Ride Report: Helen Putnam Regional Park – Petaluma, CA

Quick – let’s head up to the Bay Area and camp in the salty air, while it’s still warm enough!  Let the girlies frolick in the sand and play with drift wood and catch sand crabs and race the ebbing shore break and get grossed out by seaweed grabbing their legs and build castles and draw our names on the ground and be bums for a few days.IMG_1706IMG_1707

On our way up to Bodega Bay Campground, we decided to spend one night in Petaluma.  Not known as a mountain biking mecca by any extreme, but being so close to wine country, I figured they had to have some rolling hills with fantastic views, right?  After all, I did the 24 hour race in Los Olivos a couple years ago, and it was one of the most beautiful settings for riding bikes… so I did a little interwebs search on the trusty MTB Project, and boom – Helen Putnam Regional Park popped up — nothing crazy, but completely accessible by bike from town = no driving… as always, a super plus for me.  I let the ladies sleep in at the swank motel (am I allowed to use those words together, even in jest?) – actually, nobody slept in, because it sounded like our upstairs neighbors were rolling a keg around all night.

A nice little pond in Helen Putnam Regional Park.

A nice little pond in Helen Putnam Regional Park.

Anyhoo, after a short pedal through town and up a hill, I arrived at Helen Putnam Regional Park.  I wondered who she was, and why have a park bestowed in her name.  So before getting shreddy alongside lots of horse people, I checked up on her.  Turns out, she was my kind of woman.  She did stuff and inspired others to do stuff.  A mother, school teacher, principal, mayor of Petaluma, and Sonoma County Supervisor – you name it.  She passed in 1984.  Putnam encouraged everyone she dealt with to pursue excellence – I got jived up, and kept that in mind as I rode around her park.

Helen Putnam. 1909-1984.

Helen Putnam. 1909-1984.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, ok.  To the riding.   This is not a huge place – a quaint 8-10 miles of trail total.  A couple big fire roads for access, but there definitely is some sweet singledingle and killer views that make it worth it.  Beware of HORSES and hikers.  Seems like those are the main users, and quite frankly, I’m surprised they even allow bikes here – but another great example of a multi-use trail system with all user groups getting along nicely.

Singletrack bliss.

Singletrack bliss.

After a nice warmup climb, views open up, and it’s hard to believe a few minutes ago you were in historic downtown.  It’s easy to navigate and well-signed, so next thing I knew, I was just flowing on the mostly smooth, hardpack singletrack.  There are lookout points all over the place, with benches and fantastic views to sit and enjoy your bagel.

Artsy fartsy.

Artsy fartsy.

Nothing techy or gnarly, but this was more like a “sunrise walk in the park”.  Within an hour, I’d done Pomo, Panorama, South Loop, Savannah, Ridge, Arroyo, and Fillaree.  Guess what?  That was everything.  Yeah, I guess it could get kind of boring (and honestly, all the trails felt pretty much identical, so boredom was setting in already).  If I lived here, it would be my post-work workout ride, and I’d be like Cliff on Cheers – everyone would know my name… and the sound of my bike bell.

Uh huh.

Uh huh.

Just up the road in Santa Rosa is the fabled Russian River Brewing Company – perfect for post ride libations… you can get one of the craziest flights around – certainly the biggest one I’ve ever tried – 18 beers.  Whoa!!

18 beers in the Russian River flight!!

18 beers in the Russian River flight!!

One last note – while camping in Bodega Bay, someone stole my bike from my campsite while we were sleeping in the tent.  It was a heart-breaker, as my green One 9 had been with me through a lot.  Long story short – I found it for sale on Craigslist 2 weeks later.  A sting was set up, bike retrieved, justice served.  Crazy, huh?  Now I just have to get back to Bodega Bay before the snow flies to pick her up out of evidence… Maybe a good excuse to ride Susanville?  Hmmm….

Nice "downhill bike" eh?

Nice “downhill bike” eh?

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The Great Tahoe Flume Race – Yeah Baby

I feel like a buster sometimes.  It’s like those people that live down the block from Disneyland who’ve never been.  With Lake Tahoe so close to home, I’m embarrassed to admit, that this was only the 2nd time I’d ridden a bike up there.  The first time was at the 8 hours of Lake Tahoe Race – where I had a blast, and swore to explore the area more.

Photo I stole from Sierra Cup's Facebook - Marlette Flume Trail with Lake Tahoe in the bg - Gorgeous!!

Photo I stole from Sierra Cup’s Facebook – Marlette Flume Trail with Lake Tahoe in the bg – Gorgeous!!

So, when I heard about the Great Flume Race – the final race of the Sierra MTB Cup Series,  at the last minute, it was on.  I was stoked at the opportunity to ride the longest ongoing bike race in the area (it’s been running since 1984).  But first…

I ran around Mammoth Mountain all day Saturday, trying to keep up with, and cheer on Lucy and her partner Ella as they did the girls 6-7 division of the Kids Adventure Games.  Such a super cool event!  Promoted teamwork and helped kids overcome fears, conquer obstacles, and get that overall addicting feeling of setting goals and accomplishing them.  Woohoo!

Lucy defeating a demon on the Tyrolean Traverse.

Lucy defeating a demon on the Tyrolean Traverse.

Super duper slip n slide to end the event!

Super duper slip n slide to end the event!

Had dinner with the fam bam, kissed my ladies goodnight, and drove up to Tahoe.  Should’ve cleaned the bugs off the windshield first.  Oncoming headlights = backlight = moments of near catastrophe.  Yeah.  That reminds me, I’m pulling out the razor blade today and scraping that window clean! — Digression — rolled up to Spooner Lake Park around 11pm.  Found a legal place to park nearby, off the road, away from lights.  Reclined the seats, threw on a puffy and dozed.  Woke up at 6.  Not too bad.

Met up with the 8 other Mammoth/Bishop locals that were also at the race, representing the Eastside – what, what… got a quick rundown on the course from Jeremy who pre-rode it with his daughters a couple days earlier (all three of them wound up on the top step in their classes, btw).  Met up with another singlespeed buddy, Mark, who I met the year before at the Sierra 7500 Redux and kept in touch with via the interwebs. He further helped me with some local course knowledge.

Another stolen interwebs photo - of what might be Matt Gunnell from NICA - cruising through another beautiful section of trail.

Another stolen interwebs photo – of what might be Matt Gunnell from SoCal League/NICA – cruising through another beautiful section of trail.

Speaking of the course – it was fantastic.  Slow for SS because of a couple of long, flat sections… where the gear clickers kept whizzing by… including Mike and Ted… but nonetheless, there were some epic views of Lake Tahoe along the Marlette Flume and some great singletrack.  The SS class did the Pro/Cat 1 loop – which was 27 miles, 4k climbing.  It starts with an 1,100′ climb over 4 miles up a fire road.  Nice warmup.  Not.  My legs were startled and wanted to hide under a rock.  I knew I had to keep a decent pace here, and push through it, but what a PITA.  Then there were some flats, a couple fast descents, and a couple more bigger climbs – obviously.  But it was mostly a blur.  I didn’t sleep well, and was kinda in zombie mode after the first big climb and knowing I’d put some good minutes between myself and the next ss’er.  My legs and lungs were still able to keep a pretty good pace, somehow.

Ted and Mike with their steezy Mammoth kits on the podium.

Ted and Mike with their steezy Mammoth kits on the podium.

As I passed through what I thought was an aid station, I learned it was the finish line.  It was over.  Much quicker than I anticipated, and not as brutal either.  What a blast!  Met up with the other Mammoth-ites and hung out and enjoyed the rest of the day.  Out of 9 people, we somehow got 7 podium spots, including my SS win.

Motley bunch - Tammy, Ted, Mike (front), Genevieve, Meade, Jess, Tom (middle), myself, Jeremy (back).

Motley bunch – Tammy, Ted, Mike (front), myself, Genevieve, Meade, Jess, Tom (middle),  Jeremy (back).

Anyhoo, that’s about it.  Back to long, slow riding, which my body is more accustomed to… as we put the finishing touches on the Caldera Route – which is coming up so soon!!!

 

 

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Getting High on your own Supply: The Sweetwater Mountains Traverse

Definitely one of the gnarliest climbs, if not the gnarliest climb in the whole Eastern Sierra.  Definitely some of the most amazing views if not the most amazing views and landscapes available to bicycles in the Eastern Sierra.

Yeah, I'm stoked here.  Little did I know this was a false summit and I still had more climbing!!

Yeah, I’m stoked here. Little did I know this was a false summit and I still had more climbing!!

These seem like tall statements, considering this region is littered with grit testing/visually rewarding climbs like the White Mountain Epic, Coyote Traverse, Laurel Lakes, etc.  But I crap you not, this is up there on the podium with them.  Once you start the “main climb” up to Mt. Patterson, it’s about 10 miles with 4,500′ of climbing and one super annoying false summit that stabs you in the gut.  Sure, there are plenty of other routes that appear tougher on paper (Silver Canyon with 6k climbing over 9 miles comes to mind).  But this dirt is soft and littered with baby heads in sections, making for very tough work, even on the flattest portions.  The pitch gets so frickin steep in parts and the extended hike-a-bikes sap your energy and induce hallucination.  With a loaded bike, and being in the moment, this definitely felt like the hardest HAB I’ve ever done.  Luckily for us, we got some trail angel love from a couple of rock crawlers coming down off the 4×4 route.  They gave us some cold water and warnings about the storm we were riding into.  Luckily, we were ready for storms, as we were fully loaded with our bikepacking rigs, and intended to bivy anyway – but the storm never produced more than a drizzle for us.

Lots of this going on.  Push, push, give.

Lots of this going on. Push, push, give.

Backstory – Kevin and I were doing some scout riding for the Caldera 500 Route, and wound up starting the ride up the Sweetwaters later in the day than we would’ve liked.   But it afforded us cooler temps, and a gorgeous sunset descent to the west.  After a stare down with a wild-eyed bull, who even charged at us for 50 yards, we began the traverse east to west, (following the Caldera 500 route).  Although most ride it west to east, I have to say, I think east to west is better – the climbing is relentless, regardless, but the descent down Desert Creek with the views out to the Sierra and Yosemite to the west/south are FANTASTIC!!   Meanwhile, the climb up the old stage road would make for a much more “meh” descent, and it’s nice to reach the ruins of Belfort mining town (10,200′) for a breather before the last push up to the top.  Belfort makes a great pit stop, and is meaningful psychologically as you rest up for your last big push to the summit.

Finally made it to Belfort.  Two buildings left standing.  But we still had lots of climbing to go.

Finally made it to Belfort. Two buildings left standing. But we still had lots of climbing to go.

I'm pretty sure he's saying, "WTF were we thinking.  NO turning back now."

I’m pretty sure he’s saying, “WTF were we thinking. NO turning back now.”

People scribed up some window trim in an old Belfort ruins.  These dated back to 1953.  Super cool.

People scribed up some window trim in an old Belfort ruins. These dated back to 1953. Super cool.

As TJ Scott would say, "A frame within a frame - cool, cool."

As TJ Scott would say, “A frame within a frame – cool, cool.”

This is one of the few rides I know of (other than the top of White Mountain ), where you can ride your bike right up to the summit/high point of the whole ride.  You can pedal straight to the top of Mt. Patterson at 11,644′.  Pretty special.  They call it “Mars with Flowers” up there.  The extreme weather and soil doesn’t allow for much life, but a few rugged flowers and plants have managed to survive.  The bald and pale color landscape above timberline is so varied and diverse, it’s breathtaking.IMG_1875

When we got up there, the sun was setting and we wanted to descend in ambient light, so I didn’t take as many pics as I’d have liked – but it is marvelous.  The last light in the sky was pushing us down that ridge and into the canyon below until we finally needed to put on the lights.  The images from that night were pressed into my memory bank with an indelible stamp.

11,500' false summit.  We had to drop back to 11 and then climb right back to 11,600' - OUCH!

11,500′ false summit. We had to drop back to 11 and then climb right back to 11,600′ – OUCH!

We made it down just after nightfall, and camped near Lobdell Lake.  Kevin threw me a tangerine, which I somehow lost in my sleeping bag.  I didn’t find it until I got up to pee a few hours later and there it was.  I stared at the star-filled sky while eating that sweet orange before dozing off again.  Good times.  When I woke up hungry just after sunrise, I saw Kevin with a small fire going trying to thaw out his damp, creek-drenched socks.  I decided to eat the cream-filled churro I’d been saving.  Yahoo.  We descended Burcham Flats and cruised back into Bridgeport to finish our loop.  Man, was that fun.

It was all a dream.  Flying down through Bircham Flats on our way back to Bridgeport.

It was all a dream. Flying down through Bircham Flats on our way back to Bridgeport.

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Ride Report: Wasatch Crest / Park City IMBA Epic

The hills are alive. A ribbon of bliss on the Wasatch Crest.

The hills are alive. A ribbon of bliss on the Wasatch Crest.

So, I found myself rolling through Park City, Utah – saying hey to my buddy Tony.  He’s a badass singlespeeder and pretty good at drinking beers.  So that’s what we did.  Drink beer and ride singledingle on some super singledingletrack.  Last time I was in town, we hit the Mid-Mountain Trail which was pretty cool.  But I wanted to see some more.  So the Wasatch Crest IMBA Epic was on tap.

Some old mining remnants, early on the Armstrong Trail climb.

Some old mining remnants, early on the Armstrong Trail climb.

I was stoked because you can hit this loop from town = no driving to a trailhead.  Score.  It starts with the Armstrong climb – tough for a warm-up, but a nice, consistent grade makes for good uphill flow.  Before you know it, you’ve gained massive elevation and don’t feel too much worse for the wear.  Boom.  Fab views open up of the town below and of the ski resort across the way.

Taking a break on the Armstrong Trail climb to soak in views of Park City Mountain Resort.

Taking a break on the Armstrong Trail climb to soak in views of Park City Mountain Resort.

Next, you jump on Mid-Mountain Trail for a short jaunt, before heading up to Pine Cone Ridge.  We got pretty lucky as they were preparing to close the trail and do maintenance for a couple days – we just slipped through.  The grade steepens as you pass through gorgeous aspen groves.  It got tough here for my weak legs pushing a 32:17t, but there were many rollers that help generate momentum and give short moments of rest in the fakies section.  Without those rollers, I surely would’ve HAB’d a bunch of that section.

Tony up on the crest!

Tony up on the crest!

Before you know it, you reach the Wasatch Crest.  It’s pretty special up there.  Right away, you’re greeted with sick views of Brighton and Solitude ski areas and you feel like you’re on the spine of a huge dinosaur.  Cottonwood Canyon to one side, Park City to the other.  Ok, enough lookie looing, let’s keep riding!   Tony had to head back and take his daughter to dance camp – so I kept on pedaling.  Double track quickly turns to tacky single and the hills are alive with the sound of music in my head.  More sick views and fast red dirt with wild flowers of every color surround me like the Austin Powers shag-wagon.

Lush for days.

Lush for days.

Wildflowers and views to Solitude and Brighton from the Wasatch Crest Trail.

Wildflowers and views to Solitude and Brighton from the Wasatch Crest Trail.

More squigglies and views that don't suck.

More squigglies and views that don’t suck.

Most of the climbing was done, and the downward slithering had great visibility, so I was able to uncork the beast!   A snap of the fingers later,  and I romped through a different section of the Mid-Mountain Trail before taxing hero dirt into Canyons Resort.  Ambush Trail to Holly’s and boom – pop out at pavement, ride a couple miles back into town, smiles the whole way.

I just couldn't get enough of the gorgeous flowers lining the red dirt trails.

I just couldn’t get enough of the gorgeous flowers lining the red dirt trails.

I should check the gpx file and see exactly what lift this is - but suffice it to say, gorgeous view.

I should check the gpx file and see exactly what lift this is – but suffice it to say, gorgeous view.

My type of ride.  A solid climb, eye candy on the crest, and a fast, engaging descent to finish it off.  An apple ale at Wasatch Brewing solidified the memories and capped off a grand day.  This ride is definitely worthy of IMBA Epic status, and one that I’d do again in a heart beat.

 

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2015 Freedom Ride: Spring Creek Trail in Steamboat Springs, CO

Jungle riding at its best.

Jungle riding at its best.

Fourth of July, 2015 was spent in Steamboat Springs, ColoRADo this year.  Word on the street is that out of the 6 highest touted pyrotechnicians in the country, 3 live in the “Boat”.  We figured it might be a nice spot to kick back and watch the fireworks after floating down the Yampa River.

But first, let’s take another bike selfie.

Surrounded by aspens and tacky velcro dirt below.

Surrounded by aspens and tacky velcro dirt below.

Can’t be in The Boat and not take a bike ride.  That would be sacrilegious.  So I decided to see what all the buzz was about on the Spring Creek Trail.  It’s an out and back that leaves right from town, which I always love.  I can leave the girlies snoozing in the hotel room and slip out into my head without leaving them carless if they decide to jam out for some reason.

Lush vibes - you'd think I was in South America.

Lush.

Once on trail, I felt like I was in Costa Rica.  Couldn’t believe the rain forest vibe that was going on so close to town.  It was lush, jungle riding with 4′ tall grass and wildflowers closing in on me like those crazy inflatable windsock people, as I made my way up the narrow singletrack ribbon.  ScaryDancer12-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Half the time I felt like I was riding in a maze with high walls, and whenever I popped out, it was either for a bridge crossing of the creek, or to slip through an aspen grove.  Quite magical indeed.  It’s basically one big climb to the top that gains 1,500′ over 5.5 miles.  Manageable for the most part with couple strong efforts sprinkled in.  The sound of water flowing down the creek was soothing and overpowered the wheezing created by my inadequate lungs.

Flowers!!

Flowers!!

I didn’t spend much time dilly dallying at the top – as I just wanted to start descending as quickly as possible.  I knew the fab schralping that awaited, and wanted to get going before the trail got too crowded.  I bombed down the flowing singletrack, making sure my bar ends steered clear of the grassy walls.

Wifey at the parade.  Dragons and horse dookie , yahoo!!

Wifey at the parade. Dragons and horse dookie , yahoo!!

Molly!!

Molly!!

Lucy!!  Out front of the kick ass Rabbit Ears Motel - I highly recommend to everyone.

Lucy!! Out front of the kick ass Rabbit Ears Motel – I highly recommend to everyone.

The girlies!!

The girlies!!

No better way to enjoy the 4th than with a freedom ride, floating the Yampa River with Lucy, family time kickin it at the parade route, and the best fireworks show I’ve ever seen with a Buzzcock English Ale in hand.  It’s nice to be FREE.  Let it ring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Caldera 250/500 Registration Opens Now

Okee dokes.  With the Caldera 250/500 exactly two months from today, we figured it’s time.

Click here to register.  We are capping the Grand Depart at 45 participants.  Honestly, we have no clue how many people will be interested in this sufferfest/magical carpet ride – but we’re covering our arses.

  • If necessary, riders will be wait-listed in the order their registration was received, and bumped up in line as people back out.  Kinda like flying stand-by.
  • Want to ride the route, but not available for the GD?  No problem, but you’ll still need to register for an Individual Time Trial – only registered folks will receive gpx tracks, cue sheets, route updates, and be considered “official finishers”.
  • If the registration form is confusing, or you have any questions at all – please don’t hesitate to Contact Us or post in the comments of this blog post.

We’re hoping to send out…

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Ride Report: Classic Singletrack Loop in Breckenridge, CO

Breck this, Breck that… blah blah blah.  Everyone is rappin about Breckenridge these days.  Even Gucci Mane with an ice cream cone and “Brrr” tatted to his cheek named his new album Breckles and Schmeckles.

Rat-a-tat cheek tat what?

Rat-a-tat cheek tat what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I decided to see what all the hype is about.  I was on my way to Steamboat for the 4th of July, and only had one day to ride.  With limited time, I was hoping to pedal straight from from town to forego jumping in the car and driving to the trails.  Well, heck, that wasn’t hard.  I peeped out the rides listed on MTB Project and quickly realized I was surrounded by great opportunities.  I chose a ride aptly named the “Classic Breckenridge Route” – claiming to combo the best old and new singletrack trails into one loop.  Sweet!!  With the track loaded in the app on my phone, I guided my blue dot to the ride start.  Note: for more details, stats, and a list of all trails on this ride click on the above link – hoot!

Morning light bathes the TenMile Range and a section of the Lower Flume Trail

Morning light bathes the TenMile Range on a section of the Lower Flume Trail

Like many towns in Colorado, there is a nice recreation path in town –  this one goes all the way from Breckenridge to nearby Frisco, and it keeps you off the bougie Main St.  After cruising on the path for a quick beat, I found my way to the Flume Trails (lower, middle, upper).  All the trails are well-signed, yet not too obtrusive.  It was still nice having the track and ride details on my phone, though – the trail network is massive and it could be easy to get confused.  Since I was riding on July 3rd, I also started to see course signs for the Firecracker 50 (their huge 4th of July mtb race) – this made me feel good… you know they’re gonna sprinkle the best dirt into the race 🙂 – Much of what I rode was part of the race course and it had me jonsin’ to come back and race it the next day… until I realized my fitness level is about a 3 on a 10 scale and I’d be in hibernating in the pain cave for way too long…

If the Firecracker 50 Race Route goes here, it must be good - right?

If the Firecracker 50 Race Route goes here, it must be good – right?

I dug these "Muddy Meters" all over the place - helping to keep the trail quality high.

I dug these “Muddy Meters” all over the place.  There’s lots of pride in responsible trail use around here.

Anyhoo… After leaving the stellar views of the TenMile range afforded by the Flume Trails, I soon was immersed in the French Gulch.  It was gnarly seeing all the mining remains and ruins as well as the destruction that dredging can do to such a gorgeous canyon.  Around here, I came across numerous trail runners and hikers, and unlike the normal grumpy encounters, everyone had a smile on their face and almost seemed happy to see me – weirdly awesome.  I rode by the defunct Minnie Mine and read up on some trivia before descending down past some ramshackle buildings – word is that hippies took up residence in the old mining structures and made a sort of commune in the 70’s.  Peace brah.

Ruins from the Minnie Mine and an informational kiosk offer a good excuse to take a break.

Ruins from the Minnie Mine and an informational kiosk offer a good excuse to take a break.

A bike memorial for someone that passed away on the side door trail

I found this bike memorial on the Side Door Trail – left for someone that passed away recently

After crossing the road, it was time for one more climb up the B&B Trails, V3 to Barney Ford Trail.  Then it was some super sweet and fast descending down Barney Flow and Jack’s Cruel Joke, before Sunbeam takes you back to town.  I’d love to go back and lap Barney Flow – the berms and bridges would be even better if I wasn’t stuck behind a hesitant dude on an $8k bike.

Taking a moment to enjoy the surrounding aspens on Jack's Cruel Joke.

Taking a moment to enjoy the surrounding aspens on Jack’s Cruel Joke, as a trail runner approaches.

Post-ride libations were handled by Backcountry Brewing in Frisco on our way out of town.  I had a Berliner Weisse… a sour that tasted like half beer, half lemonade -yummy!!  Like the beer, my first taste of riding in Breck left me wanting another pint – I’ll be back.

A berliner weisse at Backcountry Brewery in Frisco was the perfect post-ride beer.

A Berliner Weisse at Backcountry Brewery in Frisco was the perfect post-ride beer.

 

 

 

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Race Report: Santa Fe Big Friggin Loop – What an Ass Kicker

Everyone has a race that haunts them.  Be it a crash, a bonk, a mechanical, weather, or any other unfavorable circumstance that causes the most horrific combo of letters know to mankind to be associated with that event, it doesn’t matter.  I can barely even type them right now as my fingers battle the negativity… DNF.  DID NOT FINISH.  The unfulfilled, empty pit that comes tandem with those ugly letters is such a powerful feeling – one that I dread as much as having blood drawn.

Cheat sheet.  A couple cues I jotted down for the confusing sections of the Dale Ball Trails.

Cheat sheet. A couple cues I jotted down for the confusing sections of the Dale Ball Trails.

The Santa Fe Big Friggin Loop has haunted me for 3 years.  My initial attempt at it left me emptier than I’ve ever felt on a bike and maybe in life.  A combo of heat, a hydration bottle mishap (either stolen or taken by animals?), 3 flat tires, and having to be at work early the next day, all played their role in causing me to pull the plug 70% into the race. Really, I’m being dramatic, but even now, it stings to write about it, as it feels like a bunch of excuses rolling off my keyboard tongue.

The

The “proof shot” taken from the radio towers at the top of Tesuque Peak – 12,051′ high.

VINDICATION.  The only way I know to combat demons like these is to go back and crush them.  Cut to present, and the 2015 Santa Fe Big Friggin Loop.  The course has changed slightly since my last attempt – it’s actually harder now (didn’t know that was possible).  The 13k you climb over 65 miles is about as steep, relentless, and techy as you’ll ever find.  I stand by my opinion that this is the the hardest one day mountain bike race I’ve ever done (and probably ever will do).  You don’t get too many “free” miles – as the climbing is often followed up by tedious, technical descending, that doesn’t allow much rest or speed or flow.  You’re probably thinking, “That sounds brutal, and not much fun.  Why do it in the first place?”

Summit of Atalaya Mountain after the first big climb of the race.

Summit of Atalaya Mountain after the first big climb of the race.

Well, beside the suffering and torture, there is a bountiful amount of fantastic singletrack and knockout views and the great feeling of fulfillment when you’re at the top of Tesuque Peak (12,051″) looking back down at Santa Fe knowing that you just gained over 8,000′ of elevation to reach this point.  Absolutely brilliant.  Then the knowledge that you still have around 5k more climbing to go settles in and the “uh oh, maybe we should call it a day” doubts creep in.   Feelings of success and accomplishment of completing such a challenge far outweigh the fear or chance of failure.  At least for me.  But the polar battle keeps it interesting for sure.

The starting locos getting ready to rock at 6:15am.

The starting locos getting ready to rock at 6:15am.

So at 6:15am on a cool Saturday morning, I towed the start line at 2nd Street Brewery with 26 other people and one goal on my mind.  FINISH THIS BITCH.  Doing this race off the couch would’ve been a luxury as 14 weeks of filming Longmire has taken it’s toll on my body.  I’d just finished a 70 hour work week, and got a 4 hour nap before the race.  But I didn’t care how long it took me.   Fitness, or lack of, would not stop this train.  I decided to ride my new Carver Gnarvester bike which has 10 gears – 9 more than what I’m used to 🙂  No excuses.  I would finish.  That’s the attitude I kept.  A mid-ride hail/rain storm tried to get in the way and stifle the positive vibes.  Not a chance.  Being soaked to the bone kept me cool and my 29+ bike rolled through the muddy rivers of singletrack and over wet roots and rocks like a big mutha trucka as I grinned from ear to ear.  My teeth were muddy, and my resolve sharp.  DONE.  It took 14 + hours, good enough for 5th place somehow.  It’s one of my proudest accomplishments on a bike.  Funny how that works.  Waiting three years to give it another go only made it that much sweeter.  Life is good.  Life on a bike is even better.

A sweet section of the Windsor Trail

A sweet section of the Windsor Trail

Sure, it wasn’t all smiles.  Bonked hard 5 hours into the race.  Been there, done that.  Fight the cramps, push forward, chant mantras.  Next thing I knew, I was at the Big T campground and a drop bag with a Subway sandwich and lemonade awaited me.  Along with my 3 ladies cheering me on!!  Shove a 1/2 footlong down the throat and slowly the pickles and mustard did their job along with the 1000 calories of processed meat and semi-fresh veggies.  Back on the bike, senses honed – climb to the top of the mountain now.

The sandwich that saved my life.  Extra pickles and extra mustard helped bring me back from a near bonk situation at Big T campground.

The sandwich that saved my life. Extra pickles and extra mustard helped bring me back from a near-catastrophic bonk situation at Big T campground.

The other

The other “proof shot” of the radio towers at the high point of the ride.

Next was Rio En Medio.  REM is where I had my 3 flats 3 years ago.  During a pre-ride of the section two weeks ago, I had another shit situation in this section.  I bent my rim, and spewed sealant everywhere.  I used the tube I had, which punctured twice more and after failed patching attempts, I wound up hiking my bike out – turning a 1.5 hour ride into a 5 hour ordeal.  Trust me, I had plenty of time to think during that hike… and the last thing I wanted to do was have another mechanical in this section.

Dented rim suffered while pre-riding REM section a couple weeks earlier.  I hammered it back to nearly true, and it held up for the race.

Dented rim suffered while pre-riding REM section a couple weeks earlier. I hammered it back to nearly true, and it held up for the race.

Rio en Medio was flowing!!  The rain had just started falling.  Wet rocks and roots abound.

Rio en Medio was flowing!! The rain had just started falling. Wet rocks and roots abound.

Lucky for me, the rain and hail, and my own fears kept me riding very conservative and I made it through this section unscathed and actually enjoyed it more than ever.  I was zen riding as my tires continually found the right lines and rocks and roots seemed to part for me.  Hallelujah!!

Watching blah blah and blah blah descend down the blah blah trail - ski area back down to Aspen Vista

Watching Jason and Ted descend the Alamos Vista trail off of the Ski Area.  I rode off and on with them for a while – good guys and good company.

The rest of the race was enjoyable except for one more encounter with demons climbing the Jawbone Trail to Windsor with about 20 miles to go.  I stopped at the Discount Trail bag drop and scarfed some macademia nuts and swiss cheese washed down with a coke.  Ahhhh.  An hour later, I was pushing my bike for what felt like forever.  I couldn’t even turn my granny gear for more than 20 yards without jumping off and saying, “ok, that didn’t work.”  By this point, my legs had 12k of climbing in them and were yapping at me like those little dogs that look like rats.  As I muttered to myself like a drunken hobo, trying to keep from crossing over to the dark side, I finally stopped and scarfed down a slice of cold pizza that I kept in my pocket for emergencies.  That was the ticket.  After that, the tide turned in my favor for the rest of the race.  The rain stopped.  The dirt became velcro and I got to descend Sidewinder on hero dirt as the sun set in front of me.  FAN FRICKING TASTIC.  By the time I got to the brewery, it was all a dream.  These words, photos, lingering emotions, and blurry memories are the only proof it actually happened.  I guess I have the Strava File too.

This slice of pizza saved my life as my body was planning a mutiny from my mind, while climbing up Jawbone Trail

This slice of pizza saved my life as my body was planning a mutiny from my mind, while climbing up Jawbone Trail

This was a battle of me against myself against mother nature against demons.  No mechanicals.  The dented rim that I hammered back out held up well, no tubeless issues.  BTW – Stans sent me out a new rim free of charge when I emailed them about my bent rim – when I get home to Mammoth, I’ll build up the new wheel – great company, great service.  Just wanted to give them a shout for that.

On to the next adventure 🙂

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Ride Report: Peak Bagging in Taos, New Mexico

Like women, some of the best bike rides are elusive.  When I first met my wife, she wouldn’t give me the time of day.  She was working the coffee bar at Panavision, and once in a while she’d bring in homemade cookies.  I complimented her one day, on the taste of said cookies – to which her response was a fleeting moment of eye contact and a forced smile that could freeze a Jihad in the desert.  A “thank you” or any verbal response was obviously unwarranted.  Now I’ve been married 10 years with beautiful daughters.  Yes, married to her.  Yes, children with her.  Yes, happier than I ever imagined, with her.  Go figure.

View from the summit of Frazier Mountain.

View from the summit of Frazier Mountain – 12,163′

Cut to: A couple years ago. I attempted to climb Frazier Mountain on Northside at Taos.  Mother nature shrugged me off, much like Angela did in my early attempts at courtship.  The ride was abruptly cancelled by a gnarly hail storm that sent me fleeing for shelter (read about that effort here).  During that ride, the weather became socked in, and I couldn’t even get a glimpse of the massive views I was pushing towards.  Being stubborn and persistent by nature, this only peaked my curiosity.  I vowed to come back and ride the Taos Ski Valley again.

A look back from Frazier Mountain Road heading up to the summit.

A look back from Frazier Mountain Road heading up to the summit.

Halleluja!  That time to give ‘er another shot arrived last weekend 🙂  With a lot more knowledge, and a little more luck, I got to bag two sweet summits in one jaunt.  Instead of starting out at 2pm in monsoon season, I began the ride at 8am.  Good call.  Clear skies and perfect 60’s-70’s temps for the duration.

The hills are alive!  Gorgeous wildflowers and lush grass are everywhere on this high alpine ride.

The hills are alive! Gorgeous wildflowers and lush grass are everywhere on this high alpine ride.

Taos had a big snow year, and there’s still much of the white love at higher elevations.  The website actually stated that Frazier Mountain (12,163′) was still impassable, so my goal for the day was simply to top out on Bull of the Woods Mountain (11,640′) – where the local horseback guide had cleared the trail with his snowcat.  After a looney tunes steep climb up Bull of the Woods Trail and Road that gained 2,500′ over 4 miles, I reached the peak.  It did not disappoint.  After popping out above the treeline and getting 360 degree views up and down the ski valley and towards Red River, my jaw stayed dropped – which helped maximize breathing and slowly push my lungs back in my chest – a twofer!

View from the summit of Bull of the Woods Mountain.

View from the summit of Bull of the Woods Mountain – 11,640′

After glancing over to Frazier Mountain, I thought “It doesn’t look too snowy over there… maybe I should try taking the High T trail across”.  Yeah, I had to post hole through some deep snowfields for a bit.  But then, boom – popped out on the sun-soaked south facing side of the mountain where the trail to the top was completely clear!!  YES.  This portion of the ride kept getting more and more stunning as I went along.  This is my type of riding!!  High alpine, exposed, lush,  and remote (or at least the illusion of being remote).

Taking a break at the Red River overlook before continuing up Bull of the Woods Mountain.

Taking a break at the Red River overlook before continuing up Bull of the Woods Mountain.

Good thing it’s gorgeous up there, because this ride is an absolute grunt.  3,000′ of climbing over a mere 5.5 miles makes you wanna throw in the towel more than once.  After all is said and done, the high alpine adventure was insane and memorable and a great shakedown ride for my newly built Carver Gnarvester 29+.

One last note – Northside at Taos is private land.  You gotta drop $10 at the kiosk to gain access, but it’s well worth it for where it gets you.  Don’t go here looking for awesome singletrack (although there are a few sweet ST trails).  On the whole, this is backcountry, rugged, remote, poorly maintained doubletrack – mostly a means to and end.  Once you reach the end, it’s a brake scorching descent that has you back at your car so quick it’s trippy to look back up and think, man, I was just up there… Wicked yo!!

 

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Sticky Singletrack Along the Rio Grande Gorge: Horsethief Mesa – Taos, New Mexico

As I cautiously pointed my bike past the barbed wire fence, I was careful not to get my bar ends tangled in a tango.  I held my breath, as the putrid stank of the trash dump invaded my nostrils.  Right about then,  I started to second guess this ride.  Am I in the right spot?  Is this for real?  It has to be.  I found this ride on the MTB Project Site – no way IMBA would allow a sick joke to squeak through their site admins… right?  Not convinced yet.  I hesitantly followed the gps track forward, and re-read the ride description which confirmed that one has to go past a waste transfer station to access the loop.  Sigh.  I was on track.

Some sticky icky singletrack along the Rio Grande gorge.

Some sticky icky singletrack along the Rio Grande gorge.

After following the doubletrack road for a mile, and getting plenty far from the stankonia transfer station, a singletrack appeared out of nowhere… as many of the best do.  Just like that, the dump was a distant memory.  The air fresh and crisp now.  Superman dirt under my maxxis tires.  Cranking away to Afrojack in the 50 degree morning sun.

Taking a break to smell the flowers.

Taking a break to smell the flowers.

Not to be confused with the “other” and more popular Horsethief Gulch ride in Durango, CO – this ride is in Arroyo Hondo, just north of Taos, New Mexico – and doesn’t see anywhere near as much traffic as it’s similarly named counterpart.  I wasn’t expecting too much, especially after riding past the trash.  But once I got going, I was stokey faced the rest of the time.  Horsethief Mesa was definitely on par with the “other” trail in Durango, and most any singetrack loop out there.  The trail surface varied from smooth buttery, clay color dirt to rocky baby heads and volcanic pumice stones.  Delightful, and mostly ripping fast.

Looking down into the gorge to the Rio Grande below.

Looking down into the gorge to a narrow section of the Rio Grande below.

From the same vantage point, one can procure sick views below into the gorge and above to the Taos Ski Area, which I could see later in my ride as the clouds lifted.  There is still plenty of snow up high, so hitting the summit of Northside will still have to wait a few weeks.

If you're feeling like a break, there's an aptly placed Lazy Boy recliner en route.

If you’re feeling like a break, there’s an aptly placed Lazy Boy recliner en route.

 

I rode the loop clockwise, as was recommended due to prevailing winds.  I didn’t encounter winds, but I’m sure the loop is just as fun CCW.  It ended for me with a nice climb.  Somehow, Shakira wound up escorting me most of the way up the grind.  Her hips don’t lie.  When she finished, Wyclef accompanied me up the last bits back to the doubletrack connector, where I got past the trash dump and to my car as quickly as possible.

Looking to a switchback road carved into the other side of the gorge to gain access to the water.

Looking to a switchback road carved into the other side of the gorge to gain access to the water.

All in all, it was a perfect hour and a half loop with just enough climbing to make you feel like you earned your apres food / beer.  Here’s the Strava link.  Had I done this ride later in the day, it would have been Taos Mesa Brewery for me.  It’s only a few minutes away.  But I rode first thing in the morning, and finished by 10:30 – so I was still in brekky mode.  I hit up Orlando’s New Mexican Cafe in Taos – which opens at 10:30, and they start serving lunch.  I really wanted to try the avocado pie which they’re known for – so I had a shrimp burrito first.  YUM!  The avocado pie was worth the $6 slice.  I don’t know how, but it tastes like avocado ice cream… sweet yet avocado tasting.  Kinda like green tea ice cream, but with avocado.  I recommend!!

Shrimp burrito at Orlando's

Shrimp burrito at Orlando’s

The famous avocado pie - which I got to go and ate in the car as I drove back to Santa Fe.  YUM!!

The famous avocado pie – which I got to go and ate in the car as I drove back to Santa Fe. YUM!!

 

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