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.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Feel the Burn

13 Miles

Today I felt ambitious, or antsy because my favorite trails are flooded, so I took the rims trail between 27th Street and Zimmerman trail.  Mike and I can do the whole loop in under an hour but that's starting from the trail head and not my office.  Because of this, I've never tried that trail during a lunch break.  But like I said, my trails are flooded and the other rims trail was more than I wanted to deal with today. 

I pumped the pedals up the hill almost to the top of 27th Street and finally cut over to the trail.  Usually we take a short breather to gather ourselves after that climb but I didn't have the luxory of time so I kept going.  I could feel my legs burning almost immediately.  I anxiously watched the clock until I reached the point where I felt I was committed to the ride and it would take longer to turn around and go back than it would to finish the trail and crank back on the street.  I had a great time.  I discovered that I am a little more sore than I thought I was from this weekend's rides in Norther Idaho (to be posted soon).  The bumpy rock surface of the rims rattled me to the core and I could feel my wrists, forearms, knees and thighs tightening up.  It was quite the work out for a lunch hour.  I made it back in just over an hour of ride time, longer than I wanted to take but pretty good considering the terrain and distance.

Now I'm pooped and my legs are rubber.  At least my mind has been refreshed and ready for another 4 hours of work.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I dipped! Literally.

8 Miles
Two Moon Park

Sometimes I find myself making really stupid decisions solely on the basis that if it doesn't work out my way, well then I will have a story to tell.  Well, I have a story to tell.

As I worked my way deep into Two Moon Park, I started to notice subtle differences in the trail.  Some typically dry parts of the trail were muddy although it hadn't rained since Monday.  There was debris on the trail in places I hadn't seen debris before and several tree branches were broken and hanging over the trail causing me to duck.  I found deer on the outskirts of the park in places I don't usually see deer.  And deep into the park near the creek the trail was flooded!  What!

I hit the brakes and skid to a stop.  I investigated a little and thought it was odd that this small creek had flooded so much without significant rainfall since Monday.  I looked down the trail as far as I could and all I saw was water.  I turned around and found a trail that would get me around the flooded section of trail.  I made it about 200 yards when I came to a screeching halt again.  The trail was flooded here too but it was only about 15 feet wide.  Although there was some debris in the way, I thought, 'How bad can it be?  I ride this trail all of the time.  It can only be a few inches deep there.  I'll ride slowly through it and be on my way."

That was my dumb decision and here is the story.  I slowly approached the standing water and rode into it.  As my back wheel hit the water I remember thinking, "That's not too bad."  That's when it happened.  My bike dropped and so did I.  I quickly unclipped and found myself mid-thigh deep in the water.  I quickly pushed the bike out of the water and back onto the trail on the other side of this water trap.  Baffled and confused, I mounted my bike again and rode on.  Now I was curious.  Where is this water coming from?  There is no way that the creek did all of this.

I took several more trails trying to get back to the creek to see what was going on.  I crossed a few more smaller puddles and made it back to the creek.  Completely flooded here too!  But this time I could see the Yellowstone River.  Actually, I could see it before.  I was in it.  The Yellowstone is flooding and its all over Two Moon Park.  Then it hit me.  I've already crossed part of the flood waters.  What if I'm surrounded now.  Is that first crossing my only way back?

I turned around and took some dry trails that lead me to the river.  Sure enough, the Yellowstone was high and breaching the banks on my side.  The trails were muddy and slick.  I slipped into a big muddy puddle at one point.  Ironically, the highest and driest trail I could find was on the bank of the river.  I headed back in the direction of the park entrance.  All of the sudden, my trail disappeared.   The banks are collapsing and taking the trail with it!  I skirted around in the tall grass, catching the trail where I could and hoping the bank wouldn't cave in underneath me.  Every trail that broke off of the trail I was riding was flooded.  Bad news.  I'm now on an island! 

Finally I neared the park entrance and so far I didn't have to cross any waters that were deeper than 6-8 inches.  I may have lucked out.  I rounded the corner and there it was.  This time the water was actually flowing.  The crossing was about 20 feet with a swift current.  Again, familiar with the trail, I guessed that the water couldn't be deeper than a foot and a half to two feet.  I decided to try, knowing that if I turned around, I was going to have to wade accross that first crossing that caught me off guard initially.  And hey, if it was deeper than I thought and I got swept away by the current, what a story to tell!

I shifted down to my low gears and approached the water.  All or nothing!  Here I go!  I took off spinning my back tire in the muck and trying to stay upright.  I watched as the water engulfed the bottom of my tires.  My feet are now splashing in the water as I pedal.  Now my feet are both completely submersed and I can't see my front tire.  How much deeper can I go?  Pop!  Up comes my front tire and I crank hard spinning my back tire climbing the opposite bank.  Phew!  I made it and boy did I have a story to tell.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I know better!

12 Miles 

We had a busy but non-productive weekend.  I wasn't able to put in any mileage or do any of the home projects that I had planned.  So, looking forward to a long lunch ride, this morning I got out the road bike to take to work.  The front tire was a really splashy so I pumped it up.  It had been almost a week since my last road ride so I figured I might have a slow leak and inflating the tire would hold until I got a chance to patch it.  WRONG!  I made it about 6 miles into the wind and up the hill when I noticed the tire was flat.  Not wanting to stop where I was, I finished the grade and looked for a good place to change the tire.  It's been awhile since I've changed that tire so it would not come off.  I struggled with it for awhile when finally, POP, the tire came loose and I was able to pull out the tube.  As I worked, I watched a curious mule deer graze the hill, stopping occasionally to watch me as it slowly worked its way toward me.  I finally found both holes and was able to patch them up, pop the tire back on and give it enough air to get me back to the office.  When I finally mounted the bike again, I looked down at the clock.  1:00 PM!!!  That took way to long.  I booked it down the hill, leary of my patch job, and fought the wind again all the way into town.  I walked in sheepishly 15 minutes late, still needing to clean up and change.  And I hardly have any mileage to show for it.

Friday, June 4, 2010


8 Miles
Black Otter Trail / Rims

Short on time today because work doesn't always stop when lunch starts, I decided to head up to the rims for a shorter, more challenging mountain bike ride.  I have to admit that I'm kind of a wuss and this ride scares me, especially while clipped in.  I dipped repeatedly and because I did, it was hard to clip back in making the next obstacle even more challenging.  Maybe I should wear regular shoes when I do this ride but one obstacle keeps beckoning that I know I can't do without being clipped in.  Part of the trail has a pair of tight, steep and sandy switchbacks.  It's steep enough that I'd need some good speed to get up it but since its so windy and sandy I can't maintain the speed that I need to get up it.  My only option is to power up the thing in my lowest gear while trying not to spin my back tire in the sand.  Once my tire spins its all over; I have to slam my foot down to keep from falling in the thorny shrubs and then walk the rest of the way to the top.  I'm determined to make it some day.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bambi and Flower

10 Miles
Two Moon Park

My back was really stiffening up and aching today so I was really itching to get out of the office and loosen it up.  I took off to Two Moon Park at noon and traveled deep into the park where I usually can ride without running into other people.  Of course, I flushed up a deer on the way, one of the same ones from two days ago.  I ran into that deer three times today and each time it took off in a panic.  As I encountered her the second time and watched her flee, I saw a flash of black directly infront of me.  I quickly focused on the black blur and saw the rear end of a skunk with tail raise high.  I tell you, I thought I was going fast before but I really hit the gas when I saw that tail raise just a couple of feet from my leg.

While I was on the trail, crusing along deep in the park where I rarely see people, a small boy on a bike appeared before me.  I quickly hit the brakes and pulled to the side knowing that he wouldn't be alone.  Seconds later Dad, even younger sister, and Mom passed by.  How cool is that?  Mountain biking as a family.  I don't think these kids were any older than Sydney and Tara.  We'll have to get Evie on a bike as soon as she can walk.

After the family passed, I moved on and stayed on the other side of the park to stay out of their way.  I'd hate to accidentally plow over an 8 year old, especially one cool enough to mountain bike Two Moon Park.  I finished my ride and started the steep ascent up the switchbacks back to the paved trail at the top of the park.  Huffing and puffing, I finally crested to see Mom and sister in the parking lot.  Up ahead Dad and brother were mounted on their bikes on the paved trail waiting for the other two.  Those are some dang tough little kids.  I am thouroughly impressed!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Weeping Wall returns

10 Miles
Two Moon Park
I could feel my back stiffening up and the onset of drowsiness was kicking in as I sat at my desk in my uncomfortable office chair.  Eating lunch and then stealing a quick nap or reading for a few minutes was tempting but I knew that I'd feel much better if I left the office.  Still struggling with the decision several minutes after noon I finally decided to mount the bike and go.  As I started out, I felt I'd made a mistake.  It was chilly and the wind was blowing hard enough that I started to feel sluggish and that was getting into my psyche. 

In what felt like an eternity, I finally reached Two Moon Park.  My back had loosened up and I was ready to go.  Down on the river the wind could scarcely be felt and the sun was shining.  Spring had finally woken up the Weeping Wall and drab shades of brown turned to diverse greens.  It's quite the sight.  Grazing on the trail were two young mule deer that I kept flushing up at almost every turn it seems.  Poor creatures were probably shaking in their hooves by the time I finished my ride deep in the park.  (The young deer aren't as dumb as the older ones that freeze on the trail until you crash into them.)

All in all, it was a very satisfying and refreshing ride that will hopefully give me the energy I need to finish the day.  My last post was titled Therapy.  I had intended it to mean physical therapy but I guess cycling for me is theraputic in multiple ways, just like rollerblading used to be for me.