Sunday, December 12, 2010

Railroad Crossing

I was asked to help out with the Cub Scout Construction City on Saturday and being the considerate husband and father I am, I decided to ride over to the event and leave the car home for the girls (which they did not use).  The roads were icy with a fresh layer of snow covering it and the temperatures had dipped into the low teens.  Yeah, I'm a little crazy but in my defense, it was 30 degrees the night before and I didn't notice how cold it was until I was already on the road, in just a windbreaker.  My body stayed warm but I could feel the sting of the cold where my clothes touched my skin.

Considering the road conditions, I debated my route and opted for a less traveled route to avoid the traffic.  Its a route I rarely ever ride.  I took State Street to the 6th Street underpass and worked my way up the neighborhoods to the auditorium.  On State Street there is a rail road crossing that is so infrequently used that I often forget it's even there.  As I approached, traveling around 16-18 mph, I saw the tracks in the snow.  Tracks are never a good situation on a bike, especially when they don't cross perpendicularly.  At our organized rides, they always warn us to take the tracks at a 90 degree angle, or as close to it as possible.  I've heard of the dangers but have never seen or experienced any problems with tracks before.

As I said, the tracks snuck up on me and before I knew it, they were right there in front of me and, of course, they crossed the road at an angle.  Rather than swerve on the ice I opted to roll over the tracks and hope for the best.  I don't know what happened next but as soon as my front tire hit the tracks, my bike was jumping out of control.  I dropped my feet off the pedals but they never touched the road.  The next thing I know, I'm sliding down the road laying face down on top of my bike with a sharp pain in my knee where it had whacked the pavement.  Hurt and embarrassed, I slowly stood up, brushed myself off,  inspected the bike, put the chain back on the front sprocket and climbed back onto the bike.  Although it happened so fast, I'm pretty sure my front tire got caught in the track and flipped me off the bike.  I now understand the challenges of railroad tracks and will be much more cautious of them in the future.

I did make it to the event and back without another incident but I have limped around all weekend.  The knee is tender to the touch but I'm sure it will be back to normal in a week or so.  I'd rather take a whack to the knee than another hit on the elbow any day.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I love my studded tires!

Have I mentioned that I absolutely love my studded snow tires?  I know I have but I'll reiterate it again.  I love my studded snow tires.

Last year Grandpa Jensen pulled Sydney and Tara in a sled behind his riding lawn mower and they loved it.  This Thanksgiving one of our friends, Chris, pulled them behind his motorcycle and they had a blast.  I figured since Chris was able to pull them with his motorcycle, surely I could pull them for awhile on my bike with the studded snow tires.  Today, in a desperate bit of bribery, I promised Sydney and Tara that I'd pull their sled behind my bike if they helped to clean up their house, especially that heap of toys, dirty clothes and other junk they call a bedroom.  This is a promise I've been making for over a week but they've never followed through.  This time they finally did. 

After dinner I snuck outside, tied a line around my seat post and through the saddle mount and looped it onto the sled.  I really doubted my ability to pull both of them through the snow, especially after our extremely slow start.  With the sled fully loaded, I cranked down on the pedals and popped a nice wheely and then the back wheel spun out.  The sled never moved.  I tried a slower start and slowly towed them out of the alley while my back wheel spun out all over the place and my front wheel jumped from rut to rut unpredictably.  I anticipated troubles so I pulled out my old hockey elbow pads to protect my already tender and damaged  elbows.  Never needed them, thank goodness.

Eventually we pulled out onto the road and the riding got easier.  Best to stick to the hard-packed snow.  The kids had a blast.  I even dumped them a couple times but I never went down.  I think we were out there for about an hour and even though my heart was beating about a thousand times per minute, they egged me on, "Faster Daddy!  FASTER!"  After awhile, I convinced them to take turns and go one at a time so I could go faster (and get a much needed break).  I found an open parking lot for the sugar beet factory where I could really let loose and pick up some speed.  I couldn't tell if the screams behind me where screams of joy or fear but they had a great time and I got in an awesome workout.  Not really an ideal Sunday activity but I'll classify it as family time.  I'm eager to get Evie out on her new infant sled!  A three kid train!  Oh the neighbors much think I'm crazy!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter biking

It snowed again on Sunday, and it didn't stop until another 12-15 inches fell on top of the six inches of snow we already had.  The news report stated that some areas of Billings received up to 21 inches of snow this November.  And like a lunatic, I am still riding my bike to work.  I knew that I was in for a doozy when I watched a car drive down our street with a wake of fluid snow behind it just like a motor boat on a calm lake.  Biking in the snow has a whole new set of challenges compounded with traveling feet away from 2000-pound hunks of steel controlled by stressed-out and sometimes angry people traveling to and from work.  My new studded tires do nothing for the snow, especially a foot and a half of it.  The soft snow usually pushes around the front tire of the bike and pedaling feels much like moving through slick sand.  However, after a car packs down the snow, it turns into a dry slush that grabs the front tire and tosses it all over the road.  I'm sure I'm quite the site pushing my bike through the snow at 5 mph frantically turning my handlebars back and forth to right myself before crashing into the snow.  And that's only if I have the speed or torque to push through.  Often I have to dip a foot into the snow losing all momentum.  Sometimes I can start up again but often I have to push the bike until I can find a better spot to start out again.  Billings does plow about 5 streets so when I finally get to one of those streets, I have to fight the traffic on the ice.  That's where the studded tires come in handy.
My Monday morning commute was a real battle.  The roads where only lightly traveled by then so they were a complete mess.  I had to walk most of the block and a half to Broadway before I could even think about hopping on the bike.  Intersections were a nightmare with ruts converging from the cross-street on my path of travel.  I arrived at work on Monday sweaty, out of breath, and my heart was about to explode.  I walked in with my helmet in hand, brushing off the snow when a coworker saw me and exclaimed "You rode your bike today?!"  She was visibly frazzled from her morning commute and proceeded to tell me of her snow troubles.  She struggled to even get out of her garage and after three attempts, finally gunned it shattering her side mirror on the garage door jamb in the process.  She got stuck several times and had to be pushed out of the snow once.  I told her that my bike was easy to push and rarely got stuck.  There are perks to my insanity.

That evening I decided to meet Sarah at the gym for spin class and racquetball.  I struggled again until I finally hit 3rd Avenue where the road was more packed.  As I rode along, some jerk in a gray sedan passed me in my lane just about knocking me off the bike.  I yelled at him while shaking my fist (just my fist) letting him know I was less than enthused with his driving techniques.  I followed the car until he turned off at a parking lot.  I watched as the car pulled through the parking lot, drive parallel to me and turned onto the next street just as I turned onto it.  He proceeded to drive toward me in my lane forcing me onto the sidewalk.  What a jerk!.  Sometimes I wish I had a baseball bat or tire iron strapped to my bike.   Its bad enough that I have to fight the snow because the city is too cheap to plow even after 21 inches of snow, but I have to deal with complete imbeciles and their metal death machines too!  Give me a break.

On a side note, I had a crazy idea this morning while fighting the snow.  I think it'd be awesome if I could rig two skis to my front fork that I could lower while riding through snow and put a studded paddle tire on the back rim.   This isn't exactly what I had in mind but its still pretty cool.  Maybe someday I'll find the time, ambition and tools to build a prototype.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy "Cranks"giving - 2010

13 Miles
10-20 degrees
So, many of you know that we got stranded in Billings for Thanksgiving because of the poor road conditions (Montanans are so cheap they won't pay to have the roads plowed.  They'd rather pay the higher insurance premiums!  Well, the ones that aren't driving on suspended licenses anyway.)  I decided to make the best of my Thanksgiving at home and although it was freezing outside and the roads were still slick, I set out on an ice biking adventure.  Last year I went on a nice mountain bike ride in 50 degree weather (Cranksgiving 2009) and the year before I pedaled from my parents house to my aunt's house about 30 miles away in cold weather.  I think I've got a Thanksgiving Day tradition started.

I started at about 10 am and the forecast called for 8 degree weather.  It took me quite awhile to get dressed for the weather but I worked out a good combination but I looked really ridiculous until I was fully dressed with layers of base layer, bike shorts, wool socks, a thermal top, and finally a athletic pants, a fleece pullover, scarf and balclava (fancy word for a ski mask that I can pull down so my face isn't completely covered.  It was probably a couple degrees warmer (less cold) by the time I finally got on the bike.
I set out on the road feeling pretty confident on the ice and hard pack with my studded tires, maybe too confident.  I made it to the "secret" entrance to Riverfront Park where I usually catch a dirt trail that leads me into the interior of the park.  I knew the riding would be tough with the 6-8 inches of fresh snow but I was hoping the trees would have kept some of the snow off the trail and the cross-country skiers would have packed down the rest.  Wrong on both counts.  I geared down and trudged on into the park.  I pedaled until my heart felt like it was going to explode.  In defeat, I jumped off the bike to catch my breath and evaluate the situation.  
To my surprise, the bike stood up on its own in the snow!  Yeah, that was too much snow but I was to determined to give up.  I noticed that my bike hadn't actually shifted down to the lowest gear so I forced it into gear and tried again.  Pedaling was easier but I still couldn't go very far before my front tire got caught on something or before my heart leapt out of my chest.  I should have turned back then but I was too stubborn.  Soon a skier passed me and laughed commenting that I needed skis on my bike.  I really should have turned back then but now I had something to prove.  Man, I really get in my own way sometimes.  I pushed my bike through the snow for the next mile, pedaling when I could, hoping that once I got to the gravel trail, pedaling would get easier.

I hit the gravel trail and had no such luck.  I trudged on thinking that I'd make it too the pavement and the snow would be shallower.  Wrong again!  The pavement was in an open area that had drifted so the snow was even deeper.  However there were fewer ski tracks.  I found I did a lot better on the pavement if I could blaze my own trail.  I was exhausted an discouraged by now and I'd gone so far it didn't seem worth turning around now.  My new hope was to make it to the road where I could ride in the ruts and hard pack.
 Finally up ahead I saw a vehicle pull into a parking area.  Score! I finally had some hard pack to ride on!  When I finally got to the road, it was beautiful.  The whole road was hard pack and I could finally move.  I road the entire length of the road, turned around and road it again.  It was great.

I had one last idea up my sleeve.  On the other side of the park is a trail going around Norm's Island that is very heavily used.  I thought I'd check it out and see if it was ride-able.  The trail was rough but passable.  My wrists were sore by the time I finished from all the bouncing on the trail and I got a kick out of the reactions of the dog walkers as I passed them on bike, much different from the pathetic sympathy that I got from the skiers.  I was having fun but it was time for me to get back to my Thanksgiving feast.  I cruised back home on the ice and hardpacked roads hitting 18 mph, the fastest I've been able to go in over a week.  I love these new studded tires.  I passed a sign reading 22 degrees on the way back.  Awesome!

I got back home and we hurried out the door to our friends' house for a great Thanksgiving dinner.  Not the same as being home with family but we still had a great time.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Danny MacAskill - "Way Back Home" - NEW street trials riding short film

I love watching Danny MacAskill stunt videos. This is his newest. X-games stunts are awesome and the riders definitely go for the wow factor but Danny is a whole different kind of rider. His stunts are so fluid, beautiful and some are even beyond comprehension like how on earth do you balance a wheelie on your back tire and then do a front flip?! Just amazing. Enjoy!

Tires

I'll admit that I've been a bum lately and haven't done much biking (besides commuting) since my camp/touring experience.  That was largely due to the fact that I slit one of my road bike tires and my mountain bike tires were looking pretty bald.  It was also probably because its freekin' cold here and the weather has been just crappy.

After my camping/touring trip, I went nuts on the internet and finally found a set of tires for my road bike and my mountain bike.  Even though I've had the tires for a few weeks now, I hadn't installed them, mostly because its a hassle and I hadn't found time to do it.  So I let them sit in the garage for the opportune time, likely at the first snow fall when I'd switch to my studded tires anyway.  What?  Studded tires?  You heard me correctly, studded bike tires.
Anyway, the other day I walked out my office building to find a flat tire.  I started to pump it up hoping that it was a slow leak and I could get enough air in it to get me home.  No such luck, I found a 2" long 8d nail fully embedded in the tire.  I quickly patched the tube but while doing so, I realized how bald my back tire really was.  I'd die on the snow if I ever got stuck without my studded tires so I rode home and swapped my back tire for an old tire that matches the front tire.  (I'll save my new tires for the spring).  I swapped rear tires on the mountain bike and since I was already rolling, I swapped out the road bike tires for the new ones.  They look pretty slick with white stripes running along the tread.  I even fixed the flat on the trailer.

Now I was all set to ride again and wouldn't you know it, it snowed all Thursday night.  Friday morning I again swapped tires on the road bike to put on my studded tires.  I actually have spare rims for the studded tires so it wasn't too bad.  Besides the cold, I loved my ride in to work.  Those tires grabbed the road and I didn't slip at all.  My bad elbow is already thanking me.  It will be a long winter and I'm glad to have those babies to make it a little safer and more enjoyable.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Just hangin' on

Its been awhile since I blogged and unfortunately I haven't done a whole lot of riding in that time, hardly anything worth mentioning anyway, except for this one little incident.

Mike and I have been trying to ride at lunch although its somewhat hit and miss with our schedules and the changing to the cold weather has kind of turned me into a wuss.  I haven't acclimated yet.  Soon I'll be out in negative 10 degree temperatures without a second thought.  Its the 35-40 degree temperatures that are hard for me.  Its hard to dress for that.  You don't want too much clothing or you'll sweat like a pig but the bike jersey and shorts just don't cut it.  Even with the base layer, its still pretty cold.

Anyway, it did warm up last week a bit and we decided to go for a few rides down at Two Moon Park.  Mike has me lead since I know the trails better.  The trails were a little damp from the morning dew that hadn't quite dried out in the shady spots.  I decided to take the Mallard Loop because our usual route, the Weeping Wall Trail is a muddy mess right now.  We were going at a pretty good speed, talking as we rode.  I took a corner and rode onto a wooden bridge to cross the creek.  The next thing I know, I feel the intense pain of impact on my right side.  One second I was upright, the next, my bike and I were hanging over the edge of the bridge.  It happened so fast that I never saw it coming.  I guess wet leaves and wooden bridges make a horrible combination.

I let out a loud yell (I hope it was a yell and not a girly scream) and turned back to see Mike skid to a stop right before hitting the bridge.  He said, had I not yelled, I'd have a tire up my back.  Once I realized I was out of danger, I collapsed on my back onto the bridge to take in the situation.  I was hanging over the bridge, holding onto my bike in which I was also entwined and my leg was screaming with pain.  I pulled it together, sat up and put one foot on the slippery bridge while trying to pull myself and my bike back up.  I had no real footing and the pedal was jammed under the bridge.  It took awhile but after slipping and sliding all over the bridge and pushing the bike free, I was finally able to recover and get back on the bike.  We avoided the wooden bridges the rest of the day.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fully Loaded!

This weekend was our stake Boy Scout advancement / merit badge camp at a ranch just past Pryor, MT.  Adult leaders were to complete their outdoor training while the boys worked on two merit badges or finished up requirements for their Tenderfoot, Second Class or First Class ranks.  I needed to be at the camp but Sarah needed the car to take the kids to soccer Saturday morning and whatever errands she needed to run.  I decided, since there were enough leaders going to truck the boys out there, that I would pedal on out the 37 miles to the ranch.  Somewhere along the way I got the idea that I would also haul all of my gear out there.  I went and bought a rear rack for the bike and borrowed a set of panniers from Chris (who was excited to hear all about my adventures this weekend wishing to don the panniers himself one day).  I stayed up late Thursday night loading up the bike, debating over various items, gauging whether the weight was worth hauling it for the weekend.  The biggest debate was the tent.  At 8-1/2 lbs. I figured I was better off without it knowing I could crash with someone else.   I wish I'd weighed all my gear to get an idea of what I was hauling but I'm sure it was over 40lbs, much of which was just the panniers and rack before all of the gear was added.  This is what I finally settled with.


I planned to leave early on Friday, attempting to reach the ranch by 5pm.  A late running meeting and a few phone calls at work prevented me from leaving until 3:00 pm.  It was a race against the clock now.  I wanted to get far enough that I wouldn't feel obligated to hop in a vehicle as the other leaders passed so I'd get there at a decent hour but not travel fast enough to burn myself out too early.  As I set out the weather really made me question my sanity in this venture.  It was windy, really windy, and had been sprinkling all day and even though the forecast called for a clear day in Pryor, there was no sign of it letting up.


I trucked on for the first three miles on a flat while trying to acclimate myself to the extra weight and bulkiness of the bike.  Surprisingly, the extra weight wasn't a big issue on the flats.  Maintaining a good speed was easy, accelerating was the hard part, especially into the wind.  On my three mile flat I turned over 3,000 miles on my road bike, and of coarse, being the nerd I am, I had to snap a picture.  This is the only picture of my trip.  


After turning up Blue Creek Road (South Billings Blvd.), I fought the cross winds up the 13 mile, 800 foot climb to the top.  I am very familiar with this part of the road so the climb was actually pretty easy, even with the extra weight.  I just geared down a little further to compensate.  After reaching the top, I let loose and coasted down the backside, descending 400 feet in 3 miles.  The easy part of the ride was now over and to my surprise, I was still ahead of the other leaders in their trucks.

The second half of the ride is the most grueling part of the ride.  Already weary from the first 18 miles, I had to battle the tedious 18 mile, 600 foot climb ahead of me.  The climb is just shallow enough to be deceiving.  At points, it looks as if you are not climbing but your legs tell you otherwise.  Your head says you should be going faster while your legs scream for a break.  Having done the ride previously, I decided to listen to my legs instead and took the climb at a more comfortable pace.  Traffic started picking up several miles into this climb as the masses of boy scouts and leaders were flocking to the ranch.  My troop soon passed me with cheers of encouragement while the leaders most undoubtedly rolled their eyes thinking they'd be part of the search party later that night.

The tedium of the monotonous climb, pounding crosswinds and drizzling rain locked me into a trance.  I counted miles, doing fractions in my head to keep my mind active.  1/12 done, 1/10 done, 1/8, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2!  Half way there!  2/3 of the way.  3/4!  Alright.  Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw it. Something that snapped me back into reality and then a panic.  Two bulky rottweilers were tearing down the drive right at me.  I looked down at my bike computer, 12 mph.  Nowhere near fast enough.  I jumped out of my saddle, mashing down hard on the pedals.  I could feel my bike flexing with the load on the back swaying back and forth.  Huffing and puffing now, I finally reached 20 mph, not fast enough but all I could sustain.  The dogs were on both ankles now, keeping pace with me.  I sat back down resigned to the fate of a few dog bites and a bad crash.  I watched the dogs closely, ready to react when they finally attacked, but they seemed confused by the circular motion of my feet as they pounded the pedals.  Then it happened, as if I'd crossed some unmarked boundary, they both ran out of steam and back off in unison.  I didn't dare slow down until I'd left them far behind.

Now I was very close to Pryor, and although exhausted and starving, I found new energy in this slightly familiar landmark.  It meant only two more miles to go.  Tempted by the roadside diner, I reluctantly passed by, rode through town and stopped at the gas station to call Sarah to let her know that I'd arrived.  I'd soon be out of cell service, but I'd made it, or so I thought.  The excitement of reaching Pryor quickly wore off as I struggled to finish the last two miles and 200 foot climb of the trek.  Relief overcame my tired, windburned and frozen body as I saw the ranch ahead.  I eagerly turned onto the dirt drive looking forward to warm clothing and a satisfying dinner.  That's when I saw the creek running over the drive.  Usually the creek is only a few inches deep and 20 feet wide, but it had swelled to a wide, murky mess, now about 200 feet across.  Desire to be done with the ride clouded my judgment as I took off down the road on my skinny tires trying to ford the river.  I made it 15 feet before my bike was swallowed up and came to a halt.  I slammed my right foot into the freezing water and pushed my bike as far as I could trying to keep my left foot dry.  Before I knew it my left foot, still on the pedal, was under water.  Realizing that there was nothing left to lose, I dipped both numb and soggy feet into the water and walked the rest of the way through the creek.

A cold, tired, hungry and humbled man rolled into camp as jaws dropped all around me.  My boys rushed me with all kinds of questions.  I tried to respond the best I could but all I could think about was dry, warm clothes and hot food in my belly.  In hindsight, I think I was probably suffering from the onset of exposure.  I shivered all night, even with dry pants, socks, shoes, a long-sleeved t-shirt, fleece pullover, and rain jacket.  I couldn't shake it until I crawled into my sleeping bag.

Friday night we started our outdoor leadership training as the boys broke off to do patrol activities.  The adults formed patrols and selected a patrol mascot and yell.  We then gathered for a quick fireside and turned in.

Saturday was still cold and rainy.  We ate soggy pancakes and sausage in the rain and then continued our training while the boys worked on merit badges.  Our training was a speed dating version of tenderfoot, second class and first class ranks, compressing months of work into three hours.  It was all information that we should know anyway and I was actually fun in its own way.  We were done by lunch and lunch was well worth all the cold, rain, and exhaustion.  Incredible chicken thighs and legs accompanied by some delicious scalloped potatoes, a sweet dutch oven apple dish, scones and an incredible corn pudding.  I ate until my gut burst, then threw in a couple scones for good measure.  I knew I'd need the carbs for the ride home.

After lunch, we worked with one of our 11 year old scouts on his first class requirements, showing him how to use a compass and other orienteering skills.

It was finally time to pack up and leave.  The rain had stopped and it warmed up a little but still no sign of the sun.  I caught a ride over the creek which was a great relief.  My shoes were moist but not soggy like the night before.  I started down the road and quickly got up to a 25 mph pace as I headed toward Pryor.  My feet didn't lie to me the day before, there really was a good incline.  As I pulled into Pryor, I attempted to stop to call Sarah and let her know I was on my way home.  Just then three dogs came barreling down the road towards me.  They weren't ferocious dogs like the rottweilers but I still didn't feel like chancing it.  I finally stopped at the edge of town to call.

As I pedaled back, making great time, I was passed by several caravans of honking scouts and leaders as they recognized the crazy guy who rode his bike to the campout.  I took it as encouragement.  Although I was really moving and felt good, I anxiously watched the scenery to my right, watching for an ambush from the rottweilers.  Then out of an unfamiliar field I head barking and saw three sheep dogs racing toward me.  I was out of reach before they even hit the road.  Not long after that I saw to brown flashes flying down the drive ahead of me.  Dangit!  Those stupid rottweilers got the jump on me.  Again, I jumped out of the saddle and mashed hard on the pedals reaching 27mph.  They didn't stand a chance.  I passed them and was long gone before they had a chance to react.  Victory!

After evading the dogs, I was able to enjoy the remainder of my ride.  Even the last 3 mile climb to the top of Blue Creek Road wasn't too bad.  Then came the fun stuff.  A sharp, 400 foot drop in less than one mile with a steep but short climb at the end.  I flew down the hill and pushed hard to climb the other side as far as I could without slowing.  Huffing and puffing, I finally crested.  Slowly I tried to regain a good pace.  Psssst!  Psssst.  Psssst.  I felt an odd sensation on my leg as short blasts of air blew by.  That was the fastest flat tire I'd ever experienced.  100psi to completely flat in about 3 seconds.  I stood on the road for a minute examining the damage and evaluating the best way to turn my fully loaded bike over and fix the flat.  I finally got the bike over and took off the tire.  To my dismay, the actual tire was slashed and should probably be replaced now.  I slapped a patch on the tire and the tube hoping it would carry me the last 10 miles home.  As I repaired the tire, two concerned cyclists stopped and offered help.  They were relieved to discover I wasn't a touring cyclist from Massachusetts stranded with a bad tire 10 miles outside of Billings and that my wife could easily come to my aide if needed.  I guess the panniers gave me the temporary status of a whole different class of cyclist.  It felt good.

As I hit the road again, the sun finally plunged under the clouds as it retired for the night.  The valley ahead was lit up in amber and gold, quite astonishing giving the drab gray scenery I was in.  I finally crossed into the sunlight enjoyed the glowing ball of fire that I hadn't seen for two days but it was short lived as I ducked behind another ridge.  Anxious to get back home before dark, I picked up the pace when again Psssst!  Psssst.   Pssssst.  And that air blowing on my leg again, not more than half a mile from the first flat.

I managed to change my tube just as darkness fell around me.  I committed to riding in the travel lane rather than the shoulder to avoid more debris and flats.  I finally made it home after 7pm, in much better spirits than the day before but anxious for a warm shower and soft bed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two Moon Park

Well, I've been a bum since the MS ride and have hardly been back on my bike since with the exception of commuting too and from work so I was excited when Mike called me up and asked if I wanted to ride.  We decided to meet up last Monday (a week ago) but I forgot to call and confirm it.  Feeling guilty, I went out to meet him at 6:00am just in case he showed.  Its dark and cold at 6am now and it wasn't really that pleasant.  Mike was a no show so I took off by myself and did an easy ride on the bike path.  I must have encountered 20 deer on the ride, a few who were determined to take me out.  It was a good ride though and I had forgotten how good my road bike feels.  I need to use it more often.

Anyway, yesterday Mike and I finally met up for a mountain bike ride through Two Moon Park.  It was good to catch up.  We did a lot of pedaling in too.  I met up with Mike a little earlier than I usually leave so we had 10 extra minutes to goof around.  No animals this time but it was still fun.  As we left, I warned Mike to shift down for the long climb up the switch backs.  He shifted down and easily cranked his way up the hill, however, my chain wouldn't catch leaving me in a higher gear.  I had to stand up the whole climb putting down enough force on the pedals to keep the bike moving but not enough to spin out the back tire.  My tire slipped at the end of almost every stroke but I was able to push through.

Today I tried to meet up with Mike again but couldn't reach him so I went by myself to Two Moon Park.  Another nice ride, and again I left early so I got in a few extra minutes of ride time.  I was so pooped by the time that I climbed out of the park that I struggled to keep my pace at 10 mph.  It didn't help that I fought a head wind all the way back to the office either. 

These last two rides have been good for me.  I'm hoping I can dig myself out of this slump and get moving again.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Riverfest

What a bum I have been lately.  Ever since the MS 150 this year (which was awesome, see Tree Squirrels post) I have been feeling pretty wiped out.  Not because the MS 150 wiped me out but because a nasty stomach bug hit our house right afterwords.  Since then I've only been on my bike to commute to work, went mountain biking once, and rode the road bike to the church on Wednesday night. I wanted to go yesterday but the freezing rain kept me indoors.

I found out about a mountain bike race this weekend and although there was very limited information and this weekend has turned out to be brutally cold for September, Chris convinced me to give it a try.  The race was called Riverfest and was held at Riverfront Park.  I entered in the Mountain Bike Sport Class which was a 7 mile loop around the park (originally supposed to be 2 loops before our Arctic blast rolled in).   The girls both had soccer games so Sarah and I had to arm wrestle to see who got to race.

I rolled out the door just after 9am this morning covered head to toe to shield me from the 38 degree temperatures and wind, at least there wasn't rain like yesterday.  I rode over to the park and to get a leg up, I rode some of the course knowing it was going to be the sloppiest part of the race.  To my surprise, they cut a new trail to bypass the worst part of the mucky mess, something I'd struggled with all summer.  Unfortunately this new trail wasn't much better since it was freshly cut, muddy and not compacted.  But at least I knew what to expect.

We started the race in a Le Mans start, a short sprint to your bikes and off you go.  Not my strongest start because I always have troubles clipping in with my dual sided pedals, the clips always seem to be down and I have to fumble with them to clip in.  We started and I was the second to my bike but I quickly dropped to the back of the pack while trying to clip in.  I could see the lead pack ahead of me and I huffed and puffed to keep up.  I was feeling pretty good about being on the tail end of this lead pack although I could hear others not too far behind.  I was huffing and puffing at this point and wondered how long these guys could keep it up.  Before long the pack peeled away and I only caught glimpses of them through the trees.

As we crossed the bridge onto Norm's Island, I caught a glimpse of the pack again.  They were spreading out.  Before long I overtook two people.  Everyone else was long gone.  Soon I was riding by myself with no sign of anyone ahead or behind me.  I eased back on my pace just a bit to something more comfortable but still aggressive.  The going was tough with mud caked to my wheels with short respites on paved or graveled trails to fling the mud off.  Before long I was in the home stretch with familiar trails, stuff I ride all the time.  I knew then, if I had a chance to overtake someone, it was then.  I took off into the canopy and approached the split in the trail that I'd seen this morning.  I hit the turn hard and too fast!  The back wheel slipped and I had to dip a foot.  What's worse is that I lost all momentum and had to push myself up the mucky hill and then struggled to clip back in.  I knew this mistake cost me but I still pushed it.

After I broke into a clearing, I looked back to see someone on my tail about a hundred yards back.  I hit the gas and took off.  This part was pavement and knowing that I'm not the strongest road rider, I pushed it hard so he wouldn't overtake me.  Up ahead the course split from the pavement and onto the grass with the finish line in the visible distance.  I peeked back and couldn't see the other rider.  The grass was rough and I bounced so much that I had a hard time focusing on the finish line.  I saw someone riding towards me which I thought was weird.  As I approached the other rider, I realized we were riding the same direction.  I stood up and tried hard to overtake him but didn't have enough distance to do it.  I finished about 50 feet and just a few seconds behind him.  Bummer, because he took 3rd place overall.  I took 4th.  (I won't mention how many riders there were overall but the showing was scant).  Seeing that Chris took second and I was just seconds behind the third place rider, I feel pretty good about it.  Chris took two golds and a silver medal at the Big Sky State Games.  I feel pretty good anytime I can keep him in my sights even for a few miles.

See Billings Gazette article for more info including that awesome picture above!
And Video

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ales For Trails

I was out for a lunch ride the other day and got stopped by a crowd of cyclist filming the promo for the Ales for Trails fundraiser and they asked me to be part of it. I'm the smurf in the dark blue with the red helmet. At least I wasn't wearing bike shorts!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

NAMI Bike Ride

Check out Our Tree Squirrels NAMI Bike Ride Post!



Friday, August 13, 2010

Russ J***** Talks to Animals

45 Miles

I rode up on a wood chuck sitting on the road today.
"Hey woodchuck.  You're going to get run over." 
(Woodchuck doesn't move.) 
"What's the matter woodchuck?  What's it like to be a woodchuck?" 
(Woodchuck looks up and bolts.)
"Alright then.  Nice talking to you woodchuck.  Say 'hi' to your mother for me, OK." 

I approach a deer as I'm climbing the toughest part of the hill with the wind in my face.
"Hey deer.  How's it going?  Hey dear, give me a tow, would ya!"
(Deer looks at me and bounds off leaping over the fence and disappears.)
"Alright then.  Nice talking to you deer.  Say 'hi' to your mother for me, alright"

If you didn't get it, watch this SNL link.

I got up early this morning and pedaled over to Mike's house in the dark.  I watched an awesome sun rise over my shoulder.  I've never appreciated sun rises before I began riding with Mike, mostly because I'm never awake enough to see one.  It's all up hill to Mike's house and I was struggling to wake up in the 8 miles before I met up with him.  We finally met up and pedaled down the trail.  We took it easy, gabbing and catching up from our two week hiatus.  Round trip, I had in 27 miles before I even went to work.  Add in my 3 mile round trip commute to make it an even 30 miles.

I don't really know what possessed me, but I decided to do a lunch ride up to Pictograph Caves and back, another 15 miles for a total of 45 miles today.  It was really cool outside when I started the ride, probably about 60 degrees.  That was part of the appeal.  It was also overcast and somewhat drizzling on and off.  I started out cold but eventually warmed up as I cranked it up Colburn Road to the TV antennas.  I made really good time even though I fought a slight headwind on my way up. 

As I approached the drop off on the other side, I determined I had time to go to the bottom and come back up.  I'd have a headwind going down so the ride back up shouldn't be so bad.  As I flew down the hill, I gripped the brakes hard.  I was uneasy with the combination of speed, wind and wet asphalt so I played it safe.  I still had some time when I made it to the bottom so I went the rest of the way in to Pictograph Caves.  I've never made it that far during a lunch break. 

As I turned around at Pictograph Caves something horrible happened.  The wind shifted and picked up.  I was now fighting the wind that was supposed to blow me up the mile and a half long hill.  Grrrrr!  I shifted down and grunted as I cranked the pedals, thighs burning.  That's when I came across the wood chuck (ground hog for you Easterners) and I actually did speak to it.  "Hey woodchuck.  You're going to get run over!"  When I had to swerve because it didn't move, I did ask "What's the matter woodchuck?"  I exagerated the rest.

Still huffing and puffing up the hill, I came upon a doe mule deer.  She bounded away from me effortlessly up the hill.  I watched in amazement and that's when I mustered the breathe to shout "Hey dear, give me a tow, would ya!"  Again, I exaggerated a little after that.  I promise, talking to animals isn't a normal occurrence, besides 'mooing at the cows, but it did give me that extra push I needed to get me up the hill and take my mind off the wind and cold.  I was glad to get back to the office, also a rare occurrence.

After work Sarah and I played three aggressive games of racket ball.  I'm pooped and I still have to get ready for our 33 mile NAMI ride tomorrow morning.  Hope I survive the weekend.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Been awhile

18 Miles

Its been awhile and although I have been riding, I haven't been riding enough.  Deadlines at work and projects at home have gotten the best of me.  I've been so exhausted lately that I've been lucky to hop on my bike to commute to work.  I did get a few lunch rides in during the last two weeks but I struggle to open my eyes even at 7am right now so morning rides were out.  So it was great that the youth in my ward decided to do an evening bike ride on the rims before their "Iron Man" activity celebrating their completion of reading the Book of Mormon in 60 days.

I took advantage of the opportunity and left work early to pedal the mountain bike trail on the east side of the rims to the parking lot where we'd be meeting.  It may have been my desire to get in some extra mileage or my dread of climbing 27th Street.  Its one tough, steep climb with cars whizzing past your elbows.  The route I took was a combination of paved trail and single track.  I had a great time flying over the obstacles and even tried the drop that Mike and I discovered last time we rode the trail.  I didn't completely make it but I stayed on the bike.  I need to let go of the front brake and I think I'll do fine.

I met up with the youth exhausted, hot and sweaty.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep up or perform very well.  We sat around, tinkering with bikes and waiting for others to show.  The longer we waited, the more energy poured back into me.  By the time we left I was ready to roll.  I was directed to lead the pack.

We had a slow start but quickly gained momentum.  I stopped the group as we approached the large drop off of the boulder to warn them of the obstacle ahead.  I leaned over to another leader, Nathan, and asked if he was going to do it.  Of course he just jumped on his bike and rolled right of the edge.  Nothing to it.  Except that in my last attempt, which was successful, I busted my bike up pretty bad and had to buy a new crankset and saddle.  It's freaked me out ever since.  Since Nathan made it look so easy, I felt obligated to drop of the rock as well.  That dang ego of mine!  I approached but couldn't get clipped in in time.  I yelled, "I'm not going to do this!" but by then Nathan had already pulled out the camera.  I went back for a second approach but still couldn't clip in and stopped again.  What the heck.  I let go of the brakes and rolled right off the edge down the crevasse in the rocks and cleaned it (without being clipped in) with little effort.  What have I been so freaked out about.  I think I finally got over my mental barrier.

I found myself leading again down the trail.  I slowed as we approached another obstacle to warn the riders behind me.  Its an easy roll down the face of a rock onto the trail, a sharp turn, and then back up the hill but I have seen it get the best of a couple riders.  The last thing we needed was a broken leg or bad gash from a crash.  I went first and showed the kids how to get down.  I navigated the obstacle perfectly.  However riding back up the trail my back wheel slipped and my front wheel grabbed in some strange combination that left me completely helpless.  Yes, I crashed.  I smacked a tree and went up and over the handle bars.  Hurrying to get out of the way of the other riders, I tugged on the bike but the bike tugged back.  Somehow some brush got caught in my rear spokes, cassette and derailleur.  It may have even caused my wreck.  I had to carefully pull the brush out of all the components before I could get back on the trail while trying to regain whatever pride and composure I could muster up.  Unlike most of my other crashes, this time I had witnesses.

I lead the pack the rest of the way back.  We finally made it to the church house, 45 minutes late for the activity, wolfed down whatever food they had left and enjoyed the remainder of the program.  After the activity, I pedaled home and cleaned up.  While sitting on the couch with Sarah almost an hour later, I looked down and saw this:
I don't know what that lump was.  I didn't notice it in the shower. I showed Sarah a nasty scratch on my shin after I got home and she didn't see the lump either.  I just reached down to scratch it and there it was, a big honkin' goose egg about 5 inches long and raised an inch or two off my leg but there was no discoloration and it didn't hurt.  Sarah freaked and wouldn't look at it.  I quickly put an ice pack on it and it disappeared just as quickly as it appeared in the first place.  Weird.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Molt

53 Miles
I met up with some fellow riders from the Conoco Phillips MS team today and rode out to Molt and back.  I was pretty tired starting out and my knees were really bothering me to the point that I questioned being able to make it up the hills.  I rode out 10 miles to meet up with the team and get myself warmed up before we started.  By the time I got to the starting point I was feeling much better although I did take two Aleve and a Claritin when I got there just to be sure.  We started out pretty slow but I was patient knowing everyone else was starting out cold and I was already warmed up.  I tried to stay with the group and even hung back to talk to one of the riders but once we hit the hills I attacked.  Hills are kind of my thing and I hate to creep up them no matter how painful it might be, unless it's the endless "hill" we call the Beartooth Highway.  I quickly moved from the back of the pack to the front leaving everyone else behind.

We stopped at the top to wait for everyone else.  While stopped a mountain biker passed us.  We watched him ride off in the distance.  Then I mentioned to Don, "We can't let a mountain biker beat us to Molt!" and Don and I took off charging towards the mountain bike.  We kept a 20+ mph pace and at one point hit 34 mph.  We saw the mountain biker up ahead.  He was stopped at the side of the road waiting for someone.  We whizzed by, pretty anti-climatic if you ask me.  Here we thought we were racing and this guy just pulls over and lets us take it.  Oh well, it was kind of fun anyway.

We rode Molt Road to Buffalo Trail and took Buffalo Trail down the canyon.  We fought a headwind down the canyon so we had to work even on the downhill.  We got to the bottom of the canyon and in no time, we were back at our start point.  I said my good byes and cranked back home to meet Sarah and the girls in the front yard working in the flower beds.  My bike computer read 49.5 miles and I really wanted to get 50 in today so I pedaled with Sydney around the block a couple of times.  Tara got jealous so I they both followed me around the neighborhood for awhile.  I must have looked pretty silly all decked out in my cycling gear putting along at 6 mph with my two girls riding their bikes right behind me in dresses and no helmets.  (Spur of the moment thing.  We forgot the helmets.)  I had finally had enough and took the girls back home with 3-1/2 more miles on the bike.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Paved paradise and put up a parking lot"

10 Miles

"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone?  They paved paradise and put up a parking lot!"

Ooh!  Believe me, you don't know how painful it was to quote such a lame song but it's kind of the way I feel.  I finally made it back to Riverfront Park this afternoon.  I haven't been back since the Yellowstone River flooded and turned the park into a mosquito infested swamp.  I wanted to go back today to check it out.  Unfortunately part of my favorite trail was still under water but I was able to see a trail through the trees which took me around the mud hole.  I had to hop off the bike and lift it over some fallen logs while pushing the bike through the brush.  I made it through but not before the swarm of mosquitoes found me.  I quickly hopped on the bike and took off while brushing away the mosquitoes.

The park has really changed since I last bike through there.  With all the recent rain and flooding, the trails have become overgrown and sometimes barely recognizable.  Even the on the wider trails the weeds and grass encroach to the point that they appeared to be single tracks.  Worst of all, the park is redoing the trails, putting in gravel trails in place of some of my favorite mountain bike trails, hence the "paved paradise" quote above.  It wouldn't be so bad except the gravel is loose and really slows down your bike, plus the loose stuff pulls on your tires pushing you in all directions.  On top of that, the trail never was very technical but there were some dips, holes and roots to hop or avoid that made it a little more challenging.  They flattened the trail out now.  Its great for pedestrians but they have ruined it as a biking trail.  I'm sure they'll trim back the trees as well ruining the awesome canopy tunnels that give the trail its character.  Today I noticed that they have begun grading another trail for pedestrians. 

I guess I shouldn't gripe too much because its still an awesome park with plenty of mountain bike trails and single track left.  If I'd never ridden these trails prior to them grading and filling with gravel, I'd probably still think they were cool trails.  I just hope they know when to stop and which trails to leave alone.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stranded

I had to go to the church last night for scouts and since I decided to sleep in rather than ride in the morning, I decided I'd ride to the church instead of drive.  I got home from work and rapidly patched my tire and threw a spare in the bag.  All was fine until I was about a mile away from the church and 6 miles from home.  The back tire went flat.  I stopped to change the tire and watched the thunderclouds roll in from the West.  I quickly threw on my spare tube but as I did, I noticed it was a patched tube and not a new one.  Now, I have not had much luck with tire patches on my road bike so I knew I was in trouble.  I tried the tube and it seemed to hold air until I got it to about 50 psi and ...FFFFFF.... FLAT!  I then patched the old tube and threw it on.  Same thing.  I took a look at the spare and noticed that the stem was severing from the tube.  That one's trash.  My only hope was the old tube that was currently flat on my tire.  I had one patch left!

I  glanced up to see the storm rolling in.  It was getting dark too!  I looked around and across the park and saw the mall off in the distance.  "Scheels!  Awesome.  I'll go buy a tube and get back on the road."  Then I looked at my watch.  9:03.  Scheels and Sports Authority are now closed and my only bet was Walmart, about a mile and a half down the road.  I pulled my out my last patch in a last ditch effort to fix my tire before I conceded to the circumstances and hoofed it over to Walmart for an emergency tube.  Just then a gust of wind hit and blew the patch right out of my hand.  Nothing left to do but walk to Walmart, my favorite place on earth.

I called Sarah and told her of my plan but she would have nothing of it.  She was coming to pick me up.  The storm had already hit at home and was dumping buckets and breaking limbs.  She asked where I was but I didn't know.  Some park behind the mall somewhere.  We decided to meet at Walmart.  I still had it in my head that I was going to buy a tube and fix the tire.  Yeah, I don't make much sense when I am determined.  The determination ended a few moments later when the sky opened up and hit me with all it had.  The weather report said that we had .88 inches of rain in the 20 minutes it took me to walk/run to Walmart.  When I reached the end of the park, I could see the lights of the mall and through the torrent I could hardly see the Scheels sign.  Oh, if I had just given up earlier and walked to Scheels for a tube!  I tried to call Sarah to change our rendezvous point to the mall.  I was already completely soaked and I'd only gone about 500 yards.  No answer so I trucked on through the torrent.  The water on the streets and parking lots was 3 to 4 inches deep in places.  Gusts of wind pushed me down the street.  I took advantage of the tail wind and ran part of the way in the windiest moments.  My backpack now doubled its weight and its contents were soaked.  It was so heavy that I couldn't even keep it in place as I ran down the road.

I finally made it to Walmart and Sarah arrived just moments afterwords.  I bagged the notion of buying tubes, I just wanted to go home.  I threw the bike on the rack and jumped into the car, soggy, cold and shivering but still in good spirits.  Hey, it was an adventure!

I went back to Scheels today to pick up some tubes.  As I pulled out of the mall parking lot, I looked to my right and saw Target and to my left, no more than 200 yards away, was where I had the flat.  Yeah, I know!  Target sells bike tubes.  What a moron.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More wildlife!


I've been slacking off in my blogging again but not in my riding.  Mike an I have been riding almost every morning for two weeks.  We've done a couple of road rides but mostly mountain biking along the rims and Two Moon Park.  While riding we've seen deer, fox, frogs and turkey but evidently there is another animal to see on one of our favorite rides.  The sign above appeared at Two Moon Park over the weekend.  Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks is trying to figure out who posted the sign and verify whether or not there was a mountain lion encounter there.  FWP doubts there is an "aggressive" mountain lion in the park but also said that mountain lion sitings at Two Moon Park, the rims, Alkali Creek and along the river are not uncommon and that the mountain lions thrive in such a setting with so many deer and other game around.  Makes me want to strap on my helmet and go for a ride right now!  Maybe I'll have to use more caution from now on as I whip around the trails.  I'm sure a startled mountain lion reacts much differently than a startled deer and I'm not sure I want to find out what that reaction is.  It'd still be cool to see a mountain lion in the wild though.

Billings Gazette Article

This week Mike an I also found a new set of trails along the rims between the Main Street and 27th Street.  It eventually hooks up with the other trail that I've been riding up there but it has some fun obstacles and nearly impossible climbs.  The recent storms have washed out part of the trail and we had to find a different way down off the rocks onto the trail below.  Mike found a path with a drop off.  Problem is that you drop and have to land almost perpendicular to how you dropped.  Mike went first and almost endoed it before his back end dropped back down.  He's rubbing it in my face that he made it but I think he got lucky.  He can brag if he can do it again.  I tried twice, both times getting bucked off.  The last time I got launched over the front of the handlebars but held on.  The back end of the bike lifted up and swung over the top of me.  I'm sure it was a sight to see and I'm really surprised I didn't get hurt.  We thought this route would be the easy way down.  I'm now thinking I need to just bomb it straight down and just drop off the rock edge.  I will be a lot more impact but less technical.  Hopefully I can do it next time. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Shouting Match

20 Miles
I don’t know how I forced myself out of bed this morning and I barely remember riding out to the Y to meet up with Mike.  Maybe I was sleep riding.  I just hope I can adjust to this early morning schedule.  I really need to start going to bed earlier but Sydney and Tara have come to enjoy the night life of summer vacation, thus I can’t go to bed until they are in bed.
Anyway, we went for a nice hill climb this morning up Hillcrest Road.  Mike told me to go up a head to the end of the street and meet him on my way back since my “feet don’t see hills” and his know when there is even the slightest of inclines.  I took off up the hills, exhausting most of my energy.  I slowed to almost a crawl after I hit the flats up top near the end of pavement.  I reached the end then turned around and flew back down the road towards Mike.  The flats weren’t as flat as I thought they were.  When I found Mike a mile back he was stopped to change a flat.  I stopped to help but really to get my wind back.  We finished changing the tire and took off again.  Now Mike is much stronger on the decent than I am.  As he says “F=MA” or Force = Mass x Acceleration.  He has more mass.  Anyway, with much effort I was able to match his speed all the way down the road. 

At the steepest part of the decline approaching the intersection at the bottom of the hill, I watched as Mike approached two deer at the side of the road.  Suddenly a dark figure, probably a wood chuck, darted out in front of Mike and spooked the deer.  I hit my brakes.  Mike screamed!  The deer panicked and took off aimlessly kicking up dust everywhere.  One bolted down the road in front of Mike and the other tried to join her, crossing the street right behind Mike, nearly hitting his back tire.  I thought Mike was having venison for breakfast but somehow he pulled through.  I’m glad someone else got the deer experience for a change.

On the way back into town, I followed closely behind Mike, just to the left of his back tire.  We tried talking while riding and trying to stay out of the lane of traffic.  We hugged the white line as closely as we could.  Suddenly a white sedan erratically swerved around us with horn blasting.  In retaliation, Mike gives him a friendly wave (not sarcasm, seriously just a friendly wave).  Then we see another not-so-friendly wave from inside the vehicle, then brake lights.  Great!  This punk really thinks he’s got a leg to stand on by telling us not to ride bikes on the road.  “YOU CAN NOT RIDE SIDE-BY-SIDE ON THE HIGHWAY!” he yells repeatedly like a broken record.  At this point he is driving next to us swerving in and out of the turning lane, sometimes into oncoming traffic.  The whole time I’m thinking “We weren’t riding side-by-side and you are going to kill someone.”  We tried yelling back but his response was always the same.  What an idiot!  I don’t know what he was trying to accomplish but we weren’t listening and neither was he.  Mike finally yelled “Eat Rocks!” and then we ignored him until he drove away.  I don’t know how my riding near the white line was more dangerous than this guy holding up traffic while swerving all over the place.  What a moron.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Misadventures in Cycling

13 Miles
Monday was Sarah's and my anniversary so to celebrate we took the mountain bikes up on top of the rims for a joy ride.  Of course she enjoyed floating over the sandstone rims (I'll probably get corrected on the type of rock) with her new mountain bike with 4 inches of travel on the suspension.  Me, however, I got rattled to the core.

The ride started out to be treacherous with the trail leading to the main trail being washed out and rutted deeply from the last rain storms.  It was bad enough that we had to walk most of it.  The parts that we did attempt were challenging and I ended up slipping or hitting a pedal on the ground several times, once causing me to slam my knee on the handlebars.   We finally made it to the top and started the trail.  There were areas that were really washed out or covered by landslides there as well.  We took the trail slower than normal because we didn't know what to expect up ahead.

I pulled a Lance Armstrong on this ride.  Anyone following the Tour de France knows that Lance was involved in three collisions on Sunday in Stage 7 of the tour causing him to loose 10 minutes on the leaders and essentially ending his hopes at an 8th Tour victory.  My wrecks were in no way as severe as Lance's but they did hurt my ego.  I hit the ground with my pedals two more times, once bucking me completely off the bike and the other banging my knee on the handle bar one more time.  On the final spill of the evening I hit some loose sand and my back tire slipped sending me skidding to the ground.  Besides whacking my knee twice, I was not physically hurt from the wrecks but my pride was black and blue.  Sarah really showed me up on this ride.

It didn't last long though.  On our way home, while in Downtown Billings, the sky turned green, the wind kicked up, and it started pouring.  The rain was weird though.  Rather than dumping on us, it was a slow, steady rain with enormous rain drops that soaked everything they hit.  The roads were wet and slick almost instantly.  I hollered at Sarah to take a right but a little later than I should have.  She braked hard, locked the disc brakes, and her tires slid out from underneath her.  She hit hard.  When she was able to stand up she was covered with road grime and beneath the grime somewhere was some good road rash.

Regardless of our mishaps, we had a great time.  Not the most romantic anniversary date but it was sure fun despite the wipe-outs, bad weather and a flat tire. 




36 Miles
I've been riding again with Mike in the mornings.  This morning I met him at his house and we rode out towards Laurel for a country ride on flat roads.  I did 24 miles this morning with no incedents.

Later this afternoon I had a meeting to go to and couldn't get a company vehicle so I decided to pedal the 4 or 5 miles to the meeting.  I was already running late when I noticed my tire was completely flat.  I quickly pulled the tire off and found the problem, the valve stem had severed from the tube.  The tube was trashed so I pulled out my spare, a patched tube that had been sitting in my saddle bag for who knows how long.  I pumped it up the best I could and headed out to my meeting.

I missed the meeting so I talked to the client briefly, had him sign some documents and then headed over to the contractor's office to follow up and get his signature.  All was well until I was about halfway back to the office and noticed that my tire was getting spongy again.  I stopped to add some air and in the process I snapped the valve right off.  The tire still held air so I booked it back to the office as fast as I could hoping I could make it all the way.  I made it and it ended up being an 11 mile trip.

When I left the office this afternoon I felt the tire, really spongy, but I thought I'd give it a shot.  I made it about 50 feet before I decided to walk home.  Bummer!  In three years this was the first time I've had to walk the bike home.  And I was prepared with a spare tube and a patch kit but there's not much you can do when you destroy two tubes in one trip.

Monday, July 12, 2010

4,000

13 Miles
This morning Mike and I set off for our first morning ride of the summer.  I could barely crack my eyes open and tried desperately to wake my legs up before I met up with Mike.  I started to wake up as we rode out to Two Moon Park.  I definitely woke up once we got there.  It either rained last night or we had a really heavy dew.  Everything was soaked including the tall grass next to the trail.  The grass was weighted down by the water and laid down over the trail making it difficult to follow.  I felt like I was taking a cold shower first thing in the morning.  The grass was so wet that I actually had water sloshing around in my shoes before too long.  The trail was muddy too, and I mean muddy.  I had to gear down to get through a 30 foot mud puddle without dipping my foot.  Every time we stopped Mike complained about the mosquitoes and urged me to "Keep Moving!."  Definitely an interesting ride for the middle of July.

On the way to Two Moon Park I turned over 4,000 miles on my mountain bike.  I've had this bike for just over 3 years and it has really taken a beating.  In 3 years and 4,000 miles I have replaced the following components:
(2) Chains
(1) Rear Cassette - I completely broke an entire cog off the cassette.
(1) Crank Set (crank arms and front cogs) - I stripped the pedal out of the crank arm on a hard landing
(2) Saddles - One because of preference, one because of the hard landing mentioned above
(1) Rear rim - I need to true it up or replace it again
(2) Spokes
(2) Set of pedals -Purely because of my own preferences
(3) Water bottle cages
(1) Set of tires
(1) Set of brake pads
(3-4) Tune-ups and several repairs
(?) Tubes and Patch kits - I lost track long ago


Added Accessories:
Front and Rear Fenders
Front and Rear bike lights
Bike Computer (spedometer)
(2) Water Bottle Cages
Frame Pump
Saddle Bag
Set of studded snow tires with rims

I'm scared to add a dollar value to everything I've done to the bike.  It might have been cheaper to buy a new bike.
New

Experienced!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

2,500 miles (Road bike)

So I've laxed-off in both my bike riding and blogging in the last week.  We took an enjoyable trip to Idaho last weekend where we hung out with some friends in Island Park and did a little mountain biking and river rafting.  Then we headed out to Shelley to enjoy an Idaho Falls Fourth of July with my parents, grandmother and sister's family.  It was a great time and I have really missed being in Idaho Falls for the 4th, its been 10 years since I've been able to do it.  While there, I took a short 8 mile mountain bike ride along the canal to Gem Lake Reservoir.  It was a super muddy one.  I had to cut through a field as it was being irrigated.  I ended up in 6 inches of mud and water with no choice but to continue or stick my shoes in 6 inches of mud.  After all the excitement of the 4th of July, we took our time getting home and visited Yellowstone.  We had a great time an hopefully I'll get on top of things and blog about it all on  the family blog, http://tree-squirrels.blogspot.com. 

9 Miles
Because I was so wiped out from our trip and had a backlog of work to do, I was only able to sneak out once this week and do a ride.  I went to Two Moon Park and enjoyed the dry parts of the park although I did encounter some muddy sections.  I went back to the spot where I found the fox den hoping to see the kit foxes again.  No luck there so I turned down a trail called Fox Trot.  Out of the grass jumped a large adult red fox.  I followed it down the trail for at least 100 yards before it ducked back into the grass.  I'd always wondered why the trail was called Fox Trot.  At least I have an experience now to explain it. 

50 Miles
I slept in this morning and since I didn't have any real plans for today and Sarah didn't feel like riding at the time, I decided to take the road bike out and get some mileage in.  I did the Pryor Creek loop.  I really need to find out what kind of elevation change I encounter along this ride because it seems like all but about 8 miles is hills, and not gradual ones either.  I am pooped now and have been since I got back.  It was a nice ride but I felt that I was battling a head or a cross wind almost the entire ride except, of course, on the flats. On the way up the last hill I encountered a huge snake sunning on the road.  It wasn't a rattler but it was big enough that I gave it a wide girth.  

On a different note, I just turned over 2,500 miles on my road bike toady. I should have been months ago but I've been busy on Saturdays and have enjoyed playing too on the mountain bike.  In 2,500 miles (and two years) I have changed the chain once and bought new handle bar tape and desperately need to re-wrap the handlebars.  I have also gone through two water bottle cages and serviced the bike twice.  I only mention it because on my next ride on my mountain bike I will turn over 4,000 miles in just over 3 years.  I have a long list of things I've had to replace on that bike.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Planes, trains and automobiles

13.5 Miles
Pictograph Caves State Park

Planes, trains and automobiles.  That's about all I saw on my ride today.  Even a plane on a train (passenger jet fuselage).  And an automobile as it wizzed past inches from my elbow.  JERK!  It was a hot one, 90 degrees, and I opted for a road ride on the black pavement.  I am still sweating even after a cold shower. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Catch up

I was busy last week and although I squeezed in time to ride, I didn't have time to blog so I'm going to play catch up.  My last three rides were pretty much the same anyway.  Lots of mud and stinky, stagnant bog water, overgrown trails and debris from the storms and flooding of the last couple weeks.  Despite the hazards of riding the parks right now, my rides have been pleasant with new foliage, bright wildflowers and fuller canopies.  I have to admit that I'm riding a little slower now.  I'm having to relearn the trails because they have changed so much.  In places the grass is so overgrown that I can hardly see the trail.  Today I was in some grass that was up over my head while seated on the bike.  I might need to invest in a bicycle mower soon.  The tree limbs are heavier with leaves too so I have more head obstacles to worry about.  Lastly, debris has been scattered all over the trails from downed trees and things being washed up from the river.  Its been an interesting challenge.   

I'll just include some highlights from my last three rides.

9 Miles - Two Moon Park - June 28
I wish I had my camera today.  I stumbled upon a red fox kit playing outside the den.  I dropped the bike and snuck up a little closer to watch.  It was oblivious to me, then finally saw me and froze.  When I finally moved, the kit took off.  Then, out of the den pops another head, curious about the fuss upstairs.  Again oblivious to me, the fox look around a bit, saw me and froze.  This one was more curious and waited me out.  I moved and it ran to a safer distance and perched up on a log to watch me.  It was pretty cool.  I finally left but came back a few minutes later via a different trail to see another kit fox, or maybe the first had returned.   People always wonder why I go to Two Moon Park.  It's because of the wildlife that I don't see anywhere else.

Another adventure.  On the way back to the office today I was plugging along on 6th Avenue.  It's not the safest street to ride on but the shoulder is wide enough to ride comfortably with the traffic flying by.  On a good day I can almost keep up with the traffic.  While I was cranking I heard a large vehicle behind me.  I turned just in time to see a box truck barreling toward me half in the lane and half in the shoulder.  Luck would have it that there was a curb cut right there so I swerved onto the sidewalk just as the truck passed.   Whew!

10 Miles - Riverfront Park - June 25
 I won't be going back to Riverfront Park anytime soon.  It was so muddy and the stench of the stagnant water was horrific.  Parts were still flooded and I had to ride through some of it.  NASTY!  At one point I had to hop off the bike to walk around a big puddle.  While walking the bike, a twig got stuck in my spokes and wrapped itself around the rear sprocket.  After clearing the bog water puddle, I stopped to pull the twig out when it happened.  A swarm of killer mosquitoes attacked.  There was nothing I could do.  I had to pull the stick out of the spokes but I was busy swatting the nasty pests.  I finally focused on the stick and then got out of there in a hurry.  Every I had to stop they swarmed again.  I tried not to stop but there were too many obstacles and flooded trails to continue.  I came back to the office hot, wet, sweaty, tired, muddy, stanky (worse than stinky), and biten.  Not a fun ride.

9.5 Miles - Two Moon Park - June 24
Reoccuring theme, I'm going to get hit by a deer.  Those two young deer that I keep flushing out of the trees and scaring half to death decided to get even.  As I was riding along, one of the deer jumps out in front of me and takes off running.  As I'm watching this deer run along side the trail just feet in front of me the other bolts out of the trees crossing my path forcing me to hit the brakes hard.  I was so close to hitting that stupid deer, proabably my closest call yet.  My heart was pounding and I couldn't help but thinking about that scene in Jurasic Park where the parks game warden, Muldoon, is tracking the velocoraptor, has it in his sites, and the other one pops out of the trees right next to him.  "Clever girl," he says just before the raptor chomps on his head.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Father's Day

My kids (and wife) can read me like an open book.  My Father's Day gifts had a very definite theme this year.  Thanks girls!
 
Hope the jersey looks this good on me!

 I got a touring bike!  Well at least it will keep me dreaming until I get a real one.  I just need to hang it now.
 Makes me wanna go play!

Monday, June 21, 2010

I wish I had my camera today!

9.25 Miles

Still tired and stiff from a weekend of camping and water skiing with the boy scouts, I almost convinced myself to take the day off from biking.  With the tornado and torrential down pour that accompanied it yesterday, I assumed that all of my favorite trails would be inaccessable, flooded or just really muddy.  There is so much debris on the roads from the flash floods that road biking wouldn't be enjoyable so I almost stayed put.  That's when the idea of a true adventure hit.

I decided to ride right up to Metra Park where the tornado hit last night, then turn and ride up the Black Otter Trail to get an almost aerial view of the damage.  Morbid as that may sound, the idea really excited me.  I wasn't the only one trying to sneak a peak.  I took the same route that I usually take to get to Two Moon Park which leads me right through the Metra Park Complex.  As I approached the entrance, I could see the sports arena with the broken sign lettering and the roofing material hanging over the edge of the building.  Trees were completely uprooted and the parking lot was a mess.  Of course, they had the entrance blocked off so I had to turn North towards the Black Otter Trail.  My understanding of last nights events is that the tornado hovered over the sports arena, ripping the roof off and then headed right up the rims, directly where I was headed.  There was debris everywhere.  I could hardly view the damage because I was so focused on dodging the pieces of rigid insulation, roof membrane, metal flashing, building paper, and other miscelleneous building debris.  I made my way up to the Applebee's parking lot and looked back to see the entire roof and north wall of the sports arena ripped off.  What a mess.  I got an even better view from the Black Otter Trail on top of the rims.  I really wish I had a camera today.

Now, I don't delight in the misfortunes of others and am very glad that no one was seriously hurt.  Other than the Metra Park, very few businesses were affected and, as I understand it, no homes were damaged, not by the tornado anyway.  However, I am just in awe of the shear force of this tornado and all the damage it was able to do in just a matter of minutes.  And this was just a small tornado, an EF-1 or EF-2 according to the lattest report.  The power of nature, WOW!
Image from the Billings Gazette
Image from the Billings Gazette

Northern Idaho Adventures

We had an awesome trip to Northern Idaho last week.  I detailed the trip in our family blog at Tree Squirrels so go take a look.  For the sake of consistency, I thought I'd add a few pictures from the trip here.

Spokane River Rafting
14 Miles

(Sorry, no pics.  We didn't want to get the camera wet.  We sure got wet though.)

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes / Osborn, ID
22 Miles

We found a logging road above Osborn with a 2,000 ft climb over 5 miles and we couldn't resist.  We pedaled 4 miles along the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes from Wallace to Osborn and then cranked it up Capital Mountain near the top.  The directions we got from the internet were less than helpful so we turned around before hitting the summit to make sure we got back before dark.  The views were incredible.


Looking down on the valley below.  We started at the bottom.

This is near the top just before we turned around.

The Route of the Hiawatha
30 Miles

The Route of the Hiawatha is a rail line that was converted to a hiking/biking trail over some pretty rugged terrain.  It was the most expensive section of the entire rail line from Chicago to the West Coast.  The 15 mile stretch includes 10 tunnels and 7 steel trestle bridges.  There were several more trestle bridges along the trail that were filled in during the rail line operation.  The views were amazing.  We started at the bottom and cranked our way up the 15 miles and 1,000 feet of climb to the top.  The trail ended with a 1.7 mile long tunnel straddling the Idaho/Montana border.  It was a surreal experience.

View from one of the trestle bridges

Looking down from the tallest bridge

One of the bridges off in the distance

A trestle bridge ending into a tunnel

Cruising along the trail

Sarah infront of the waterfall just before the long tunnel

Entrance to the St. Paul Pass (Taft) tunnel - 8,771 ft long

Incredible.  Can't wait to do it again.