Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jerry, Trail Gnome Extraordinare

Shrouded in mystery, Trail Gnomes quietly live among us. These generally jolly creatures lovingly care for our trails so that others may enjoy.

One such Gnome, we will call him "Jerry", was feeling a little guilty this summer. See, Jerry likes to ride his Gnomecycle much more than he cares manual labor, so he'd missed a few of the CITA sponsored trail work days.

His absences were gnawing at him, and Gnomes don't do well with gnawing, so Jerry decided to make amends by fixing a particularly deep mud hole at Banner. If you are unawares on Banner, or Summerset State Park, this unique trail makes good use of the acutely undulating terrain left behind by an old mining operation. A gnice roller coaster ride, it is also prone to prodigiously collecting runoff in certain spots.

One portion had gotten so bad it could have easily swallowed a gnomecycle whole and Jerry just couldn't cotton to that anymore. Luckily, the offending bog was located where the trail cuts close to a gravel road, so access was easy...'cept he'd have to wade through a bog just to get there.

Gnomes don't swim, but their little boots do get stuck in the mud and gnearly pulled off their stubby little feet. Hmph.



Jerry dumped 5 bags of gravel in there plus 5 or more buckets he scavenged off the road and its STILL mushy. Gnomes don't like mushy trails, but if it ever stops raining for more than one day at a time it should dry out....maybe.

Sorry about the blurry photography, Jerry isn't good at taking pictures especially when being menaced by a horse fly that is big enough to pick up a Gnome and carry him away.

With the left over stones he fixed a couple other spots too.
Like the one just opposite of Jerry's Bog.

And the one at the end of the loop.

More gneeds to be done at Banner, but hopefully these spots hold for awhile. Jerry's conscious is now clear and he's off on his gnomecycle once again.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Porridge Imperative

For years Goldilocks was content to ride her good ole’ 26 inch wheeled mountain bike. Things were awfully fine in the forest as she happily whizzed down the trails, nearly impervious to roots, rocks, logs and (of course) bears. With such sheer contentment there was nary any reason to change anything about her bike.

Then one day Goldy heard about these new bikes with fancy 29 inch wheels. Talk from the forest folk was that bigger wheels magically smoothed out trail nasties and eased the climbing of troublesome hills. Golly, to Goldy, it sounded too good to be true.

As we all know from the well-documented porridge incident Goldy has this deal about self control, particularly pertaining to the next best bike thing, so it was no surprise when one (or more) of those fancy bikes found its way into her stable.

And so, she was pleased. For once upon a time the porridge had actually lived up to the hype. Goldy gleefully bounded down the trail on her rad new hoops. Bears to could only stare in wonderment as she bunny hopped over them and sketched ill tricks off their snouts.

All was well again in the forest until one day Goldy made another startling discovery, there’s a size in between the 26er and 29er. What? A new mythical beast lives that in the sweet spot in between wheel sizes. It has all the powers of a 26’ and 29’ bikes….combined.

It’s called a 650B – ah, huh, what?

Oh Goldy, that’s just some Euro sheik way of saying the wheels are 27.5 inches around.

Clearly bound by the porridge imperative, Goldy embarked on a quest to add this 650Beast to her stable. It was new, so it must be better. Much to her dismay the forest dwellers were largely unsupportive. Haters emerged from hollowed out tree stumps, “Silly girl, you don’t need that.” they said. “You wanna whaaaaat?” the boo birds chirped. Even the bikesmiths themselves had yet to forge a fair amount of frames, forks, wheels and tires to fit the beast. Undaunted, Goldy soldiered on. If she couldn’t buy it, she’d build it. She liked that better anyway, rolling custom. She tirelessly researched this part and that bit, it was like a puzzle and Goldy has always liked puzzles.

She eventually arrived at Ole Blue, a stunning bit of British steel mated to the highest quality wheelset she has ever owned. Goldy has only been out on a couple rides so far, but she is quite pleased with the carvability (meaning able to carve) of the slightly smaller hoops in the tight, twisty track that populates the Midwest (when its not under water).

Bears beware.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Of Bikes, Tunnels and Never Saying Die

Cyclists are a resilient sort.

Rain out our dirt trails, we ride paved ones. Flood our paved ones, we ride roads. Run us off the roads with your big bad cars, we ride gravel roads. Chase us on gravel with county dwelling dogs and we....well.....run (or ride faster).

So don't go thinking some little 106 degree heat index is going to scare us, especially when we have a tunnel for shelter.

I know that for the small part of the cycling community that is me not riding Wednesday was simply unoptional (this is a good new word), especially when two local traditions: the Taco mountain bike ride and the infamous Tunnel Party ride were converging on the same night. The fact I had just finished building my new mountain bike made things such as heat stroke seem like a trivial matter.

More on the bike later...

We started the ride at Nick's place near Norwalk and rode the Great Midwestern Trail (GMT) into town passing lots of tunnel party riders heading the opposite direction. Tunnel happens every so often (I'm not clear on the timing) and is great (liver) training for RAGBRAI. It gets its highly creative name from the longest of the several tunnels on the GMT that revelers take over for the night.

Tunnel was on the docket for later because we had Greenwood Park and some of the only dry dirt trail around squarely in our sights. The Marble Madness grooves of the Hillside trail are found immediately south of the Ashworth Pool and the old Science Center. It alternates some long grinding climbs with awesomely fast twisting descents. It is a stupid amount of fun, even when the air is filled with humidity soup. Needing to leave a little something in the tank for the Tunnel we opted for a short turn on Hillside and a quick pass through the nearby Rollercoaster trail before heading back toward the partay. It was hard to leave the dirt behind especially with my sweet new sled under me, but it had to be done.

By the time we got to the tunnel the party was hopin'. There were probably 100-150 riders mixing it up under the fluorescent orange glow of electric lights. There were bikes leaning on other bikes, their tangled masses propped against the walls. The patchwork quilt of riders - some dancing, some singing - was reminiscent of a claustrophobic street market in an exotic land. The sounds of conversations, music and general merriment rattled between the tunnel walls, building into a deafening din.

Rain moved in (what else is new) prompting us to press further into the tunnel, spelunking into the previously unexplored depths. We acclimated well to the deeper environs and things were going well....maybe too well.

Way too early it started getting way too late, especially for a fella - such as a myself - that had to be bright-eyed and bushy tailed the next day at work. Still needing to ride 3 miles back to Nick's, we started discussing an exit strategy. Our other companion, Matt, had another plan in mind.

Matt: "Let's ride to Cumming!"

(that's 4 miles in the opposite direction)

Me: "No way"

Matt: "C'mon"

(it's after midnight)

Me: "Nah"

Matt: "Oh, C'mon"

(his arguments were getting better, but it was raining)

Me: "Negatory good buddy"

Matt: "Nobody expects us to ride to Cumming!" (a la Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition)

Me: "Point taken.....Ok, fine."

Luckily somewhere in between finding our bikes in the mass of machinery and making our way through the mass of humanity we came to our senses a bit. Even though no one would expect us to ride the wrong way into the dark rainy night, we would have to live to fight another day.

As we peddled home, soaking wet, tired and dehydrated I laughed to myself. Happiness is finding adventure where there appears to be none and ending it, although prematurely, by cruising along through the darkness with some good, like-minded buddies.

Who knew?

Actually, I did.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I admit it

Ok, fine.

I haven't posted in over a month.

I just haven't been feelin' it.

This absence could be due to the RAIN, which has soaked our trails into mud laden mosquito traps, or the SICKNESS which descended upon me in the form of the dynamic duo - COUGH and WHEEZE.

Of course, it could also be my aching VERTEBRAE that don't want to stay in their proper place or the big GRANT I have due in a few days. Perhaps it 'tis the WORK TRAVEL that has recently beset my WIFE that's bumming me out.

I know boo frickin' hoo.

Truth is - more than anything I have a touch of this little ditty called Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which is a fancy way of psychologically/behaviorally diagnosing teenagers that don't dig on being told what to do.

I first came across ODD (yes, its acronym is unfortunately "odd") when I was working as a counselor for adolescent treatment unit. I thought at the time, "Man, I'm glad they didn't have this when I was growing up". And if they did have it, I was glad (and still am) that my parents didn't know about it.

So, how does my "odd" relate to not writing anything in over a month? Well, the word drought happened about the same time the whole Register blogger came along. I guess now that I thought some more peeps might be reading my words I kinda didn't dig on writing them anymore. Or maybe I don't have much to say. I don't really get Facebook in that way. I mean, I don't mind reading about some of the everyday stuff my "friends" post, but when it comes to writing something myself it just feels....I don't know....douffy to type "I'm just sitting down to eat some BLANK and watch some BLANK and then I'm going to catch up on some BLANK. I know that writing in this blog is really no different, but still.....

I think I might be messed up.

Anyway, I haven't been totally useless during the last month. We went camping in a monsoon, followed by a Death Valley heat wave that was followed by another monsoon.....that was "fun".

I am building (another) mountain bike. I will post more about that hotness when its ready for the unveil. Unlike the Voodoo, which I blogged about piece by piece as I built it, this machine is too bad for a bite at a time. I will say this - its the first bike I've ever built or owned that I felt was just too purdy to get dirty.

Yes, I said it.

I'm not proud of it, but there it is - I have a mountain bike that's too dern purdy to git durty.

I'm sure I'll get over it. I'm sure the giant mudholes at Banner will help in the process.