Thursday, January 31

Grand Schemes Involving Mohicans

I came up with this idea for an underground race. 160 miles. Historical significance. Two states. Hard surfaces. Oddly related to the Mohican 100.

I'll give a few clues and see if you can come up with my scheme.

1) James Fenimore Cooper based his most renowned character on a real person.

2) That real life person's adventures inspired the scheme.

3) The scheme is not based on the events which inspired Cooper's most famous story.

4) The real life person pulled off a remarkable escape, the path of which would make a stellar one day endurance ride.


In other news from the pavement's edge:

Yesterday was my birthday. I have begun my 40th year on the planet. This will be my best year ever.

Today my 9 year old son ran his first mile, non-stop, and he enjoyed it tremendously. I was thankful I got to share that with him. I might make an endurance mountain biker out of him yet.

Monday, January 28

The Leadville Saga: First of the Mohicans

Ah ha! Surprised you didn't I? Didn't think I'd be writing about Leadville again did you? Well, here I go again.

I signed up for the Mohican 100 a few weeks ago. Will I do the 100 mile or 100k? We'll see come the morning of June 1.

For now the plan is just to train. I'm participating in a 100 push-up challenge at work. The challenge is to do 100 push-ups by the end of six weeks. My baseline was 21, surprising even me.

Additional training has been running. And that's it. But, I went out and ran 2 miles off the couch and felt pretty good. My couch-to-5k program is to get off the couch and run 5k.

And here we go with my number fetish. My plan is to drop to about 165 pounds between now and July 1. That's roughly a pound a week. It's not going to be easy.

What I see as keys to success as a sea leveler in Leadville this year is to drop max weight (including shaving off bike weight) max my cardio capacity, and overcome my obvious mental bugaboos.

Riding is secondary at this point. I'll ride what I can ride, which will be significantly less than I have the past two years. My hope is that my substantial base of miles will carry me. Doesn't mean I can slack off, but I'm hoping I won't lose my edge in nine months.

I've decided to forgo the fat bike angle. If I do get a Krampus I'm still going to ride The One in Leadville. Currently I'm trying out a tubeless setup and I think it's going to work out fine. All I need is lots of mileage and experience on them to be confident rolling them at Leadville.

The Mohican is going to be helpful for me to shakedown and bolster confidence. Leadville shouldn't be as stressful this year.

After succeeding at Leadville this year I think the Mohican may be my new MTB obsession each year.

Don't worry though, there are a few other biking schemes touring around my brain.

Monday, January 21

Impromptu Singlespeed Cyclocross Bushwhack Classic

Sometimes memory doesn't serve my sense of adventure quite so well. I've been desperate to get back on the mountain bike, and when I saw the forecasted high temperature for today I realized most of the mud would be frozen. A narrow window of opportunity...

My plan was to revisit one of my old haunts and favorite places in the world: Spaas Creek and the Short Creek/Spaas Creek rim. Things have changed in five years. Mandy dropped me off at the junction of Spaas Creek Rd and North Fork Rd. As she drove off toward town I pedaled into the woods up the long gravel road.

The off-roaders have torn up Spaas Creek Road north of the forest service boundary. There are massive mudholes. There was a time I could drive my '85 Honda Accord far up the valley. Now I don't even think I could get high clearance Gump very far up the road.

The mandatory creek crossings went well. I knew each one like an old friend. It was the new tank trap mudholes that annoyed me. There was no riding through them. I had to portage.

By the time I reached the mouth of Bee Branch I knew I didn't want to stick with my original plan to go straight up Spaas Creek Road to the head of the drainage. I knew another way that would avoid the water and mud.

I bushwhacked up Bee Branch along a vague horse trail, mainly because I knew it wouldn't be a rhododendron-slog, and gained the eastern Short Creek ridge.

Die-hard cyclocrossers would have been weeping trying to keep up as I climbed a muddy horse-torn hill, then slogged over logs and through greenbriar thickets, before finally gaining the ridgetop.

I'd been steaming on my ascent. I generate a lot of heat when I exert myself. But on the ridge a mean west wind came cutting through me. Suddenly the forecast seemed accurate. I dropped down a steep slope to the old fire road I remembered.

I discovered my shifter cables were encased in frozen mud and fused in place on the underside of my downtube. I hadn't wanted to simulate riding a singlespeed when I left this morning, but sometimes you make lemonade with the clumps of mud life gives you. I pushed off down the road.

Equestrians have torn it to pieces riding on the leaf matted gravel road when it's been too wet to do so. I'll bite my tongue against the rant I want to go on.

Anyway, I pedaled along, passing through a surreal landscape of memory and present. Little has changed along that road where I've spent so much time exploring, climbing, biking and hiking. But it's been neglected as well. There were lots of blowdowns, and the aforementioned hoofdamage. I was somewhat sad that I couldn't just ride.

Where I'd hoped to cruise along and make up time I found myself laboring in ragged frozen earth and heaving my bike over fallen trees.

The perception of distance has compressed in my mind. I worried it would take me a long time to reach the better road surface at the forest service gate. But in short order I was pedaling around the steep posts and crossbeam onto the hardpack gravel. Then I cruised.

I'd forgotten the short steep climb at the head of Spaas Creek Road to get over to Hatton Ridge. My thighs burned as I cranked up in my middle chainring. I was huffing and puffing at the intersection of Spaas Creek Rd and Hatton Ridge Rd. I considered jumping out to the pavement at Fagan and riding back over Cane Creek Mountain to Stanton. In retrospect maybe I should have, but I continued out Hatton Ridge.

Hatton Ridge Road was much as I remembered it. The initial hill has been recently graded and had a nice grippy surface, but since I couldn't take advantage of my front derailer I ended up walking.

The ride out Hatton Ridge was comforting. I didn't think much about what lay ahead in my scheme. My intent was to follow Hatton Ridge out to the upper terminus of the Powder Mill Branch Trail which would drop me down into the Indian Creek valley where I could follow a gravel forest service road back to the pavement. Powder Mill is the lone designated multiuse trail in the Red River Gorge area. I'd tried to ride up it in the late '90s on the Cannonball, but did a lot of hike-a-bike. It had been overgrown and I'd not been much of a mountain biker. Today I wanted to ride it with perspective.

Upper terminus of the Powder Mill Branch Trail

The upper section is unrideable either up- or downward. When the grade lessens there are a few gully crossings that are too steep. When the trail was constructed it hardly met decent hiking standards. But when the USFS designated it is a multiuse trail (hikers, bikers, and equestrians) it most definitely didn't meet standards for a sustainable trail.

The one pro to the Powder Mill is that it doesn't seem to be suitable for horses either. There were some nice sections that were completely rideable, but the number of blowdowns made it an onerous ride.

After what seemed like an eternity I finally reached the lower terminus of the trail. The last obstacle was a crossing of Indian Creek.

I paused long enough to decide that the only course of action that made sense was to go barefooted. I stripped off socks and bike shoes and leaned on The One as I quickly sloshed through the frigid water.

Gee-yah that was cold water!

At that point the epic-natured portion of my adventure seemed to be over. I rolled out of Indian Creek and picked up North Fork Road and headed west down the valley. That's when I noticed I was riding into that cold mean west wind.

I texted Mandy:

If you're bored and need to go for a ride I'd sure accept a ride from a pretty stranger, but if you wanna make me suffer I'm on my way back along the way you drove in to drop me off. And frozen like a popscicle

She texted back:

Lily says make you suffer. ;-)

So I pedaled on, Halt!ing one aggressive dog and outrunning a couple. The I saw Gump coming up the road, full of smiling faces and bearing a plate of greasy Wilcy's pizza to warm me up.

Best darn SAG crew ever!

Wednesday, January 16

What's Not to Like

I could, Dear Readers, go into a long update of the changes in my life since leaving Colorado. In fact, I think that's exactly what I'm going to do.

These days I sit in a cubicle, though my cubicle has wall to wall windows. I look down on a busy intersection next to an interchange for a limited access beltway. I wear a tie, though I've learned to enjoy dressing a little more professional than I'd been willing to in the past. 20 year old me would punch 38 year old me in the face, but 38 year old me would punch back and look good doing it.

Where I had been afeared I'd be in over my head, I'm now confident I'll manage just fine given time. This job isn't beyond my abilities. While the position I fill is not as sexy as, say, bike/ped coordinator for the city or state, I think I will be able to be engaged in exactly what I want to be engaged in. I'll have to take care and keep the bigger picture in mind, but I'm in a place where subtlety will serve me best, and keeping the patience of Job will lead to success. These things I can do.

We're not settled--we still haven't sold the house in Arvada--but things are going well considering. The down side is I'm spending about $100 a week just on commuting, and I'm spending a minimum of an hour and a half a day in the car. That's got to stop!

The kids are settling into school, and Mandy is trying to find her space in the world. Her efforts are going to be much more fruitful once we have a place of our own.

We've been trying to ride/exercise. The weather is typical Winter-in-Kentucky slop, so we've not ventured beyond the pavement's edge since returning to the state. Though I am tubeless now thanks to Dave.

This week I've been mapping as many uber-steep roads as I can identify remotely. I've rediscovered a lot I'd never thought about as bike rides before, and looking at topographic lines has once again, for me, yielded much to put down on the ole tick list. Central/eastern Kentucky really is a good place to thicken up your quads. Short and steep or endless rollers. What's not to like?

Saturday, January 12

High Rocks

Not where I rode today
One of the high points in Powell County is a sandstone promontory located at the heads of Cat Creek, Cow Creek and Gladie Branch of the South Fork of the Red River.

Two roads skirt all but the northern-most side of the residual capstone. At one time the USFS had a fire lookout on the 1,400' point. Today there are only a few homes nearby and some lonely stretches of pavement. Steep pavement.

Last week I rode from the Cat Creek side with Mandy's dad. I'd never ridden that side and it is stout. Reportedly there is only one paved climb in the area that's steeper.

Today Mandy, her dad and I met Jeff M at the AmVets cemetery just south of Rosslyn for a longer ride. We were trying to hit the "dry" window of opportunity for the day. While there was no rain falling, the humidity was high and most of the roads were damp. The saving grace was the unseasonably high temperature.

The morning started out foggy with an untrustworthy promise of clearing skies.

The four of us headed up North Fork toward the Gorge. The plan was to ride out to the end up the pavement just upstream of Indian Creek. Jeff and I pulled away and rode pretty hard out the desolate ribbon of blacktop.

It was hard to keep the pace high and carry on a conversation. When we reached the turnaround point the sun peeked out. After a bite to eat and a rest we turned back west and rode until we met Mandy and Tom. They were having a good ride and planned to continue on out to the end of the hard surface. Jeff was planning on going home via South Fork over High Rock.

I've ridden High Rock before. Pre-Colorado I rode it from home via Cow Creek, which was a haul, and then I rode it once from South Fork with Gump support.

Last week Tom and I rode from Stanton up Cat Creek and I ascended High Rock from the northwest. Hands down Cat Creek is the hardest. It never really lets up, and the mile long climb is steepest at the end.

I opted to follow Jeff, if not home at least as far as the junction of CR 1102 (Cow Creek Rd) and State Highway 1057 (High Rock Rd), and rack up some miles.

We parted ways with Mandy and Tom. I promised to return to her parents' house early enough so she could get back and watch the Broncos play this afternoon. I even promised to watch the game with her despite my general lack of interest in organized team sports. Of course I'm composing this post as the game plays out...

Jeff and I rode up South Fork and then made the right at "the forks." We rode past my mom's family's old place before starting up the short steep climb.

The air was warm and wet. I peeled off my arm warmers and swiped my forehead a few times with my gloves. Initially I left Jeff behind, cranking in my middle chainring, but about 3/4 of the way up he passed me and cranked up the final pitch to the high point along the road.

I could have rode on past Jeff's house and back out Furnace Mountain. I'd have needed to bum some food to carry me over the long series of rollers I'd have to traverse. I was running short on time but with only 209 days until Leadville that option would deepen my base. The other option was to return via Cat Creek. Short screaming descent followed by a relatively mellow few miles back to town...decisions, decisions.

We chatted for a few minutes and then Jeff dropped over towards Rogers Chapel and I went into free fall down Cat Creek. I needed to get back fast.

Cat Creek was fun: descending rollers with little traffic. Then I jumped back on highway 15 and as I approached the drive-in a light rain began spattering me. I geared down and hunched over the drops.

I surged back into Tom and Laurie's bikeport just before the rain began in earnest. Tom and Mandy beat me back by about 20 minutes. They'd ridden 32 miles to my 42. It had been a good morning to ride.

Jeff and I talked about a lot of stuff, but one thing we discussed was the incredible road rides in Powell County. He said he was amazed at some of his Lexington friends' reluctance to ride in the Red River valley. The climbs seem to scare them off.

He told a great story about a friend of his that weighs about 150 that stopped at the bottom of Sky Bridge Hill to empty his water bottles before beginning the climb.

Those guys would go running knock-kneed from Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado.

It was good to do a significant ride. Jeff and I talked of riding Cobhill soon. I've driven Cobhill. I won't say much more about it, except to say I'm not certain I can clean it first go. I think I'm going to get well acquainted with Cobhill soon enough though. Leadville. Leadville.

Notice the elevation profile at the bottom. Can you spot the High Rock climb?

Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRide

Friday, January 11

Drowning in Winter

I knew Kentucky winters would not avail much mountain biking. I promise I'm not complaining, but for crying out loud! Just one solid weekend of dry weather would be nice!

It looked like we were going to have it this weekend, but the rains moved in yesterday. So now the ground is sloppy again. Grrr!

It doesn't help that I want to try out the tubeless setup I have on the One now. Thanks to Dave L I'm getting a taste of life without all that rubber. Oh, and we've shaved off enough grams to choke a field mouse as well as casting off all that rotational weight. DYING to ride the MTB.

I spent two days at the Kentuckians for Better Transportation (KBT) conference in Lexington. I've been trying to get to know people, trying to understand the layers and interconnections of agencies and organizations. It's so much easier here in Kentucky than it would have been in Colorado. I understand the place and a lot of these relationships already. It's making the transition go so much more smoothly.

We're going to try to do a road ride tomorrow. May make another assault on High Rock. I've got some comparative analysis to do for a future post. Plus, my legs are suffering a lack of suffering.

Leadville is a little more than two centuries worth of days out. I'm feeling the short time. Feeling it...

Wednesday, January 9

Higher Levels

There is a distinct difference in the bicycle/pedestrian level of service(LOS) on the roads in Powell County versus that of even the most backwater section of the Denver metro area. Without even having first-hand knowledge of either place you could make some pretty accurate assumptions on the attractiveness for walking and biking in my home county.

The comparison of rural Central/Eastern Kentucky roads versus urban Denver is just what you think it would be. But...there are some factors that you may not include when calculating your instinctive LOS scores. I'm not going to even attempt to accurately quantify LOS in the normal way. Let's just assume (because I believe it to be so) that most people have an innate sense of level of service. My wife can instinctively compare roads and have a sense of what is a good road to ride or walk on or by and one that is horrible. She's not in the transportation field, but I believe she, like most non-transportation planners (because I officially am one now ;)), understands the difference.

Examples of the metrics that could be used for bike/ped LOS include:

· Number of lanes and directions of travel;
· Curve lane, bicycle lane, paved shoulder, parking lane, and gutter pan widths;
· Traffic volume;
· Speed limit and 85th percentile speed;
· Driveway density;
· Presence and type of sidewalks and medians; and
· Type of roadside development.

There are some "softer" factors which are harder to quantify, but which have a distinct effect on a cyclists perception of safety.
Two years ago we were in visiting for a family reunion. Some family members were camping at a state park fifteen miles from our hometown. We borrowed bikes from Mandy's dad and rode along the roadway, a two lane arterial that parallels a limited access highway. It has a lot of local traffic, but no real through traffic.

We'd been riding heavily in the Denver area at that time so it was easy to make an impromptu empirical comparison between the vastly different areas. I was startled at what I perceived.

While the Denver area has a robust and very attractive network of bicycle facilities and a strong bike culture, the Red River Valley—straddling the Bluegrass Region and the Cumberland plateau—has little of those things, and, in my brief experiences of riding on the roads here in the past, not much cultural awareness of things cycling.

I realized long ago that the best thing I could do to improve the cycling environment in my hometown was to just get out and be seen on my bike as much as possible.

So, what does all this mean? What am I getting at?

It seems as if it would be a nightmare to ride a bicycle on Eastern Kentucky roads. This is not necessarily the case. Some roads, yes. 213 between Jeffersonville and Stanton is the perfect example of a road where you take your life in your hands going on two wheels. It would be suicide to ride that stretch of asphalt on a regular basis. On the other hand, highway 11/15 between Stanton and Slade (the route Mandy and I rode a couple of summers ago) is actually quite nice as long as you aren't on it during high traffic times.

But what makes this so?


Oddly, in a culture where people have little exposure to cycling and the normal expectations of motorists behavior toward cyclists, the typical friendly and considerate behavior of the locals fosters an enjoyable environment for riding a bicycle.

I would argue that the LOS for most of Powell County's back roads is higher because of the general behavior of local motorists.

I'm not saying that the people here are better drivers, or that other negative factors aren't present (no, we have dangerous curves in spades), but that in general people slow down, only pass when it's safe, and don't exhibit symptoms of acute road rage.

Last weekend Tom and I did a 24 mile loop. I rode ahead of Tom along 11/15 (Campton Road) because I was a little uncomfortable with the amount of traffic (which was truly minute), and when I reached the side road we were taking I waited for him. When he caught up we were standing over our bikes chatting and a man who lived up the creek stopped and asked if we needed any help. We thanked him, but no, we were fine, and then he proceeded to caution us on the steep hill three miles up the valley. Well, we were there specifically to tackle the steep hill. He was concerned that we'd have trouble making it if we continued. It was a nice change, the friendly exchange, from the impatience, anger, and hostility I've been used to over the past few years.

I don't know if I would go so far as to try and quantify the LOS based on soft factors. But, from first hand experience I am certain that some roads are of a much higher level of service simply because a better caliber of people travel upon them.

Denver, CO

 Furnace Mountain, KY

Sunday, January 6


Events turn and new developments startle. I begin my new career on Monday. I'm ready to go. The turning and developing are in the family transportation department. On Wednesday I took the whole tribe and we went car shopping. The harsh reality of my new job is that I'll need a car of my own because there will be a lot of travel and the organization does not provide a vehicle.

Initially we assumed that meant a second car for our family. We've been a car-lite, or single car, family for the past three years as of December. We're working on our fourth year. So when it became clear I was going to need a car for my job and that I'd be giving up bicycle commuting and we'd be living in a less bicycle-friendly city we were obviously bummed.

We're willing to make this sacrifice for the opportunity I will have to have some (hopefully) increasing influence on transportation issues in our home state.

Anyway, we spent most of the day Tuesday looking at mediocre used cars. We have a chunk of cash and wanted to buy something outright instead of taking on a monthly payment and the obligatory full-coverage insurance. Unfortunately, nothing in our price range presented itself. There was a 2000 Corolla with 80,000+ miles and a 2002 Forester that was about $1,000 more than we wanted to spend. We really, really liked the Forester. It would have made a nice car.

On the way back to my grandmother's house (where we're staying) we discussed it and finally came to the conclusion that it made the most sense to not let the antsiness drive us into buying something that we couldn't afford or that we didn't really want (the Corolla is small and smelled like cat pee).

Mandy and I both feel pretty good about the decision to remain a car-lite family. For now we'll continue to rely on Forester Gump and bide our time until something optimal pops up. This arrangement will work out for now because Mandy plans on homeschooling until the end of the school year. We started out our car-lite experiment when she first homeschooled Boone in 2009.

At least for now this will work out well for us. And if it becomes unbearable or unmanageable we can then give into the antsiness.