Saturday, May 30, 2009

Summerset Shootout at Banner....Finally

We were going to do this last year....and then the rains came...more rain and more rain brought floods. Bridges washed away, mud and sand choked everything, park roads were washed out or covered in muck-flith. Banner was lost for the season....but we're back baby!

I can't go down to the race tomorrow because I will be helping out a friend catering the Lazerfest (rock on!) I imagine it will go something like, "Hey, Korn." "You want some corn?" "What's up Buckcherry?" "Dude, did you know yer band is on the dessert menu?"

Anywho, since I can't be there tomorrow I headed out today to do some course scouting and see who was out and about.

If you build it they will come. I was stopped by 3 different people and asked about the trails. It is mucho gusta to have people finding out about the great trails at Banner.

Probably the best way to show you around some of the course is to have Trail Dog do it. He adeptly demonstrates the narrow benchcut, steep hills and twin bridges. Follow me.

Back? Ok, let's continue.

The new blazes are cool.

The new division of advanced loops is a nice touch. I suppose the planners had always thought of it this way, I had always thought of it as one continuous loop.

That says "Cup Cake" on it - yeah, its gonna be that way.

I hope they include the new stuff at the end of the service road/double track. Its short but tasty. I love the last bit with the banked turn and little log drop.

This is going to be a pretty killer race. The north side is so tight and twisty it will be very difficult to pass. I have a feeling there will be a lot of people that overbake the turns on the backside of the gullys and g-outs. Even with cutting the advanced loops off the intermediate stuff is still pretty wicked. Hopefully no one gets hurt!
By my count its a 4.73 mile loop, 354 feet of elevation per loop. It doesn't sound like a lot but it is. No sustained climbs, but lots of short steepies.

Good luck to all!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Visiting An Old Friend

One of the best kept secrets of midwest mountain biking - and probably the whole country - is in Decorah Iowa.

This alpine-ish little community is nestled into the surprising bluffs of the northeastern part of the state. Residents can boast about some of the biggest and best parks per capita of any place around. Dunning's Spring, Ice Cave, Van Peenen and Pallisades ring the north part of town with Twin Springs flanking them to the west.

All of them have stellar mountain biking trails up and down the bluffside. Paths vary from smooth hardpack to rocky and rooty technical sections that suspend the belief that you are still in Iowa. There are not many towns 'round these parts where you can visit a spring-fed waterfall within city limits.

It had been many moons since I was in Decorah with mountain biking intentions. More than a decade ago I was obviously younger man in mind and body....I'll leave it at that except to say its not all bad to be older - errr, let's say more experienced.

I couldn't remember much about the trails, except their overall awesomeliciousness, so I was definitely interested to see if they were as good as I remembered.

Since this was a splice-a-ride-into-the-family-vacation I only had about an 1.5 hour to giddyup. I started off on the River Trail because the trailhead is easy to find and its reportedly the warm up.

RT is as advertised, but there's a side loop up a rocky rise that previews things to come.

River Trail quickly spits you out on a road by Pallisades Park. I tooled around some trying to decide where to go next, completely unaware that map kiosk was just down the street. I ended up taking the first trailhead I saw and headed up a long buff hill into some private land known as Smeby's. The landowners allow riding and even put out a chair for us old geezers to sit-a-spell.

It was a looong hill.

I guess (more on that later) I eventually found my way into Pallisades Park and the rocky, rooty Dead Pet trail (is that a great name or what?) It had been lightly raining all morning and things were slickery, especially the sinisterly angled roots. I executed a nice "save" by stepping sorta over the handlebars as my front wheel washed out on one of the nasties.

Next came this monster. My Voodoo 29er sure wouldda been nice (see previous post on Bike Karma) throughout Decorah, but especially on Dead Pet.

Lots of G-outs, some quite - interesting.

River trail, Smeby's and Pallisades - both forward and backward (for me anyway) - was all I had time for on Friday. It was tormenting to leave such great trail so soon, but I was anxious to see Lanesboro and get the family fun rollin', plus I knew I'd be back on Monday.

The last bit of Dead Pet has a little whoop-dee-do before descending to the road. It was here I learned my bike karma had followed me north. My fork was suddenly not holding air, reducing it from a 100mm travel to maybe 10mm. The fork remained rigid(ish) over the whoop and I went dee-do over the bars. Luckily I was able to execute another good save maneuver and landed on my side in a baseball slide -- the runner is SAFE at third.

Scene of the crime

My second splice of Decorah riding on the way home from Lanesboro was also abbreviated because this go-'round everyone was beat from all the frivolity of the last few days, so I kept it to 2 hours.

I was set on NOT riding the same trail I had before, but apparently I had been disoriented, thinking I had been in Van Peenen on Friday and not Pallisades (when the reverse was true). I had my wife drop me off on the opposite side of Pallisades and promptly starting riding the same trail I'd done before. It really wasn't a huge issue because it is great trail and there was a couple of spots in Dead Pet I wanted a crack at in dryer conditions.

Before long I ran into a man and woman team weedeating and generally maintaining the trail. They were very friendly and let me know where I was and where I wanted to go. I asked about the Fred trail, since I remembered that name and had read some good things about 'ole Fred. They got me directed to the other bluff and I was on my way.

As I said, I didn't have a map and the two kiosks I found with map compartments were empty. Most trails are numbered instead of named and there is quite a labyrinth of paths, so keeping track of where you're going is tricky. I know I did Backside, its steep enough at the beginning to kick yer backside, so you don't really need the sign to remind you.

Simultaneous to having a blast I was trying to keep track of time to keep from leaving the wife and daughters waiting and worrying at the pick up point. As I sailed down a looong, straight rocky descent (Boa?) I thought I might regret losing all my hard earned elevation if I had plenty of time left. Right before this rocky switchback I checked the time.

I had an hour left! Too soon to go too down too fast so I turned around and hoofed it back up the ridge. I was glad I did because shortly after I found what must be "Death Valley". Its an amazing bit of trail, coming out of nowhere and making you say "wow".

I didn't take many pictures the last hour because I was focused on getting as much riding in as possible. I know I hit Backside, Randy's, Dunnings and pretty sure about Boa and Death Valley, maybe Wold's Peak, but I don't know. That was in addition to River Trail, Smeby's, Dead Pet and probably some others. I'm pretty sure I didn't get to much of the Van Peenen stuff including Fred's although its hard to say. I know there were several spots I literally exclaimed "SWEET" as I was rolling along. You know you're having fun when that just pops out of your mouth.

I had a short but sweet two days of riding and didn't cover all they have to offer. The people of Decorah are extraordinarily friendly and the maintain their trails exceptionally well. I recently returned from riding in Arkansas and while Decorah doesn't have the endless miles of trail they have in AR, our little gem does rival them in beauty, difficulty and fun. It certainly won't be 10+ years before I go again - this time with 29 inch wheels under me.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Infiltrating the Happy Place

For years Jackie has been going with her co-workers, friends and family on a ladies-and-cool-people-only canoe trip. Cedar Valley Resort in Lanesboro, MN has become the favorite destination for this annual "Chick Trip".

This year, for the first time ever, Jackie and some of her Chick Trip compatriots decided to risk sullying their happy place by inviting their family along including husbands and.....children to their cherished spot (GASP!)

Everything went smashingly well. I even got to splice some happy place action of my own into the trip by stopping for a couple of great (but short) mountain bike rides in nearby mtb haven Decorah. I'll have more on that in another post.



Drinked some beerz

Farmer Marketed

Ate ice cream in the rain


Ate until we exploded

Frisbee golfed

Drinked summore beerz

Mini golfed



Ate until we exploded again

Hill rolled (well some just attempted to hill roll)

Better drink nuther beerz


How long has been since we ate?" "Have you seen all the food we brought?!" "EAT!"

Came up with a new business venture - vaudevillian musical pie delivery via Segway, songs to include "Bye, bye Miss American Pie" and "She's My Cherry Pie" and "Pie'll Be There..".

I'm sure I impressed all "campers" with my fire building/tending/smelting/glassblowing artisianship.

...and a bunch of other stuff I'm forgetting.

The cabin was beautiful.

The kids got along.

Simon says alot of stuff, but he doesn't have to say "dance" twice.


Divine Geometry

It was good for the soul - that's how good it was.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bike Karma

Karma is a beeotch.

Bike Karma is even worse.

I disturbed the cosmic balance by registering for Bike to Work Week but then not actually riding (GASP!)

I know, I know.

At least I didn't go and collect the freebie socks like I did commute. God knows what would have happened to me then.

Retribution starts 'round 'bout 8 a.m. I'm leaving for work (yeah, I sorta roll late like that most times). I realize my car keys are in Jackie's car and she's probably all the way to WDSM by now. Guess I'm commuting, and guess I'll be a little late for that meeting I was supposed to lead at 9:00. Change, cram clothes into Camelback. Go to pull my snazzy new 29er off the rack and BAM! flat tire. Debated on taking the cross bike, but doing Taco tonight so the ole' Yeti 26er is the ticket.

Ew, small wheels.

Ow, I put a cheap new seat on her in prep for sale ('Cuz my old one was blinged out with duct tape). I now know why it was in the clearance bin.

Arrive a little late, "lead" meeting sweaty still. Change into my work clothes for another meeting. Realize I forgot my phone and....underwear. Improvise.

Go about the rest of my work day. Feel unusually free, can't quite pin it down.

Jackie is good enough to pick me up early so I can go home, change the flat on the Voodoo and get some big 29" wheels under me for el Taco Ride.

Get to Taco late, just Nick is there, everyone else is at Banner. Forgot about the change in venue. Ah well, we ridin' aint we?

We ride, Denman's is nice. Start Squirrel's Nest and....SNAP! stick in rear deraileur, bike rendered unrideable and unfixable in the immediate term. Karma.


One day before my trip to Lanesboro and Decorah, where I was plannin' on doin' plenty o' ridin' on 29" wheels.


Oh, ah, hey Yeti, sorry about the "Ew" comment regarding your small wheels. Your wheels are fine, no really, some guys like small wheels....

Ok, that was just getting weird.

Bad Karma sucks.

Mariska Hargitay.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Build Some, Scout Some, Ride Some

I started my all-trail weekend with the CITA trail crew at Banner Saturday morning. I don't know what they got done on Coal Miner's Daughter trail, but Tom, Sam and I opened up the rest of Riverside. Work included hardcore handsawing, Paul Bunyon style, a downed tree and a moderate sandbar reroute. After that the 3 of us headed up the ridge to cut new trail. We got quite a distance hacking und chopping; with a few guys it could be open to almost the stop sign in an hour of work or so.

After recouping from trailwork I got the wild idea to scout a patch of timber in Ewing park that CITA trailmaster Ryan has talked to me about. I've ridden back there once or twice on the existing mowed grass path, so I know it has potential.

Clearly this was a job for Trail Dog.

View Ewing Timber in a larger map

All in all it looks pretty promising to me. Seems like there's plenty of room for several miles of trail. There's quite a few foot or deer paths but they're mostly grown over with some very thick underbrush in spots. It slopes east to west with the east (disc golf course side) being sloggy boggy mess. I can't imagine ever putting trail through that swamp, I think we would want to stay westernly.

On the extreme western end there's an open field beggin to be a swoopy fast track...

with a couple of natural features thrown in.

There was something that smelled so dern gude he just had to roll in it (bath required later)

Sunday I got my daughter and a friend - who is just getting back into mountain biking - out on the trail. We met Nick out at the Center for some easy rolling through Denmans. Conditions were suprisingly good considering all the rain we've been getting.

Katie did great. I rode behind her most of the way, enjoying the assortment of Ooo, whoa, uhm, ahh, whoosh, yeeah! and other noises coming from her. I think Matt enjoyed himself too.

Here's Katie in "action". The video's director/photographer clearly has no vested interest in the outcome.

Good weekend, I'm tired. Time to go back to work.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Member of the (Bike) Family

What chu talkin' 'bout girlie bike?! Ain't no girlie bikes 'round here. Just a bad mutha of a cross country machine....with powder blue seat and grips.

Listen, never-you-mind about those flowers on the seat, this frame used to belong to wicked-fast racer, Squirrel and I think there's still there's some of that nutty quick mojo still left in its veins.

Just like her Dad, Katie now has way more bike than she will probably ever need.

My beloved Trek 8700 had to go into hibernation and give up her components for the Baby Blue Bomber, but she'll be back some day.

Katie took to the Bomber pretty well, sailing down the muddy hill behind our house

and then insisting she could climb back up.

Still gonna haveta work on that.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hapey Mom Day Mom

Deer Mom,

Tuday, when u wuz gone lukin fer mushruums, Dad gave me a haircut.

He siad he wuld be mor carful, not lik last time.

I likedah dah comb.

I wreckamend dis sawlawn.

Soo ree laxzing.

Purdy now.

Fastur too.

Last time, cuz Dad cutta hol in me, i gotta shirt.

Dis time I gest luke gude fer u on Mom Dey!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Declaring Victory Way Too Soon

I'm probably gonna regret this but....

Luckily a premature declaration of victory has never had unforeseen negative consequences before....


Mental Health Miles

"Once more into the breech, dear friends! Once more or close up the wall with our English dead."

Or, if Shakespeare ain't your cup of tea, the american classic -

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."

I hear ya, Mr. Corelone, Mr. Godfather, uhm Sir. As for me, I'm not being dragged back into the bloody mafia life, but I am being punished for something I did to somebody in this life or a previous life.

My grants are back. They're baaaack.

Thanks creepy Poltergiest girl, I know.

I came in Monday morning to 13 (ironic #) different rejection emails regarding the electronic submission of my 2 grants. The grants were confirmed as received ON TIME but this was apparently only half the battle. They still have to be re-accepted (or something).

Due to the buhjillian grants coming in, the system didn't get to rejecting them until a week later, then it automatically tried 13 times over the weekend to resubmit them, each time generating a new tracking number for the grant. The email says the following:

"A form attached to one of the forms in your submission is not the required form. Please verify that you have attached the correct form. For example, the RR Subaward Budget Attachments form requires that an RR Budget form be attached.- GG O&M"

This is helpful because it basically tells you NOTHING. Which form? Oooo (clap, clap, clap) this will be fun, its a guessing game! Shouldn't be too hard to figure out since there's only about 20 forms that could have a hundred different things wrong. Needle meet haystack.

Trying to get a little more guidance I called,
they told me to talk to: GrantsInfo@NIH
they told me to talk to: e RA Commons, they weren't taking calls, so I had to email them. The next day I called them and....
they told me to talk to:

Full federal government circle. During my circumnavigation I learned that:

1. A rejection email is not really a rejection.

2. A field calling for a physician's credential doesn't want you to enter MD or DO instead it wants their e RA Commons user name. Crystal, good thing you don't ask for what you really want there - that would be confusing.

3. The help desk ladies I talked to knew some stuff, kinda, sorta, maybe.

4. The best advice they could give is to detach and reattach every document before resubmitting. Maybe I can bang it on the side - like a TV - too.

5. You should NOT follow the instructions for resubmitting an application with corrected errors, because you don't have errors that need correcting, instead you just have....errors that need correcting.

6. Only the last tracking number you have is vaild. How then do you get credit for being on time originally if that tracking # is no long vaild? (help desk didn't know) and - here's the good one - Isn't that the opposite of tracking? (Oh yeah, she said, I guess it is)

7. I was a very bad person in a previous life.

8. The world is a vampire.

The monster PDF application form is very glitchy in its own right. I timed how long it took to simply detach a file once - 4 minutes. It has to really think about whether it wants to let it go I guess. I lost my progress 2-3 times due to glitches. Once I tried to save it when I got to a spot that glitched before. The save attempt glitched and I lost everything (trying to be safe in order to avoid losing everything).

I battled this for 3 straight days and decided to pull the plug on the Wednesday night Taco ride because I only have until Friday (or the grants turn into pumpkins). know what? Screw it, I'm riding.

Only 5-6 showed up, we didn't ride far or fast, but I enjoyed being out, even getting rained on. They were mental health miles -- and tacos.

As for today? Back into the breech. I think I might have it figured out now (of course, I thought that before)

Wish me luck.