Friday, September 25, 2009

Adventure in the Land of Cheese

The brisk September pre-dawn was an unremarkable grey, the way fall mornings often are when they march on toward winter. This morning, however, brightly distinguished itself over its monochromatic clones by offering the vibrant tinge of anticipation. The sun, straining to peer over the horizon, slowly began to fray the blanket of autumnal sky, which first let in wisps and then broad shafts of warming peach and blue light. In the cool, still air hung the scent of drying leaves, grass and adventure.

My bags, packed tight with meticulously inventoried gear, impatiently awaited the approaching caravan. They seemed to know, like I did, this would be a journey like none before it. We were taking a sojourn north, into the wild….

…Ok, so that was a little over the top dramatic. What I meant to say was that me and a bunch of mountain bike buddies headed to Wisconsin a couple of weeks ago in search of sweet singletrack mountain biking, great camping and festivities and…..gnomes. We found all three during Gnomefest 6 at Levis Trow Mounds.

Luckily we had a sweetass custom gnome parking pass, made by my sweetass scrapbooking wife (oh yeah, I said it.)

We were welcomed to camp by this big boy and his nearly identical mate. I don't remember their names but they were as gentle as can be. In the picture Ole' Boy is 'bout to swipe some of Cooper's food on-account of him being so good at being sneaky.

Our Day 1 plan was to: A.) set up camp B.) eat lunch C.) ride. In our excitement to get gnome hunting we forgot B and went straight to C. We headed out to take on some wonderfully varied, sometimes tricky and always invigorating trail. Our initial route took us up Lower Glen to the aptly named Swamp Cut and then to Yellowjacket before arriving at the widely recommended Sidewinder.

Lower Glen, along with the other lowland trails at Levis reminded me a lot of the twisty, rooty hardpack dirt of Sugarbottom. Swamp Cut takes roots to a whole other level though. Sometimes the roots are the trail. Where the roots subside the trail builders have patched in corduroy, which is a method for making chronically wet trail ridable by using wood as an embedded bridge of sorts.

They have all sorts of boardwalks and bridges. All of them were sturdy and fun to ride.

Those two pictures lifted from here.

The thing I remember most about Yellowjacket is the killer climb at the end. It doesn’t get extremely steep, but it is very long and had me huffing good by the time we reached the top. Sidewinder, what to say about Sidewinder? Don't look down. Its not too technical, with only a few rocks and some sand, but it raises the pucker all the same.

Not us, video lifted from Tou Yube

The bridge toward the end kinda appears outta nowhere, but its nice and wide as well as short. No freakout zone.

My pal Corey made it neatly through all the sketchy, exposed stuff only to have a tree jump out in front of him and take him down on the backside of the ‘Winder. Mischievous gnomes perhaps?

We headed back toward the campground on Upper, Middle and Lower Hermosa. Hermosa featured some swoopy, highly banked downhilll switchbacks filled with sand and roots. They were perfectly spaced and shaped for some natural wall-riding(ish) action. Matt coined the term “switchpipe” to reflect the section's halfpipe nature. It was ridiculous fun.

There's a fair amount of sand at Levis. On the uphills it steals your spirit, on downhill turns it can hug your front tire and send you scrambling off the front, or side, of your bike. I had a couple of decent sand saves including one that seemed to last 10 minutes. After washing out in the sand I scrambled off the falling bike but it wasn't done with me yet. The bike chased me down the hill while I hopped, skipped and jumped around to keep my balance. Heck, I even ducked a limb in mid save. Ninja.

After getting back to camp we hemmed and hawed vigorously about going out again or doing the planned group nightride. Most opted for naught, but Matt did head off into the dark, headlights blazin'. He said the Hermosa switchpipe was something else at night. We chose to play it safe and live to fight another day. 7.5 miles, 800 feet of climbing. It doesn't sound like much, but it was highly satisfying none-the-less.

I shouldn't be allowed to have this much fun.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Whiterock Rocks

I know I still need to pen a Gnomefest ride report, but I went to CITA's Ales and Trails event at Whiterock Conservancy this weekend, so I'll have to get back to the gnomes at another time.

Despite our relative inexperience as a camping family (nil) I'd say we did pretty darn good. All family members had a whiterockin' good time, particularly Trail Dog who has decided he is now Camping Dog.

Without a leash law Captain was free to roam the campground, making best friends - canine and human - everywhere he went.

He was bombed by the end of Saturday.

Jackie and the girls had a great time. Katie made a new best friend in Teri and Squirrel's daughter Izzy.

Allie had a good time with Matt and Melissa daughter, Mica.

Ryan's kids were adorable dynamos as well.

Late on Night 2, after 2 rides, some good food and a beer or two my back started hurting a bit so I laid down flat on a picnic table seat. Inside the barn Brother Trucker was warming up, outside kids were playing and the adults were mulling around. The next thing I know little Amos is right at eye level asking me "Are you down?"

I affirmed that I was, in fact, down. He confirmed "You are down." His older brother, Parker also came over to verify that I was indeed "down". All this helped to get me back up. Thanks guys.

Here they are motoring in Izzy's superfly pink Jeep.

Brother Trucker rocked that little old barn hard. Since the crowd was pretty modest it was like having our own private show. At one point in the night I made the mistake of parking my bike next to the keg. Later when I returned it was missing. I looked but didn't see it anywhere. Eventually I found the bikenapper (Matt) and he gave up its position (tree). Why I didn't think to look in the tree right next to the keg I'll never know. Let that be a lesson to all of you - if you lose a bike (especially in the vicinity of a keg) always look in the trees.

My wife has temporarily relieved me of the cord that connects my camera to the computer by putting it somewhere that she would remember it. Ah yeah, I've done that about a million times so I can't say much. I think I have some really cool scenery shots. There is no shortage of impressive river valley views at the Rock. I'll post 'em up when we solve our little technical difficulty.

As for the trails, I will do another post on them when I get the GPS data loaded up and find that pesky camera cord.

Overall it was good times with some good friends.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Beam Me Aboard, Specialized

We interrupt the regularly scheduled Gnomefest Ride Report for breaking news about a stunning new addition to the Specialized Trail Crew….me.

Well, ok, not yet.

I still have to convince the benevolent and wise reviewers at Specialized (Yea Specialized!) that I’m the right dude for the gig. If I’m deemed Crew worthy they will hook me up with a 2010 S-Works Stumpjumper FSR for a year.


And a bunch of cool gear


And arrange for a couple of bike trips to fabulous destinations in order to get the most out of the whole shabang.


All they want from me is to do what I love to do anyway – ride bikes and spin the tales that ensue. The more I write the cheaper the bike gets….until eventually (drumroll please)…….its free. Does it get better than that? Not without doing something illegal.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I have a real affinity for making lists and stuff, so check it out:

Humanitarian Angle:

I suffer from a condition known as Bicycle Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I, uhm, think about bikes a lot.

Ah yeah, I, like love them.

If I’m not riding a bike I like to read about them, or look at pictures of them, or write my own little ditty about their awesomosity. I’m sure the other Crew members will be fellow sufferers. I need this support system to help manage my condition. Only you, Mr. / Ms. Trail Crew reviewer person can help me. For pennies a day, won’t you help me?

Communication Angle:

I’m good with words and stuff. Some might say I’m loquacious, but I prefer to think of myself as a blackbelt in the little known martial art of Word Fu. I write grants, technical reports and things for a living and blog about bikes and things for fun. I always seem to find some little adventure or mission to occupy me. If there's nothing interesting I'm not adverse to making things up, just a little. Fortunately, I rarely have to improvise because I have a way of finding the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Target Demographic Angle:

I am an overgrown, middle-aged, Manboy. At 39 years old I like nothing better than dropping the 3 off the front and acting like I’m 9 again. Mountain biking provides the best platform I can think of for doing exactly that. I’m betting a fair amount of Specialized (Yea, Specialized!) consumers are squarely in this demographic. We’ve got a little change in our pockets going jingle-langle-jingle and we can’t wait to drop it on the newest, bestest bike stuff out there. In addition I have carefully positioned myself into the most relatable, least threatening style of rider around. In most cases I’m not the fastest guy on the block and not the guy you end up waiting for hoping he’s not dead on the side of the trail. I am the exact right amount of proficient and deficient at the same time. Don’t ask me how I do it, true averageness is just a gift I guess.

Amateur Hypnotist (aka Pathetic Angle):

Look into my eyes….you are getting sleepy….giiiiive…meeeeee….the…..biiiiike.

Lightly Veiled Threat (aka Really Pathetic Angle):

Hopefully this plea will work so I don’t have to go all Plan B and send my legions of blog readers to boycott and protest. They’re a peaceful bunch, but I wouldn’t push it if I were’s you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I Wish I Was A Gnome

I wish I was a gnome.

I really, really do.

So's I could live in the woods,

and ride my bikes in them too.

If I'd be a gnome

I'd hanker for a Fest,

where's me and my pals

could do what we like best.

If I were a gnome

I'd ride all the time

and not even care

that I cannot rhyme.


Obviously, I had a hoo hoo hoot of a time at Gnomefest VI. I'll post more of a ride(s) report later. The trails at Levis Mounds are pretty fantastic and they were in perfect shape.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Your Fortune is Moot

I went to a Chinese buffet today for lunch.

When I opened my fortune cookie at the end of the meal I had NADA in the cookie (its not really a cookie, but that's a whole 'nuther post)




I figger it either means my possibilities are WIDE OPEN...


I'm doomed.

Not sure which yet...I'll haveta get back witch ya on that one.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gnome Fest VI Roll Call

Jerry is in...

...his friend Jim is in too.

Those two make a caustic pair, I'm sure.

Squirrel and Teri are out. I like Jerry and Jim, but this is not a fair trade :-(

At least Jerry doesn't make me feel slow and Jim...well he just has a way of encouraging you to achieve greatness.

Nick, Corey, Matt, Melisa and maybe Sammy are in too, are you?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Football Eve 2009

In case you are unawares, the day before the kickoff off to the college football season is now officially known as Football Eve. Modeled after Christmas Eve, this holiday rings in joy (and pain) for a solid five months of the year. With football in some form on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday you have games 5 nights a week for 5 months, equaling roughly 100 days of entertainment. Football Eve is the day before all that goes down.

Yeah, it’s a real holiday; and it’s awe-some.

I should know; I invented it.

Every holiday has to have traditions; Festivus has feats of strength and airing of grievances, Football Eve has the annual rule/policy change proposals. Gather 'round kids, they're so much fun!

1.Encourage Coach Melt-Downs:

Men, there’s nothing more cathartic than blasting a 120 pound, bespectacled reporter for asking some asinine question right after bleeding through your eyeballs and still losing the heartbreaker. You are hereby directed to just let ‘em have it. No really, you have our blessing.

2.Cheerleaders: more of ‘em.

3.Mascot Battle Royale:

Sometimes when the game is out of hand the interaction between the opposing teams bird or beast is the most interesting thing to watch. Some of the best sports TV ever filmed is of mascots getting genuinely irked and throwing down on each other. Its wrong to promote violence but this has to be an exception. I think we should encourage it (alcohol, whispered taunts). In addition to the charged up sideline antics we could pit mascot vs. mascot at centerfield to start the game. When the feathers and fake fur settle the victor gets the ball first (you will see how this relates to my kicker clause in proposal #10).

4.Gladiator Style Games at Halftime:

Similar in principle to #3 this proposal aims to take it up a notch. No more lip-syncing Ashley Simpson “musical” renditions, no more marching bands (sorry to those band fans). Instead the opposing team's equipment managers, athletic trainers and water boys/girls duke it out in tests of strength, speed and cunning. Again, weapons would make things more interesting, but we do want to keep things family friendly.

If the marching bands want to get back into the action I say make both take the field at the same time and battle for musical supremacy. May the baddest muther of a Sousaphone player survive (and play his/her band's tribute to Michael Jackson)!

5.Did I mention cheerleaders? Stack ‘em high. I like my cheerleaders in complex geometric shapes. Instead of the traditional towers and pyramids coulda a brother get a trapezoid?

6.Play the Final Jeopardy music when the ref is reviewing a play “under the hood”. Nothing to really be gained here, I just think it would be funny.

7.Actually keep the backup quarterback in a glass case, with the familiar “In case of emergency break glass” sign on the front. It would be so dramatic - the starter hobbles off, crowd is hushed, the trainers are looking at his knee, they shake their head "no" to the coach who turns and gives the nod to the equipment manager (the only one to survive halftime) who takes the little mallet, tells QB2 to shield his eyes and then literally breaks the glass because this is an emergency. Drama I tell ya, damn near pageantry.

8.Somebody round up Terrel Owens, Jerry Jones and his Jumbo Dumbatron, Ocho Cinco, Favre, Tony Kornheizer, Phil McGwire, Michael Vick, Gene Chizik and even John Madden and set them a drift in the Indian Ocean. Could we do that? I think they would be relatively safe, even sharks have standards.

9. More Erin Andrews please.

10. Eliminate kickers: I mean get rid of them altogether. Fire the kickoffs out of a mini cannon that could be pulled off the field (or not?) after the kick. That would add a certain something to the gameday experience I’d say.

Extra points are out too; there’s just something very unfootballish about kicking a little extra point. Oooo, PUFF! (that’s the sound the ball makes when its kicked) we got a whole extra point! Yea Team!


Either make touchdowns 7 points or require the team to go for two every time.
Just pull down the goal posts, ‘cuz we don’t need ‘em anymore. Field goal?! Don’t get me started. We have a whole nuther sport for kickers, it’s called soccer.

Punting would also have to go. Either make teams go for it every time or see previous provision for mini-cannon.

So, that’s my 10. I haven’t heard back from the leagues yet, but I’m sure they're just trying to sort and process all the badassness that was just conferred upon them.