Sunday, November 11, 2012

Look at me!

I'm not one that typically screams for attention but when it comes to riding at night, I like to be seen (as opposed to the alternative of not being seen and getting run over).  Several months ago Sarah brought home some reflective spray paint and with the end of Daylight Savings pushing my evening commute into darkness, I finally got around to coating my bike with the reflective paint.  I removed most of the parts and components from my bike that were easy and quick to remove, washed the frame and then proceeded to spray on four coats of reflective paint. 

Here's a picture of the painting in progress.

And this is the bike completed.  It's not as bright as I hoped it would be but if it helps me to be more visible, it's worth it.  Plus the extra coats of paint can't hurt to protect it for winter.

I'm almost ready for winter.  I haven't put my studded tires on yet because I'm anticipating the snow to melt off the roads tomorrow afternoon.  Otherwise, bring it on!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Oh deer!

26.5 Miles

This afternoon Sarah and I got a rare chance to sneak off and do a bike ride together.  We decided that since we didn't have a lot of time we'd do a shorter ride to Pictograph Caves State Park.  We finally got out the door around 7:30pm and were soon on our way up the long hill.  As we climbed I noticed several deer and knowing how many deer are in this area I said to Sarah, "I hope we don't see any deer on the way down the hill."  You may be aware that I have a phobia of getting hit by a deer while on my bike.  Maybe its not really a phobia but rather a premonition.  Either way, I've had enough close calls that I try to err on the side of caution when dealing with these unpredictable beasts.  I've always got my eyes peeled for those pesky critters.  I like to get the jump on them before they surprise me.

So back to the story.  Sarah and I climbed  and climbed and climbed until we finally crested the hill eagerly awaiting the steep but beautiful decent down the backside.  As we crested, an SUV passed and then stopped at the gate ahead of us.   Apparently the park closes at 8:00pm and they had just barely closed the gates before we got there.  Bummer.  We had to turn around.  With a nice tail wind, we sped back down the hill.  20mph...25....30....35...38mph  We were flying, taking turns hiding in one another's wind shadow and then sling shotting around to take the lead.  I was in the lead now.  Just then, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement to my right.  Then it happens.  Before I can even grab the brake levers, a big doe bounds over the barbed wire fence and darts out directly in front of me crossing the road only feet away.  I missed her by that much (in my best Maxwell Smart impersonation).  Phew!  But its not over yet.  There was another doe behind her and she was ready to jump that fence and do the same thing.

Stay tuned for our next episode, "A lucky break" or "Russ' last stand."....

At a distance of about twenty feet, the second deer ran along side me on the other side of the fence.  She was getting antsy and really wanted to cross the road.  I reached for the brakes again but didn't know if Sarah was right behind me or if she had dropped back.  I hesitated to react until I had to hoping to avoid colliding with Sarah if I hit the brakes too hard.  I watched the doe carefully when suddenly she hit the skids, turned and leapt in the air directly at me.  I yelled (it might have been a scream) and prayed for the best.  Suddenly, this deer who was flying right at me, tumbled in the air.  Huh?  She clipped the top wire of the barbed wire fence, flipped over with her back hooves in the air and slammed to the ground.  I couldn't see much after that but Sarah saw the whole thing.  Apparently the doe tripped on the top wire causing her to flip over completely, smash into the fence and slip between the wires ending up on the same side of the fence that she started. Terrified, the poor thing got up, bolted away from the fence and then, again paralleled me down the road.

Round 2

I am extremely confused at this point thinking that there is a poor deer behind me caught in the barbed wire fence.  Trembling I turn to look back to hear Sarah laughing hysterically.  All of the sudden, the doe is running with me again and again she is itching to jump the fence and cross the road.  Having a better idea of where Sarah was, this time I didn't hesitate to hit the brakes.  She again bound over the fence, this time clearing it, darted across the road in front of me, leapt the fence on the other side of the road and was gone in a flash.  I'm glad Sarah was there because I doubt she would have believed me otherwise.  I just wish I had the helmet camera with me to document the whole thing.

Round 3

Now, I wish I could say that was my only encounter of the evening, but lamentably, it was not.  As we pulled back into town, I rounded the corner, starling another doe.  This time the deer had nowhere to go.  She was trapped between us and a tall chain link fence.  She took off and multiple times, leapt into the air and smashed sideways into the fence until we finally passed.

Until today, I'm pretty sure that Sarah thought I was being paranoid with my certainty that a deer would finally bring my untimely demise.  I've had too many of these experiences to simply credit it to mere coincidence.  There IS a deer conspiracy and they ARE out to get me!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lost in the woods

11 Miles
It was a dark and stormy night and instead of hiding in the house, I geared up, hopped on the mountain bike and sloshed my way over to Riverfront Park.  It was 7:30pm and already dark with the cloud cover.  I entered the park and turned onto the first trail.  I was soon trekking through the trees, came to an unfamiliar fork in the trail and made a snap desicion.  I soon reached the river heading back toward the entrance to the park.  I headed back toward the first trail, found the same fork and chose the other direction.  It seems as there has been some trail building efforts since the last time I was there and the trail system has changed just enough to confuse me.  I finally found my way into the main park.  On my way, I had to cross a bog, got stuck and had to walk out, sinking both feet into the muck.
I goofed around a bit until sunset and decided to turn around so I could get out of the park before dark.  I was almost to the entrance to the park when I took a wrong trail that twisted and turned through the woods with a full canopy above.  The sky was darkening and it was geting harder and harder to see in the trees.  The trail wound all over the place, twisting and turning so much that I lost all sense of direction.  When I finally exited the woods onto a main trail, I had no idea where I was and where to go.  After a quarter of mile, I finally caught a glince of the river and realized I was heading deeper into the park with dwindling light.  After turning around, I finally found my way out of the park.  Sarah told me I was a dork for describing my experience this way, but here goes.  The windy trail through the woods looked and felt like the scary woods where Rabbit, Pooh and Piglet went to lose Tigger and trick him into giving up his bounce.  It was a cool experience, not at all scary.  I hope I can find that trail again.
After getting home, I had to hose off my bike, shoes, and well, my whole person.  I was one filthy, muddy mess.  I look forward to my next Riverfornt Park trip.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

From the dash

Yesterday I drove to West Yellowstone to rendezvous with Mom and Grandma and to pick up Sydney and Tara after a week at summer camp.  On the way, I was surprise to see how many bikes you can really haul with one vehicle.  At first, I was in awe seeing this minivan hauling what looked like seven bicycles...

Until I saw this van.  Your guess is as good as mine as to how many bikes were up there but I'd have to guess it's over a dozen.  I wonder if the trailer is full of bikes too. 
It was a beautiful day for riding and I saw lots of people out.  Some, I'm sure were doing the century route from Billings to Columbus and back.  Others were touring, on there way to Yellowstone.  There were many floating the Gallatin River on raft and kayak.  And of course, I was stuck in the car...

Evie and Me

With Sarah working night shifts and Sydney and Tara off at summer camp with Grandma, it was just Evie and me for part of the week.  Evie wanted to go for a bike ride Friday night so I loaded her up in the trailer and we took off.  Nothing like pulling a 50 pound parachute in the 20 mile and hour winds.  At first I thought about going to Pictograph Caves but the thought of pulling that trailer up the hills in the wind was too daunting and most of my other usual rides wouldn't be very trailer friendly so I stuck to the trails and decided to do the newly paved Black Otter Trail.  Yes, its still a climb but nothing like the backside of Colburn Road coming back from Pictograph Caves.  Plus I thought this ride might be more interesting for Evie with four tunnels and several bridges.  I tried to get Evie to make noise in the tunnels.  Every once in awhile I'd hear a mute wolf's howl.  It was pretty cute.  Although I did embarrass myself making noises along with her only to get strange looks from others in the tunnel.

As I mashed the pedals to climb the hills, I told Evie to repeat, "Faster Daddy!  Faster!"  And she whooped and hollered on the descents, until she fell asleep.  She enjoyed seeing the planes take off overhead at the airport and racing the trains.  It was a fun afternoon even though it was a lot of work.

We even got a pleasant surprise on top of the rims.  The Yucca were in full bloom, and for this child of the desert, those muted flowers were beautiful.  I have to admit, I'd seen these tiny yucca plants for years but didn't realize what they actually were until they bloomed.  The yucca of the Mojave sometimes grow to over six feet tall with the flower stem rising far above that.  After having been removed from the Mojave for almost twenty years, these little dwarfed yucca (soapweed yucca) were a welcome site.  I wonder if I can get a few for my yard.

In all, Evie and I logged in 18 miles and probably climbed about 400 feet.  It was a good little ride for a Friday afternoon, especially since I had to peel myself off the coach after a day's work.

She tried so hard to stay awake
Yucca plant in bloom

View over the rims

View of the city below

View to the East

Some more yucca

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bike to Work Day

26 Miles

Today is bike to work day and after having a beautiful week of warmth and sunshine, I awoke to a wet, cold and dreary mess.  I am no 'fair weather rider' so the rain was no deterrent, especially on National Bike to Work Day.  However, dragging exhausted and no responsive butt out of bed from a restless night's sleep and try to pry my eyes open was another story.  It almost took a crow bar to do so.  The kids weren't moving either but after a lot of coercing I finally got the kids to school and packed all my gear for the day, including my bike shoes and clothes. 

Last week I offered to host a noon ride on Bike to Work Day to anyone interested.  I received no responses except from one of my firms principals, Mike, a lean, mean, Iron Man competing machine, and he wanted to do a ride to Pryor Creek and back, some 26 miles.  What on earth am I doing?  I offered so I just had to suck it up and endure the punishment.
By the time noon rolled around the rain had picked up, not quite pouring, but still coming down pretty consistently.  We took off down the road dodging traffic until we finally turned off on the Old Hardin Road.  From there it was climb, climb, climb until we reached the crest, some four or five miles away.  I really tired to keep up and pedaled hard as long as I could, but I am out of shape and definitely out of form.  Mike was patient and went at my pace while chatting it up for awhile.  We talked about his Iron Man and triathlon races.  I asked how long each leg of the Iron Man really was.  He said, "Let's put it this way.  Let's say you start at the office and swim to the intersection of King Ave. and 24th Street (2.4 miles), then pedal to Livingston, MT (100 miles) and then run a full marathon to Bozeman, MT (26.2 miles).  I don't even like to drive that route!  I am way out of my league here!  Eventually Mike decided to peel away and wait for me at the top.  I watched his lean, cut legs pumped like pistons in a super up engine as he quickly left me in the dust. 

Huffing and puffing, I finally made it to the top, an 800 foot climb behind me with a 600 foot descent in 3 miles waiting for me.  'Great, at least I can keep up on the descent,' I thought, but I was wrong there too.  Mike made me work to get down the hill.  We almost hit 40 MPH down the backside and  I pedaled like a mad man until I ran out of gears and could do nothing to increase my speed.  I again watched as Mike pulled away leaving me behind.

After reaching the bottom, we turned around to crank back up the same three miles that we near effortlessly cruised down in a matter of minutes.  Getting back up the hill wouldn't be so easy.  I kept him in my sights although I lagged behind.  After reaching the top, we started back down the hill towards Billings.  By now the rain had picked up even more and the wind had started to blow.  The rain was painful as it pelted out cold skin.  I was cold, wet, and becoming very hungry, but it was almost over, and I wasn't completely spent yet. 

Despite the cold and the rain, we had a good ride.  I was slow and struggled but am consoled by the fact that we climbed over 1,400 feet over the coarse of our ride.  I'm not sure what I was more greatful for, the warm shower in the basement or the microwave containing my hot serving of left over tater tot casserole.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hill Climbing

33 Miles

 I went for a road ride yesterday to Pictograph Caves State Park.  It's a nice ride with about 400 feet of climb in about 3 miles going one direction and 1.5 miles in the other.  It would be kind of boring to watch me huffing and puffing as I muscle myself up the hills so I wasn't going to bring my helmet camera but then I thought it would be cool to record the down hill parts of the ride.  I was hoping to video myself going 45 miles per hour.  I just barely missed it on the way to Pictograph Caves but I nailed it on the way back.  I apologize for the video quality.  I'll work on aiming the camera a little better next time.  The mount position is fine for mountain biking because I'm sitting more upright but on a road bike I'm bent forward and facing further down.  I don't see as much of the scenery in that position either (especially when holding on for dear life at 40 mph).

Pictograph Cave
I believe this is called Ghost Cave
I hit the brakes too hard at the bottom of the hill and wore the tread off of an already distressed tire.  Atleast I already bought replacement tires.  I put them on today.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In the brush

8 Miles

Sarah let me go for a bike ride this evening after work so I decided to bust out the mountain bike and make the best of the limited remaining light at Riverfront Park.  I donned my new mountain bike shorts that I picked up at the bike swap for a screaming deal.  I made it over to Riverfront with just an hour of daylight left.  My ride was fun but rather uneventful with the exception of brushing up a few deer.  The sun started setting and I was at the river bank near the entrance to the park.  Now, I should have just taken the main trail to the gate and gone home with plenty of time to bet home before dark.  I should have, but I didn't.  Instead I determined that I had enough time to work my way out of the park through the single track trails.  I took a trail along the bank that I'm fairly familiar with but haven't taken it since last year.  The flooding last summer has washed out part of the trail and new trail has been cut further inland.  Unfortunately, the trail has already been overgrown with dense, thorny brush.  I had to push the bike through in places, constantly getting caught up on the thorns and branches.  I should have turned around but the trail was pretty clear ahead of me.  I made it about 50 feet before the brush closed back in on me but I kept  going.  After doing this a couple times, I was determined to go forward rather than back track through the brush.  Finally, I came upon some fallen trees that I'd have to scramble over and then push through the brush, but this time there was no clearing ahead of me.  I decided I'd have to turn around if I had any chance of getting out before dark.  So back through the brush again.  Ugh!  I finally made it out of the brush and picked up another trail to get me out of the park.  I rolled into my backyard, scratched and bleeding, with only minutes to spare before dark.  Another good ride!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rain, rain go away

24  Miles

I decided to go for a ride after work today.  I really needed it since I haven't really been in the saddle for weeks so I headed out despite the wind and rain.  I almost turned around after the first three miserable miles but I pushed through and eventually the rain and wind let up.  I decided to do the Hillcrest ride.  It was late evening by the time I got there and the deer were all out.  I must have seen three dozen of them.  As I was cruzing back down the hill, I turned the corner to find a large does standing in the road.  I grabbed the brakes and started yelling at the deer but the stupid thing would not budge.  I wasted all that momentum on that dumb animal.  It finally moved and I cautiously passed trying not to startle it back into my path.  I swear one of those dear are going to kill me some day!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

In a pinch

I was in a hurry to get home tonight and it seemed like I had to stop at every intersection for a car. When I got to 27th Street, I had to wait several minutes before finally finding a tight window to cross between cars.  I mashed hard on the pedals as cars in the southbound lane quickly approached.  I cleared the street only to find a huge pothole in front of me.  "Oh man, that's going to hurt!"  Instinctively I dug into the pedals and pulled up with my feet successfully jumping the pot-hole.  No big deal, right?  Well, I was riding my 1990 Raleigh Talon with its heavy steel frame, bike rack, and loaded bike bag.  I can bunny hop lighter bikes and I can bunny hop my heavier Specialized mountain bike when clipped in, but I've never been able to bunny hop this bike before.  It's surprising the things you can do in a pinch.

So, after bunny hopping once, I was determined to repeat it.  In the alley behind the house I tried once again.  Failed twice and nailed it the third time!  This is going to open a whole new world for me.  Time to start making some Danny Macaskill style videos!

check out these videos if you don't know who Danny Macaskill is.  The guy is amazing.  (

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Racing Home

Yesterday I had to race home to pick up the girls and take Sydney to Activity Days.  I waited behind several slow cars and even passed one on 1st Ave.  When I finally hit the bike lane on S 28th I took off like a rocket and passed the remaining cars and actually left them in the dust.  I love being able to move faster than traffic.  I felt kind of like the guy in the comic below.  Too bad I was rushing home to get in a car and sit in that same traffic again!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bike Ride with the Kids

This Saturday I was feeling like garbage, Sarah was sleeping (working night shifts) and the kids were driving me nuts so I decided to wear them out instead of them wearing me down.  They decided they wanted to go for a bike ride to McDonald's to get some ice cream and play in the play-land.  Sounded good to me.  I needed to get moving anyway if I stood any chance of feeling better that day.  So I got the kids ready, set up the trailer and an hour later we were on the road.  (I've found that everything takes four times as long to do with young kids.  Our bike ride was no exception either.)

Finally on the road, we set out at a leisurely pace which quickly turned into 14 mph.  Not bad for a seven year-old with 16 inch tires and six gears that she doesn't know how to use.  Actually not at all bad for a nine year-old on a single speed cruiser or a thirty-something dad on a 20 year-old mountain bike hauling a bike trailer with a three year-old, our gear, and Evie's bike.  Yes, I said Evie's bike.  We pulled that out at the top of Two Moon Park and let her run around for a bit.  She hasn't quite figured out the strider yet but she's cute with it anyway.

We took our time and stopped on occasion so the kids could play.  We loaded up on ice cream and stopped at the river on the way home.  Tara was all but swimming in that cold water so I decided it was time to go home before she got too cold and gave up.  I'm not sure what I would have done if she'd given up on the side of the trail (she almost did).  She doesn't fit very in the trailer very well anymore and I'd still have to get her bike back. 

Anyway, we all had fun and racked up 11 miles in the process.  I have bigger and better things in mind for them.  Hopefully we can get up to 20 or 30 miles by this summer.  We're planning a mini summer tour of Northern Idaho!

There are photos and a video on my family blog at

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mud Slingling

14.5 Miles
35 Degrees

Today was a lazy Saturday and I needed it to not be.  After finally getting myself moving, I decided to go for a ride.  The weather this week was great, for January in Montana anyway, so I thought a mountain bike ride to Two Moon Park would be appropriate.  After gearing up for cold weather, I was finally on the road.  On the way there I rode through Colson Park and the 1/2 mile trail that parallels the paved trail.  This should have been a sign to change my plans.  Colson Park was a muddy, sloppy mess.  I couldn't even enjoy the few jumps that are on the trail because I was sliding all over before I could get to them.  My bike was caked in mud and when I was able to catch some speed, chunks of mud flung off my tires and pelted me in the face.
Two Moon Park wasn't any better.  If anything, it was worse.  I trucked along slowly down the switch backs covered in ice, anticipating that the trails at the bottom might be better.  I couldn't even turn the bike.  It just slid straight ahead as I was trying to corner the switch backs.  The trails along the river were saturated and icy.  It was slow moving through there.  I made it deep into the park and gave up.  I needed to get out of there.

On the way home I decided to try the new Swords Park Trail (paved).  It was pretty nice but I was too spent to enjoy it after the sludge at Colson and Two Moon Parks.  It's a three mile climb to the top of the rims ending at the airport.  On the plus side, it was a fast ride down 27th Street to get back home, but being tired and wet, 35 mph in 35 degree weather is a little cold.  I enjoyed the warm shower afterwards.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter Riding

In preparation for the snow last night, I swapped out my knobbies for my studded snow tires.  I used to hate riding on the snow and ice, mostly because it hurts when you fall, and you fall a lot.  I smacked my elbow so hard once that not only did it ache for months but I also developed some kind of growth that eventually erupted in a pungent mess of green silly string like pus and small white flecks of bone (at least I think it was bone).  Not much fun.  So at the end of the winter of '09, I got fed up and purchased a sweet set of studded tires.  Shipping was slow and I ended up getting to put them on my bike the night before the streets finally thawed out.  I made up for it last winter, leaving the studded tires on for three months straight.  And I managed to stay upright the entire three months.   I swear by these tires.  I'll never ride another winter without them.

Since getting my tires, I've really started to enjoy biking on the ice and snow.  Its a whole new challenge.  You don't control the bike.  You just let the bike go where its going to go and correct it when you need to.  It's a little unnerving but if you try to control the bike, you are going down.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Russ vs. the Rock

On the Rims trail there is a drop off of a rock that has taunted me since the first time I tried it.  I landed the drop just fine and 120 bucks later, my bike was fine too.  The rock has freaked me out ever since.  But with my new mountain bike, I should be able to tackle it.  I did once, kind of skirting around it, but I've been itching to go back and try dropping off the face again ... but I've chickened out every time.

Here's a funny video of my attempt.  I post it here because I don't really want it shared on facebook, but I figured the few of you who actually read this blog might get a good chuckle.

Riding the Rims

11 Miles
Rims Trail

I took my helmet cam out for another ride today.  I wasn't really feeling it and made many, many mistakes but I had fun.  This is one of the more challenging rides that I do and since I haven't been on this bike for months (except last Monday), I'm not very comfortable on it yet.  It definitely wasn't one of my best rides.  I'm still getting used to the new mountain bike.  It's so much heavier and slower than my old Trek 4300 but it rides like I'm floating on a cloud.  It was built for downhill riding so any climb is a real challenge on this bike.  Oooh, but it makes that rimrock so much more tolerable. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Helmet Camera

My parents gave me an early birthday present while I was home for Christmas, a helmet video camera.  Since I didn't have to work today I decided to try it out at Riverfront Park.  It was almost 50 degrees and the snow has all melted so I thought it'd be a good time to go.  I found out that it's still cold at Riverfront Park, cold enough anyway to keep everything frozen but with the warm air temperature, there was a thin layer of water on all the ice which made for a really slippery and muddy ride.  I would have taken the trails a lot more aggressively but I was sliding all over the place.

Anyway, I don't need to be real wordy about my ride, just watch.  Oh, and there's a little treat for you just after two minutes into the video.  And no, I was not injured in the filming of this video.

I didn't throw in video of the deer that I flushed up in the park, mostly because it was hard to see them on the screen.  In an attempt to get better video of the deer I left the trail and spent the next ten minutes trying to find it again.  Typical ride through Riverfront Park.

Thanks for the camera Mom and Dad!