Saturday, December 27, 2014
Lost Blog(s) Introduction
During the five years that I have been on SparkPeople, I have composed several blogs, that for one reason or another, I never posted. I have decided to post a few of these "Lost Blogs".
The original “Great Outdoors” blog was almost a miniature book. When I attempted to post the Great Outdoors blog on Friday, December 26th, 2014, less than half of entire blog was actually posted. Evidently, SparkPeople has a size limit on Blogs. I decided to break the Great Outdoors into three parts. These are:
Great Outdoors Part 1: Moderately Fit
Great Outdoors Part 2: Disaster Strikes
Great Outdoors Part 3: Are You Trying to Kill Me!
I wrote this "Great Outdoors" blog on June 19th 2013, as an attempt to tell the story of my one-and-only group mountain bike ride. This multi-day mountain bike adventure was a fully guided and catered affair in Utah that started on June 10th 2013 and ended on June 14th 2013.
This "Great Outdoor" mountain bike tour started a mere 18 days after I was seriously injured in an car/bike accident. On Wednesday, May 22nd 2013 a careless driver turned directly in front of me as I was riding my road bike on the Cherry Creek bike path in Denver.
For more information about this ghastly accident, here is a link to the blog a wrote shortly after I got clobbered.
At the time I blogged about this accident on May 26th 2013, did not know how badly I was hurt. Here is a quote from the blog:
"I have over a dozen bruises. The injuries to my right ankle, neck and right shoulder are deep tissue injuries, which hurt more than the bruises, cuts and abrasions."
At the time of the accident, I just thought I was just dinged-up a bit. I have been active all my life and have had my share of bumps, bruises, abrasions, cuts, sprains, torn muscles, concussions and broken bones!
I always bounced back!
During the three days of mountain biking in the mountains and deserts of Utah during June 2013, I discovered I was a lot more injured than I first thought. Shortly after returning from Utah, I sought a medical diagnosis that determined to full extent of my injuries.
(1) My right ankle was ruined. All the ligaments and tendons on the outside of my right foot and ankle were torn completely to pieces! The surgery In January 2014 to repair the massive ankle damage took over 4 hours.
(2) My right shoulder rotator cuff was severely torn. I haven't got the shoulder fixed yet. My shoulder doesn't hurt too badly and, besides some popping, and a rather strange "squishing" noise when I move my right arm, my shoulder doesn't really bother me.
(3) The retina in my right eye was detached due to the force of the impact. Laser and needle surgery stopped the bleeding and reattached the retina. The little poem, "Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye!" is a lot more serious oath than most people can imagine!
(4) My neck disks and facets joints were severely damaged. I can still opt to have some my neck vertebrae surgically fused. But I decided to go with neck injections to control inflammation; and physical therapy to strengthen the neck. A year and half later, I am still undergoing this treatment, which seems to working.
(5) My lower back took a tremendous blow during the accident. Disks and facet joints were severely damaged. I am getting injections in my lower back. This back damage was actually cause by being catapulted off the bike; up and over the Toyota Forerunner; then falling 7 feet to the concrete and landing on my back.
(6) I also suffered two consecutive multiple concussions. The impact with the side of the car caused my brain to smack the front of my skull. Falling off the top of the Forerunner and hitting the back of my head on the concrete caused my brain to bounce off the back of my skull. I am not kidding when I say my bike helmet saved my life!
As you read this lost blog, keep in mind I had no idea how badly I was hurt as I rode my mountain bike through the "Great Outdoors"
-----------------------Start of Lost Blog ------------------
Part 1: Talk the Talk - Walk the Walk
I work for a great healthcare company that not only preaches a healthy lifestyle, they live it! The company cafeteria employs chefs that create tasty and healthy dishes. I generally get the "Vitality" selection, which is a 500 calorie lunch for $4.99. The Vitality special is not bland. Last Friday, the Vitality menu was roast beef tenderloin, saffron rice plus a tasty vegetable combo of kale and leeks.
This company is a great place to work. I have worked for other companies that will give you a coffee cup with a company logo if you perform some minor miracle; or give you some cheap gift like a pen and pencil set.
My current company sends employees to the "Great Outdoors" as a reward for doing a good job. The "Great Outdoors" could be a fully guided and catered raft trip through the Grand Canyon; a stay at a remote lodge with guided hikes in the wilderness; or a guided and catered mountain bike ride in epic locations.
I was fortunate to be nominated for "The Trail of the Ancients" mountain bike adventure in Utah. Here is the link:
As luck would have it, I was very familiar with this area. I had paid my way through college by working in underground mines located in Utah and Colorado. As a fit-and-trim 21 year-old athlete, I had run on the very trails we would be biking in Utah.
Part 2: Lies, Damn Lies and Websites
I noticed on the Western Spirit website that the description of the Trail of The Ancients included: "This trip is not technical and is great for those with moderate fitness who are ready to try the dirt."
This innocuous "ready to try the dirt" comment should have been a tip-off. I wish I would have caught this little tidbit. An understanding of the general biking experience of my fellow Utah adventurers would have saved me a really nasty experience during the ride.
I knew where we were going. I knew this place is not like anywhere else in the world. I assumed anyone that signed-up for a Utah mountain biking adventure had a clue about the topography, climate and riding conditions:
This is easy.
This is hard.
This is dangerous.
This is Utah.
Where we were going to be riding is hot, dry, dusty, deserted and fun!
Part 3: Moderately Fit
In the world of mountain biking “Moderate Fitness” and “Not Technical” are pretty loose terms. I thought that I was moderately fit. I can run a high-altitude 10k mountain trail race in well under 60 minutes. I can climb steep hills on my mountain bike at 10 to 12 miles per hour without working too hard. My all-time fastest 5k is 23:12.
My daughter told me that "Moderately Fit" means that a person can briskly walk a couple of miles. By some definitions, a person that walks at a pace of 100 steps per minute is moderately fit. 100 steps per minute translates into about 2.84 miles per hour, or a pace of 21 minutes per mile.
Crazy-gonzo mountain bikers may have a definition of "Moderately Fit" that is slightly different than 100 steps per minute. I am just saying.
Part 4: Logistic and Schedule
My good riding buddy and co-worker, Jason, was also tapped to go on the Trail of the Ancients bike trip. Our company contracted with Western Spirit, which is one of the best mountain bike guides outfits in the West, for a custom 5 day excursion with 3 days of riding from June 10th to June 14th.
A few weeks prior to the trip, there was an organizational conference call with Western Spirit and participants. Western Spirit gave us a list of things we should bring, including clothes, footwear and personal items. We also had to fill out an online form regarding height and inseam so Western Spirit could get the correct sized bikes for each individual. Western Spirit would provide participants with Specialized Camber 29ers.
These are nice bikes and would have been my choice for an affordable trail bike.
I had a question, "Can we bring my own bikes?" Fortunately, the answer was "Yes". I wanted to bring my Specialized Stumpjumper full-suspension mountain bike (Ultra Stumpy). My Buddy Jason wanted to bring his Yeti 575. To my surprise, the Western Spirit lady said, "No problem! Bring your bikes."
This is my Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert. To prepare the bike for Utah, I put on bigger brake rotors. I increased the front rotor from 180 to 203mm. I increased the rear rotor from 160 to 180mm. Stopping power increased dramatically.
Jason and I are seasoned mountain bikers. Jason asked, "Can we bring some beer?" The Western Spirit lady said, "Sure thing, bring as much as you want. We have some very big ice coolers just for beer. We recommend you bring cans, but bottles are okay."
Jason and I bought a three of cases of Wynkoop beer, which worked out to 3 or 4 medicinal beers a night for both of us.
Part 5: Getting to Utah
Most participants in the Great Outdoors were flying into the Grand Junction, Colorado. The Western Spirit van would depart from the Grand Junction airport and travel south through Moab. Our destination was Manti-La Sal National Forest in southeastern Utah.
Jason and I were close enough to drive to Grand Junction. We attached our bikes to the rooftop bike carrier on Jason's Subaru Tribeca. We drove to the Grand Junction airport to meet the rest of our party at 2:00pm. The timing couldn't have workout better.
There were a total of 12 of us. Western Spirit provided two guides and a chef. They had a huge 4x4 F350 truck that carried all the supplies, food and fresh water. The big truck also served as a mobile kitchen.
During the 5 days that we were in Utah, this truck was pretty much the center of activity when we were not riding bikes. The red bags on the top of this truck carried our personal belongings, clothes, sleeping bags, and tents.
Each of us was provided with a two person tent, warm sleeping bag and therm-a-rest mattress. I had presence of mind to bring my camp pillow.
The company gave us a big water bottle, small bag with lip balm, sun block, toothpaste, toothbrush and bug repellent. They also gave us a really cool headlamp.
In the evening, we had to unpack the big bags, pitch the tents, inflate the therm-a-rest and layout the sleeping bags. Next morning we then had to tear everything down, eat breakfast, hop on the bikes and start pedaling to the next campsite.
The only things that happened on June 10th, was travel, setting camp, eating dinner, and sitting around a campfire in comfortable folding chairs and making introductions.
I found out that besides Jason and me, Jeremy and Jon were from Colorado. Everyone else was from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Jon was the "facilitator" from human resources, which was the first time we discovered we had "adult" supervision. I was easily the oldest person in this group by at least 10 years. I had mixed emotions about being the senior citizen. As luck would have it, the next day was June 11th, which was my 56th birthday.
Part 6: June 11th, Morning has broken
I woke up the next morning to the smell of coffee. Olive, the chef, was making breakfast. The morning air was brisk and invigorating. I grabbed a cup of coffee and dumped some cream in the cup. The coffee was to die for! The food consisted of an amazing Apple Coffee Cake baked in a Dutch oven, ham, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, fresh fruit, orange juice, hot chocolate and gallons of coffee!
Here are some of my companions on the mountain bike extravaganza.
This is my good friend and riding buddy Jason. The person in the background is a lady named Kimberly. IT turns out that Poor Kimberly was not moderately fit.
Here is another group of riders. You may note that some people in this group are looking at cell phones. There was general disbelief among the group that there was no cell phone coverage!
"Where are we? We must be at the ends of the earth! I can't even text!" I am sympathetic - NOT. I just said, "You are well beyond the ends of the earth. You are in Utah!" I almost said, "Sorry kiddies, you are going to have to interact with real people now."
I am old and crotchety! I know a lot of the millennial generation that are never present in the moment. These folks are standing in paradise and worried about cell phone reception!
Part 7: We Ride!
Our guides for this trip were Josh and Ashley. For the first day, our guide was Josh. Prior to starting our ride, the big Ford F-350 service truck took off down the road.
This truck would setup down the road in a nice shady place to serve lunch.
We left the camp area on our bikes with our guide. The shuttle van would follow at safe distance. As a matter of fact, the van was far enough behind our group of mountain bikers that we didn't really notice it.
I nicknamed the shuttle van, "meat wagon"! Any biker that needed a rest could wait for the meat wagon. The driver would toss the rider's bike on top of the van. The biker could then ride in air conditioned splendor, listen to music, take in the scenery, rest, and hopefully regain their mojo!
After about a mile, the narrow road started to climb. I was feeling pretty good. The climb was very steep. The ascent was from 6,500 feet to 8,600 feet in abut 4 miles. I was riding beside the guide. We churned up the deserted road at an easy pace of 8 to 10 mph.
We had left the lower elevation forest behind. The temperature was about 95 degrees F. There was zero humidity. The sun was baking everything. I am feeling fine. I had my hydration pack full of cool water. I had a couple of bottles of Gatorade. The guides gave us our pick of energy foods, I chose some fruit, a couple of Cliff bars and some high-energy gels.
The guide says to me as we are cruising up the hill, “Hey Bruce, when you get to the top, stop and wait. I need to go back and find the rest of the group." I just assumed that everyone was right behind us. I look back and I see nobody! I responded, "Uh, Okay. How will I know when I get to the top?" Josh shrugs his shoulders, "When ya get there, you'll know!" I answer, "Ok man, I'll wait." Josh burns a quick U-turn and disappears down the hill.
The Utah sun is beating down mercilessly. I downed a bottle of Gatorade and took a deep swig of cold water from my hydration pack. I looked around at the breathtaking scenery.
I swear I had this feeling that I was the only person for a million miles. When I got to the top of the climb, I laid my trusty bike down and found some shade. I propped my head on my hydration pack and dozed-off.
I woke up feeling pretty good. Most of my fellow mountain adventures had made it to the top. Some of these people looked terrible! Josh the guide said, "Let's rest here a bit." A couple of people were missing. I asked Josh," Where are Kimberly and Lisa?" He answered, "They are riding in the van."
Jon the HR guy was not a happy camper and looked like he had taken a sweat shower. Jeremy, Jason and Alan were raring to go. Jeremy is from Colorado and commutes to work on his bike. Alan is from Virginia and is a mountain biker. Alan just needed to get adjusted to the altitude. My buddy Jason was having some problems with his bike. These breakdowns are called "mechanicals". Jason needed to do some repairs. His fork kept leaking air. Fortunately, I had my shock pump in my hydration pack. Jason pumped up his fork and was good to go.
Everybody else looked like they needed to get well to die! Kimberly was still riding in the meat wagon, Uh, I mean Kimberly was still riding in the van. She had made it about two miles, before she conked-out. Kimberly would ride in the van the rest of the trip. So much for "moderate fitness." Lisa was also riding in the shuttle van. Lisa had made it quite a ways before she bonked. However, after a short rest, Lisa would ride the bike for the rest of the 26 miles.
Another guy was dressed as a lycra death sausage. He was a nice guy. He was a road cyclist and having a bit of trouble adapting to the dirt, dust and rocks, extreme elevation, blazing white hot sun, lack of humidity, and no guard rail on a narrow road perched 600 feet above the canyon floor. He seemed as nervous as a mouse at a cat convention!
Part 8: Downhill Free-Fall to Lunch
The guide told everyone that we had a nice descent coming up. He told us that at the bottom of the descent to keep our eyes open for the service truck near the side of the road. Once at the service truck, we could rest and eat lunch. I had been sacked-out for a couple of hours, I felt nice and rested.
The descent was a lot of fun. My Stumpjumper was in its element. I let Ultra-Stumpy loose! We plummeted like a meteor! There were a few short climbs and some flat ground. But we were flying! I saw the service truck as I rounded a curve. The truck was about a 1/4 mile off the main road and was parked in a nice wooded area.
I flicked Ultra-Stumpy off the main road and zipped down a rough two-rut road to the service truck. Olive gave me a great sandwich with hand carved roast beef. I grabbed some homemade chips, and slice of chocolate cake. I selected a big ice cold cola to drink. I picked-up a folding lounge chair and found some shade.
The Western Spirit guides had picked a great area that was a mix of Aspen and Pine trees. The grass was thick and the trees were tall. A gentle breeze caused the aspen leaves to dance and shimmer. Utah is nothing if not a land of contrasting scenery.
I bit into the sandwich. Oh my, that was a great sandwich.
The food on this trip was nothing short of fantastic!
Slowly, the rest of the group started to straggle-in. Finally, the shuttle van arrived with Kimberly. The group ate and talked about the humidity, or lack there of, the heat, and how everybody was amazed that we rode through barren desert - then up into a lush green forest. A few comments were like, "This is not what Maryland is like!"
I lived rural Maryland for a year. All I could think was: “Yes Dorothy, we are not in Maryland anymore.” The surrounding Utah Basin and Range topography seemed pretty normal to me. For a native Marylander, this place must look like the surface of the moon!
This topography is unique. The original sedimentary strata was laid down by a the ebb-and-flow of an inland sea. The entire strata layers were faulted tilted and pulled apart. Over many years, the soft sandy layers eroded causing semi-flat basins. The harder layers eroded slower and formed steep and jagged mountains.
This topography is common in Western Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Eastern California. These are very arid areas and the majority of the erosion is cause by wind.
Wind erosion causes very sharp features, such as vertical cliffs. All that sand has to go someplace. Sand and vertical cliffs are critical parts of this story.
Part 9: Sand Riding Lessons
After lunch we started climbing again. We ran into deep red sugar sand covering the road surface. This sand is, well uh, really darn hard to pedal through.
When we hit this very soft sand, one-by-one all my riding companions conked out! This stuff is tricky! Miners call this sand "bug dust" because a big truck going through this sand will raise a huge cloud a dust.
I started giving my stranded companions lessons. The first rule about riding in bottomless sugar sand is get light on your hands. The second rule is use low-low gear. The third rule is keep pedaling.
This sand is burning hot in two ways: (1) radiant heat can blister your skin, and (2) your thighs burn from pedaling effort.
I showed the group a few tricks. If you can find a shoulder on the roadside, you may be able to get your bike rolling by riding down little berm. You start pedaling and turn to go uphill.
You can get started with your bike pointing uphill but it is a little trickier. You set your pedals at 45 to 60 degrees from horizontal. You put your weakest foot on the top pedal. As you push down on the pedal, you hop onto the seat. You are really using the push of the pedal as a platform to get your butt on the saddle. You have to be in the saddle to get traction.
As the low pedal rotates to the top, you catch the peal with your strong foot, and push down with force. Big surprise - you are pedaling again! When you are stopped on hills that are loose, loose-over-hard, rocky or bottomless sand - getting going again takes perfect timing.
I think I am a nice and helpful guy. I got all my companions that were moderately fit pedaling up the hill.
While there riders struggled to pedal, or push their bikes through the terrible sand, I cruised ahead and caught-up with the Josh the guide. We rode along chatting. Soon we were out of the sand and on a rocky surface.
Josh and I stopped by a barbed-wire fence.
He said, "I have to go back and find the rest of the group. Go on ahead if you want. You will come to a fork in the road in about five miles. Wait there. Okay?" I answered, "Yup, I got it. Any shade there?" He says, "Yeah, it's pretty nice. It is also close to where we are going to camp for the night!" I tell him, "I will see you there. Wake me up when you go by!" He jumps on his bike, "Yup, will do!"
Part 10: Sleeping Beauty
I ride down the road at a brisk pace. The road becomes less rocky but more rutted, which is fun. The terrain is rolling like a giant pump track. I am zipping along and playing at hopping my bike between the ruts.
I get to the fork in the road and find a small grove of trees. I ride my bike to a shady spot about 20 feet off the road. Drop my bike down. Make pillow of my hydration pack and lay down face up. I look through the branches of the trees and see a clear cobalt blue sky with high wispy white clouds. Almost immediately, I drop-off to sleep.
I can sleep anywhere at any time. It is a gift. My wife is less than happy about my gift of instant deep sleep at the drop of hat. I think she is just jealous!
I am out for a good long time. I hear some noise and wake up. I figure it can't be a bear or mountain lion. This place is lousy with deer that taste better than me. I am pretty safe.
I open my eyes and see Jason, Jeremy and Alan. Alan asks, "You okay?" I reply, "I am fine, just trying to catch up on my beauty sleep." My good buddy Jason says, "Sorry to wake you, man. You're just as ugly as ever!" I nod, "Thanks a lot, buddy! Where is everybody?" Alan points down the road, "Back there somewhere. Kimberly is still riding in the van." I ask, "She break a leg, or something?" Alan shrugs, "I don't think so. I guess she's tired." I comment, "Poor kid. She comes all this way and is missing all the fun." Jeremy snorts, "You call this fun?" I nod, "I sure do. I’ve been able to get plenty of sleep waiting for you slow guys to catch up!" With mock severity, Jeremy says, "Oh, you suck!" I quip, "Hey I didn't come to Utah to get insulted! I can get plenty of that at home!" He retorts, "I doubt that not at all!"
A few more riders show up looking the worse for the wear. One guy says "Geez Louise, you guys have taken all the shade!" Jason points, "There is another tree over there." The complainer retorts, "Yeah, that tree is 50 feet away. I am too tired to make it!"
This friendly banter is called, "Bonding under shared adversity!" I left out of this story a little dialog that started with, "Kiss my ____", or "Go ____ yourself". I leave it to the reader to fill in the blanks.
We have to clean-up our act when Lisa and Lisa show up. There were three women in the group, two named Lisa, and one named Kimberly. One Lisa was way better than moderately fit and biked every inch of the way. The other Lisa had to ride in the van for just a little ways. She biked about 90% of the route. Poor Kimberly never biked a single foot after the first couple of miles.
Considering most of these people had never been on a mountain bike before, were riding at over 9,000 feet of elevation, in blistering heat, up and down steep hills, I thought the group did pretty well.
I was a ringer because I live at high elevation, and I ride mountain bikes a lot. Not to mention, that in caparison with the Cambers the others were riding, my Stumpjumper was way lighter, more responsive, rolled better, was easier to pedal, had better tires, shifted nicer, stopped better, and was way more comfortable.
Part 10: Fastest Human Being on a Bike - Say What?
Finally, Josh shows up with the stragglers. We ride the last few miles to the camping area. The Human Resources facilitator Jon comes over to me. He gushes, "You are the fastest human being I have ever seen on a bike, ever!"
I really didn't know what to say. My Garmin 910XT told me I had barely topped 40mph.
This is a map from the first day's ride from my Garmin. Distance was 26.7 miles.
My actual moving time was 2 hours and 3 minutes. My average speed was 13.4 mph. Total vertical climb was 5,759 feet. I spent 5 hours and 49 minutes sleeping while waiting for the other riders. The total elapsed time was 7 hours and 52 minutes! The average speed of other riders was 3.4 mph.
My speed was almost 4 times that of the other riders! So I guess, from a limited point-of-view, I was fast.
Part 9: Campfire Talk
After a great supper of pulled pork, roasted corn and seasoned potatoes, we all gathered around a roaring campfire.
Jason and I are drinking beer and kicking back. All of a sudden the Western Spirit Crew, Josh, Ashley, and Olive come into the fire circle holding a big carrot cake and singing, "Happy Birthday to...ME!" There is a candle on the cake. Josh holds the cake in front of me and a blow out the candle. Just when I think my popularity has hit an all time low, Josh says, "You rode strong today, brother!" I smile and nod. Not only had I been catching Z's most of the day. I now get a birthday cake and a big compliment.
After washing the cake down with a few beers, and getting fist-bumps from Jason, Alan and Jeremy, I was feeling no pain. But wait, we have an HR facilitator in our midst. Jon says. "Hey everybody, what were you thinking about today during the ride?" The nice fellow that wore the lycra death suit speaks up, "I am thinking about how beautiful the scenery is. I am just amazed at how much variation there is here."
Other people give their take on the day's ride. Alan talked about riding in the Virginia Mountains. He said, "I had heard how great the riding was in the West. It was better than I expected. I will be back."
Kimberly chimed-in, "I just don't feel like I am a part of the group. You are all having such good experiences. I see you all having so much fun. I really want to be part of it!"
Jason looks over at me and gives me a "what-the-heck look". He silently mouths behind his beer, "Then ride the f---king bike!"
One of the Lisas says, "Well Kim, maybe you can ride a little tomorrow. The ride is supposed to be a lot easier and much shorter."
I thought this was a nice way girl way to say, "Ride the f---king bike!"
Kimberly is not going down without a fight. She gushes, "Oh, but my legs hurt so bad!" I am thinking, "You are digging a pretty deep hole there kiddo." Kimberly is asking for sympathy from a group of people that just rode 26 miles over hot and dusty roads. I know that most riders legs are stiff and sore. Their hands, feet and butts are burning with pain. Kimberly rode in an air-conditioned van, listing to music, and probably bored Ashley to tears. Kimberly folds her arms and scowls The poor woman was shopping for sympathy in the wrong shop.
Jon tries to bring the group into focus. He turns to me, "Bruce, what are you thinking about while you ride." I answer, "I am thinking about the curve that is coming-up. Do I want to come in high and outside, then cut low through the apex, or come in low and take a tight line. It just depends on how I read the bank profile of the curve…..” I stop a little short. I am talking Greek to this group. Jon says, "Oh, you mean you are into the ride?" I nod, "Yeah, that's it."
After quite a while of chit-chat and a few more medicinal beers, Jon decides he needs to preach. He says, "Well folks, this is a team event. We need to ride together and get to know each other better." The little sucker was looking right at me!
I killed-off my beer and shuffled to my tent.
--------------End of Lost Blog - Great Outdoors Part I: Moderately Fit ------------
Prior to posting this lost blog, I removed a lot of the original text. At first, this blog resembled a travel journal about mountain biking in the Manti-La Sal National Forest in Southeastern Utah.
I also cut out things such as my beer-induced reflection that I celebrated my 21st birthday a stone’s throw from where, 35 years later, I celebrated my 56th birthday.
SparkPeople is essentially a diet, fitness and healthy-lifestyle social media website. When I write a blog, I attempt to stay on-topic. I also realize I tend to write odd and convoluted blogs that may not be easy for some of my SparkFriends to relate.
Although not obvious, I do try to make my blogs entertaining and informative. I realize that most of you have never taken a mountain bike ride through a remote wilderness. I want to take you there with me. Even if you don’t want to go!
Thanks for reading my (lost) blog.
Please see the next exciting installment of the Great Outdoors trilogy: “Disaster Strikes”!
Saturday, December 13, 2014
During the five years that I have been on SparkPeople, I have composed several blogs, that for one reason or another, I never posted. I have decided to post a few of the "Lost Blogs".
The following lost “blog” is really the lost introductory sections of a blog I posted on August 12th 2014 called: “I spend most of my money on bikes and beer. The rest I just waste!”
Of course, these three introductory sections are long enough to be a stand-alone blog.
-----------------------Start of Lost Blog ------------------
Part 1: Beer and Bikes
I like fast bikes and good beer. I have read that biking is good for you. The more bike riding that you do - the better. I have also read that a few drinks a day lowers your LDL cholesterol. Bike riding may shrink the waistline. Beer may expand the waistline. At the end of the day, it is a push!
I am primarily a mountain biker. However, I have enjoyed road cycling. But I am much more afraid of careless drivers on the road than I am of rocks, roots, rivers, trees and cliffs.
I live in Colorado, which has more bicycle shops and microbreweries per capita than any other state. (Note: California has more bike shops and microbreweries than Colorado. However, California has a larger population than Canada. The math works against the Golden State.)
I am a 4th generation Colorado native. I lived in San Antonio, Texas, for a few years. I also lived in rural Maryland for a couple of years. I then moved back to Colorado.
Since I have to watch how much beer I consume, I buy only the best beer I can find. I like locally brewed Colorado craft beer. I am now compelled to apologize for one of Colorado’s largest exports, which is Coors Light. I am also apologetic that the best craft beer brewed in Colorado rarely leaves state. The inconsiderate people of Colorado drink the good stuff and ship trainloads of swill to the rest of the country.
Tommyknocker Brewing Company is located in the small mountain town of Idaho Springs. Idaho Springs has a rich mining heritage, which is why the name of the small brewery is clever.
Tommyknockers are mythical creatures that warn underground miners of danger by making knocking noises. Having paid my way through college by working in underground mines, I can tell you that knocking noises often precede cave-ins. When you hear the Tommyknockers, it is time to get the heck out of Dodge!
Part 2: Dirt Rag
There is a mystical, almost spiritual, connection between bikes and beer. Dirt Rag magazine, which is the scripture of mountain biking, reports on the merits of obscure brands of mountain bikes and craft beer.
Even Bicycling Magazine, which is slick and professional compared to the raw and hilarious Dirt Rag, has articles on good craft beer.
Part 3: The Mile High State
Colorado has the highest average elevation of all 50 states. I am not referring to the legalization of recreational marijuana. (Which I still think is a bad idea!) Colorado also has bazillion miles of mountain bike trails. The Epic Colorado Trail runs 500 miles from Denver to Durango.
The Epic Buffalo Creek, which is right next door to my house. I like the trail called “Big Loop” that is 26 miles of sweet single track.
The Fruita Colorado trail system is a destination for riders from all over. Note: The International Mountain Biking Association that does the “Epic Trail” designation is based in - you guessed it - Colorado.
If want a change from riding in Colorado, I drive to Utah and hit up Moab or Park City.
Moab is best done late spring or early fall because it gets hot! This is almost a day trip for me.
Park City, Utah, is a lot like where I live in terms of altitude and trails.
Park City has the-one-and-only IMBA Gold level epic trail, which is called "Park City Epic".
This trail is rated as a black diamond or "Very Difficult".
Although Utah is not known for beer production, Uinta craft beer is one of my favorites.
Part 4: Bikes, Bikes and More Bikes (Note: This is first part of the blog I posted on August 12th)
I just have to face facts. I am a mountain biker…..
-----------------------End of Lost Blog ------------------
I didn't post these first three sections in August because I thought the flow was choppy. These sections really have no central theme. I tried unsuccessfully to fix these sections and make the ideas flow seamlessly with Section 4: “Bikes, Bikes and More Bikes”. In the end, these three “Lost Blog Sections” were really about mountain biking culture and, to a lesser extent, the cycling culture in general. The last four sections of the blog I posted on August 12th were about my personal experiences with mountain biking. I just cold not hammer fit the two subjects together. However, when I looked at the biking culture sections as a stand-alone subject, I thought these sections hung together reasonable well.
Some of my Spark Friends noticed that the title of the August 12th blog did not really fit the subject, which had no reference to beer. I just liked the title for it speaketh the truth.
Thanks for reading my (lost) blog.
Monday, December 01, 2014
Part 1: "I would just DIE!"
I had just stepped into the elevator in the lobby of the building where I work. I saw a young woman slowly walking across the lobby heading for the elevator that I had just boarded. She was furiously texting. The doors began to close. I realized she was not going to make the elevator.
I reached over to the control panel and hit the "door open" button. She never took her eyes off the screen of her phone. She absently-minded walked through the partially open doors, and leaned against the back of the elevator.
I asked, "Floor"? She came out of her text-induced daze and stammered, "Uh, eight".
After the elevator had past a couple of floors, and out of sheer orneriness, I asked the intexticated young woman, "What would you do if you lost your phone?" She looked up from her phone. Her eyes got big. She said, with a horrified look on her face, "I would just DIE!"
I got off on the 6th floor. I left her in peace to continue her texting.
Part 2: There is No School like the Old School
This is photo of a 1970 Dodge Charger R/T and has nothing to do with the topic of this blog. The only point is this car is 45 years-old and looks a lot better than most new cars. This car will also out perform all but the most exotic new cars. And "No" this is not my car.
On the flip side, my iPhone 4S is now horrible obsolete and is less than a year old. I don't download apps or music I don't even know where the darn thing is most of the time. Besides phone calls, I only use this techno wonder to alert me of upcoming meetings at work.
My children have told me that technology is wasted on me. I take that as a compliment.
Part 3: Favorite Things
A lot of young people would list their smart phone as one of their favorite things. Since my brief encounter with a texting addict in an elevator, I got to thinking about my favorite things.
This blog is about things I own that give me pleasure, or things I own that satisfy my overly meticulous nature. Or things I own, that for no good reason, I just happen to like.
Favorite Thing #1: My House in The Rocky Mountains
I live in the Colorado Rocky Mountains at 8,040 feet on purpose! I like the forest, mountains and wildlife. Sometimes the weather is cold, snowy and windy. For me the harsh climate is a bonus. I also let Mother Nature take care of my "yard".
My house has 2x6 walls for extra strength and insulation. The heating plant is top-notch with hot water baseboards. The garage is also insulated and heated. The windows are double pane with insulated frames. Since our furnace is a boiler, we never run out of hot water.
My house is in the middle of some of the best skiing, mountain biking, trail running, hiking and camping in the world. The trout fishing is not bad either.
Favorite Thing #2: Crawler Snowblower
Snow gets deep where I live so I bought a very powerful snowblower.
I have rebuilt this machine a few times. The cool thing about a crawler snowblower is that there are triggers on each handle that allows the operator to precisely steer the heavy machine. This bad boy has an electric starter and can chew through 3 feet of show in one pass.
Here is my wife running the snowblower. She actually likes to use this monster. The snowblower does all the work.
Favorite Things #3: Mountain Bikes
I got my first mountain bike in the early '80s, which was a truly horrible Huffy with 15-speeds, steel frame, ugly splatter paint, rim brakes and friction shifters. However, the Huffy was a more capable dirt bike than my old Schwinn Typhoon "Fat Tire". The old Schwinn had seen it's share of dirt.
In 2014, mountain bikes are amazing hi-tech creations employing technologies and materials found in Formula 1 racecars, high-performance airplanes and spacecraft.
I own a lot of mountain bikes. Each one is different.
MTB#1: Fast Bike - Ultra Stumpy
I have a mountain bike that is scary fast. This bike is mostly made from carbon fiber, magnesium and titanium. I call this bike Ultra-Stumpy. In actuality, the bike is known as a 2012 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon 29er. Ultra-Stumpy is a trail bike with 130mm of suspension travel. Even with 29" wheels the bike tips the scale at 27 pounds.
This bike is was designed for long-distance trail races such as the Leadville 100. If I want to ride a long distance on moderately difficult terrain, Ultra-Stumpy is my choice.
MTB#2: Quick Bike - Little Cam
In 2013, I bought a left-over 2012 Specialized Camber FSR Comp 26er. I got the bike for $600 under list price. This bike was one of the last enthusiast-level 26ers available. I call this bike "Little Cam". This bike is not fast. With 120mm of suspension travel, Little Cam is competent trail bike. However, this bike has a short wheel-base and can change direction in a heartbeat. Cooking down a winding trail, Little Cam spends about half the time airborne.
This bike is pure fun. I really heavily modified this bike. The only parts I did not replace are the stem and seatpost clamp. I have some plans for additional modifications.
This bike has an aluminum alloy frame and weighs 28 pounds. I think I can shave some more weight by going with tubeless tires and a 2x10 drivetrain. These mods are not just for weigh loss - but will improve traction and acceleration.
MTB#3: One Bike to Rule Them All - Santa Cruz Bronson
My most recent acquisition is a 2014 Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon C 27.5" with XX1 Kit. I bought this bike at a huge discount since the 2015 bikes had just hit the shops.
My Bronson is optimized for expert terrain that includes large obstacles, tight switchbacks and massive drop-offs. This bike has 150mm of suspension travel and is designed for speed and stability on fast descents. The Bronson is a both a thrill and chore to ride. This bike is a real chore to pedal up steep hills. However, the Bronson is a thrill blasting down steep technical terrain. Knee and elbow pads are not optional!
MTB#4: 9:Zero:7- Fat and Furious
My fatbike was built to my specifications. This bike has Race Face Turbine 2x10 crank, stem, handlebar and seatpost. Brakes, shifters and derailleurs are Shimano XT. The seat is a my favorite, which is a Specialized Phenom Expert.
With pedals, this bike tips the scale at a tad under 30 pounds. That is pretty light for a large frame fatbike.
Favorite Things #4: Bike Maintenance Stuff
On the rare instances I ride on concrete or pavement, I have noticed that my bike stays nice and clean. Even after several long rides, the chain is still shinny and lubricated. Shifting remains flawless day-after-day.
However, over 90% of my riding is on dirty, muddy and rocky terrain. After every ride, my mountain monsters need cleaning, adjustment and lubrication.
Over the years, I have tried a lot of different bike maintenance products. My favorite products are affordable and effective.
Bike Maintenance Stuff #1: Keep it Clean
I find it really hard to beat Finish Line products for value and effectiveness. I also like Park Tool, Pedro's and Spin Doctor bike repair and maintenance products.
Finish Line Super Bike Wash can be used with water, or without. This stuff melts mud, gunk and grime from wheels, tires, frames, and moving parts.
To lubricate clipless pedals and derailleurs I like Finish Line One Step.
I use the spray lubricant sparingly and make sure I wipe-off any excess.
I like the Park Tool Chain Gang Kit for cleaning the chain, cassette, and chainrings.
This kit cost $35 does a great job. Dirt, grime and mud can ruin drivetrain components. The SRAM XX1 X-Dome 10x42T Cassette on my Santa Cruse Bronson cost $425. The Bronson's SRAM XX1 X-Horizontal Rear Derailleur goes for $305. The Bronson's SRAM XX1 GXP Crankset costs $519. The SRAM PC XX1 HollowPin Chain seems like a bargain at $68. Given that to replace the Bronson's drivetrain would cost $1,317, the $35 Park Tool Chain Gang Cleaning Kit is a good investment.
I have a good set of cleaning and maintenance brushes.
I like the Easy-Pro Brush Set made by Finish Line that cost $18.
I also really like the Pedro's Drivetrain Brush.
This brush is perfectly designed for cleaning derailleurs, cassettes and chainrings.
I like citrus degreasers. These "organic" degreasers work well, smell like oranges and won't make you sick if you breath the fumes. Some harsh chemical degreasers are dangerous.
After the bike is clean, the chain needs to be lubricated. A properly lubricated chain makes the bike pedal easier, shift better and last longer.
For dry and dusty conditions I prefer a dry Teflon chain lube that does not attract dirt.
The downside of dry chain lube is that it has to be applied more frequently than wet chain lube. However, wet chain lube, such as Pro Gold attracts dirt like a magnet.
Bike Maintenance Stuff #2: Keep it Working
I have a quite a few things that allow me to repair, replace and adjust mechanical bike components. My excellent Spin Doctor Bike Repair Stand is one of my favorite things.
I also have a lot of really good bike tools.
Before deciding to go to college, I worked as a professional auto mechanic. I am reasonably handy with tools. I also have a 6th sense for mechanical things. I call this gift "The Touch".
Last, but not least, is my Topeak fork and shock pump.
This little pump is accurate, well made and easy to use. An error of 5 pounds can make a difference in suspension response. Typical air pressure on my front fork is 150 psi. The rear shock the air pressure is 220 psi. An error of 5% to 10% is intolerable. I pack the Topeak pump with me so I can really dial-in my suspension based on conditions.
Favorite Things #5: Hiking and Camping Stuff
Sometimes when I post photos of some gnarly trail I rode with one of my mountain bikes, I get comments like "I would never ride a bike over that, but I would hike it!" I totally understand such comments. Even though the terrain may be rough, the mountain scenery can be spectacular! Dropping like a meteor on a mountain bike over treacherous terrain doesn't allow much opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature.
Hiking #1: These Boots are Made for Walking
Surprisingly, I do a fair amount of hiking and backpacking. So if you are going to go where angles fear to tread, you need good boots. I have some great Keen Ketchum boots that fit my wide feet perfectly.
I use heavy Smart Wool socks with these boots. The fit is perfect. These boots are waterproof with great traction. These boots are comfortable and relatively light. What is the catch? List price is $170. I got the boots on sale. I have worn these boots for 3 years. and they still look new.
Hiking #2: Marmot 3 Person Tent
My wife bought two backpacking tents at REI a few years back. These tents are light, easy to setup and well made.
We buy a lot of camping gear from REI. REI only stocks good quality items.
Favorite Things #6: Running and Biking Apparel
I enjoy running. I am currently undergoing my 4th round of rehabilitation from my life-changing bike-car accident in May 2013. I still run, but I run a lot slower and smoother. In my humble opinion, no other exercise has the slimming effect as running. However, I enjoy mountain biking slightly more than running. I am a trail runner. I only run on hard surfaces under duress.
Active Apparel #1: Shoes
Due to the shape of my feet, Nike Pegasus are my favorite running shoe.
The Pegasus is a neutral cushion shoe, has great padding and is reasonably priced.
For mountain biking I really like the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Seek V.
With my rather mangled right foot, these lace-up mountain bike shoes are great. The cleat is deeply recessed so walking on these shoes is very easy.
These are an "Enduro" style shoe, which means these shoes have great traction so you can carry your bike through rivers and other impossible terrain.
Active Apparel #2: Shirts and Jerseys
I like to run in a 100% cotton shirt. I have a few tech shirts that are fine. But my favorite shirt is the Russell Athletic cotton sleeveless shirt.
Weather permitting, I don't like anything on my arms or legs. My favorite running shorts are Nike Dry-Fit with a 9" inseam.
These shorts are comfortable and wick moisture away.
Socks are sometimes overlooked by runners. I tried a lot of running socks. My favorite socks are Thorlos Light Padded Mini-Crew style.
These socks cost a little extra but I have never had a pair wear out yet. I bought my first pair of Thorlos over 5 years ago.
For mountain biking I like Pearl Izumi, Royal Racing and Fox apparel. For hot weather, I like the Fox Racing Air Cool jersey
This Jersey has great ventilation. I also like Fox Reflex Gloves and Fox Ranger Cargo shorts.
I like short finger gloves.
These Fox Ranger Cargo shorts are very rugged with lots of zippered pockets. Mountain bikers make a science of mismatched outfits. My grey camo shorts coordinate with absolutely nothing! These shorts include a removable gel chamois inner liner. I can wear these as regular shorts - minus the chamois liner.
My favorite biking socks are Smart Wool products.
These socks are thin, breath well; and offer great padding. These bike socks are way different than running socks. These bike socks offer padding on the upper surfaces, as well as on the lower.
Favorite Things #7: Dirt Rag Magazine
Here is my parting shot. Dirt Rag magazine provide articles on mountain bikes and beer. Dirt Rag doesn't care who they offend and tells it like it is.
The cover on this issue states, "Riding With Death, What Doesn't Kill You - Makes You Faster!"
I like that attitude. Thanks for reading my blog.
Monday, November 17, 2014
Part 1: No Offseason
Most of my riding buddies have put away their bikes and are doing offseason conditioning. You know, boring stuff like, elliptical trainers, treadmills and indoor cycling. I have a good indoor cycling trainer and an elliptical machine.
I only use my boring indoor trainers when there is no alternative. In the Winter I prefer to snowshoe, cross-country ski, downhill ski, and most of all, ride my 9:Zero:7 fat bike.
Here is my fat bike all tuned-up and ready to go. The tires are 5" wide. Tire pressure ranges from 2 psi to 30 psi. At 2 psi these tires have a monster footprint and can handle very deep snow. I typically run 5 to 7 psi, which provides plenty of traction.
Part 2: Heat Wave
The temperature got up to sweltering 10 degrees. So I bundled-up, grabbed my 9:Zero:7 and went for a ride in my neighborhood.
My wife bought this thermometer that shows a hummingbird and some flowers. Right now, flowers and hummingbirds are not due back in these Colorado mountains for 7 months.
Part 3: It's a Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood
Here is a good shot of the road conditions in my neighborhood. We only got about 9 inches of snow.
While I was riding on this pleasant little stretch of road, I got a call from my daughter in Washington State. Her car was making a funny noise and she was 100 miles from her apartment. Her car was also vibrating going down the road. She is going to graduate school at University of Washington . So I stood in the snow and tried to diagnose a car that was 1,000 miles away. Fortunately, she got home alright.
Here is my 9:Zero:7 waiting patiently for me to get off the phone. Even on a cloudy day, the Orange powder coat finish on the 9:Zero:7 glows.
Part 3: Fast Bulldozer
Riding my fat bike is a really good workout. However, the 9:Zero:7 is a snow racing bike and moves remarkably quickly. My top speed on this ride was 26.2 mph. Average speed was a bit over 10 mph. However, the effort to make this bike go that fast in snow is intense.
Thanks for reading my blog
Friday, November 07, 2014
During the five years that I have been on SparkPeople, I have composed several blogs, that for one reason or another, I never posted. I have decided to post a few of the "Lost Blogs".
Lost Blog: February 9, 2010 - Weight Loss Gimmicks
It is always nice when someone notices you have dropped a few pounds. I saw and old friend a few weeks back. He complimented my on my weight loss. He then asked, "How did you do it - Adkins?" I stammered "Uh no, I eat right, exercise and joined SparkPeople." My friend gave me a blank stare. I gave up trying to explain.
For years we have all heard to lose weight we have to eat less and exercise more. That just doesn't sell. And eating less and exercising is hard!
Lots of people are looking for the magic bullet.
"Lose weight without dieting or exercising! Just send us $102.95 for the magic weight loss elixir. This is the secret potion used by Tibetan monks for 10,000 years!"
There are also pills that are supposed to take the weight off - no dieting and no exercise. In the 1970's my mom bought an appetite suppressing "candy" called Ayds.
My mom was not overweight. However, in the 1970's Twiggy ultra-skinny was in.
There have been weight loss gimmick forever. Metabolism boosting pills have been popular for a long time. The sale of Skinny pills is a big industry.
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I didn't post this blog in 2010 because I could not think of a graceful ending. I didn't want to be preachy, such as "Save your money and follow the SparkPeople plan." I didn't want to be superior by saying, "I have never fallen for gimmicks", which is not true BTW.
However, this might be a good way to end this Lost Blog:
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