Friday, April 11

The Redbud Ride: Tussey Time

In honor of the Redbud Ride tomorrow (and apologies to Don Williams):

Tussey Time (sung to the tune of Tulsa Time)

I left Laurel County ridin' on a bicycle
Just about to lose my mind
I was goin' on to East Bernstadt, maybe on to Livingston
Where the people like them bikes just fine
My baby said I was crazy, don’t gun for Tussey lazy
I was goin' to show 'em all this time
'Cause you know I ain't no fool an' I don't need no more schoolin'
I was born to just climb that climb

Livin' on Tussey time
Livin' on Tussey time
Well you know I've been through it
When I set my mind onto it
Livin' on Tussey time

Well there I was in ridin’ in the woods wishin' I was doin' good
Talkin' on the cellphone line
But I can’t get a K-O-M and the pacelines are too long
Guess I’m just wastin’ time
Well then I got to thinkin', man I'm really sinkin'
And I really felt a bonk this time
I had no business draftin' and my body would be collapsin'
If I went on back to Tussey time

Livin' on Tussey time
Livin' on Tussey time
Gonna set my watch back to it
I-I've set my mind onto it
Livin' on Tussey time

Truth be told I have nothing to fear from Tussey Hill.  Lately I've been tackling my local hills, and in the last two weeks I've even climbed two of the hardest on my longtail cargo bike.  I think Tussey will be fine.  And while I'm not worried, I am looking forward to Tussey.  I consider myself a connoisseur of fine Cumberland Plateau cycling climbs.

After cresting Pottershop Hill during the OKHT last fall a volunteer eagerly asked what I thought about the climb.  I said it was no big deal.  They thought I was joking when I said my home hills were bigger.  I had a similar exchange with an organizer for another Bluegrass region century ride.

No really...Furnace, State Rock, Sky Bridge, High Rock, Cobhill, Patsey...all way tougher.  And those are just the paved roads.  Remember, the most insane hill I've ever ridden (pushing my bike up Columbine and Powerline don't count) is a gravel waterfall about two miles from my house.  It's hard to get up and down in a car.  And I lived in Colorado for five years where the climbs are miles and miles long with steady average grades even if they don't have extremely steep sections.

It takes a big hill to impress me.  But I can enjoy any good hill, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Tussey's all about.

Thursday, April 10

I Am Jack's...

Late afternoons I walk a post-apocalyptic wasteland of low blood sugar and empty-bellied angst.  I become a ravening appetite of road rage, screaming dad-ittude, short fused and ripping, slavering, masticating anything I can get my hands on.

This has been going on for two days.  I've changed my daily SOP to exclude afternoon snacking or any kind of junk/fast food shenanigans.  I'm serious about dropping weight for the Loudonville 100.  I'm serious about losing the equivalent of a small child (or medium-sized dog) from my frame. 

The other night Li'l Bean had an appointment with the gymnastics people, and I was going to haul her over the hill to town on the X.  In my thin-blooded haze I couldn't motivate her to find her helmet or locate it myself.  Then we ran out of time to make the ride.  Then when I announced we'd just drive (against my own wishes) she melted like a chocolate chip on the sun-broiled linoleum of the kitchen floor.

I wanted to give up.  I wanted to begin chewing my own leg off.  I wanted to take down a wildebeest and eat it raw...with BBQ sauce.  I just wanted the afternoon to pass without so much friction.

The whole ragged affair was the result of poor nutritional planning on my part, and the return to lunchtime cycling activity.  For breakfast I had two packets of oatmeal and black coffee.  For lunch I had a pb&j on whole wheat and a can of Ale-8.  Then...then I took off on a 13+ mile ride over to UK's campus, then into the heart of downtown Lexington, and finally I returned to the neighborhood where I work via the long straight bike lanes on Richmond Road.

I ate nothing else the rest of the afternoon.  Hangriness kicked in just as I got back into town.  I stopped at Kroger, a veritable hornets' nest of vehicular activity, and then the gas station.  By the time I was speeding up my home road I was ready to kill and eat.

Thankfully there was no junk food at home.  I would have eaten it all.

The moral of this story, Dear Readers, is that you should feed your Chainring if you want to have access to quality blog posts.  I know you read this to escape the humdrum existences you call…existences.  So send me cookies.  Send me cake.  Send me pita chips and baby carrots.  Send me oatmeal packets and baked goods.  I will eat pizza, I’ll eat jam, I’ll eat whatever you get near my maw.

I…am Jack’s hangry rage.

Wednesday, April 9

Why I'm Doing the #KY4X100

I had vowed around the middle of 2013 that the only organized bike event I would do in 2014 was the Redbud Ride.  And at the end of 2013 I was still resolved not to get wrapped up in organized events.

Then Mandy decided (when she saw the 2014 jersey) she wanted to do the Kentucky Century Challenge.  I was only going to do the Redbud with her, but then the Preservation Pedal is going to be one county over from us, and the Hub City tour is all new to the Challenge.  Might as well just kick in for the whole thing...

Jeffro talked me into doing the Mohican again this year.  And that darned Joe Bowen has organized a trail half marathon in the Red River Gorge.  Sigh...

At least the 4 Good Trail Run and the Sheltowee Challenge are donate-what-you-can-afford events.

What's different about this year is my lovely wife is going to be doing it.  So if nothing else I get to ride 300 (or 400) miles with my best friend this year.  We're kind of on the fence over the Horsey Hundred.  I'd be fine if I never rode it again, but I think she would enjoy it.

I'm looking forward to doing another century together.  Three more, least.  And it'll be cool to have the matching jersies.  Plus, it's no fun to go do these things by myself, or to go do them with other people while she stays at home.  I never enjoy them as much as I do when she's with me.

Speaking of KOMs (yesterday's post), I raced home and tried to do some segment maintenance.  Considering that I hold the KOM on Cobhill and my cargo bike ascent was still faster than the other three Stravathletes who have tracked it I decided I need to get on the ball with my local segments.  I did my Clark Kent-in-a-phone-booth thing and raced away toward Furnace Mountain at a gutbusting pace.

I can't get anywhere in the world from my house without dealing with a hill.  There are four ways out and three of them require at least a moderate climb out.  The fourth way is out the mouth of the creek I live on to the main (read: busiest) road in the county.  To return home I have to climb unless I'm coming off Furnace Mountain and drop down Hart's Orchard.

So I climbed over Granny (Gears) Moppet which dumped me at the base of Furnace.  I didn't slack off and charged skyward.  At the top of the first crux I was beginning to breathe heavy.  I kept attacking the pedals through the reprieve around the second turn.  I stood on the pedals up the second--and longer--crux for a few yards and then dropped back to the saddle and slowed.  But I went into the upper rest on my feet again, with chest heaving from the effort.  I slowed.  I slowed.  But then I kicked up a couple of gears through the last reprieve.  Then I clawed to the top as my momentum failed. Eighteen minutes flat from the mouth of the Bike Cave to the "summit" of Furnace Mountain.

I hoped it was enough to secure the KOM.  I fought to control my breathing and get my foggy brain back under control for the terminal velocity descent.  In review, I would manage only my second fastest ascent (by 20 seconds).

I took in the postcard view, turned my wheel back toward home, and used my girth for something constructive.  Every time I start down the "downhill b4 town" segment I vow I won't touch the brakes.  And every time I grab the levers of wussitude and slow myself on three of the sub-standard curves with awkward horizontal alignments.

I try to make up for my PW by cranking hard between curves.  It's hard when you're doing 40+ and edging a blind curve you know some meth-head will be short-cutting on the way up.  I try to stay out of the paint in the middle.

I fired through the last curve before the bottom and opened the throttle.

Looking back, I probably should have eaten something--anything--a half hour or so before I set out to claim my localest KOM.  I didn't.  It really was an impromptu jaunt.  I went light and with a nearly empty tank hoping I could leverage the minimalist approach into faster speeds.  What I really need to do is leverage about 30 pounds off of myself and become a physical minimalist.

I slammed harder on the pedals looking out far beyond the curve at the bottom, scanning for oncoming traffic.  If only I could take it a little wider, I might be able to wring a few more mph out of my effort.  In the end I grabbed the levers of Strava mediocrity and slowed.

I eased back on the reins when the road flattened out and sat up, catching my breath, and preparing for the last obstacle before home: the short stout face of Granny Moppet. 

In retrospect I realized one reason I might be falling short of a KOM on the descent: I always ease off at the bottom, but the segment goes on for another couple tenths of a mile.

I laughed as I vocalized this to my SAG bunny at the kitchen table.  It's likely I'm pretty fast on the hill, but I'm not carrying the effort through the segment.

While I didn't clean up my local segments I did tick one thing off my cycling bucket list.  I hit 50 mph on the Furnace descent.  That's something I've been trying to do for a year.  I've only managed it a couple of other times on the Mount Vernon Canyon descent along US 40 west of Golden.  It's so much harder on the short steep hills in Kentucky where off-standard curves guard everything.

Tuesday, April 8

Like Strava Users in the Night

On Saturday I returned home after my glorious cargo bike ascent of Cobhill.  I dutifully uploaded my Strava track in a timely fashion.  Others, however, did not.

Yesterday morning I found a strange thing: a multi-rider leaderboard for Cobhill.  What?!?!

There were two riders that did it on Saturday…the same day I did.  Jefe also rode sort of the same loop that day.  He continued past Watson Ridge and traversed the Patsey gorge and then dropped into South Fork, swung out and came up the Cat Creek side of High Rock to return home.  I cut back to Furnace over Watson Ridge and surfed the rollers back to town on 213 before running an errand in town.  Dual purpose cargo bike: ascend sick steep Cumberland Plateau climbs and carry shopping fare home.

As I was text/telling Jefero about the weird “encounter” a third Stravathlete appeared in the leaderboard.  THREE!  That meant a total of five cyclists rode Furnace, the Tipton Ridge Descent, Cobhill, and Wet Puppy Ridge!  FIVE!  That’s a tie for the previous most cyclo-congested day on Cobhill when Mandy, Casey, Jeff, Mark and I all rode Cobhill back in the summer.  INSANE!!!

But HERE is the mind-boggling proof!!!

Jeff said my cousin Parnell told him he saw the peloton of three cyclists descending Cat Creek.  Parnell is a sometimes cyclist himself, most notable for having ridden with Joe Bowen some on his second 14,000 mile cross-country bike ride and being mentioned in Joe’s book Real Winners Don’t Quit.

Jeff and I both agree it is crazy that we didn’t somehow see those guys ourselves.  We only rode together for the first couple of miles from Stanton, and then Jeff went on while I sailed the Xtracycle out and about over ridges and deep into chasms in the earth.  I lingered at the top and bottom of Cobhill for a total of 15-20 minutes. 

I looked a little deeper into the matter.  The other three cyclists are from Michigan and Illinois.  They did about half of the same loop I did, and three-quarters or better of the loop Jeff did and opposite Jeff’s direction for a few miles as well!

He was freaked out because he had never ridden that exact loop before and they chose the same day to do basically the same loop.

I was freaked out because they must have been on cargo bikes too, because I still retain KOM on Cobhill and some of the ridgetop segments between Furnace and Cobhill.  At my cargo-bike pace! 

Green was my first clean ascent
Red was on the Xtracycle

It was a busy cycling weekend on my section of the Cumberland Plateau.  The CTL bikepacked out to Hatton Ridge on Saturday to meet with some friends for a little bouldering.  Then he traversed the epic Powder Mill Trail and continued to Tunnel Ridge Road to camp Saturday night.  He said “hello, city limits” Sunday and had clocked about 50 miles on the bike and 15 hiking.

Jeff and I rode along-with-but-separate-from the three out-of-town visitors for a total of 220 or so combined miles on Saturday.  Mandy and Casey rode Sunday for a combined century.  And while they were riding I went hiking/photographing and saw a touring cyclist on the back roads of Powell County while the ladies saw another touring cyclist in the Gorge proper. 

A Powell County motorist showing you how it's done

That doesn’t sound like a lot, but all that cycling activity was centered in a county of about 12,000 souls.  And that’s just the cycling activity we know about!

It’s going to be a busy week for me, and the Redbud is coming up fast.  If I don’t post daily please accept my apologies and be aware that I’m going to turn the Pavement’s Edge world upside down beginning the Monday after the Redbud.


After sending one of the visiting cyclists a message via Strava he responded and said they started from Stanton around 1:00 pm which is when I was cruising back into town.  I still don't know how I didn't see them.

Monday, April 7

First Cargo Bike Ascent of Cobhill

A quick bit of news: over the weekend this blog reached 100,000 pageviews.  Combined with the old version of this blog ( and my old Ascentionist blog I have nearly 150,000 pageviews.  The taint on my celebratory mood is that I know a good bit of these numbers represent trolling bots. 

Doubt crept in.  It's true, I'd ridden the Cannonball X(tracycle) up a hill simulator called Furnace Mountainto train for the Redbud Ride's signature climb Tussey Hill.  Maybe it wasn't enough.  Maybe I needed another climb under my bottom bracket.  Maybe I needed to go and drag myself and my longtail cargo bike up Cobhill.

In preparation I brewed coffee and sealed it up in my insulated Klean Kanteen.  I tucked as many calories as I estimated I'd need to carry me to and fro into the cargo sacks.  To all that I added crampons, an alpenstock, and a natural fiber rope.  Then I overdressed.

Once I was sufficiently laden with expedition gear I headed off for Cobhill, 16 or so rolling miles distant.  I had to stop at the top of Furnace to shed layers.  As an avid armchair mountaineer I'm used to the notion that the temperature should drop as you ascend higher, but in this particular case just the opposite seemed to be true.

I dropped my sodden jacket into the trunk and pushed on.  It felt like it was going to be a long slog into Estill County and back.

The ride could have waited until a more convenient time after the Redbud, but I really needed a good shakedown run for the bike a week before the big ride.  I wasn’t sure if I’d get another chance for an extended ride and I had to jump through the narrow window of opportunity.

One thing I needed to do with the bike was move the shifters forward of the crossbar on the Titec (Jones) H.  That meant fiddling with angles, rewrapping the bars, and trying to come up with the best balance of comfort and usability.  I needed to move them because the original position of the shifters on the H-bar didn’t allow for a comfortable resting grip on the bars.  That was fine for shorter rides, but for a century I wanted maximum comfort.

Once repositioned, with the bike cleaned and mostly tuned, I wanted a good solid ride to shake out any other lurking bugs.  I’ve only recently started riding the bike with any frequency since we moved back to Kentucky.  Last year the bike suffered with chronic rust and a mysterious shifting problem.  Late in 2013 I finally got it all lined out, but a few weeks ago I was shocked when I discovered more rust on the bike after a long dark winter sweating in the Bike Cave.

The obvious solution to my cyclo-ailments is to just ride the danged bike.  And that’s what I’ve been trying to do the last couple of weeks.  A couple of weeks ago I took Boone to town for both of us to get haircuts.  I’ve been to town for an errand or two.  And then I cranked up Furnace Mountain last week to satisfy my curiosity.  Cobhill was next in the natural progression.
It's definitely spring on Furnace Mountain
I wasn’t moving fast.  Just before I reached KY 52 for the descent into Fitchburg I checked my average speed: 10.5 mph.  I said I had everything lined out, but the shifting is still slow compared to the sporty-sport bike and The One.  But those bikes have much better quality shifters.  I assume it’s all relative.  The important thing is that they work, and the new position on the bar works more effectively than I had hoped.

To give away the ending let’s just say I am 100% confident in the bike that it will carry me through the 2014 Kentucky Century Challenge.  But…Cobhill…

The Tipton Ridge Road descent from the top of the ridge down to Furnace Fork where Cobhill looms is always a fun bomb run.  Last year when there was still a chance for ice in the shade it was a little sketchy, but this past Saturday I had no worries; I let gravity have the full mass of me and the CBX, and we screamed toward the center of the earth.  It feels like such a huge loss in elevation, and the truth is the bridge over Furnace Fork at the bottom of Cobhill is 636’ (Kentucky River watershed) and my own house is 664’ (Red River).

Bottom of Cobhill: full stop.  I got off the bike.  I took a quick photo.  I tried to text Mandy but then remembered there is no cell service in the center of the earth.  I drank a bit of water (having chawed down some energy chews at the top of Tipton Ridge), and I took off my helmet and sunglasses and stowed them.

Listen, I average between 3 and 3.5 mph crawling up Cobhill.  It has an ADT of 182 cars per day.  It’s a paved road.  So yeah, I took off my helmet to ride up it.  Get over it.  My head overheats if I wear it.  Or if I don’t for that matter.  I only do this on Cobhill.

182 cars per day and I saw four of them during the fourteen minutes and forty-three seconds I was crawling up the face of it. 

It was a grueling ascent.  At times I thought the summit was hoped for in vain.  The first bad omen was the road sign with multiple bullet wounds.  But then as I got closer I could see the injuries were caused by a small caliber weapon.  Amateurs.  I pushed on.

The crux eventually loomed and I was feeling pretty good as I slithered along in my granny gear.  The first crux fell easy and I felt no molten agony in my lower back.  Between the first and second cruxes the mental crux attacks.  You barely get a reprieve after the steep curve and you can’t ignore the obviously steeper pavement ahead while it feels like you’re going to fall over backwards on steeper terrain below.

Slow and steady wins the summit.

Through the first, the second, the third, and the long, long fourth crux finish that looks like it might go on forever…and I pedaled a few yards further for good measure, did a u-turn and paused on the brink looking back.  I parked my faithful steed and extricated my celebratory coffee.  It was worth hauling it up that murderous face to suck down some good coffee out in the wilds of Estill County.

It was a good, leisurely ride home afterward.  I enjoyed just being out on the bike, taking in the pre-spring forests and greening fields.  I had much to do at home (that never got done) and so I pedaled my happy self back to civilization and rest. 

Redbud…here we come.


PS, after returning to town I headed over to KY Auto Parts and picked up the goods to perform an oil change on my four-wheeled conveyance.  Hauled on a cargo bike #45.

I noticed this morning that Chris Warren and Wesley Thelen, both of Michigan, did almost the same loop I did ON THE SAME DAY!  That's insane!  And Jeffro Mozhican did it that day too!  Ironically that's the second biggest cycling day we know of on Cobhill.  The first saw both the Chainring and Mozhican couples and the CTL for a total of 5 bicycle ADT.  Nuts!




Friday, April 4

Understanding Wilderness

Two worlds

It doesn’t have to remain misunderstood.  I know what it means for me.  But what does “wilderness” mean to our society?  What shouldit mean?

Our National Forests shouldn’t be seen as a repository for money making potential.  They shouldn’t be seen as large tree farms to wealthify a few.  At the very least they should be seen for what they truly do function as: huge carbon sinks that scrub the air we need for survival of all life on the planet.  And not just for our survival but for our quality of life.  We need to preserve our forests to fulfil their design.

They also harbor so much non-human (and human) life.  They provide shelter and sustenance for all kinds of wildlife that are crucial in their roles in the ecosystems we depend on for quality of life and survival.  Forests act as some of the best stormwater mitigation facilities.  They help regulate local climates and weather.  They store water and nutrients.  They buffer us from each other.  They add value to the Earth.    

Indian Peaks Wilderness, Colorado

Designated wilderness areas are important because they have the potential to be the most unspoiled of our forests if we care for them properly. 

These are the primary reasons we should preserve as much of our natural—or close to natural—forests as we can.  I’m not saying we should never cut down a tree.  But I am saying we shouldn’t rampantly and indiscriminately clear cut them because it would make someone rich or because we think we need the convenience of paper plates, single side printed documents, or store-bought landscaping mulch.  The waste that is involved in our forest management philosophies is criminal.  Sinful.

And what about desert wilderness?  Tundra?  Other biomes?  They all have their role in our greater Terran ecosystem.  We can’t afford to destroy any of them; or to develop them for human uses indiscriminately.  Our reshaping of the natural world needs to be tempered with a healthy respect—one we’ve obviously lost—for the environment, for our heirs, and ultimately for ourselves.

I think we’ve lost this respect because we’ve been conditioned to believe that everything has a dollar value.  This is simply not true.  While we can exchange anything and everything for agreed upon rates of currency, we cannot replace some of the things we buy and sell easily or in some cases at all. 

The effects of the colonization of our small communities by big box stores may well be impossible to reverse.  Those small businesses that have gone will be hard to bring back under our current paradigm.  And we desperately need them to recover our resilience.

Much like our natural systems, we need to restore our “natural” social systems as well.  We need to restructure our communities around…community.  Most definitely we need to move away from a globalized philosophy of life.  Resilience comes from localized strengths and mini-regions of support.  We don’t need to think too far beyond our own watersheds to find all the wealth we truly need and can enjoy in life.  Allof us. 

And if we need to delve into the unknown, the vast unknown places of the earth, the expanses of nature where adventure is ripe…then we should be able to enter into our local wildernesses and find ourselves lost on a path to being found.  We should be able to get away, find peace, seek truth, and enjoy something bigger than ourselves without having to create a vast retail empire that gobbles up resources, extracts the gold, and spits out the toxic waste for others to deal with.

Eastern Kentuckians shouldn’t have to depend on exploitive coal, oil, or natural gas operations for our livelihoods.  We should be able to live adequately, and even richly—on a human scale—off the land where we choose to live.  Dark hollers, cold streams, high ridges, and thick forests…this is the landscape of Eastern Kentucky.  Not flattened mountains of raw-scraped earth exposed to the sky and weeping tears of poison into their streams.  Not a landscape that lurks about seeking revenge on those that would allow their homes to be destroyed for a few dollars.  Not a landscape that is alternately diminished and lauded for the sake of material wealth as the liars that scurry about like the rats they are propagandize to the rest of the world.

Clear cutting—also—has no place in a culture that values the land and the bounty it provides.  People who have identified with the shady hollows and sunbaked crests of stone cannot readily adopt the identity of the naked muddy slopes of scoured hillsides and the hypercoagulability of their streams without also adopting the lie of greed.

Wilderness is an escape for me.  While I understand that little true wilderness still exists in my part of the world, I see that nature has a way of taking back the land and reconditioning it as wilderness before mankind can do much about it.  And before someone can cash in on the wealth that nature provides again in cycles, I find a window of opportunity to escape into the transitional forests and—if only for a moment—imagine I’m in a true wilderness, unspoiled, untrammeled, un-abused by the empires of Man.

Personally, my argument for wilderness is selfish.  I want a place where I can go and not have to interact with civilization.  I want to be away from roads, congestion, noise, societal demands, the pressure of responsibility, and the lie of greed.  But I can see on a grander scale that my own selfish desires to preserve wilderness align with the reality of a wilderness/forest preserved as a functional part of our environment.  It only needs to be preserved because we’ve nurtured our cultural greed into an insatiable monster.

So there you have it: my thoughts on wilderness.  I could obviously delve deeper into this issue, and I feel the need to make all of this into a more cohesive and concise piece of writing.  For now I will let it all fester here until I’m ready to rewrite and thrust it upon the world in some grander venue.

Thursday, April 3

Put the Spurs to 'Er Chuck

One of my favorite movies about test pilots is the 1983 classic The Right Stuff.  I like to think the real Jack Ridley did utter the words emblazoned atop this post today, but for all we know it was simply a collection of words cooked up by some Hollywood screenwriter.  Regardless, it’s a great line to kick off any experimental flight.

Right, yesterday I made a bold proclamation.  And I fully intend to follow through with it.  I'm going to ride my Xtracycle in the three Kentucky Century Challenge rides I plan on doing this year.  Prudence would have had me at least doing a test climb up one of my local hill simulators before committing to Tussey Hill.

It's all good though.  I've been at this long enough that I have confidence in my ability and in the Cannonball's sure-footed hill climbing.  There's no reason to doubt.  Yesterday I took a test run and reaffirmed that my scheme to gain international notoriety astride my longtail cargo bike is valid.  She climbs like a mountain goat.

And so the “X” in “Cannonball X” takes on a new meaning.  Like the X-1 she is a testbed for new ideas.

The closest hill simulator to my house is the KY 213 Furnace “Mountain” climb.  Furnace is 0.8 miles long and gains 468’ with an average grade of 10% and sections of at least 20%.  Ages…eons…geologic semesters ago…I decided it might be possible to ride my cool red Cannondale mountain bike up Furnace Mountain.  Silly me, I didn’t fully understand the power of granny gears.  I tried, but I walked.  I tried again and walked.  The third time—way back in the ancient epoch of Chainring—I succeeded in riding my bike all the way to the top of Furnace Mountain without stopping.  That three part process taught me a lot. 

For comparison, Tussey Hill is 1.6 miles long, gains 331’ and has an average grade of 4% with crux sections in excess of 17%.  I don’t know…I might be able to do it. 

For those that aren’t familiar with cargo bikes (longtail bikes in particular) what makes my scheme significant is that most people don’t consider the cargo bike as a recreational or touring vehicle.  But from the outset, as I pined for an Xtracycle of my own back in 2011, I intended the bike as an all-arounder.  We had committed to being a single-car family, and I wanted a bike that would act as commuter, kid hauler, touring bike and more. 

I did my research.  I looked into a few bikes as a replacement for the Cannonball when it was simply an old mountain bike sitting in as primary mode after my Giant had been slain. While I was pretty hot for a Raleigh Sojourn or something similar, I finally came across Ben Sollee’s “Ditch the Van Tour” and saw a video about his Xtracycle.  I was hooked.

The X became my primary mode of transportation, and until I went down the path looking for a Leadville belt buckle, I didn’t think I needed another bike.  The bike started out configured with drop bars and slick commuter tires.  I toured 50 miles into the mountains and back that way.  I commuted 100 miles a week that way.  I hauled my daughter to and from the babysitters that way.  I climbed mountains.  I descended canyons.

After my MTBing obsession took over I shifted the bike back to its more natural form with knobby tires and the Jones H-bar.  I’ve had it off-road a few times, and while it is definitely no singletrack shredder, it does pretty well considering.

I was going to ride it in the OKHT last year, but mechanical difficulties kept it parked until this winter when I finally got to the root of some of my problems and when Dave and I began to delve into installing hydraulic brakes on the beast. 

Some common misconceptions that need to be dispelled:

1) An Xtracycle rides very much like a regular bike.  Yes, it’s a bit longer which affects turning and parking, but all-in-all it rides like the donor bike it was built around.

2) An Xtracycle isn’t prohibitively heavy.  While the fact is the FreeRadical does add weight to the bike, it doesn’t slow you down as much as not checking your air pressure will.  I beat down more than a few Cat 6 commuter racers on sporty-sport bikes who acted like they had something to prove on the Clear Creek Trail back in C-lorado.

3) My Xtracycle climbs like a mountain goat.  That’s because it was built on a 1994 Cannondale M300 mountain bike with gearing as would be found on a mountain bike.  It has a ridiculously low granny gear and on pavement there are few hills I can’t climb.  I proved yesterday that Furnace is no problem, and in fact, it felt significantly easier than on my 25t sporty-sport bike.

So to my detractors (you know who you are…Mark): I say no intervention is necessary.  My sanity is not to be questioned. 

Translating the Xtracycle to Kentucky topography has been a year-long process.  I've had to convince myself.  My jaunt up Furnace yesterday sealed the deal.  I'm going to make a few tweaks to the X, but then I think it will become my go-to bike for most everything except trying to keep up with the Mozhican and for the occasional mountain bike race.  The true test of road superiority will be to take the Cannonball X out to climb Cobhill. 

Did you feel that?  It was like a little shiver through my spine, but…bigger, like an earthquake.
I figure if Mark can climb Cobhill on his Surly Disc Bookmobile then I can get up it on my Cannonball.  I just don't know if I'd want to race him up it.
Top of Furnace Mountain circa 2003

Same bike 11 years later

Wednesday, April 2

The Redbud Ride: Send Me Dead Flowers

There is no way I’m not gonna do it.  You’ll think I’m nuts, but I don’t care.  You’ll think you’re smarter than me, but you’re not.  This choice has little to do with brains.  And I think it will totally be worth the promotional value.

I’m going to ride the Xtracycle in the Redbud Ride.  Mayhap I will even ride it for all three of the Kentucky Century Challenge rides in which I plan on participating.  Cargo bike century!  I’m sure some other woozy-headed cycle-freak has done it.  I know I’ve come pretty close myself.  But I want to make a statement with the bike.  I want people to see that a cargo bike can—quite literally—go the distance.

During a 26 mile RT bikesummit-bagging trip

I figure…why not?  I don’t get enough miles on the ole X as it is.  And I can haul anything and everything we might want along the way.  At the aid stations we can deck surf.  I can ease back on the nose of the deck and ride “chopper-style.”  And I can also bring along my good camera, a parka (because Spring is still Winter’s !@+¢h here in Kentucky), a picnic lunch, super-hero costumes to change into if the need should arise, and some sunscreen.

I could bring one or both of my spawn, but as I proved last Friday, it’s tough to haul a freshly shorn first-born pre-teen spawn up steep hills (hauled on a cargo bike #44).  Man, he’s gotten big!  Used to I could drag him all over the Denver Metro Area, but one short, steep paved section of the Pottsville Escarpment (I.D.ed as “Steamshovel Hill”) had both of us walking. 

Truth be told, if I had been hauling him in a trailer we’d have probably made it.  My legs, though encased in a sheath of tallow, are still pretty strong.  But when I stood up to offset the intense effects of gravity upon our 300-ish pound train I couldn’t hold it all together.  Atlas not only shrugged, but dabbed a foot down as if trying to stomp on a black widow spider.  So we walked the last few yards to the top.

My eldest is therefore too old to haul more than short distances.  He does have a swift new bike he obtained from a different fat man in a red suit.  It has gears.  It’s light-weight.  He should be rarin’ to go with it.

The li’l one has a new bike too, but despite it’s smaller scale it weighs as much as a Sherman tank.  It has gear too, but seeing as how she still needs a few weeks to grow into it, and it outweighs her by three times her own weight, I don’t think she’ll be pedaling her own self on any long rides soon.

Self-contained SAG vehicle
Non-petroleum consuming model

All that monotribe aside, I hope to get the minions out upon some world class trails ASAP.  Like the Dawkins, the Creeper, the Miamuh, or some other MUT or MUP or bike path.  Lettuce not forget the Legacy Trail nuther.

If the kids were a few years younger they would be earning their own KCC jersies on the back of my cargo-rocket.  I’d haul ‘em to and fro.  Course I was thinner when they were younger.  And maybe a bit stupider.  And maybe a bit more fit.  Just sayin’.

I can’t wait for the Redbud.  I was bummed I didn’t get to do it last year.  Despite my admonitions against doing the KCC this year I was adamant I wanted to do the Redbud.  Then we found out the Preservation Pedalwould be in next-door Clark County this year, and the unridden E-town ride would take the place of the OKHT and it just made sense (in some strange universe) for me to do the KCC again this year.  It’s a whole new annual animal.  Except…it’s still just more organized road rides which I have professed to “hate.”

So to mix it up, novelize it (in a non-literary manner), and to further promote and proclaim my questionable sanity I will ride the entire 2014 Kentucky Century Challenge on the Cannonball X, my faithful longtail cargo bike. 

Opposite season, same sentiment

With skinnier tires of course!

Tuesday, April 1

Beating Psychosomatic Wussitude

It's April Fool's Day, I know, but there won't be any pranks from the Pavement's Edge today.  Rest assured.  It's not joke when an up and coming cyclo-blogger hacks into your sensitive personal financial information and uses that knowledge to bankroll world domination.  It's just coincidence that happened to you on AFD.  As a consolation prize pleze enjoy today's post:

We discovered that we were going to be childless on Sunday afternoon.  Typically childlessness is more of a permanent condition, but in our case it was just a temporary relief…er, malady and we began eagerly discussing what we might want to do with the kids out of the house.

Stop that!  This is a family data plan!

“Why don’t we trail run!”  my insanely amazing wife suggested.

“Okay!” I replied before she could change her mind.  “How far do you want to run?” I had to keep the momentum going:


“Okay,” she replied without batting an eye.  If she had batted an eye we may not have ended up leaving the house.

But I digress.


The plan was solidified that we would go and run the route for the April 26th 4 Good Trail Race which I mentioned near the end of last week.  It might not have been the best choice for Mandy’s first trailrunning experience, but I explained that we could easily just devolve into a fast hiking situation if it struck our fancy.  Or even a leisurely hiking speed if we wanted.  The main thing I intended for her was to get a little exposure to what running on trail surfaces is like and more specifically to familiarize her with the route in case she should decide to do the run with the CTL and myself.

Of course I am like a helicopter husband and was intent on running at her pace. But after we got started she kept waving me on and telling me to just go.  At one point she said: “I want you to get a good run too!”

I obliged her and took off.  I paused at some of the more complicated intersections just in case, and we did have a good run.  We took a couple of staged photos, albeit with my wonderfully not-as-high-quality-as-advertised iPhone camera.  I’ve submitted my Running Yourself Rugged post for a local publication and hoped to get some decent trailrunning pics to go with it.  Alas, the quality is not.  But that’s okay.  Maybe we stage something else really soon.

I'm not as close to the edge as it appears. 
But, I am sucking my gut in, so I AM fatter than I appear

One thing I was reminded of later in the evening as I reminisced about the run: I’m fat.  I’m carrying at least 20 pounds more of Chainring that I need to be, and there’s an additional 10 pounds that would be nice to de-friend to take me to the next level in my athletic performance.  Grrr!  I’ve been saying this for 5 to 10 years now.  I’m really feeling it more now.

The blubber has got to go.  They say animal fat is flammable.  Maybe, if I could somehow direct the fire…

Anyway, it’s either bite the bullet and get fit or give up and become a full-fat armchair adventurer until my body shuts down completely.  My knees can’t take much more of the abuse of trying to keep 200 pounds from crumpling in the dust with each step.  I don’t think my chronic pain stems from years of abuse as I often explain.  I think it comes from my complete lack of fitness and the over-burden of carrying too much mass at too fast a pace.

So here we go…

Dietary restrictions, calorie intake, increase in activity levels, ugh…UGH.  UGH!!!  I’ve never really had to do this before and it sucks.  Throughout my whole life I’ve just been an active person.  I’ve never really worried about my weight.  The only concerns I had through my 20s and 30s was a vain aversion to the miniscule flab around my middle that could be covered up by a loose t-shirt very convincingly until just a few years ago.

I am not sponsored by Coca-Cola, but I should be

And so now it gets real.  I’ve got to stop whining and start being serious about my health and fitness.  And there are no more excuses.  For to be truthful, I have to admit that I am fairly healthy in a general sense compared to many my age and that inhabit the same cubicle realm I do.  It’s just not enough.  My cubicular malaise leaves me unable to do half-pad pullups on painted metal doorframes.  It prevents me from riding my bike all day on some grungy Nalgene water and a handful of trail mix.  It prevents me from taking off on some Bataan Death March hike of countless miles and elevation with little to no planning.  It prevents me from downclimbing through crux moves to avoid easy runouts over solid bolts.  Well, it prevents me from upclimbing through cruxes to begin with.

I don’t want to be a professional athlete.  I just want to be a happy recreational adventurer.  So let’s go do this thing.

We ended up having a good run.  I stopped a lot and waited until I could see Mandy coming and then I'd go on.  I stopped a few times to drag small blowdowns off the trail and to kick loose limbs and rocks out of the way of aspiring trailrunners.  I walked a lot of steep up- and downhills both to stave off knee pain and to prolong my energy levels for the afternoon.
In the end we did about 5 miles in just under 2 hours.  It was a slow run, but it was good.  I felt pretty good at the trailhead, though by the time I got home there was a chorus in my joints.  In my defense Strava says I climbed 1,100+ feet.  My runs of late have been fairly flat and tame, so it was a pretty high impact for the ole bones.  In that context I actually feel pretty good today.  But I realize I need to really work on conditioning for this kind of stuff and not assume I can just go out and translate "road" miles to trail miles. 

Monday, March 31

The Misunderstood Wilderness: Give Me Zip Lines or Give Me Death!

And here is the long-awaited first part to a two part conclusion to my Misunderstood Wilderness series.  The final installment will come later this week and will be entitled "Understanding Wilderness."  I apologize, I got sidetracked by bike rides, wildebi, octopi, and lack of beddy-by.

The Red River Gorge is a focal point for the wilderness starved suburbanite zombies from the north who descend on the rural areas of the surrounding states each weekend. 

A generation or two ago families moved north for jobs from Appalachia but always seem bent on moving back because they want to live in the country where there are few rules. 

For those of us that grew up and have tried to make a life here it’s annoying as heck to have people move into the area with big expectations and then do nothing…nothing…but complain about all the things the area doesn’t have to offer.  They are as exploitative as the loggers who clear cut the area at the turn of the 20th century.  They want something from the land but offer nothing in return.  They’ll stay until they get tired of not having high speed internet or easy access to Starbucks and they’ll move on, leaving nothing but a bad taste in someone’s mouth.

And then there are the people who move to the area after buying a faltering local business with the intent of changing things to suit their business plan with no thought for the existing community or its needs.  They’re exploiters too.

Wendell Berry referred to these types of people as ideological heirs of John Swift.

Berry writes about John Swift in The Unforeseen Wilderness.  In the late 1700s John Swift supposedly came to Kentucky and discovered or was led to a silver mine in a region where no other silver ore has ever been found.  Being struck blind on his absence from the mine he could never return and find it, though many have searched in the years since.  Berry’s use of Swift is to compare his character and spirit to those that would come into Eastern Kentucky, particularly the Red River Gorge area, and see nothing but natural resources to be extracted or exploited.

I believe many of those now holding high the banner of Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development are economic and ideological descendants of John Swift.  They say: “we can be wealthy if we just follow the right path.”  But right in this case doesn’t mean morally right, but true to the target.  And the target is an end of riches with any means that is cheap, easy, and fast.  The cheap, easy and fast path bypasses the authentic experience that resonates with people.  

The end result of the aspirations of industry

How many zip line experiences can you have that enlighten you?  And why is zip-lining in the Red River Gorge better than somewhere else?  I’ve seen zip lines along I-70 in Colorado nestled amongst 13er and 14er giants.  I’ve seen signs for underground zip lines.  Is it the zip line that makes the attraction, or the place where some Swift-ite has strung up a cable?  So are zip lines merely entertainment for people who can’t be bothered to exercise their imagination and find something adventurous to do when they visit a new place? 

I would argue that we’re really looking for experiences, memories, and perspectives that are novel and which we believe are not to be found in our homes.  We want to learn something about the world beyond our property boundaries.  Even if all we care about is postcards to put on the mantel we still want it to be known that we’re well travelled and we know more than the road in front of our own house.  We want lives enriched by novel things.  It seemsinauthentic, but by using our experiences as a mirror to examine the mundane I think we do find value in “vacationing.”  Maybe zip-lining fulfills that need in some people.  I doubt a lifetime of zip line vacations would be satisfying to look back on.

The irony? It's not in the Red River watershed and most
definitely not in the Red River Gorge

Fifty years ago people like Wendell Berry (along with many others) were fighting to save the Red River Gorge because of its inherent value and so it could be enjoyed for generations to come.  It’s a resource that’s there for us to responsibly use as an economic tool.  The obstructionist policies and practices of the US Forest Service have played a big role in denying the locals the opportunities to profit from tourism or even to enjoy the jewel that’s in our own back yard. 

This might be a good thing.  While they are charged with preservation and not recreational management, I still think they could do a better job in enhancing the recreational opportunities in the Red River Gorge.  But maybe what the Red River Gorge truly needs is a fascist approach to preservation.  It would surely have been loved to death by now if commercial development had been allowed to overtake the region. 

I’ve heard more than one person suggest that the Red River Gorge National Geologic Area be turned into a National Monument.  I’m beginning to see the rationale, and I think in the end I’ll support that view wholeheartedly.

The Crash Test Librarian posted to a Kentucky wilderness themed BBS forum:

"…Rough annual permit sales [for the RRG a few years ago] from what I recall were something like this:

1 day passes: about 5,000

3 day passes: about 5,000

Annual passes: about 200

So, for the sake of easy math let's just say about 10,000 overnight parking permits are sold per year for camping in the Gorge. If you use the accepted average number of visitors per car (2.5) and apply that to the number of permits sold you're looking at 25,000 people camping for at least one night in the Red River Gorge each year.  Since half of those permits are three night permits (but we'll assume most of those are only used for two nights, Friday and Saturday) then you're talking approximately 35,000-40,000 ‘visitor nights’ each year in the Red River Gorge.   That's a whole lot of camping! And thus a ton of impact, particularly since dayhikers and climbers aren’t represented in that estimate. 

Even just 25,000 visitor nights in the Gorge is an incredible amount for such a relatively small area of national forest. Especially when you consider that the vast majority of that use is concentrated on just a handful of areas and some visitors don't even practice the most basic Leave No Trace skills.

For comparison in use, Mammoth Cave National Park stated that ‘Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, yearly recreational visits to the trails, including overnight stays in the backcountry, were reported in the 3,000-6,000 range. (These figures were obtained through voluntary registration at trailheads and by the issuance of official backcountry camping permits.)’  MCNP is roughly comparable in acreage to the Red River Gorge – 53,000 surface acres at MCNP and about 44,000 acres at the Red River Gorge if you include the Indian Creek area and other Forest Service land outside the Red River Gorge Geological Area and Clifty Wilderness -- but that’s about where the similarities end.”

It’s obvious the Red River Gorge area disproportionately absorbs recreational impacts in the region. And to summarize other conversations I’ve had with the CTL: there are lots of empty trailheads to arches, waterfalls and overlooks on other parts of the Daniel Boone National Forest while the Gorge is bursting at the seams with bellowing yayhoos in their suburban uhssault vehicles.

The problem with this is that the RRG has been less thoroughly developed to absorb those impacts.  It’s not suited to the obvious visitor traffic it receives while other places are overdeveloped or undervisited.  And the recent rash of asinine road closures (I'm for closing them all to motorized use) points to a FS agency that might be struggling to meet day to day operational goals.

Ultimately it’s a misunderstood place.  It’s misunderstood—I believe—by those entrusted with managing it.  It’s misunderstood by its geographic neighbors.  It’s misunderstood by the masses that visit it as is evidenced by online comments like this: 

“I love the Gorge, been going there for four hundred years.  But pleze be careful, don’t get bite by a snake or fall off a clift.”

Looking at the world as a place of doom and destruction makes everything beyond your threshold a place to be feared and avoided.  Looking at the world as a collection of places on maps, with clear boundaries and nebulous regulations leads to an ideological apathy that does not serve anyone effectively.  And looking at the world simply as the crabgrass under your own grill and everything else out of focus makes for a pretty hollow life.

Calling something wilderness does not make it so.  But wilderness is not just the part of the map under that word on a map.  And wilderness is not simply land segregated from civilization. 


Friday, March 28

Double Dogwood Dare You

Turtle:  I dare you to bike to the Red River Gorge and do the 4 Good Trail Race with me on April 26.

Rabbit: Whazzat?!Whazzat?!

Turtle:  The 4 Good Trail Run.  It's one of those grassroots underground type races you go on about.

Rabbit [pats pockets, glances at naked wrist]:  Okeydokey.  Ifn' I'm free that day.

Turtle: Do I sense the onset of psychosomatic wussitude?

Rabbit [frantic sweeping glance, then leans casually against a fencepost]:  Nah, I just...can't...[pokes in a cluster of winter-brown weeds at the base of the fencepost]...find my smarty-smart phone.

Turtle: Well, let me know once you find it.

[Turtle ambles off down the lane]

You might often ask yourself: is this Chainring character a cyclist, a trail runner, a photographer, a male model, or hack horror writer or what?

Well, there is no simple answer.  I am—as is often portrayed in film and television—a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. None.  Master of none.  But that gives me the freedom to suck at them all, while still pursuing whatever strikes my fancy at any given time.  This is code for adult diagnosed ADHD combined with a strict right-brained interaction with the world that be.

On April 26, two thousand plus fourteen, I will be wearing many, many, many hats.  The CTL and I will be bikepacking into the wildebeest-infested Red River Gorge the night before.  We’ll wake, consume fine bikepacking fare (I will be bringing fresh free-range blue eggs), and then we will run on trails with our feet.  There is a good chance we will be joined by my lovely wife and SAG bunny for the underground grassroots run being called 4 Good Trail Race by its conceptor Willis Weatherford.  

It should be a fine spring day, and hopefully the dogwoods will be blooming.

Later that day I will most likely bike again, perhaps work on some trails for tender climbers’ feet, and then participate in some family fun at Gladie Creek Visitor Center, Flea Market and Tanning Center with the family.  I’ll be the one wearing a dad hat.  My fancy will be stinging by this point.  If all goes well I’ll ride home from the Red River Gorge region and rack up a lot of human powered miles.  Or alternately I will succumb to psychosomatic wussitude and ride home with the wife and kiddos.

I’ve got to be thinking not only of the screaming-right-at-us-Mohican, but also of the Kentucky Century Challenge, the Rugged Red half marathon, and the Sheltowee Challenge later in the fall.  So this 4.76 mile jog around Auxier Ridge and the Courthouse Rock Trail will be a nice reprieve from my schemings.  This one is not on me.  Mark dared me to bike up there and do it with him.  I should be skeptical since he’s not a proclaimed trailrunner.  Do you think he might be tricking me into bikepacking?  It doesn’t matter.

That day is also the first of the Sheltowee Endurance Challenge, a 72 mile, 36 hour “backpacking” challenge around the skinny midsection of the Trace.  I won’t be doing it this year, but if it happens next year I’m in!


Thursday, March 27

The Winter that Would Not Accept Defeat

It’s Spring.  It was Spring on March 25th, and somebody didn’t copy Old Man Winter on the memo.  I’m actually kinda okay with that despite my recent grumblings to the contrary.  Because we were up most of the night with a sick child (being a parent you discover there are some things you just can’t un-see) I took a sick day on Tuesday to catch up on rest (fail) and was able to watch the battle between Winter and Spring go on all day long.  I also was able to sneak off to the the Red River Gorge and snap a few photos of the snowy landscape.

We woke up to snow.  I ran out around 11am with the camera and made it up to the Sky Bridge area before noon.  The sun hadn’t come out in full force and the temps were staying low enough to preserve the surprise snowfall.  I capture the images I wanted in pixel form and then headed home.

I had to dive through a deluge to enter the Red River Regional Bikeport as all the melting snow came off the roof all at once as water.  A few minutes later I glanced toward the kitchen window and saw a whiteout.  Not too long afterward the ground was ugly brown again.  And then another whiteout blew through and covered the ground in white for a third time.  By evening another round of freeze-thaw had cycled through, and I woke up this morning to a coating of snow on the ground.  It was truly a Battle of the Seasons.

If this weather event had happened a few weeks ago when it was consistently colder I think it might have amounted to significant accumulation.  Two of the worst snows I’ve seen in my adult life were both in March.  The first was over spring break in 1993 (Headlines read: WORST SNOWSTORM IN TEN YEARS) and the second was the Blizzard of 2009 in Denver.

Tuesday’s battle was pretty tame in comparison, but there was still more snow on the ground than that day in February when I had to take a vacation day because Powell County closed school for no apparent reason.

Alas, I didn’t ride a bike, and hardly hiked chasing after my images, but I did get a request for the use of one of my photos for a tourism brochure in a western state.  Maybe more to come on that soon. 

I’ve been itching to share, but one of my short stories will be published soon.  I can’t divulge too much, but will share details as soon as I can.

In the meantime enjoy the fruits of my sick day labor:

Lower Small Wall from Parch Corn Creek Overlook

Sky Bridge Ridge climbing area from Swift Creek Overlook

The break between Lower Small Wall and Middle Small Wall

Top of Sky Bridge

Hen's Nest Rock from Sky Bridge

Under Sky Bridge

Backyard scene

Lot of ornithological activity on a snow day