Turkey Day Ride I did manage a jaunt around Easter on Thanksgiving and on Friday I made it back out to Center.

On the flipside of my good streak I've been having a bad run of mechanical problems. Tuesday I rode my cross bike at the Center. Toward the end of my ride I ran across Squirrel who took me on a tour of his new accoutrements in the aptly named Squirrel's Nest trail. We parted ways after our loop and I decided to do a quick loop of the Rhythm trail. Barely 100 yards into it a stick got jammed into the rear derailleur, shearing it off and bending the hanger. Since its not a replaceable hanger I'm going to need some bike wizardry outta Rassy's to fix it. I'm pretty confident it can be done, but a bent hanger is just a sick thing. I had kinda decided I was going to sell the Poprad in favor of another cross bike with a smaller frame, more friendly gearing and disc brakes. Now, its definitely going to go.

The other problems pale in comparison but I had a flat at Ahquabi and had a stick knock the Trek's rear brakes completely off kilter on Friday. I had to finish the ride sans rear brakes - you really kinda need those. Biking, as with most things I guess, is something you occasionally have to remind yourself this is fun.

Saturday I decided to give my poor bikes a break and take Trail Dog on another snowy adventure. We went to Yellow Banks Park just outside of Runnells. This is a interesting little park I first discovered early last spring. It sits on some bluffs above the Des Moines River. There are several short hiking trails. Its too bad they don't connect to give you any good distance, but the topography is pretty awesome. There's lots of ravines and creekbeds to cross, with plenty of good opportunities to bushwhack and scramble.

My camera didn't have much of a charge and I took way too many pictures early in the trip so when I got to some more interesting stuff the batteries were dead.

Trail Dog found a couple of spots that smelled so dern gude he had to just lay down and roll in it. It was probably deer pee or something.

I'm working on a little training with Capt'n. I will drop the leash and let him wander just a little but if he gets too far from me I can step on the leash or get him to stop with my Big Bad Dad voice (it is a powerful weapon). He's actually doing really well. Its funny, he's so excited he wants to go-go-go but he's also soooo happy to be out he'll do whatever you want. I don't think I'll ever be to the point where I would trust him off leash, but it would be nice to feel confident he won't bolt at the first opening.

The soaking we were getting ended our day a little prematurely. I'm going to have to start taking a pack for longer hikes. Only 2.8 miles, although it seemed like more. There's some big ravines out dar, trust me.

We'll be back. I might need snowshoes next time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Trail Dog Visits Brown's Woods

Many moons ago, when I first started mountain biking, we liked our music dark and grungy, our beer cheap and plentiful and our women......well, you just nevermind about that.

We also liked to roll our knobby tires through Brown's Woods. Then one day mountain bikers weren't welcome there anymore; it seems the soil was "sensitive to erosion". I suppose erosion might be the issue but I've always suspected it might also have something to do with the Geritol Nation users having their delicate sensibilities disturbed by our two wheeled abhorations.

Trail Dog in transit

I hadn't been back there since being banished. It started snowing just as we arrived. How great is that?

I have found that if I walk slow enough to take a picture Trail Dog tends to pee on things, If I wanted to I could start a separate "Things I've Peed On" blog for Captain sometime...yeah, or maybe not.

We did a little off trail creek crossing and bushwhacking too 'cuz we're bad like-that.

Trail dog drank from the creek because that's what rugged beasts do.

After hiking and some light trail running we came across the only other user I would see all day, an older lady with a bushy little lap dog.

When she saw us she stopped to put a leash on her dog. I approached very slowly to let her get it on, but she was struggling quite a bit with it. "Is your dog friendly?" She suddenly screeched, her shrillness shattering the snowy silence (alliteration - sahweet).

"Yep, he's fine" I raised my hand - palm forward - in the international "it's cool, so chill" sign.

As we near she raises the terror alert to orange, "Are you sure he's friendly?!" "Ah, yeah, I am."

She got the leash on her furball right when the dogs got nose-to-nose. The bushy little spaz chuffed and spun away and the lady immediately dropped the leash. "Oh, well, my dog is a little afraid..."
"Okay, sorry"

Thanks for the drama, Shrilly McClain, but we'll be movin' on now, you're killin' our nature buzz. As I continued up the trail I thought to myself, "Oh yeah, now I remember why mountain bikers are not out here anymore."

Anywho, the hiking was still a barrel o' fun. There's a short front loop and a longer back loop, we did both twice, so I figgerin' it was about 4 miles.

Its pretty hilly and so it was a good workout too. Trail Dog was so wiped he needed a boost to get his leadbutt in the SUV.

It was awesome. It won't be 20 years before I go back again.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You Know Winter's Coming When...

the forecast says its gonna be 50, the big 5-0, and you say to yourself, "I'm taking the day off to go riding." Work sucking like a Dyson vac mighta had something to do with it too.

I texted my biking partner in crime Corey and he quickly hit me back with "I'm in".

We started the day out at Sycamore. Corey brought along his singlespeed and since I'm converting the Trek hardtail to one gear I resigned myself to keeping it on uno cog the whole day. There's some construction going on at the Targetto trailhead. The guy in this earthmover asked me how the trail was, I told him I didn't know yet. I was looking for him after to tell him it was pretty muddy, but he was probably on the break that comes after the second break after lunch.

I didn't take any pictures really. Lotsa good trail, but lotsa mud too. I ate it on a couple greezy rutted corners, the tires and everything was getting solidly packed with goo so it was bound to happen. I did ford this partially frozen lake (seriously there was some ice on it I just plowed through). I'm damn-near a frontiersman.

After Sycamore we ate fresh(tm) at Subway then headed to the Center for more dirty miles. Rollercoaster was in surprisingly good shape and Hillside was just primo. I showed Corey the never ending Dirty Du loop. It was especially challenging on a pseudo singlespeed.

We decided to head over to Denman's and check out the new blacklabel where J-11 used to be. This is, I suppose, progress for the cycling and active community as a whole, so I guess the dirty lovers can take one for the team.

There's a new stunt in Denman's. She's skinny and long legged. Oh sure, she looks like fun, they always do....but she's sure to hurt you man! You know she is....(devil) Do it! (angel) No, don't. (devil) C'mon......Do it!

Maybe next time, but probably not.

All in all about 25 miles 'o the brown stuff; that instead of work is a most excellent trade.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Easter in November

Easter Lake that is.

I was all set on doing some gravel riding on the cross bike Sunday, planning to head south, check out Banner and maybe roll onto Ahquabi if the legs were feeling alright and the weather was cooperating.

Getting ready to go anywhere these days means I need to have the stealth of a ninja to avoid detection by TrailSled Dog. I wasn't very secretive getting ready and TS Dog was laying the guilt on thick.

You goin' sumwhare?

I ended up hanging around the house for awhile to let the excitement disipate before heading out. During this time I noticed the winds really swirling around outside. I thought it was supposed to be windy on Saturday, but that's not what it sounded like out there.

After finally sneaking out to the garage I pulled my cross bike off the rack and the rear tire made a THUNK when it hit the ground. Grrr, a flat before I even leave (which is the best time to have a flat). Since I wanted to be riding instead of fixing I grabbed the mountain bike and decided to head to Easter instead. The tree cover would provide some nice protection against the wind and the trail out there stands up to rain pretty well, so I wasn't too worried about soggy conditions.

I've rode more than ever this year but I haven't spent nearly as much time at Easter as I have in the past. Sunday reminded me what I've been missing. I really love having this right out my backdoor.

There are some long range plans to pave a path around the lake. While I'm ALL FOR improvements in the park, especailly a trail all the way around the lake, I am NOT FOR plowing under some perfectly good natural path. Oh well, I think its a ways off and even then it will leave plenty of alternative dirt paths.

Can you say hill repeats? I had never done them before, so I did 3. It was a good workout. There's a lot of good hills to train on out here. Maybe I should take advantage of that (ya think?)

I know NOTHING about photography, and neither does my bike, we just know what we like.

There's a creek crossing that separates the west side of the trails with the park proper. On the westside is this rooty gully Corey and I call Headcase. Looking down -

Looking up

It earned this name because it looks pretty intimidating, especially when it isn't filled with leaves and you can see all the gnarly roots. Despite that its not all that hard to come down it, especially once you've done it a few times, but once you get to thinking you have it down....BAM! it will put you on your head. Once it does will be in your head for awhile, hence Headcase. You can ride west to east down Headcase but not up the opposite side, which is Swan Dive. Leaves really kill the perspective of how steep this is, but trust me its a bit of a stinker.

Here's a picture from awhile back of Trail Dog navigating said hill.

We call this Swan Dive because Corey had the most graceful acrobatic flip over the handlebars and into the creek I have ever seen one time while coming down it. He held onto the bike the whole way and really stuck the landing. Perfect 10's across the boards, except for the Russian judge who is just a playa hatah. So, due to my limited powers of the bike Jedi, Headcase and Swan Dive are both one way down. You have to hoof it up one side or the other depending on the way you're heading. One of these days I want to conquer even this nemisis - that would be a good day.

Its funny how you can pass by something hundreds of times and not really notice it. The view from the bridge at the bottom is nice and naturey.

Unfortunately I had to cut my ride short because I hadn't eaten much for breakfast. See, I was planning on hitting the Casey's in Carisle for carbofuel, but there is no Casey's in the woods so I was out of gas.

I was planning to head back out after stopping at home to charge up, but its hard to get back at it, once you've dried off and warmed up. Plus Jackie and the kids were going bowling and I'm a ball-spinnin' strike-throwing APB bowler, so we went off to burn up the lanes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Expectations of an Aspiring Sled Dog

My very first blog post was about creating and managing expectations. Now, it seems I have unwittingly (that's how I do most things) created another expectation monster. I've been taking Trail Dog out for a walk or a run in the mornings for the last month or so. We've been pretty faithfully at it every weekday, so now....

Alarm goes off...

Someone is expecting something...

Oh, hey....I noticed you...uhm...put your shoes on and...oh, I see you are really close to the front door...soooooo, anyway.....if ya wasn't doin' nuthin' we could....


Yeah, that's the stuff...

We've been watching Iditarod: Toughest Race on Earth on Discovery lately and it has inspired Trail Dog to transform into his new wintertime alterego, Sled Dog.

Mush, Dude, Mush.

Wait, I gotta pee on this because its mine.

Oh yeah, that's mine too.

and that.

Dad won't let me pee on the picnic tables, but just-sos-ya-know, they're mine too.

Its all mine really. I'd pee on all of it, but I can't risk dehydration with so many miles of Alaskan wilderness to travel, what-with being Sled Dog and-all.

You know, there are plenty of mornings when I'm not really feeling the outdoor love, but Sled Dog can be very persuasive. We'll hook it up again tomorrow, I'm sure. Those Alaskan guys at least get a sled to ride around on.

*** Addendum ***

I came home after work fully planning to go on a trail run -- solo. Sled Trail Dog (that's the early winter/late fall hybrid) noticed something was up. "Not this time, Buddy" I told him. He slinked (slank? slunk?) away, literally with his tail between his legs. Sled Trail Dog is persuasive, he had fun on our run.