Sunday, July 25, 2010

High Sierra Bound

The woods were scorched by heat and nearly a month had gone by with very little rain. The trees on the tops of the mountains were dropping leaves in July. Finally, the day we leave, rain finds it’s way home. We go from stop and go traffic on New Jersey’s I 80 to a plane where we are delivered to stop and go traffic on California’s I 80. Too many cars in the world for sure, but I can forget the traffic for a moment because I am very glad to soon be visiting and riding my bike with an old friend in the Sierra mountains.

We drive up long winding roads that twist through the foothills to arrive at Debra’s house where we are greeted by a lizard on her back porch. Tall pines and manzanita surround her home, and it smells somewhat like the drought in New Jersey, but much more floral. I know instantly why she loves her home, as it is beautiful in her yard with a view east towards Donner Pass.

not too much luggage, just bikes

Day 1 : Pioneer Trail. We opt to ride local on the Pioneer trail just outside of Nevada City. Debra and her high school team helped build some of this trail several years back, so it was nice to ride with someone who’s signature was embedded in our day’s adventure. The trail followed a historic irrigation ditch. Often trail builders adopt old ditches and make them into mountain bike trails. They have little elevation gain and make easy use of steep terrain and already existing benching. I have ridden places where flowers or plants line the trail leaving a narrow path, but this trail had sections of pinecones covering the ground, leaving the dirt trail exposed. This is big pine tree land.

Day 2 : Lake Tahoe Epic. Debra hooked us up with Mario, a Tahoe local for somewhat of an epic ride. Mario arranged a shuttle run for us on the Tyrolean downhill. Our run got off to a shaky start when Mario slipped while walking on a berm and dislocated his shoulder. Being the closest to him, I was instructed to pull it back in, which made me a bit nervous, but did the job. He then went off his jumps as usual, and we caught our shuttle back up to Mt Rose. Not sure who this Mario guy is, but my guess is that he is some sort of local hard core mythological hero.

From there we rode south on the Rim trail to Marlette Lake and down Chimney Beach trail. The rim trail is very spectacular with numerous views of Lake Tahoe and snow tipped mountains. A heavy snowfall year made for incredible wild flowers along the trail. There was also quite a bit of climbing before reaching the highest point just over Marlette Lake. Five hours later, we finally arrived at the highway near dark for a five mile ride on the road back to Incline Village. As I rode, I watched the sun set over the lake. It was a spectacular and full day.

Day 3: Forest City. Lucky for us all, Art, while packing in the dark, forgot his helmet at Mario’s house, 100 miles from where we were the next day. Debra scored a loaner from Tom, who offered to show us around Forest City. Tom is not only a friend of Debra’s, but one of the trail builders at Forest City, who happens to be riding that day with another local trail builder and dirt expert “Fish”. We show up at the trailhead a little late, but find a helmet on the hood of car, grab it and head out onto the trail. We run into Tom and Fish sitting at the first intersection, and proceed to get the full history of the place.

After some history, we bombed down a forest service road together, and made an uphill turn, while being prompted by our leaders, onto a narrow, wall lined trail, which led us across an arched bridge. This was no ordinary trail bridge. It looked like a bridge that a troll would live under in an enchanted forest. Apparently, Zachi their trail building leader had quite an eye for beautiful stone work. From there we rode up several miles of 5% grade switchbacks made by machine. Not only was Zachi talented, but Fish was pretty amazing with his machine excavating. We finished up riding down Highgrade trail, which had a bit of a Kingdom Trails flavor. This trail was really fun. We all came out of the woods laughing.

When in the Downiville area, this place is worth checking out. Maps can be found here:

Day 4: Spaulding Lake. Lake Tahoe is not the only beautiful lake in the area, they all are beautiful. Debra took us to Spaulding Lake for a short out and back to the waterfall. This trail was a bit more technical and rocky, and much more like home, even to the point of having more fall line hiking style trails. The trail varied from deep forest to rocky view points. This whole area was really special. We rode about five miles in to the secluded waterfall that spanned 60 feet across and 20 feet high. I stuck my feet in the stream and the water was COLD, like take your foot out soon because it hurts cold. So no swim for me that day, only a foot dabble.

Chimney Beach

more rim trail

Day 4: Rim Trail Monday, we headed back to Tahoe to visit with Sean and Georgette, and pick up Art's helmet along the way. We made a quick stop at Chimney Beach for a swim and then rode the southern section of the rim trail towards Heavenly. The flowers were amazing. It was uphill all the way, but well worth it for the return, downhill of course.

knightmares of Mt Snow

man in a tree

Art and Sean

last chance before Mr Toads (photo by Sean)

more big trees

Day 6: Mr Toads Wild Ride .... Need I say more? Rode with Sean.

Check out video here:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Farewell to an Era

... of sand swept breezes

... sunsets and cocktails on the bridge

... walking barefoot

... and Dad. The memories will be with me forever.

What started as my vision 20 years ago, merged with my Dad's vision, transformed into decades of good times at the family beach house. The sun, the wind, the water, digging in the dirt, picking strawberries, shooting stars, glowing phosphorus, beautiful sunsets, weekends with friends and even the mocking bird are written in this glorious chapter of my life. But like all chapters, this one is nearly complete. It's hard to understand why, but over the years, the family grew, things changed. My Dad passed, and things changed once again. I can always re-read this chapter in my memories. All of that will be there forever, but a new chapter and all it's possibilities are soon to unfold.

Lewis Morris Race

rain insurance boots

The race at Lewis Morris may not be my favorite course, but I have made it a personal challenge each year to make this race stand out from others by racing it on my single-speed. Once on a single-speed, the monotony of an endurance race becomes a game of playful extremes. Perseverance replaces discipline, and the thought of pacing oneself on a single-speed does not exist. My will to stay on my bike determines my pace. The race becomes a rhythmic chain of efforts, that are all different than racing with gears.

My race day started quite early, as I wanted to be there to support my friend, Adrienne who was participating in her first race. My big breakfast was long burned off by 11:00 and another small meal was needed, and somehow it did not feel like enough and I started my Heed mix. The start was delayed but I took advantage of as much shade as I could because it was once again real hot. By race start, I realized that I had once again under estimated my fluid needs, and only had a half a bottle of Heed left.

I felt good out of the blocks and surprisingly got a fantastic placement for the opening climb. There was a little bit of a shake down, but eventually we found our places by the top of the rooty climb. I was geared a little hard with a 32X18, a gear I had not felt strong enough to run there the past 3 years. The gearing felt just right for the start. I was prepared to suffer later in the race.

Out of drink mix, I was ecstatic when Adrienne handed me an icy bottle of water in the feed zone on lap two. Art had brought a cooler full of ice to put our drinks in and it was the best! By the start of lap three I had faded just a tad, and spotted Shasta 45 seconds back on the switchback. I dug a little deeper but my legs were screaming on every little uphill. My descending was actually getting better each lap as I became more relaxed and familiar with the grooves and contours.

I was handed another bottle of Heed for lap four, that was most likely a leftover from a teammate, and it sealed the deal for me. It was just enough to keep me hydrated, focused and able to rev the engines into the finish line in second place. I had no stomach cramps, which is something I struggle with, no leg cramps, conquered my gear selection and felt like I rode a very good race.