Tuesday, April 30

What's in a Month: Part I

I have some training to do.  In 31 days and 22 hours I’ll be lining up with others to chase down the finish line of the Mohican 100.  Today my biggest question is: will I do 100k, or 100 miles?  The second biggest question I have is: how bad do I want to suffer?

I’m not getting in the dirt mileage I need.  And now we’re into May.  It’s likely the temperature and humidity will only climb, making mountain biking more miserable.  Oh, so wonderfully miserable!

At the KyMBA meeting this past Saturday one attendee, the director of a non-cycling trail advocacy group, relayed that he had only ridden a mountain bike one time in his life, and during that ride he had two flats, was riding a cheap and heavy bike, and he tore his pants.  To which I replied: “Sounds like you had a great ride!”

Yes, mountain biking is sometimes all about suffering.  So go back and read the last sentence of my second paragraph.  Oh, so wonderfully miserable!  Yes, yes it is.

I’m most likely going to suffer hard in Loudonville a month from now.  I accept that.  Part of me thinks that over this next month I should just train myself to endure more and more suffering.  Who’s with me?  You don’t have to commit to suffering yourself; just to being witness to my suffering. 

I’m going to start right away.  This coming Saturday Mandy and I will be running the Natural Bridge 5k in Eastern Powell County.  Currently we are living in Western Powell County.  From my sister’s house to the starting line is 22 miles.  I will ride to the start of the race, run the 5k, and dominate (in my mind).  Sound like I’m setting myself up for failure?  Nope, I’m setting myself up to suffer good!  

It’s all training, right Dave?  If I don’t want to be scalped by the Mohican (groan from the audience) I need to up my efforts (whilst staying uninjured!) for the entirety of May.

For the next 31 days I can’t allow myself the luxury of dry trails, perfect weather, or the creature comforts of the non-MTBing lifestyle.  I’ve gotta get dirty and bruised, bitten and burnt, soggy and smelly…

Once the Mohican is behind me I’ll hash out my two-months-to-Leadville-plan.  That might not seem like much to some, but I have the base, the experience, and the drive to make the most of those two months.  What I fear is the lack of focus and will.  I can’t let my fear defeat me. Fear is the mind killer.  Fear is the little death.  I must face my fears. 

This year there will not be the option of quitting Leadville.  Tired, weak, injured, wrecked, broke down, rained on, hypothermic…none of those excuses will fly.  I’ll drag my dying carcass over the finish line this year no matter what.  However, my goal is to cruise over the red carpet under blue skies with at least a quarter tank of gas left and the cruise control still on. 

May is my test run.  How this month goes has a lot to do with the training focus I can expect in June and July.  Here we go.

Monday, April 29

I Give You...KyMBA East

No really, take it! Who truly wants to do advocacy? Wouldn't anyone just rather recreate than sit in meetings? But instead advocacy is also a necessary reality to recreating on public and private land.

So out of necessity KyMBA East has been formed to address access, maintenance and development of mountain biking trails along the Daniel Boone National Forest and other MTBing hotspots on the Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky.

There are a lot of details to hash out, but we're on our way to more focused advocacy. More details to come...


We prefer "El Presidente"

Saturday, April 27

Friday Almost Blues

Early on Friday Hugh Loeffler posted on facebook: “If you can't cut work and go climbing on a beautiful spring Friday like this, you love your job too much. Surf is up!”

Then the next post in my newsfeed was from Troy Hearn: “CVP pretty darn nice today. Get some dirt action before it rains again!”

I would have been hating and plotting their collective demises, but I was getting cut free from work a half day myself. Oh, it wasn’t for something as sexy as rock climbing or mountain biking. We were meeting with Boone’s principal on his placement next year. But I knew once I was free of that that there would be opportunity for me to go rock the woods with my presence.

After the meeting I met up with Jeff and Tommy and we went to scout some potential new trails. What we found was pretty incredible. Tom cut out for his big date night after about an hour, but Jeff and I stayed to see what we could see. What we saw was a few miles of ATV trails that just need a little work. A few miles...

One feature of note I am calling Monzter Hill in honor of Jeff. It's 0.1 miles long with a 22+% grade. You gain 80 feet with no reprieve. I might have made it 1/3 of the way, but Jeffers, on his 8th try, nailed it!

Did I think about his Herculean effort later on when I cleaned a hill he couldn't? Nope.

We nabbed the low-hanging fruit. We didn't even really get deep into the woods. There's still a lot of land to see and a lot of details to work out.

The biggest bummer was simply that we only had a few hours of daylight to play.



Friday, April 26

Sort of a Ramming Speed Friday

A last minute reminder: tomorrow is the meeting in Berea to ascertain interest in a new chapter of KyMBA for the eastern part of the state.

We'll be in the Kentucky Artisan Center conference room beginning at 3:30pm. Hopefully itll be just an hour long, but we have the room for two hours.

The impetus of this meeting and the formation of a new chapter goes like this: Tom told me about a local landowner with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of wooded acres that had invited representative from KyMBA to come in and develop bike trails. Then, for various reasons, the mountain bike people weren't interested.

I saw a window of opportunity that needed to be rammed fully open and dived through. Maybe the fact that it would end up being a pay to ride situation, or that it was a lot of work to develop, or whatever other reasons kept the spark of interest from erupting into a full on raging forest fire. But I saw it differently. This is my home county, and the landowners are a family that my family has had a good relationship with over the years, and which Tom has a good relationship with. And they have hundreds (maybe thousands) of acres they want to open up for mountain biking. And it will be right in our literal backyard until Mandy and I find a more permanent home. Literally.

Yeah, you could say I was frothing at the mouth.

So I talked to Troy, commander-in-chief of Bluegrass KyMBA, and he suggested we start the new chapter. Bluegrass is focused on maintaining Capitol View Park (CVP) in Frankfort, Veterans (VP), and Skullbuster (SKB) in Scott County along with developing new areas in central Kentucky. They're all booked up.

A new chapter would free them up to focus their energy regionally while giving an energy stream to divert into the Daniel Boone National Forest and the rest of Eastern Kentucky.

I'm not saying this is Troy's idea, or my baby, necessarily, because other people have expressed to me that this has been needed and wanted for some time. I just happened to be the catalyst that has gotten the bike rolling. We need better regional advocacy? Okay, then let's do it! A private landowner is inviting mountain bikers to come play? Lets not let that opportunity pass!

While I'm acting as a catalyst, I just hope I don't get obliterated in the blast when this thing goes nova.

The new chapter may have to have a minimal role in the development of this new bike park because of the for-profit nature of the venture, but that doesn't mean it can't exist, and that there can't be some mutual benefit.

And even though the bike park may be a separate endeavor, that doesn't mean there isn't a huge need for mountain biking advocacy in Eastern Kentucky. We're starting to get some momentum on trails being built and plans are popping up all over for more. This is good for a state that needs to scale back on destructive resource extraction and focus on tourism and preservation.

I'm hoping to get to get in there (the blank canvas of the new bike park) and do some exploring ASAP. There are some roads and offroad trails already there. What both sides of the table want are quality mountain bike trails. We're going to make this huge!

Thursday, April 25

Cannonball X v4.1 Redux

The storage unit door went up in a howling screech of protest. I peered into the gloomy space and saw exactly what I expected to see. Over the past four months most of our material things have lounged in a dark and dry place. But for some reason my beloved Cannonball has attracted rust like refrigerator odors to baking soda (like that one?).

The last time I went rooting around in our pile of junk I discovered that the chain on my cargo bike had rusted stiff. Upon closer inspection I saw that rust had accumulated in other nooks and crannies as well. Oddly, Mandy's Kona Lisa has no rust at all. The oxidation frenzy took hold of my bike alone.

That was a few weeks ago. The sight of that rust has been itching me--scrawling obscenities on the inside of my skull ever since. I knew I needed to rescue my sport utility bike and fast!

Tuesday I peered into the storage gloom and almost wept. I carefully removed the bike from the hostile space and slung it to my new trunk rack so I could further subject my faithful steed to the indignity of being hauled on a car again.

My plan was to strip the commuting accessories from the bike, clean and tune it, and the build it back up as a mountain bike trail-building machine. It's got the H-bar. I really just need to take off the fenders and put The One's old wheels and knobbies on it.

Tuesday night I planned on getting it rideable, but the chain was pretty far gone. I took it off and continued with the plan as far as I could. So now we're looking at v4.1 (no upgrades) redux. I've gone back to mountain bike tires, but not for the previous reason of adverse weather conditions.

Why, pray tell, would I do such a thing? It's not like an Xtracycle makes for a good trail bike. You can't turn one around in a 10 acre field, much less on even a well designed singletrack switchback, and with the rear wheel trailing a good two city blocks behind you you can't get any traction for climbing. Seems nutzoid, huh?

I did say "trail-building machine." And that's exactly the primary purpose of the Cannonball X from this point forward. I'm hoping it can pull double duty as a rough tourer too. We'll see about that.  I'm going to try and get it back to rideable condition tonight for a grand rollout on Saturday.  Photos to follow.  And maybe some X-deck surfing?

Oh, building trails where? Hehe. Soon, Dear Readers. Soon.

The potential for a 7+ mile trail along the 760' contour...


Wednesday, April 24

Sub-Clyde

This is going to sound like whining, but I’ve got to get this out.  Believe it or not I think I’m really looking for a solution.  After the APA conference I got on a scale.  I’d been eating for five days on a per diem budget; however, I had also been walking all over Chicago like a fiend so I wasn’t sure where my weight would be.  The Mohican is less than 50 days away and I’m getting nervous about my borderline “Clydesdale” status. 

I think I have lied I hate to admit it, but I think I’m going to skirt the Clyde-lifestyle indefinitely.  I just can’t motivate myself to drop the weight.  I’m so weak of mind when it comes to food.  Impulsivity, laziness, stupidity…yeah, it’s all my own fault.

I got on a scale.  I didn’t know what number would pop up.  I was hoping for a miracle, but…

198

No progress. None. Nada. Nyet. Nien.

Mandy suggested I try a popular commercial weight loss program.  I’m not opposed to the idea, but it won’t work for me and here’s why: I can’t remember to track my food.  I’ve tried using an app for Sparkpeople.  I’ve tried other tracking methods.  I just can’t do it consistently enough to be beneficial to me.  I’ve tried tricks.  And I want something that will work.  I just can’t find a program that I can use on my own and manage my calorie intake.  It’s less about willingness (though there is a distinct lack of that) and more about routines.

Maybe I can work my mass to my advantage somehow.  Are there any all downhill 100 mile mountain bike races?  I could dominate.  There is a history there.  At Leadville last year as I was heading around Turquoise Lake another cyclist thanked me for letting him draft on the paved descent.  Then he stomped all over me going up the other side.

Within 20 minutes of the start of the Alpine Odyssey I had a moment when I believed my girth was being ridiculed:

We'd just come down a short hill and it sounded like another rider said: "I like your block."
"What was that?" I asked.

He replied, with an accent I hadn't detected the first time: "I like your blog."

He'd read my blog!

And then at the finish of the Alpine Odyssey, just before I walked away from the finish a rider was coming in. He was a tall guy and as he came over the finish he was calling out his weight.

"230!"

He looked in my direction and said: "You're a Clydesdale too! How much you weigh?"

"Uh, like...190."

So maybe it’s possible to turn flab into advantage.  Again, does anyone know of an all downhill 100 mile MTB race?  NO! I’ve got to drop this weight, and I’ve got to do it now, not in a couple of months, not after the Mohican.  NOW.  

[Last minute update: as of this morning I am 196.  I am NOT the biggest loser...yet]

 
 

Tuesday, April 23

Kentucky Walk Bike Summit Wrap-Up

Ah, blessed distractions!  It’s been a long couple of weeks.  I got too far behind.  So here is, finally, ten days after the fact, my summation of the 2013 Kentucky Walk Bike Summit:

I am now familiar with the Kentucky Bicycle & Bikeway Commission.  It was created in 1992 by the state legislature and it is tasked to:

  • represent the interests of bicyclists in advising the Secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet on all matters pertaining to the use, extent, and location of bicycles and bikeways
  • assist the bicycle and bikeway program in the exercise of its duties within the Cabinet, and
  • promote the best interests of the bicycling public, within the context of the total transportation system, to governing officials and the public at large. (KRS 174.125(3)(a)-(c))

I have a better understanding of the efforts of the Kentucky Rails-to-Trail Council, and I’m really excited about the opening of the Dawkins Line(not up to date, but according to one presenter half of the Dawkins Line should be open this spring).
Kentucky Trail Towns is a growing phenomenon and one that will apparently be a model for other states.  There is definitely some local (hometown) relevance.
The Kentucky Century Challenge has grown out of proportion and has far exceeded the interest level expected by those who conceived it.  And because of one little free jersey they believe that registration for the participating events has exploded.  The Redbud Ride’s sixth year saw an increase from 770 registered last year to 1,100 this year (and only 28 the inaugural year!).
A couple in Midway came up with and implemented a way to relieve your bladder while riding around rural Scott County.  It’s a program called Bluegrass Bike Partner, and in the spirit of Bicycle Friendliness they have gotten local businesses, organizations, and citizens to participate and to allow the use of their restrooms to cyclists and also for some to provide toolkits, spare tubes, and pumps free of charge. It’s a pretty amazing idea and I want to try and recreate it in my neck of the woods.
Andy Clarke of the League of American Bicyclists gave a talk in the morning on the opening day and then he presented a few other sessions along the way.  During a very robust discussion during his Forming and Sustaining Advocacy Groups session I began to get the sense that most of the discussers were unknowingly hinting around that the state needs a state-wide citizen advocacy group.  But no one was saying it.  Finally, I couldn’t take my inner tension any longer, I threw up my hand.  When Andy acknowledged me I turned to the group and said: “Pardon, my ignorance, I’ve been out of the state for five years, but is there a state-wide advocacy group?”  Brief silence, followed by a resounding “NO!”
“Well, then, from what I’m hearing, I think that is exactly what we need.”
I got a “hear, hear” and a few other positive acknowledgments and I think now is the time to pursue that line of dialogue on a greater scale.  Kentucky needs a citizen advocacy group similar to Bicycle Colorado.  It has the KBBC, and it has KyMBA, and it has a lot of local and regional clubs, but it has no group that strictly advocates to state lawmakers on behalf of Kentuckian cyclists.  We need Bicycle Kentucky if we’re ever going to have any kind of progressive bicycle legislation and recognition.
That was the meat and potatoes of the summit.  There were some great breakout sessions.  Troy Hearn is as sexy in person as he is on facebook and does a great talk on mountain biking opportunities in the state.  Mark Fenton and Andy Clarke were phenomenal.  And it was also really beneficial to hear from bike interests all over the state, and see what great progress has been done in the last few years in the bike-ped world in my home state.  I just can’t wait for the next statewide summit!
To close, I just want to share a few quotes, ideas, and resources:
“Transportation is about people and places.”

Free range kids

Last Child in the Woods by Louv

Childhood obesity less about TV and video games and more about chauffeuring.
Exercise opportunities must be easily accessible to residential areas.
At the next summit we need more law enforcement and more local officials.  Pulaski County Judge Executive Barty Bullock got applause when he introduced himself during the Forming and Sustaining Advocacy Groups session. 




And finally, while the term was used only a very few times, “sustainability” was not a buzzword, but the recurring themes of the summit most definitely resounded of a need for more sustainable activity in the state.  We need more social justice everywhere, we need more local economic health, and we need more focus on reducing our impact on the environment we live in within the Bluegrass State.

 

Monday, April 22

PR Campaign

Mandy and I visited our “local” bike shop on Saturday.  We bought a much needed new Saris trunk rack.  We’ve been using a 10+ year old Yakima and the rubber keeper bands have been crumbling away while the rack itself has succumbed to rust.  It’s kinda ugly.

“Do you need anything else?”  she asked as we browsed.
Well...yeah!
So I got a new saddle for my road bike(s).  I’ve needed that for quite some time.  Then we meandered toward the front of the shop and I paused by the shoes.
“Do you need new shoes?”
Well…YEAH!
We chatted with a young lady at the shoe section about my Leadville t-shirt as she helped me try on some shoes.  But then as I narrowed it down to just a size choice Mandy could take it no longer and wanted to head into the parking lot to check out the farmers’ market.  She handed me her (our) debit card and turned for the door.  She was almost there when one of the guys said to me with a sly grin: “Don't you need a new bike?”
Mandy turned cried: “Do NOT sell him a bike!”
He intercepted her as she strode back toward us and guided her toward the other door.
“You just go on!” He said as he nudged her out the door.

Her voice was cut off by the closing door—“Do NOT sell him a bike!”—and I said:  “I really want a Surly Krampus.”
Bike shop guys says:  “She’ll hate me for this…” and sat down at the computer.  He looked it up—June or July.  

We all got a good laugh.  I didn’t get a new bike though.  I’d like to say I ordered a Surly Krampus…I didn’t.
After we got back home with my new saddle and shoes I went for a rare evening ride.  I left Clay City over Pompeii hill nabbing an unexpected KOM on the section from highway 11over to Beech Fork Reservoir.  I continued on across 213 to North Bend Road where I clocked in #2 on the section between Morris Creek and Rosslyn. 

What was truly surprising about my Strava experience for the night wasn’t my performance—though I did surprisingly well—but that there were existing segments on my favorite routes.  Apparently I’d not fired up my Strava app on rides along Pompeii and North Bend since our grand return.


STOP THE PRESSES!!!
I was going to post the above post when I got back from Veterans during my lunch ride.  I held off in case I had something noteworthy to include from my quickie.  I didn’t really expect much, but was pleasantly surprised with an overall PR-trending ride.

I didn’t feel terribly fast or lithe on my run today.  The new greenery flanking the tight, sinuous trails made me hesitate a few times.  I’m just not familiar enough with the place to be able to go all out without visual cues.  Despite my wussery and seeming sluggishness I managed a respectable climb up through the ranks.  In particular I climbed up to 15thout of 78 on the “Veterans Park South Loop” segment. 
I need these short sprints as much as I need the base miles.  I’m lacking the base, but maybe I can boost my overall speed over lunch.
It doesn't hurt my feelings to see better Strava results either.

Friday, April 19

Photographical Reminiscence of My Recent Hiatus

Here are some (okay, a lot) of photos from my trip to Chicago for the American Planning Association's National Conference:

There is so much I could say about this: hipster in a suit,
texting while biking, cyclo-fascist...

Dearborn separated bike lanes

Dearborn and Lake

I didn't end up renting a bike, but I was gonna...


Dearborn during the morning rush hour




E.T. phone home!

Bikes as art outside Willis (Sears) Tower






Bike parking

Misspelling fascists!

The only roadie I saw. Everyone else was hipster or utilitarian

Like this guy...

Hey buddy, you got a low rear tire.
And you're riding on the sidewalk.
And yes, I am taking your picture.
And yes, I am a tourist.

Hipster near-life experience. The cars were honking and
he was yelling all the way through the intersection.
 
You gotta admire his lack of interest in fostering mutual
understanding, and his strict adherence to the hipster
code of "individuality through rigid emulation."

"I think I see my dad."

Escher would be proud

Mmm...post-run breakfast at the Wildberry Pancakes & Cafe

 


Monday, April 15

Mean Streets

At lunch today I was out in downtown Chicago on a walking tour outlined in a booklet I got when I registered for the conference, and I overheard someone on the street say: "There were two explosions."

I had a feeling that something significant had happened. I continued on my hike around town, but when I got back to my room, my camera filled with hundreds of photos of a bustling city, I turned on the TV for background noise while I changed clothes to head to my next session. Then I saw the horror going on in Boston. Needless to say I didn't go to the session.

My quick assessment: I think this is domestic terrorism. I don't know exactly what makes me think that, but our country is so polarized it just seems likely that some whack-job has done this for some asinine political reason. It's frightening that maybe there could be a connection with the Sandy Hook event. I sure hope not.

It was hard not to be cognizant of being in the middle of a large American city while watching the news today. After dinner I wandered back down along Michigan in the rain for some more photos. I got some good moving shots of a couple of cyclists, but more so I saw the huge difference in the streets of Chicago than in the other cities I've ridden in: Nashville, Dayton, Lexington and Denver. Chicago is hard. Motorists honk over cyclists, pedestrians, and almost over each other. The sheer number of moving beings leaves little room for error and no rest for the fixed.

If I lived here I would ride the streets, but I'd harbor no illusions about immortality if I did. In Chicago, it seem, cycling in the street is dangerous. Maybe even crazy...

No, I think the reality is that its like everywhere else I've ridden: there are better places than others to ride and what appears dangerous can be controlled more than you'd think.

Anyway, trouble in the world and trouble at home...it all makes for a rough time trying to compose a blog post.

So tonight as I lay down to go to sleep in a strange city on a dark day I say a prayer and wish you all a peaceful night. I hope Tom feels better and heals quick after his crash tonight. My father-in-law took the ditch to avoid being hit by a car and got banged up good. Mandy's having a rough night dealing with our six-going-on-sixteen-year-old and the stark realities of our tumultuous move back to Kentucky...I can't be there for support and comfort. It's frustrating.

Like I said, I've got hundreds of photos from roaming around Chicago, and I'll share the good ones after I get back home and have time to get settled. I will also write up my final summary of the KY Walk Bike Summit and maybe my thoughts on the APA National Conference too.

But not tonight, not tomorrow...too much chaos to organize that kind of post.








Sunday, April 14

Transportation Geek Out

Between the KY Walk Bike Summit and the APA National Conference in Chicago I'm going into bike advocacy geek overload. Thursday and Friday I met and sat in on small intimate sessions with Andy Clarke (the "e" is for "English-borne") of the League of American Bicyclists, and this morning Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon spoke during the keynote presentation at the American Planning Association National Conference in Chicago, Illinoising.

On Thursday at lunch I overheard Andy Clarke talking to someone about the new League logo. I piped up and asked if he knew about A. D. Ruff's headstone. He replied that he'd seen the Wheelmen's bench in Louisville. I briefly described the stone and later at lunch took my phone over and showed him my photo of the monument in Owingsville.

Congressman Blumenauer is one of cycling's (and livable cities') greatest advocates in congress. He gave a great talk of which I am not going to write much about. Except to relay this: he opened by thanking us all for being fired up about planning enough to forgo attending mass this morning. He said he hadn't expected so many people as he pulled out a plastic bag filled with duplicates of the bike pin he always wears on his lapel. He said he only expected about fifteen people and hadn't brought enough pins for everyone (widespread chuckle), and then he launched into his talk.

I decided that, not only was I going to get a pin, but I was going to get the pin that Congressman Blumenauer was wearing on his lapel as he gave his talk.

When the keynote session was over I went straight to Congressman Blumenauer. He was happily giving out bike pins to other conference attendees and I waited patiently as his meager supply of pins dwindled to one lone one and the one he wore. He noticed me and extended the bag, but I indicated that he should give it to the person that had just walked up.

"I actually wanted a specific pin," I told him.

I told him that I went to DC in '88 as a Boy Scout to the National Jamboree, and when we visited the US Capitol we were each given a US flag that had flown one day over the Capitol building.

I pointed at the green pin on his lapel.

"I'd be greatly honored if I could have the pin you wore today."

With a slight grin he started taking off the green bike pin on his lapel.

"I guess I'm going to be out of uniform for a minute," he said as he handed me the pin.

He asked me where I was from and I told him and shook his hand before leaving. I was actually pretty nervous despite my bold request and it took a few minutes before I realized I could probably have chatted with the congressman for a few minutes.

On the elevator ride up to my room another attendee noticed the pin and said: "Oh, you got one of his pins!" Slightly embarrassed I said I had asked him for the one he was wearing and he'd given it to me. Another person in the elevator said: "It's kind of like getting a flag that's flown over the Capitol."

For a transportation geek I've had a pretty amazing few days.





Saturday, April 13

Guest Post: Redbud Ride Report

I desperately wanted to do the Redbud Ride in London, Kentucky this weekend, but due to a scheduling snafu (read: the American Planning Association thoughtlessly scheduling the national conference the same weekend) I couldn't make the ride. It's a bummer too, because, of the four options to get three centuries for the Kentucky Century Challenge jersey, it was the one that most appealed to me.

Thankfully the Pavement's Edge had a correspondent on assignment at the reported "Best Century Ride in America."

And so follows the first ever Pavement's Edge guest post. My beautiful wife Mandy shares her trip report and makes me even more jealous I only got to run in Illinoising today:


We (the royal we--Dad and I) arrived at our hotel in Mt. Vernon, KY for a quick (and I mean light speed) stop. Dropping off our things we flew to London to make the scene. Dad likes to make the scene; I dare say, he's perfected it.

We rolled into London at about 6:00. That gave us plenty of time to register for the ride and do a bit of swag shopping. The Redbud people have artfully mastered the registration process. A simple form filled out, payment made, and we were set for the race the following day. The volunteers were helpful and friendly. The vibe was just great and we hadn't even ridden yet.

We went into town to check out the Redbud block party. The Abbey restaurant hosted an all you can eat carb loading buffet. Pasta, chicken, salmon, veggies, and salad bar. YUM! We waited to be seated for about 15 minutes. While waiting my dad made friends with a couple from Chattanooga. They eventually joined us at our table and enjoyed the carb loading with us. I'm a firm believer my father has never met a stranger and this just reaffirms my beliefs.

This year was the 6th annual Redbud Ride and the event was orchestrated beautifully. I can't emphasize enough how amazing the volunteers were. We arrived at the London community center/farmer's market at 7:00 in the morning. It was a balmy 40 degrees, but the sun promised to shine and we didn't see a cloud in the sky. The local rotary club had heaps and loads of lovely golden pancakes and sausage. Hot coffee, orange juice, and milk were on tap. The breakfast was really fantastic.

The "mass" start was scheduled for 8:00 for the century riders, but most people left in groups of 10 or so riders. Dad and I headed out on the course at about 8:15. The ride consists of five routes--the red route is 100miles, the green route is 70, the yellow route is 23.5, orange will take you 33.5 miles, and finally the hybrid route which takes you 58 miles. We chose the hybrid. The Redbud organizers excelled at route marking and simplicity. We followed the green route for the first 47 miles and the yellow route the final 11 miles. The courses overlap at several places which made us think it would be very easy to modify ride lengths to distances that suit your fancy. On our ride there were three, what I'd call, major rest stops. There were minor stops sprinkled between and SAG vehicles traced course throughout the day.

The ride out of town is a lovely rolling traverse through a residential area. All five routes travel this path. The yellow and orange split from the green and red routes eventually and that's when the fun begins. The green route takes you through parts of Laurel and Rockcastle counties. The scenery is beautiful and there isn't a massive flow of tourists. I'd imagine a ride in the fall is breathtaking. We crisscrossed the red route occasionally getting buzzed by club groups who were vying for some nonexistent prize at the end.

We met up with Jeff and Casey at a rest stop. Jeff had busted a cleat before the ride and Casey had managed a decent wreck between the start and the rest stop. She went on to finish the century. She's my hero!

Then there was Tussey Hill. Tussey motha $&@!ing hill. It starts at a 0.25 mile 16% grade followed by a lovely 0.1 mile rest followed by a 0.1 mile 22% grade. Yeah, I didn't stutter, it really is 22%. It's like riding up a wall. I assume this because I walked it. Walked it way faster than I could have ridden it. Way. Faster. It was glorious to reach the top.

The remainder of the day was really relaxed. We made it to the McWortle Christian church lunch stop and enjoyed the company of Earl May--an 80 year old volunteer with a pink hip replacement. I loved him.

Our day ended at about 2:30 when we rolled into London again. Five hours of riding time. 6ish hours out and we had done it.

The Redbud was my longest ride to date. I'm calling it a solid 60 miles as we detoured around town here and there and I'm sure we made up that mile and a half.

Be sure to check this ride out next time you are in southern Kentucky when the redbuds are booming. You won't regret it.






Friday, April 12

Cobhill Value Meal

I did a super-sized combo this afternoon after work. Since Mandy and her dad and Jeff and Casey were all headed down to do the Redbud tomorrow and I'm flying out for Chicargo early in the AM I decided a solo jaunt on the Cobhill-Patsey Loop was in order.

Got this text from Jeff the other day:

"Just did cobhill to patsey hill back to back for the first time. That 25 miles felt like 70."

Now, Jeff lives on this loop. First off, I'm jealous, but 'b', I could see that. When he and I rode Cobhill awhile back I wanted to just die at the top. I walked twice. Then we rode back to Furnace the direct route and back to Stanton. On that ride Jeff talked about Patsey Hill and how burly it was going either direction.


Basically what the situation is is this: Cobhill-Patsey Road traverses Woodward (Wodward on the map) Creek from ridgetop to ridgetop in a short distance. What this means is that either approach, from the east or the west, involves a crazy descent to the creek and a heartbreaking climb back out of the valley. Both approaches are guarded by miles of endless rollers with the Cobhill option close by. Tantalizingly close by.

Jeff is a monzter. He proved that last weekend mtbing. So if he thought Cobhill and Patsey Hill back to back were brutal I had no business even thinking about riding them. But I made it my business. Or more correctly, I said I was going to do the loop and then committed to it before I had time to think about it. That seemed like the best strategy.

Two days of talking about biking without actually biking was enough to drive me over the edge. I was gonna ride some stupid loop or die trying. I'm jealous everyone else is doing the Redbud, and therefore I needed a consolation prize for having to go to a five day conference in Illinoising.

Anyway, it was a good ride. Cobhill will go down; hopefully before it gets too hot. Patsey wasn't a cakewalk, but it was nothing compared to Cobhill. And what is really the silent killer on this 26 mile loop isn't the 1.5 miles of continuous 12+% climbing on the two cruxes but the other 24+ miles of perpetual rollers.



I'll try to sum up the KY Walk Bike Summit over the weekend. And be looking for a guest post trip report on the Redbud Ride.

Go Mandy!

Thursday, April 11

Kentucky Walk Bike Summit: Day 1

The first day of the Kentucky Walk Bike Summit is over, at least for me, and it was truly inspiring.  It seems a lot has been going on the past few years while I was out of the state and it is very heartening.  I appreciate that the Kentucky Rails-to-Trails Council has organized this event.  I hope this is an annual gathering.

Bill Gorton of the Kentucky Bicycle & Bikeway Commission opened things up and introduced Lt Governor Jerry Abramson, the former mayor of Louisville, who gave the first talk and got things off to a great start talking about his work in Louisville and about things going on right now throughout the state.

Next up was national public health, planning and transportation expert and former Olympic speedwalker Mark Fenton who talked about how we can have "stickier" communities, that is, communities that make quality of life improvements that promote long term health benefits through smart planning.

Mark's talk was energetic and informative.  After his rousing presentation you just felt like going out and changing the world right away.

Then there was a panel discussion followed by a presentation by Andy Clarke of the League of American Bicyclists.

During lunch we heard from Secretary of Transportation Mike Hancock's office and from Elaine Wilson of Kentucky Adventure Tourism. More good stuff.  I'm very excited about the work Adventure Tourism is doing.

Lunch was good and afterward we dispersed into the breakout sessions.  I heard about Kentucky Trail Towns, Bluegrass Bike Partner, and the Kentucky Century Challenge.  My day was punctuated by Troy Hearn's presentation on mountain biking opportunities in Kentucky.  I got to meet many like-minded people and did some good networking.

It was a full day, and I'm going back tomorrow!


Andy Clarke, LAB

Wednesday, April 10

Right Wing Mountain Biker

In general I would say I’m a very conservative mountain biker.  I’m referring to my riding style, not really to my politics.  On Saturday as I followed Jefe down into Pot Holler I saw what could be done on a bike and I was inspired to do more than I would have been on my own.  As we encountered rock ledges and deep tank traps across the roads I saw ways of getting around those that I wouldn’t have considered on my own.  And I pedaled timidly out of my comfort zone.

Jeff climbing out of Barker Branch of Sand Lick

As I grew more tired along the way I ratcheted back down and was not as motivated to emulate, but I continued to watch Jeff as he rode up and down things I wouldn’t have considered solo.  My inner paradigm is changing.  Now if my outer fat layers could change…

I’ve been fearful of injury.  It’s not the acute pain that comes when collarbone strikes tree; it’s the frustration of a potential long healing process afterward.  I don’t want a little fun today to stop all fun for months.  My recent sprained ankle is a perfect example.  What a ridiculously strategic injury if you want to prevent someone from burning fat…jack up their ankle and watch ‘em plump up like a thanksgiving turkey in the middle of November.

Geoff showed me the Mountain Biking Way.  I see the sun-dapple Path I must now ride down.  But there’s a price: pain.  I’m not saying I gotta go sling my old bones against an oak tree at 25 mph. No, but I’ve got to figure out a way to push beyond my fears and find my flow.

His background is BMX and skating.  I don’t have those as my base, so carving through steep and deep tank traps and bunny hopping over fallen trees and doing a half kick flip to clear the back wheel are not really a part of my repertoire.  I need more mountain biking tools and more confidence to find my groove.

With honed skills I could tap into the existing potential here much more deeply and forget about “developing” better trails.  Why bring the earth down to my level when what I truly need to do is rise to the challenge?

I’m also conservative in that I don’t think subduing the trails with better gear is the answer.  Oh, I’m a gearhead, and therein lies the paradoxical conflict.  I love shiny new bikes and new pieces of gear.  But I also think that if you can only pull something off with a high end bike, or a certain accessory, or lighter components, or more gears, or hydraulic disc brakes, then you can’t really pull it off. 

I’m not such a purist that I think everyone should be riding fully rigid fixed gear mountain bikes.  But I do think that if you can’t ride a fully rigid bike on a trail then your head is in the wrong place.  Of course you’ll get banged up a little bit without suspension, but isn’t that what riding a mountain bike is all about?  Getting banged up, muddy, bloody and dashing out of the dust cloud with a grin on your face?  I ride with suspension and disc brakes, but I wouldn’t stop riding if I didn’t have them, and I’m always thinking of ways to simplify. 

A good mountain bike doesn’t have to cost more than your car.  You can enjoy riding without dipping into the kids’ college fund.  And if you’re not racing does it really matter how light your bike is?  A heavy bike will make you stronger.  If your Rockhopper is holding you back you’re just not riding it enough.

In conclusion I say this (cognizant of its application to my pudgy form): don’t drag mountain biking down to your level, rise to the challenge of the trail in front of you and build your body and mind to meet it admirably.
Descending rock ledges north of
Whites Branch Arch on the Sheltowee Trace
 
 
 

Tuesday, April 9

Ten Years After: More Importantly


My son was born ten years ago today.  It was 2:11am in the morning when he came screaming into the world.  He still wakes us in the middle of the night making noise.  And he’s finally too big to crawl in bed with us.  Someone has to leave the bed.

We sat in the hospital room on that cold day in 2003 we watched on the TV as Americans rolled into Baghdad and saw the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down.  I bought a newspaper in the hospital gift shop with the headline: BAGHDAD!  I still have it. I remember pondering our decision to have a child. 

Immediately after 9/11 I didn’t think I could ever bring another human being into the world.  It seemed as if our world was devolving into chaos.  But three years later there was a semblance of normality and it was hard to forgo starting a family because of geopolitical turmoil.  Then the US rolled over Iraq looking for oil after Mandy became pregnant with our first child. 

I don’t regret starting a family.  Occasionally I wonder what possessed us.  Life would be much more straightforward without the stress of planning for my children’s future.  But I can’t imagine life without them now.

Boone has been a joy these past ten years.  He’s going to be smarter than either of his smart parents and probably taller, too.  He’s good natured, with a big heart, and an unfathomable memory for facts and details.  I love him for his quirks.  I love him for who he is. 

He’s started playing baseball.  It’s interesting, me being the anti-organized sports scrooge that I am, and him actually enjoying a sport.  But I’m glad he is enjoying it and will support him unconditionally as long as he is interested.  Doesn’t mean I won’t try to get him to be more interested in climbing, biking and in running cross country.  His elementary school now has a cross country team.  I’m kinda stoked about that.

Ten years can pass so quickly.

Wearing "the armor"
 

Monday, April 8

A New Chapter for KyMBA

What:  A meeting to discuss the need and viability of a new chapter of the Kentucky Mountain Bike Association (KyMBA)  to focus on the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Cumberland Plateau (the rest of Eastern Kentucky).

When:  Saturday, April 27, 2013 from 3:30pm to 5:30pm

Where:  Kentucky Artisan Center Conference Room, 200 Artisan Way,  Berea, KY

Who:  Any current or potential member of KyMBA that is interested in regionally specific advocacy and energy.

Why:  To maintain and improve existing mountain biking opportunities and to expand and create new mountain biking opportunities in Eastern Kentucky.


Let me explain why this meeting is important to me.  In the mid-90s I bought a Cannondale M300 mountain bike from a friend to serve as urban transportation while I was away at college.  It continued to be my primary mode of transportation when I returned to live in Slade, Kentucky in my native Powell County.  Over time I began using the bike to explore for new rocks to climb and trails to hike, but somewhere along the way I found I enjoyed just riding the bike. 

That somewhere was a short steep descent from the Sheltowee Trace at the southernmost boundary of Natural Bridge into Pot Hollow.  At the time it was a dirt road with big ole rocks travelled frequently by OHVs but rarely by mountain bike.  I rode it as often as I could, and I began looking for similar places to ride in the area.  I saw glorious untapped potential.

Time passes, and life goes on.  I eventually had a family and my foot on a career stepping stone…in Colorado. We lived in the West for five years, and in that time I became a die-hard mountain biker, riding wonderfully built singletrack in public city and county parks and National Forests, and eventually participating in my first Leadville MTB Trail 100, a 100 mile mountain bike race in the mountains of Colorado.

I couldn’t help but daydream about returning to my old haunts and riding places like Whites Branch, Sand Lick, Spaas Creek, and Big Sinking with a better bike and more skill.  I knew long ago that the Cumberland Plateau is an outdoor recreationalist’s paradise.

Upon returning to my hometown I ventured out to some of those old places with the ringing in my ears of rumors that certain places had been “destroyed.”  I was also hearing about contention in Morehead of the trail use at Cave Run. 

Spaas Creek, which had once been well managed by the USFS,  turned out to be destroyed by OHVs.  Powder Mill Branch Trail, the only official mountain bike trail in the Red River Gorge, was in such disrepair and disuse as to be mostly unrideable.  I haven’t been back down into the Big Sinking area yet.  It was my favorite area, and I am afraid it will be heartbreaking to see the changes that man and nature have made over time.  But so far the most enraging experience has been my most recent ride along the Whites Branch section of the Sheltowee Trace and descent into Sand Lick where the USFS has absolutely destroyed the roads to prevent OHV use (officially to “protect wildlife”) to such an extent as to make the trail and road almost impassable for all but the most determined users.

In the short time I was out of state the conditions have degraded on those roads and trails I used to enjoy riding.  And because there are few designated mountain bike trails in the region the ambivalence toward these backwoods places is even more disheartening.  The great potential I once saw has been overgrown by neglect.  My knee-jerk response was that the window of opportunity on many of the potential mountain biking areas in Eastern Kentucky is closing.  I shouldn’t be so fatalistic.

It’s time to wade in with the bow saws and loppers to clear a path back to Eastern Kentucky mountain biking being the next big thing.  It’s time to realize that amazing potential that lies hidden underneath a canopy of Appalachian hardwood forests.

The Bluegrass Region, through the Bluegrass Chapter of KyMBA, has seen a “boom” of mountain biking development beginning with Capitol View in Frankfort and followed by mountain biking trails in public parks in Lexington, near Georgetown and now in Versailles.  The momentum of the Bluegrass Chapter is a nabbing of the low hanging mountain biking fruit of Central Kentucky.  All the while few MTBers are husbanding the immense potential of the Cumberland Plateau. 

All around the state there is an outcry of “What will we do if coal leaves Eastern Kentucky?”  It’s coming both from pro-coal and those who oppose continued use of mountain top removal in Eastern Kentucky.  Everyone understands the implications of a change in paradigm, whether they oppose or support the change.  Eastern Kentucky is losing its last popular industry. 

For a few years there has been a push to increase adventure tourism in Eastern Kentucky to bolster economic development. My inner soul only wants access to these areas for me and my friends, but my overall frustration at having grown up in a place with no economic opportunity causes righteous outrage to boil up and over in me and causes me to seek to improve the economic conditions for my home city, county, and state.  I am not divided on this because I realize it’s not about just me and my friends, but about a community that is in crisis.  There are economic, health, and ecological factors involved.  My training in Sustainability Management has me chewing on my own restraints at the hideousness of the situation, and I can’t stop raving about making big changes.

In short, I am tilting at these windmills in hopes that others will finally see the dragons and pick up their lances and join me. 
 
For more details you can email me at ascentionist at yahoo dot com.

 

Saturday, April 6

A Rise and Fall

I often inadvertently set myself up for a grand fall.  I headed out with Jeff from his place this morning bound for some of my old haints with the intention of seeing the destruction along the Narrows Road/Whites Branch/Pot Holler.

Looking down the road into Pot Holler

There ended up being bucketloads more climbing than I expected and a lot of brutally steep and technical ground. Jeff rode 99% of our 30 mile loop and I probably rode 85%. I definitely slowed Jeff down walking up some of the more heinous climbs. At least I know what I need to work on now.

My ambition was my downfall. I consoled myself with the knowledge that fewer people could and would do what we're doing than can't or won't. I'm not despondent concerning my poor performance. The sprained ankle and the flu have killed my cardio. Got to build that back up.

As for the destruction of the Narrows road...it's as bad as I expected but more rideable than I could have imagined. We rode through a lot more of the tank traps and bomb craters than I'd have thought. There's potential. The road between the Sheltowee and Sand Lick is a crucial link in the potential mountain biking in the area.

At least they put in erosion control: the closure
of the Narrows section of the Sheltowee Trace

Some cool things we saw: the ghost town of Pilot, a shacklerod engine, the Narrows, sandstone slickrock Kentucky style, we rode down a creek bed on flat rock, and pounded over High Rock.

 

It's like Moab, but more Appalachian. Above Billey Fork
 
Not sure what this is like, but it was fun! Pot Holler