Friday, September 28, 2007

Stupid Pet Tricks

A couple photos of our "special" cat Onyx, taken a few years ago.
Which half do you want?

I'm thirsty.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Blue Dots - Part 2

Friday night was spent sitting around a fire, enjoying a few tasty beverages, and sharing stories of riding. Stories from High Country Pathway rides past floated around.

Everyone woke up Saturday morning, and got ready for the day's ride. Cars were loaded with food and water, and would be staged at a couple points along the route. Riding attire was donned. Last minute adjustments were made to bikes, which were then loaded into/onto cars, and we caravaned out to Osmun Road.

Jeff making last minute adjustments. Little did he know that he would be finishing the ride short a few gears.

Unloading at Osmun Road.

From Osmun Road, we headed west for a stretch before the trail turned to the south. Things were tight in stretches here, and there was the occasional boardwalk and wet root cluster to keep you thinking (or walking).

A stretch of boardwalk gets ridden.

Leafs over wet roots had us walking this stretch.

We continued along through a flat section for a couple of miles. Things opened up and became more rolling after a while. We had the occasional log down to ride over, some ferny sections, a bit of hardwood, and the occasional missed blue dot (doh!)
Nice stretch of singletrack.

We went down this little hill.

Through a series of rolling hills, we gradually climbed until we came to this overlook. Here was a good spot for everyone to regroup before continuing on.

Tom gives a thumbs-up at the overlook.

From here we rode along a ridge and past the Pine Grove State Forest campground. We eventually came to another overlook, where the group stopped to have a bite to eat.

Emerging from the woods approaching the overlook.

Milling about up top.

Looking out from up top.

Time to change color yet?

After refueling our bodies, we enjoyed a series of fast downhills through a couple fields before heading into the woods again. Once back in the woods, we went through a series of hills. One in particular was of the "you have got to be kidding me" variety.

Rooty, steep, and long meant that we were climbing this one on foot.

The top of that climb brought us to the Shingle Mill Pathway, which we rode for about 6 miles. The Shingle Mill Pathway is actually a series of loops (we rode the western side) that is used as a cross country ski trail in the winter. This meant things were open and fast for 6 miles. This started with a screaming downhill which had us well in excess of 20mph (approaching 30mph at one point). We then rode through some swampy lowland, complete with a long, but thankfully wide boardwalk. We had a couple of short climbs, and ended the Shingle Mill portion at the parking lot near the Pigeon Bridge Campground (regretfully closed this summer due to DNR budget cuts). Here was the spot of the first car, and we took a nice break to eat, stretch, and refill hydration packs.

Boardwalk on the Shingle Mill

Me at Pigeon Bridge. This is where my ride ended during the summer ride (going the other direction).

We left Pigeon Bridge and rode through an open stretch of forest. The trail had a great flow, and some good hills to go down or grunt up. A general uphill trend took us to the location of an old fire tower. The fire tower is gone, but if you search around you will find parts of the old foundation.

At the fire tower site, a good spot to regroup.

From the fire tower, we descended for a bit, climbed a bit, rode a ridge line stretch, and then descended into the swamps again. Here were more boardwalks... a bunch of them. There was one long one which I rode this time. An accomplishment, as I walked the entire couple hundred yards of it in the summer. There was then a few short sections of boardwalk, and a really gnarled section of roots. On one of these boardwalks I went down, HARD. I got some speed, lifted my front wheel to set it on the boardwalk, didn't get my wheel high enough... bike stopped... I didn't! A handlebar/thigh meeting gave me the mother of all charlie horses, and this would twinge when I would pedal (or push my bike). After sitting for a few, I got back on the bike, determined not to let this stop me.

We climbed out of the lowlands, and rode some miles through a stretch of trail that had an excellent flow. This went on for a few miles, until we were spit out onto County Road 622. Here was the second car where we rested, refueled, and prepared for the ride (hike) up Rattlesnake Hill. The climb up Rattlesnake Hill is another of the "you gotta be s^*#ing me" variety. Long, steep at parts, with a loose slope filled with gravel and baby head sized rocks to finish things up. Yep, hike-a-bike fore sure!

Me atop Rattlesnake Hill. You can see for about 20 miles, especially when it's as clear as it was for this ride.

Some of the group on top of Rattlesnake Hill.

We were treated to some fast, and perhaps the hairiest, downhills of the day coming off Rattlesnake Hill. Things became flatter, we had a section through some ferns, another tangle of unrideable boardwalks and roots, some sweet singletrack, before we were ultimately dumped out onto 622 again. Here the crew voted, and we elected to forgo the last couple of miles crossing over M33, instead electing to take the back way into the park. We were getting pretty whupped by this point, and showers, beer, hot food, and stories around the campfire awaited.

Was it a good ride... no, it was a GREAT ride. Was it easy... hell no! Will I be back... hell yeah!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Blue Dots - Part 1

Back in June, I fell in love with a trail. The High Country Pathway to be exact. This trail is located north of Atlanta MI, is 80 miles in length, and has been declared an "Epic Ride" by the International Mountain Bike Association. The trail conquered me after only 28.5 miles in June. I learned a valuable lesson related to growlers of Docs ESB and bottles of Oberon on the eve of a long ride, and vowed to return.


I took a vacation day on Friday, left home before 10am, and had camp set up by 3. Looking for a way to enjoy a couple hours, I loaded up my camelpack, got changed, and set out riding. I chose to ride the section from the campground (Clear Lake State Park) up to Tomahawk Lake, east of M33. A gradual downslope took me out of the park, across M33, and after a left at the fork, I was headed North.

The first section was a series of climbs, perfectly makeable in my 36:20 gearing, that led to a little overlook.

At the top of this little section looking back.

About the post title "The Blue Dots": this trail is blazed by a series of blue dots. No blue dots - you're lost. Note the blue dot above my bike in the proceeding photo.

For the climbing, I was rewarded with a couple of fast decents, followed by a couple little climbs. The trail popped out onto a logging road, which I took to the left for about a hundred yards... no blue dots. Turn around, backtrack, and there less than 20 feet to the right of where I emerged onto the logging road... a blue dot. OK, back on track, and this diversion only cost a couple minutes.

Here, the trail ran through the lowlands, and followed a very old railroad grade. Here was also the first section of boardwalk I'd encounter this weekend.

Reads: "Note the vegitative changes caused by the railroad grade built in 1895.

Boardwalks: I rode this stretch, rode a few others, and walked some.

The trail opened up some after the RR grade, and I passed the location of the logging town of McPhee.
Things stayed open for a while, passing through a stand of jack pine. After this stretch, things got very thick and overgrown for a bit over a mile.

There is a trail here amongst these ferns, trust me.

This led to a clearcut, more trail through a pine stand, and then a slightly rolling section as I approached the Tomahawk Creek Flooding, a very scenic lake.

On the edge of a clearcut. Very rough trail surface through here.

The trail ran along a low ridge on the east side of the flooding. Very nice riding here; smooth, no face-slappers, good flow.

Tomahawk Creek Flooding.

A small but well placed stump played "photographer for this shot of me with the flooding in the background.

After this point, the trail ran through a long clearcut, picked up a dirt/sand road for a quarter mile, and went through a more open stretch of woods. Eventually I came to Tomahawk Lake Road, which I took to M33. M33 brought me south back to camp, through perhaps the worst stretch of the ride: road, southbound, and into a fairly strong south wind.

When I arrived at camp, others had shown up and set up tents. I took a quick shower, and spent the evening hanging out by the fire in preparation for the main ride the next day, the HCP Fall Fun 50.

To Be Continued...

Here is a map of the trail for your reference. Clear Lake State Park is located in the southeast portion, near where the trail crosses M33. Friday's ride took me up to Tomahawk Lake Road, in the northeast portion. The "Fall Fun 50" begins where the trail crosses Osmun Road, in the northeast portion, and we ride counterclockwise back to the campground.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Birth of a Quiring

Scott from Quiring Cycles sent me an email today.

Coming soon in brushed titanium singlespeed glory...

The biggest change from the Rig is that the headtube angle is increased by a degree. This will quicken up the handling. Also, the new frame will have Paragon sliding dropouts instead of the eccentric bottom bracket on the Rig.

Other than that, I've been basically just working and riding. Last Saturday was the final trail day at Ruby Campground. We did some trimming for a haunted trail that the owners put on for Halloween. After that, we gathered and moved some rocks for use in armoring some sections next spring.

Sunday was a large group ride leaving from Stony Creek HS. We did some riding at Stony, then rode up to Addison Oaks and Bald Mountain. The highlight of the ride had to be the Paint Creek Cider Mill, towards the end of the ride. Cider, apples, and donuts so hot they practially burned your mouth and hands.

I had a couple of rides at Stony this week (Tuesday and Wednesday), totalling 17 and 20 miles respectively. Next on the agenda... 50 miles of the High Country Pathway this weekend! We will be camping at Clear Lake SP, and will ride the section from Osmun Road counter-clockwise back to the campground.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The week (and a half) in review

I haven't posted anything since prior to Labor Day, so I feel that some updates are in order.

Labor Day weekend saw a couple of good rides, totaling just on the good side of 70 miles. On Saturday, I rode Harsen's Island with Brandy's uncle Dave. We rode the <3 class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_1">Succhi Bar, about 3/4 of the way through our ride.
The Sunday prior to Labor Day saw me out at Ruby for some riding with my teammates. I rode with Todd, Tom, and Kevin for a few laps of Ruby. Todd had a helmet cam strapped to his seat, and Mike did some filming while we sessioned a little jump and the outhouse hill. It was a fun time.
On Wednesday, I headed out to the Stony group ride after doing a quick loop through the singletrack. Rather than do the normal ride with the group, Erick and I took off seperately to do a couple laps of the XC race course. Erick was planning on entering the race, and was looking to do a pre-ride. The first lap through had me leading, while showing Erick the layout and pointing out a few things. For the 2nd lap, Erick took the lead. A very good ride. One slight hiccup... it was starting to get a wee bit dark towards the end, and we pretty much did the "back 9" section of the singletrack blindly.
There were a couple of days (Tuesday and Thursday) last week where I ran, running for 4 and 6 miles respectively. Just your basic uneventful runs.
This past Saturday saw another beautiful weekend day, and the racking up of yet more mileage. I started at Pontiac Lake where I met with a group of people from the Wednesday Stony ride. One of the guys Bob had never ridden Pontiac before, and was putting together a group to ride with. We had about 8 people total. We hit the trail a bit after 7, and kept a casual pace. There were frequent stops for people to catch up, including one stop at the RC airfield where we were treated to a display by a skilled pilot. I think we spent about 15 minutes watching him fly various aerobatics.
From there we finished the loop, and the group and I parted ways. They did the smart thing and went for margaritas, while I did the nutty thing and rode over to Highland. Highland Rec Area is quickly becoming one of my favorite rides, unfortunately it's too much of a drive to be a regular trail for me. This trail has it all: grunt climbs, rocks, long climbs, rocks, roots, rocks, tight singletrack, downhills, rocks, and that desolate "middle of nowhere" feeling that's tough to find in SE Michigan. Unfortunately my legs didn't have loop D in them, so I had to be content with loops A, B, and C. I finished up and rode back to Pontiac Lake, and rolled back to the trailhead with just under 51 1/2 miles showing on the CatEye.
Sunday had me in the Ann Arbor area for the baptism of the cutest kid in the world (actually a tie with his big sis for the title of "cutest kid"). It was nice seeing them (my niece and nephew), along with the rest of the family. My niece Makenna is starting to get big, and becoming quite the mischievous one. But she was very well behaved for her kid brother's big day.