Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gail force winds

8.5 Miles
Chilly, rainy, and windy enough to blow you over

Sarah and I saw Mike and Marcia on Monday and Mike decided he wanted to do a ride during lunch so we ventured out today.  I had no idea how windy it was or I would have insisted on a different route but we decided to do the Black Otter Trail on top of the rims.  Now, if you remember, this is Mike who always complains that 'my feet don't see hills' and we climbed for the majority of the ride.  I smoked him and felt a little bad about it but he was in a hurry so I tried to push him a little.  We did get a chance to visit, shouting through the 30 mph winds.  We finally finished the climb and turned down 27th Street to go back to our offices.  I hopped on my bike and start pedaling while Mike took full advantage of the new tail wind and steep down hill slope and zipped right past me.  I wasn't going to let up so easily and took off after him passing at 48 mph.  I then tucked in behind a minivan to ride out the rest of the hill.  Of course, what do I see next?  Mike is not only passing me, but passing the minivan in the left lane going atleast 45 mph.  I got up behind him and followed him down the hill passing two more vehicles.  When he started weaving in and out of traffic I decided that was too much for me.  I do have a family to provide for after all.  When I caught up with him and told him how insane he was for passing a vehicle at 48 mph, he busted up laughing for the next three blocks.  He still won't believe me that we were going that fast.  I clocked a new maximum speed on my bike computer today.  I'll have to take a photo and post it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lost and Found

10 Miles
46 Degrees

Nearing the end of my ride at Chico Hot Springs mud started slapping me in the face as I sped down the hill.  Thinking this to be quite odd since my front fender usually blocks tire projectiles, I glanced down to see nothing but my tire.  I panicked, turned around, and climbed back up the hill to a particularly rough spot where I got a stick caught in my wheel.  I searched around but found nothing.  Then I started thinking back to loading and unloading the bike in the car.  The fender should have gotten in the way and I would have removed it.  This lead me to believe that I'd lost it last week on one of my rides around the Billings area.

I have three favorite mountain bike rides that I can do in the short time that I have for my lunch break and I did all three of them last week.  The last ride I did was to Two Moon Park and although this is the easiest of the three rides, I rode it hard last Thursday.  I also vaguely remembered spotting something dark that could have been my fender on the trail but it didn't register since I thought mine was still on the bike.  So today, although it was cold and windy and I wasn't feeling quite to par, I decided to check it out.  I rode into the park and to my astonishment, at the entrance of the park there was a long, dark shape lying on the ground.  Wow, someone had picked it up and instead of tossing it in the garbage, left it for me to find and reinstall.  Awesome.  That really made my ride.  And Sarah will be happy to know that I don't have to run to the bike shop to purchase another must have part for my bike, especially since I already did once before.

I spent a few minutes reinstalling my fender and then I took off again.  Aside from finding my fender, the most momentous event of my ride was when I burst out of a thicket into a small clearing to see a young doe standing paralyzed on the trail in front of me.  I slowed down but continued to approach her.  She said frozen.  Finally I stopped several feet in front of her and un-clipped my shoe.  The sound of me un-clipping must have brought her out of her trance and she and another doe took off into the trees.  Its surprising how threatening I must seem to these deer while on a bicycle.  I've seen pedestrians walk past and they hardly flinch.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekend Moutntain Bike Ride

15 Miles
Cold, wet and windy
Chico Hot Springs, MT
Yellowstone National Park

I was in Chico Hot Springs this weekend for the final installation of our Uncommon Sense program focusing on "greening up" our businesses.  Brad and I represented my firm for the last two years bringing back information and implementing changes.  We graduated this weekend from the program.  Since I was so close to Yellowstone, I salivated at the chance to do a little biking in the Park.  However I didn't have a lot of time to do so and I didn't want to stray too far from Chico since I was on a business trip.  I found a nice mountain bike ride from the North Gate to Mammoth via the Old Gardiner Road.  Its a dirt road so I decided to take my mountain bike to Chico Hot Springs with me. 

Chico Hot Springs Trail - 4 miles
When I got to Chico, I thought I'd try a ride there as well so I talked to a guy at the guest services desk that showed me two trails I could try.  I got up early Friday morning and ventured out into the muddy hills above Chico Hot Springs.  The guy at the lodge swore that I could mountain bike it but I might have to walk part of it.  I'm pretty embarrassed to show only 4 miles for my morning ride, about an hour, but hopefully these pictures will help explain why.
So far so good.  A little muddy from the rain storm the night before but it was still ridable.

Nice rustic scenery even though it was still kind of dark.

Ok, there was so much mud and loose rocks on the trail that I had to shift down to my 24 inch gear here.  (24 inches = 2 feet.  I had to start walking if you didn't get the joke there.) 

Chico Pond.  Still walking here.

Near the top of my climb.  Still walking but looking forward to riding back down.  I had to ride my brakes the whole way.

Yellowstone National Park
10 Miles 
After my seminar was completed, I headed down to Gardiner for a short ride.  I say short because its only ten miles but I knew that it was going to be a challenge climbing 1000 feet in just 5 miles on a dirt road. 
Sarah and I have been talking for quite awhile about riding through Yellowstone National Park some day.  Even though I was about to embark on a very small adventure by comparison, I got really excited to ride under the Roosevelt Arch into the Park.  Notice the elk standing just inside the gate?

These guys made me nervous and I started to question riding a mountain bike through Yellowstone without the protection of a vehicle.  I gave the bull elk a wide girth and sped past them.  They didn't even look at me.  I figured it was going to be alright after that.

This is the beginning of the Old Gardiner Road.  I didn't take very many pictures after this one because I was too busy huffing and puffing as I struggled to climb the steep grades I encountered later on.

The entire road was pitted with elk and bison tracks.  I had to watch the road fairly closely because the elk had left big holes and trenches in the road.  That's when I saw several of these unwelcomed tracks.  After my ride, I showed a park ranger the photo and she said it was either a really BIG black bear or a grizzly.  Great!

As I climbed, I tried to take in all the scenery.  I was pretty focused on looking for grizzlies though.

As I rode along I kept hearing movement in the brush but couldn't see anything at all. As I rounded each bend, I scanned the hillside for that lurking grizzly, hungry from a winter of hibernation.  Ok, I wasn't really that concerned but I was cautious.

I came around another bluff and scanned the hillside above me an saw nothing but brush.  As I looked below I saw six cow elk staring right back at me about 20 yard away.  I stopped to watch them for awhile then went another fifty yards before I saw hundreds of elk scattered all along the hillside on both sides of the canyon.  They were everywhere and they were all focused on me.  It was a cool experience.  I've run into wildlife on my bike before but nothing like this.

I needed to photo document that I was actually here on my mountain bike.  I took several pictures just to prove it.
There are a couple elk behind me above the left side of my helmet.

Even though I was having a blast, I was really tired of climbing.  I was very glad to see Mammoth Hot Springs in the distance.

End of the Road in Mammoth.

Mammoth Hot Springs

I pulled off the road into a parking area to take some pictures of Mammoth Hot Springs.  When I stopped my bike, I looked to my right to see this guy just fifteen feet from me.  Maybe I'm not as observant as I thought.  Maybe that bear was tracking me all the way and gave up once I got into civilization.  Nah.  I think the rangers at the North Gate were just messing with me when they told me that there were grizzly sitings in Mammoth.  I don't know but a little paranoia did set in by the end of the ride.

I took the Old Gardiner Road back to the North Gate.  It went much faster.  In fact I had to ride the brakes much of the way down to stay in control of the bike.  It was a short but exhausting ride.  I think it was all worth it if nothing more than for this picture.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To clip in or not to clip in...

7.5 Miles
Black Otter Trail - Rims

Yesterday I didn't have much time for a ride so I chose a short one, mountain biking the rims next to the Black Otter Trail.  For what it lacks it distance, it sure makes up in difficulty with a 200 foot climb before even starting the trail and some hair-raising obstacles.  This is the first time I've done the trail since installing my new clipped pedals and I have to admit that I did chicken out on a few of the obstacles.  Being clipped in riding perpendicular to a steep slope with rough terrain was a little too much for my nerves.  I've discovered that I like more of the smooth trails where I can zip through the trees rather than slowly dropping off rocks and climbing loose sand.  I think its back to Two Moon Park today.

Monday, April 19, 2010

You got me rockin' now

11.25 Miles
Destination: Riverfront Park

OK, so I know I really shouldn't wear head phones when I'm riding but I love to listen to music as I ride.  To compensate for the loss of ambient noise, I ride much more observantly, scanning the road and area around me for potential dangers and I listen for the sound of vehicles over my music.  I feel like I've done a pretty good job at it too...until today.

I was cruising through Riverfront Park today during lunch and took a wrong turn that put me in some really tall and thick marsh grass.  I couldn't see anything but the trail and I could hardly see that.  I've taken this trail before and it gets really rough further down and then disappears.  I was in no mood to try that again, especially after picking ticks off of me all weekend at a scout camp out and a hike with the Sarah and the girls.  I found a side trail that I thought would get me out of there so I took it but had to stop almost immediately as the trail disappeared into the brush.  I dismounted and started to turn the bike around when all the sudden I hear the tell tale warning sign of a rattlesnake.  My heart leapt out of my chest and I froze while looking all around me, seeing absolutely nothing in the tall grass.  Where is this thing?  The rattle then slowed and turned more rhythmic and eventually blended into the music coming out of my headphones.  Dang maracas!

As I was heading back I found a small gully with a steep incline on the other side or in other words, a launch ramp.  I took off and hit the jump, flew up in the air and landed in the grass next to the trail.  Right then I saw some movement in the corner of my eye.  I briefly glanced over to the side and when I looked back, there was a big bush in front of me.  I hit the rear brake skidding the back wheel to the side until I skidding sideways into the bush.  Then, in some move straight out of the Matrix, I cranked hard on the pedal, leaned away from the bush and flung myself all the way around it and then veered back onto the trail.  Sometimes I wish someone was video recording my life so I could rewind and watch what happened.  This was one of those times.  The imaginary rattle snake incident however would not be. 

FYI.  I was listening to You Got Me Rockin' by the Rolling Stones right before the solo at 1:22.  I listened to it again once I got back to the office my heart skipped a beat again.  I'll have to edit that one out of my playlist.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Only in Montana

10 Miles
41 Degrees

I took advantage of the good weather yesterday (something that is lacking today) and went for a ride down to Two Moon Park.  As I rode over on the paved bike path, I came up behind a woman walking a horse.  Not wanting to spook the horse, I approached slowly and then quitely announced my presence.  The horse was aware of me long before it's owner and started dancing on the path while its owner tried to calm it down.  So who walks a horse on a paved bicycle path anyway, especially one as jumpy as this one?  I've been on bike paths in 11 states (most with rollerblades) and this is the first time I've encountered a horse.  Only in Montana.

Anyway, I made it around the horse without getting kicked in the head and made my way down to Two Moon Park.  No wildlife yesterday but plenty of people and dogs.  Still I had a great time and it felt like my break was over too quickly.  As I was riding, I started to hear an awful racket coming from my saddle bag.  I opened it up and found hex wrenches scattered all over.  I have a pocket wrench tool that I keep in my bag in case I break down.  All the bouncing on the trail caused one of the bolts to come undone and spill my hex wrenches all over the place.  Of course, I can fix my bike with the tools on hand but I now can't fix the tools to fix my bike.  It requires two separate hex wrenches.  Hopefully this never happens when I actually need to use the hex wrenches.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thar she blows

Sarah and I have met up for lunch for the last three days to attemp rollerblading and biking with Evie in the stroller or trailer.  Unfortunatelly the weather has not cooperated with us.  On Tuesday Sarah and I met up to go rollerblading on the Black Otter Trail on top of the rims with Evie in the stroller.  It was overcast and chilly but it looked like the rain may hold out long enough for us to finish.  Boy were we wrong.  We made it to the end of the trail when the rain started coming down.  We were pretty wet and cold by the time we finished.  Yesterday was bright and sunny so wet met up at the house to go for a bike ride. 

Sarah had Evie in the trailer behind her bike.  We took the Heritage Trail all the way to the Heights with a strong cross wind.  By the time we turned around, the wind had shifted enough that we fought it all the way back.  Although I wasn't pulling the trailer, I know what its like.  You know how drag cars release a parachute at the end of the race to slow down, yeah!  After I got back to work I had to go out to a job site but all of the cars were taken so I pedaled over.  I did 25 miles yesterday in that wind.

Today we went rollerblading again on the Heritage Trail.  This time the wind was fierce.  We had a cross wind that made it really hard to handle the stroller.  I had Evie in the stroller on the way out and had a slight tailwind which helped me get up the hills but pushed the stroller all over the place.  Sarah took the stroller on the way back.  The wind really started to pick up and we had to work just to go downhill.  I hope its not windy tomorrow.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Proud Dad

4.5 Miles

Sarah and I took the girls over to the trail for an evening ride after work.  We somehow loaded the jogging stroller, two kids bikes, two sets of rollerblades and five people into one car (I had to jury rig the bike rack to hold the girls' bikes.  Sydney has a 18" bike that she is almost too big for.  Tara has a 16" bike that she didn't want to use because she is still learning so she used her tiny 12" Dora bike that, up until a few days ago, had extremely bent-up training wheels attached.  The girls were so excited that once we got on the trail they took off in a sprint to outrun Mom and Dad.  I have to admit that it has been quite awhile since I've been on my blades and I had a hard time keeping up with Sydney.  I finally convinced Sydney to slow down before she burnt out.   I tried to tell Tara the same, but she's like the Energizer bunny that just keeps going and going and going and going...  It was funny watching the two ride together, Sydney with her big bike and Tara with her tiny one.   Sydney was riding hard but her legs had a good, slower rhythm.  Tara, on the other hand, with her small wheels, was pumping her little legs like powerful pistons.  That girl is tough.  We had a couple climbs on the trail, one that was over 100 feet tall.  Sydney slowly pumped up the hill and learned that if she stood up, she'd get more power to get up the hill.  Right behind was Tara, pumping her legs like crazy showing no signs of slowing down.

We made it over 2 miles before we decided to turn around thinking we'd worn out the girls and they might struggle to get back to the car.  O contraire, they were so excited to go back down the hill that they could hardly contain themselves.  We had drills at the top of the hill where we made them show us how to use the brakes (instead of dragging the toes of their shoes until they start smoking).  We had them ride their coaster brakes all the way down as Sarah and I struggled to slow our rollerblades for the decent.  They did great and begged to go back up the hill so they could come back down real fast.  They definitely inherited their parents' need for speed.  They had so much fun that they've been bouncing off the walls since we got home.  We'll definitely have to do it again.

Evie hanging out in the stroller. Sarah had control of the camera so no pictures of her.

"We say we're up, then we say we're down"

8 Miles
40 Degrees

I ate way too much candy for Easter! I feel like a hypocrite telling my kids not to eat so much candy and then I pork out on it. I guess, really, I don't want them to develop my bad habits. Too late for Tara but we may get it through to Sydney and Evie.

Anyway, I was devoid of energy this morning and moved in slow motion. I have to admit that with the stresses of my job in the last three weeks, other than commuting to and from work and participating in the 5k and bike crit last weekend, I haven't done anything strenuous for the last three weeks (besides trying to keep up with the kids). Sarah asked if I was going for a ride today and I hoed and hummed and told her I didn't think so because its cold outside and I didn't have my base-layer at work. Well, 12 noon rolled around and it still hadn't warmed up any. I squirmed a little and decided to go anyway. I brought my wind-breaker, which I bought for cycling but have never used it as such, to keep me warm.

I had my mountain bike today, which still has my slick tires on because I've been to lazy/busy to get outside and change them. I did get a chance to look at my pedals this weekend and cut and grind off the parts of the pedal that where interfering with me clipping in with my bike shoes. I thought I'd go for a test ride today. Climbing up the city streets on my way to 27th Street I saw a dirt trail climbing the embankment of canal which then cuts over to 27th Street (cutting out the scary traffic portion of the street.) I've never been able to get up the trail before but since I was clipped in and could push and pull myself up the hill, I thought I'd give it a try.  I got almost all the way to the top when the trail turned nearly vertical.  I jumped out of the pedals and threw my feet to the ground just before my bike started to roll backwards.  Gripping the brakes, I threw one leg over the bike frame so I could scramble up the embankment along side the bike, which was no easy task.  I finally pulled the bike to the top and pedaled off toward 27th street for my long climb up the rims when off to the left I saw another dirt trail climbing the embankment.  This one was steep but not as steep as the last one.  That's when I realized that this was the one that I'd tried climbing before, not the impossibly steep one I'd just attempted.  This one I could handle.

The rest of my ride was uneventful but pleasant.  I even warmed up enough that I took my jacket off, while riding, rolled it up and stuck it in my back pocket.  I was impressed that I could actually do it and make it look easy.  I ended up climbing 27th Street and taking the Black Otter Trail back down the other side.  It wasn't the longest ride, but it was a good way to jump back into the swing of things.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Downtown Crit and 5k

Last weekend Sarah and I rode in the first annual Downtown Crit race.  We had a blast riding the race and watching the other heats.  It was sooo fun and exhausting.  Man, that was a tough 30 minutes.  I already wrote about the crit race and the 5k that we did that morning on our family blog.  Check it out.

Me rounding a corner

Sarah rounding a corner

Friend Chris flying through an intersection

Russ and Sarah