Monday, November 10, 2008

The Iceman Cometh

I awoke Saturday morning to temperatures in the high 30s, and a forecast calling for light rain. Camelpack and bottle got filled, clothes got picked out, breakfast got consumed, and we made our way over to Kalkaska. We pulled into a crowded parking lot, where I finished getting ready. After about a 20 minute warm-up, I handed my windbreaker to Brandy, and made my way to the starting chute. Here I sized up the competition: this year the singlespeeders were divided into 2 waves, under 39 (which I was in), and 40+ (which would start 5 minutes after me). The last Expert wave, sport/expert clydes, started, and we were called up to the line.
Likely due to the smaller wave, we had roughly 45-50 people in ours, I was able to secure a spot on the front line. I wanted a good starting position, as my goals were lofty; a top-10 finish, be amongst the top 15 if you combine both singlespeed waves, and finish in the 1:50-1:55 range.

At the start. I'm number 703, near the right hand side of the photo.

After a five minute wait, we were off! After a clean start, including negotiating a loose corner a couple hundred yards in, I settled in holding 7th or 8th wheel. I kept the lead riders in sight for about 3/4 of a mile, before dropping back. A couple miles in, and I was catching the first of the sport/expert clydes, I passed them, and continued to hold a strong pace.
After about 3 miles, on a rough straight section, I felt my pedals go slack and heard a "chank" noise. #&*@, I dropped my chain! OK, now get off, re-rail the chain (while watching a half dozen guys on singlespeeds fly past), remount, and get going again.
The next 5 miles were spent picking off the guys who passed me while I addressed my chain. Here I was able to put my 65 gear inches to use, hammering a strong pace on the flat sections.
I caught and passed Joe from KLM's team just before some singletrack. We got caught up in a "conga line" of slower riders, so we used this opportunity to recover and chat about riding. We crested the grunt hill that marked the end of that singletrack and I put the hammer down, with Joe hot on my tail.
After another stretch of wide-open riding, we encountered a section signed "Steve's Secret", which was a sequence of loooooooong singletrack climbs, not wide enough for passing. Sure enough, we were greeted with a long line of riders from previous waves, slowly creeping up the hill in granny gear. I was able to pass one of them, but quickly caught the next. There would be no way for me to get around him till we hit the top. Somehow, I was able to keep the pedals turning (at an extruciatingly slow cadence), and ride up without having to dismount.
We reached the top, things opened up again, and I put the hammer down. I also looked back and noted that somehow I had dropped Joe.
Williamsburg Road greeted me with a downhill sand pit, where I had to negotiate a fallen rider right in the good line. I made it through unscathed, and hammered up the hill leading to the road. The cheering spectators and the announcer added some spring to my step. Some more fireroads, and we hit the Vasa trail. This was a fast rolling ski trail, with a bit of singletrack thrown in, including The Wall. The wall is a steep switchback singletrack descent, complete with 2 trees that there was no way in 'ell I was making it through without dismounting. Other than those trees, the wall presented no great difficulty.
The race finished up with "Anita's Hill", which was a run-up, the "Ice Breaker" hill, some sweet flowing singletrack, and another short steep run-up hill where I overtook another rider in my class (putting me in 7th). Knowing he was behind me, I hit the gas when I crested the hill.
I rode up the last climb: I knew it was the last one because the spectators were announcing that fact to everyone who rode by, and then was greeted with signs for 1 mile and then 1 kilometer to go. The announcer's voice was in the distance, as was the sound of cheering spectators. Almost done! I could hear Brandy cheer from on top of the bridge, and as I was crossing the finish, I saw that I had done the course in 1 hour 53 minutes and change. We would see later that my official time was 1:53:13, which put me in 7th place in my group.

Approaching the finish.

I found Brandy, and we walked around congratulating teammates and other friends as they finished. After changing, we made our way to the team tent where we shared our war stories, drank beverages, cheered the later beginner waves, and watched the Pro/Elite class finish.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fun - High Country Pathway Style

I met up with Steve and Shaun from the group, and after a quick lunch, we headed northbound in Steve's overpacked Honda CRV. Four-ish hours later, and we rolled into the Clear Lake state park. Gear was unloaded, tents were pitched, beer was drank, burgers were ate, and stories were told. Around the campfire sat a number of return riders, and a handful of newbies, all anticipating the day ahead.

We woke the next morning, got our supplies ready to be staged in a couple of cars, and headed out to Osmun Road.

Organizing supplies

Getting ready at Osmun Road

Yours truly at the start

The group

We hit the trail, and for the first mile or so were greeted with some gnarled root sections and numerous boardwalks. I rode the roots, and walked the boardwalks. There were a couple trees we had to portage our bikes over, including one where it was a challenge to do even that.
The trail opened up, and we had a few miles with a great flow. The trail continued through Pigeon River state forest campground, past an overlook, and through some meadows.

Stopped at the first overlook

After a while we hit the Shingle Mill Pathway, were things opened up. Up until this time, I had been riding with 4 others out in front of the rest of the group. Myself and one other guy decided to take the eastern leg of the Shingle Mill, which was 2 miles longer, while the other 3 took the western leg. Some screaming downhills led us past Section Four Lake, a sinkhole lake. We had some rollers, a "neverending boardwalk" section, and then finally the first car at Pigeon Bridge.

Section Four Lake

Lunch stop at Pigeon Bridge

At Pigeon Bridge, the four guys I had been riding with forged on ahead. The 3 who took the western leg were getting ready to go, and the guy I rode the eastern leg with didn't want to stop. I waited for the rest of the group and had lunch with them.
I took off with one other guy from lunch, and, having fun on the nice flowing stuff that followed, pulled away from him. This left me to ride the stretch to Rattlesnake solo. I got into a zone here, flowing the trail, enjoying the views and changing flora.

Near the firetower site

I came to a road crossing. Here I didn't see any evidence where to go, so I hung a right and rode about 3/4 mile down the road. No blue dots! I turn around and ride past Town Corner campground, and see the posts for a HCP crossing. Here I hang a right onto the trail, and ride into the campground. Nothing looks familiar. I ride up and down the campground looking for the strangely missing blue dots. Get brave and ask some campers if they saw any other riders. A number of different campers reported seeing another rider about 20 minutes prior to seeing me (reports of yellow on the front of the jersey). Nobody knows anything on where the trail picks back up. Finally I find a guy who looks like a plumped up lost member of ZZ Top, and ask if he can help. He says "Sure, I have a map over on the table". We head over to the table where he has a map lying under an aluminum baseball bat (strangely, no other sporting equipment of any sort, let alone baseball gear, can be found). He points to the map, and directs me to ride out the enterance, hang a left, ride down the road, and at the top of a big hill there would be a clearing where I could find the trail. I said "have a great weekend", and rode off, out the campground, down the road, right back to where I first emerged from the woods. A bit of looking around revealed tire tracks entering the field directly across the road from where I had originally emerged! Oops. My little diversion into Town Corner campground probably added 45 minutes and 7 miles to my ride.

Town Corner Lake

Along the trail

Town Corner Campground - the site of my diversion

I crossed the Black River, and the trail took me into some lowlands. I rode some boardwalks, walked most, rode some rooted sections, and walked others. After I crossed Tubbs Creek, the trail climbed out of the lowlands. The stretch that followed was a great flowing section through some mature hardwoods with very little undergrowth.


Roots and boardwalks

Tubbs Creek boardwalk

Back into the hardwoods

I came out onto a road, which I took to the car at the base of Rattlesnake Hill. Here I rejoined the group, where we had a snack and replenished our water supplies.

At the base of Rattlesnake Hills

Reaction to arm-scratchers

The climb up rattlesnake was hike-a-bike, and a tough hike-a-bike at that. But the view, and sweet downhill that followed, was more than worth it

How we got up Rattlesnake Hill

On top of Rattlesnake Hill

Rattlesnake Hill

After Rattlesnake Hill, the trail flowed through ferns, a field, another moderate hill, a short swamp/root/boardwalk section, and then finally out onto a roadway. We took the roadway back to the state park, entering through the day-use area.
After a shower, we ate, drank, and hung out around the fire.

Cruising back to the campground

Friday, September 26, 2008

HCP Here I Come

A half day of work, and then I leave for the High Country Pathway Fun 50 ride!
Visions of blue dots dance in my head.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Addison Oaks Fall Classic

Today I went back to where my short racing career began, Addison Oaks County Park, for the Addison Oaks Fall Classic. The trail at Addison Oaks has an excellent flow, with no big climbs, and not many spots where you need to scrub your speed. Pretty much the kind of trail that invites you to go at full throttle.

I had debated racing in Expert 30-39, but the other day I found out that Expert/Elite singlespeed would be doing the same number of laps as Expert (not the same number of laps as the Sport guys like in most races). I made a morning decision to race Ex/El Singlespeed (12:30pm as opposed to a 10am start time), and headed up to the venue.

After my warm-up, I made my way over to the start line. There was a good size field today, about 10~12 Expert/Elite guys and a similar number for the Sport/Beginner guys. My teammate Todd was lined up with me, as was Cary Marsh.

On the go, I got a decent start, and settled in about 4th or 5th wheel, just behind Todd. I held on strong until 3/4 of a mile in, when I crashed after striking a pedal. Just as I was getting ready to go again, Craig pointed out that my bottle of HEED was lying on the side of the trail. A near disaster averted, I picked up my bottle and got going again.

Most of lap one was spent in catch-up mode, eventually catching Craig and Todd. Coming through between laps, I reached down to take a swig of HEED. %#@W, the bottle was gone again. Must've rattled out on one of the downhills. Luckily I carry my water in a Camelpack, so I wasn't completely screwed, but 28 miles (21 more) at race-pace with no fuel source could be bad.

The 2nd lap started, I caught back up with Cary, and passed him. He latched on, and despite my best efforts, I couldn't shake him. This would go on for 2 full laps and the beginning of the 4th lap. Early in the 4th lap, I could feel myself pulling on Cary again (like at Stony 2 weeks ago). He would be a little slower catching back up to me. A couple miles into the lap, and I heard a crashing noise. Believing Cary went down, I hammered away. I knew I needed to pull ahead so he couldn't draft me on the 2-track mid-lap.

For the rest of my last lap I played it conservatively, trying not to crash. I caught another rider in my class, passed him, and after a bit of a fight on his part pulled away.

Just over 2 hours after the start, I rode across the finish line broken, battered, and whupped. A short while later the results were posted, and I saw that I finished in 3rd place!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Running with the Big Dogs - Stony Creek XC

After a less than stellar crack at the expert class at the Custer Time Trial a couple of weeks ago, finishing in the bottom of the heap both in my age group and singlespeed, I was due some redemption. And I would find it on my home trail of Stony Creek. The overnight and early morning hours brought a fair amount of rain, but as I was making the drive, blue sky was starting to appear. I pulled into the parking lot, unloaded my bike, watched some muddy riders come through, and registered for the Expert/Elite singlespeed class.

A few minutes were spent hanging out with team members and other riding buddies, and with about 45 minutes to go I started my warm-up. Good and warmed up, I made my way over to the starting line and got staged.

Tailwind (the promoter) has both Expert/Elite and Sport/Beginner singlespeeds start at once, with the Expert/Elite guys staging at the front. I looked around to find about 18 other riders in both singlespeed classes combined.

TWEEEEEET!!!! We were off!!! I had a good start, and found myself in 5th or 6th off the line heading towards the opening climb. Cary Marsh and Joe (Sport/Beginner) were hot on my tail. We climbed, crested the top, and hit the main section of singletrack. I passed Ed Serrat in fairly short order, with Cary and Joe both passing him shortly after.

The first stretch of singletrack went uneventfully, with me taking things conservatively due to the wet conditions. We hit a fast downhill, and then had a mile of 2-track to put the hammer down. Here I put my 65 gear inches to use, but Cary was there to answer spinning away. We headed into the Pines, a flat stretch of singletrack that flows nicely, and except for a stretch in the middle, is blazing fast. Speeds, especially in that middle section, were kept in check due to the slickness. A sport guy who had been in front of us crashed here, and we all went around. After the Pines, we had about a third of a mile of flat 2-track, and then a couple 2-track rollers before hitting the rest of the main singletrack. After we finished the singletrack, there was another ~1 3/4 miles of gently rolling 2-track with one good hill. I tried again to no avail to gap Cary here again.

Through the start/finish area into the opening climb, with Cary and Joe hot on my tail. Joe took the lead of our little group mid-lap, and I jumped on his wheel to catch a bit of a draft. We also caught and passed a rider from Wolverine Cycling Club. Towards the end of lap 2, I re-took the lead of our group, and as we approached the start/finish area, I could feel myself starting to pull away.

On the opening hill of the last lap, I dropped Cary and Joe. Now flying solo, I held a strong pace. In fact I wouldn't see anyone else from my class until the end.
I crossed the line after 1 hour 35 minutes and change. Joe Lee from Fraser Bikes told me that he thought I was in 3rd or 4th. I didn't believe him, but after the results were posted, I saw that I did finish in 3rd! Some great redemption for the Custer TT, and proof that I am capable of running with some big dogs.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sweet Ruby Mud

Rain + Ruby = Fun Times!!! Made even funner when taken at race-pace. Yes, this past Sunday was the Ruby Campground XC race. Team Sandbag home turf. After watching my teammates Kevin and Todd put forth excellent efforts in the Expert race, I prepped up for my race in Sport/Beginner singlespeed.

After warming up, I headed over to the starting line, and took my position behind the Expert/Elite singlespeed guys. I noted that there were 2 others in my class.
A blast of a whistle, and we were off. I got a mediocre start, with one of the other sport/beginner guys in front of me, and another behind. We hit the opening hill, and one of the expert/elite riders fell, holding me up. The other sport/beginner guy made it through.
Very shortly after, I found my groove in the nicely flowing (imho) front section. I overtook 2nd place about a mile in, and quickly put some space between him and I.

A little over a mile in, the trail snaked through the parking area and ducked behind the "big green barn". Here was a section along the hillside with a very nice flow and some quick ups-and-downs. Just enough to keep your heart rate nice and high for "Lance", the first major climb at Ruby. This climb is always a crap shoot for me, and it wasn't any easier due to the greasy trail conditions. I did a brief hike-a-bike over the steep portion, and then rode along the top to the stepped downhill and the "washout", a mildly puckering armored downhill.
The trail then led me to the "mat hill", a short steep hill armored for a portion with a grid mat. I took this one on foot, since I'm usually successful in riding up it about 40% of the time, and it's quicker to run it anyways. The trail then led me down "outhouse hill", a bench cut downhill, that makes a 90 degree left just before the old outhouse.

Across the river we went, with me holding 2nd position. Through some greasy corners, up and down the section added last year, up "the wall", and then down "Ruby's Remorse", the biggest downhill. Somewhere in this stretch, I made a pass and found myself leading my class.

Lap 1 concluded with me holding the lead. Then disaster struck! I was hammering up "Lance", when just as I was about to crest (while carrying good momentum), I heard a "snap", and my foot violently came away from my bike.

First I though I had accidentally unclipped, but I glanced down and found that my pedal body was seperated from the spindle. Luckily with some quick thinking (to realize my teammate also used the same type of pedals), and some even quicker running by my buddy Scott (to find said teammate), we made a swap. This cost only about 2 minutes plus a run up "Lance".

I got moving, and found my groove again. The remainder of lap 2 proceeded uneventfully for me. Early in lap 3, I caught up with the leader, and overtook him to put myself in the lead. I gradually pulled away from him, and rolled through the finish chute after 1 hour 34 minutes and 48 seconds, to take the win!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pedal Across Lower Michigan

a.k.a PALM

This is a 6 day bicycle tour across the state, on the last week of June. This year it started in New Buffalo on June 22, and ended in Monroe on June 27.

We drove down to Sterling State Park just outside of Monroe. Here we loaded our bikes onto box trucks, and hopped on a bus bound for the other side of the state. A few hours (and a lunch stop) later, and we were in New Buffalo. We went through the registration bit, set up our tents, and headed out for a short ride to the lake to dip our tires in the water.

The last of the bikes get loaded

Dipping the wheel

Brad, Brandy, and Rocky on the shore of Lake Michigan

After a nice railroad alarm clock, we set out bound for Dowagiac. The first half of the ride gave us nice weather, until we hit the town of Buchanen. Shortly after, the skys opened up on us for quite some time. Thankfully we had decided to don our raingear prior to this. The rain let up just in time for us to stop at the "fruit stop" at Love Creek park. Here we took a deserved break, and snacked on a few things. We got rolling again, and the rain started back up. We had rain until about a half hour before Dowagiac, and then things started to clear. This was a nice thing, since it meant that we could dry out a bit and weren't setting up camp in the rain.
After setting up camp, we showered (ice cold gang shower for the men), had dinner, and then walked into town.
We stopped in at Zeke's Bar for some drinks to soothe the muscles. If you're ever in Dowagiac and looking for a good beer, Zeke's is the place to go. Something like 25 beers on tap, and about a bazillion other varieties in bottles.

Dinosaur Bones - must've been part whitetail

Three Oaks - the movie Prancer was filmed on location here

Dowagiac Union High School - where we stayed

Brandy and I in downtown Dowagiac

to be continued...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lumberjack 100 - the rest of the story

Thankfully we checked the discussion forums on Friday morning. Word was that wind and lightning and rain of biblical proportions had socked the Manistee/Wellston area. A quick call to our hotel in Manistee confirmed they were without power, and a flurry of phone calls later had home base moved to Cadillac. We hit the road just after noon, and met up with my teammates Jay and Todd at the venue to pick up our packets. After checking into our hotel, we went out to a nice dinner (steaks for the guys), got our things ready, and headed to bed early.

Jay, Todd and I left the hotel around 5:15am and headed over to Big M. Our wives did the sane thing and stayed in bed, intending to be there when we came through after our second lap. We arrived at the venue, unloaded, put our jerseys and number plates on, and listened in to the rider's meeting. There was to be a ~2 mile roll-out on the paved road before we hit the trail, the storm left a few downed trees, only a couple you had to dismount for, and there were a couple of foot deep sections of water.

We rode up to the start down the road, and Todd and I staged about mid-pack. I think Jay was a few rows behind us. A sound of a horn, and we were rolling! Todd and I rode in at a nice easy pace, hit the singletrack, and very shortly after hit the opening climb. Off our bikes for the first of many times, we hiked up the hill with the rest of the pack. At the top, we settled into a brisk pace. The "inner loop" of the course was hilly, but other than the opening hill everything was rideable. Of course what goes up must come down, and come down we did in a fun flowing fashion. Eight miles later, the "inner loop" ended and the "outer loop" began. This was near the parking/finish/pit area, so there was a group of spectators cheering on the riders. A nice thing to keep the motivation up. The outer loop started with a flat section for a couple miles, with some tight turns and a few open stretches. Gentle hills picked up, and at ~ the 12 mile mark we passed the neutral aid station. Neither Todd or I stopped on lap one, keeping a brisk pace. We rode together (or within sight of each other) for the entire first lap, riding with a pack, gradually passing the riders in the pack, and then catching the next pack.
A couple miles past the aid station, we hit another major climb, which was followed by a screaming fun downhill. This downhill put us into some lowlands, which led into the "couple spots of 12 inch deep water". Well, those couple spots were a series of ~200 foot long stretches of swamp! Todd and I rode through most of them, walking the last one due to traffic.
The last 7 or so miles had a series of big uphills and downhills, culminating with a huge uphill about 2 miles from the finish. For riding/walking this climb, we were rewarded with a blazing 30mph downhill! Another flat-ish section of flowing trail brought us through to the pit area to end lap one.

Coming through the pit area.

We pitted, and I filled my camelpack, picked up a fresh bottle of Hammer Sustained Energy and HEED mixture, and promptly hit the trail for lap 2. Todd was still in the pits, in fact that would be the last time I'd see him until we were finished. Lap 2 was basically a continuation of lap 1, but with me riding mostly solo and catching up with a couple packs of riders (and getting caught by a few riders also). The only SNAFU I had was at about 4 miles left in the lap, I sucked my Camelpack dry. I was also starting to get a touch of a headache. So, I took a couple of Advil, and decided to take my Hammer Endurolytes a bit more frequently.
When I pitted after lap 2, our wives had arrived. There was no staying to chat, as I refilled my pack, grabbed a fresh bottle, and was gone.

Lap 3 began rather uneventful, with my 3rd hike of the day up that hill. I was basically solo by this time, the 250 riders now being spread out along the course. Towards the end of the "inner loop", I caught up with Wayne (an experienced endurance racer, who I've ridden with before). We rode together until the aid station, where we both stopped to top off water supplies (me having learned from running out late lap 2). Since he was using bottles, he was gone before I was. About the time I had caught up with Wayne, the cramps were starting to rear their ugly head. Thankfully minor at this time, I continued taking my Endurolytes and was ever mindful of my hydration to keep them from getting worse. Thankfully I could also stave off the cramps a bit by altering my posture while climbing.

Once again in the pit area.

When I pitted after lap 3, I was saddened to find that Jay had thrown in the towel. He said that he had mis-judged his hydration and caloric intake, and was starting to hallucinate. Scary stuff indeed! They also informed me that Todd was behind me, but did go out for lap 3. I let Brandy know that I was already hurting and cramping up, but intended to give lap 4 a go. She handed me a banana, which I wisely ate.
Lap 4 started with a slow walk up the hill, and one last trip through the fun flowing stretches of the inner loop. I'll freely admit that I gave a quick glance over to the parking lot at the transition to the outer loop, when I realized that I still had 17 miles to go. The beginning of the outer loop, being flat, went uneventful. At the aid station, I topped off my water again. The nice lady working the station asked "anything else?", to which I pointed at my bike and replied "how about a motor for this thing." She laughed, and then said, "but then you'd be disqualified".
I rode off from the aid station, hiked the big hill a short while later, bombed the (now brake bump filled) downhill for one last time, and waded through the swamp. In fact after lap one I stopped even trying to ride through the swamp.
I think that if there is a Hell, it very much resembles the last 7 miles of the Lumberjack 100. The downhills seemed to get shorter, the flats seemed to go up, and I swear someone added in a couple climbs after I completed the first couple laps. So it was no small relief when I saw those 3 black downward arrows on a yellow background with the word "Caution" that signalled the last 30mph screaming downhill. I knew I was home free.

Brandy told me that my time was right around the 9:19 mark, which was well under my 10 hour goal time. Best of all, I HAD FINISHED.

We made a team decision to forego the awards ceremony, instead going to a local bar/grill in Cadillac for dinner. We were too tired to do much of anything else.

Two days later, the results were posted:
In the Mens Singlespeed class, 56 riders started, 31 finished, and I placed 11th! My official time was 9 hours 18 minutes and 54 seconds. This was also good enough for 36th overall amongst all the male finishers. My teammate Todd also finished, with a time of just over 10 hours.

Glad to be done.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lumberjack 100 - the short version

Yesterday was the first of my key focus races this year, the Lumberjack 100. My goals were: to finish, and if I did finish, to do so in under 10 hours. Nothing about winning, or podium finishes (the winner would be around the 7 hour mark), but none-the-less, a good goal for me (ambitious but acheivable).
Three of us from Team Sandbag, Todd, Jay and myself headed up on Friday, after a flurry of last minute lodging changes. We got an early start in the morning and headed over to the race venue.
We started with a roll-out on the pavement leading up to the trail system, and ~2 miles later we were on the dirt. Shortly after, and it was hike-a-bike up the opening hill (the first of many hills I'd hoof it up). Lap one was ridden for the most part with my teammate Todd. We kept up a brisk pace.
I started lap 2 without Todd (he was still in the pits), and rode with various packs of riders. Laps 1 and 2 had me feeling great.
Laps 3 and 4 were spent solo for large chunks. I did ride with Wayne from the team for a portion of lap 3, but he pulled away from me at the neutral aid station mid-lap.
Lap 4 was pretty much survival mode for me, walking up a large number of the hills, and the sheer agony of the last 7 miles.
Both goals were met for this race, with me finishing the entire 100 miles in right around 9:20. None of us (Todd, Jay, myself, or our wives) were up to heading to the awards ceremony, electing for a dinner out and an early bedtime.

More detail to follow...

Monday, May 26, 2008

A New Ride

The primary purpose of Friday's trip to Grand Rapids...

Stay tuned for the ride report...

Cannonsburg and Ionia

On Friday I made a trek out to Grand Rapids. While out there, I paid a visit to Cannonsburg to get in a little riding.

First up was Cannonsburg State Game Area. This trail was very open and fast, similar in character to Yankee Springs. There were some moderate climbs, blazing fast downhills, and some great turns to carve.

Cannonsburg SGA trailhead

A very bad self portrait

Cannonsburg SGA trail

After a lap of the SGA, I ducked out onto the roads, and rode over to the Cannonsburg Ski Area. Another rider at the trailhead clued me in to a spot about 1 1/2 miles in where I could duck out, and that it was only about a 3 mile ride to the ski area. Here I did one lap of the roughly 5 1/2 mile trail. The ski area had a lot in common with Bloomer and Ruby. Much tighter, more technical, lots of climbing packed into it's short length.

Cannonsburg Ski Area

The ski hill

Looking forward along the trail

Sign reads "No Parking Any Time" (overexposed). Note the sharp right just past the sign.

Looking back towards the chute-like section. This was a series of high banked turns downhill.

On my way home, I jumped off the expressway and drove the short distance north to Ionia Rec Area for a lap. Ionia is different in character from the Cannonsburg trails: tight, narrow, bumpy, rocks, roots, lots of more technical corners, not much climbing. There wasn't a lot of natural elevation change here, but the trail builders made good use of what there was. I also took more photos here than at Cannonsburg, partly because of the slower nature of the trail, and partly because I was getting tired.

One of the many open fields the trail passed through

I thought this was cool

Another self portrait - this one overlooking the Grand River

Typical of the Ionia Rec Area trail

The trail snakes through another open area - part of what looked to be a small gravel pit at one time

In case you ever wondered what the Ionia County Sheriff's Posse Clubhouse looks like

One day, three different trails, each with a vastly different character. Good times for sure!