Thursday, April 26, 2012

Striving for Rhythm

Human nature is a funny thing.  Or more correctly, MY nature is a funny thing.  All winter I kept on the stationary bike, spending hours down in the basement spinning and sweating.  It certainly wasn't what I wanted to be doing, but I knew it was good for me.  So I gritted my teeth, put on a John Wayne movie and pedaled.

Now the weather is much, much nicer.  Even if there are some cool, damp days and it seems to be cloudy more often than it's sunny, the contrast with cold, wet, muddy and grey is pretty amazing.  But I've been slacking - not riding when I should and could be out.  I've made a couple of singletrack forays each week - but the other days I've been doing nothing.  Most of those days the weather was good enough that I could have had at least a nice ride around town, but I haven't.  So now that I've confronted the problem I'm going to try to get in at least a short ride five of the next seven days.  And I'll even get back on MapMyRide and log my miles.  Yeah.

Friday afternoon I headed down to Beaver Creek with Dave.  My plan was to ride a bit, from the campground down to the picnic area.  Then I planned on hiking back up, rather than push the bike up the insanely steep and rocky 5/8 mile "shortcut".  Once I got back to the car and caught my breath I would hike the bow saw down the trail about 1/4 mile to a downed tree and cut it out.  So I geared up and headed on down the trail.  I finally got the mount and lens cover replaced on my GoPro helmet cam, so I tried mounting it on the front fork for a bit.  Unfortunately that needs a bit more work, so I switched it to my helmet.  Even more unfortunately, when I came speeding down a hill, pegged my left bar end on a sapling, and crashed onto the trail at a pretty good rate of speed, sliding at least 10 feet on my right side - I had accidentally switched from video to photo every 10 seconds.

Immediately after crashing - you can tell because the bike is LAYING DRIVE SIDE DOWN.

Thankfully I didn't do any damage, but that was entirely too hard for a 49 year old guy to hit the ground.  Kinda took the oomph out of the afternoon.  I continued on my ride, eventually getting back into a semi-natural groove, but my shoulder and hip were pretty sore, as well as my right ankle.  The flat section down by the creek was a lot of fun though, and I actually managed to get some of that part on the GoPro - before the SD card filled up and it stopped recording.

I'm not sure why exactly, but I didn't leave the bike at the bottom, instead hiking (mostly) and biking (a little bit) back up to the top and the car.  By the time I got back up there I was twice as sore as when I hit the ground, and I wasn't about to hike back down and spend another half hour sawing through three tree trunks.  So I had a nice cold drink and headed back home - good enough for one day.

Saturday morning I did something a bit different.  Diana was sick at home with a nasty bout of intestinal flu, so Kenny stayed at home with her.  I headed out before 9:00 to meet up with two of the adult leaders from Kenny's new Boy Scout troop.  They had an idea to do a canoe trip on the local river, a slow and muddy waterway that has something like 20 dams on it.  And since they knew I was into kayaking they asked if I'd like to go along on an exploratory trip to see if the river was passable.  We put in one town upstream, near the Bliss dam in Newton Falls, and paddled downstream in spotty rain and cool temperatures.  Over the next four hours we came across three river-wide blockages, the last of which was a huge mess in an area that was very difficult to portage.  So they may have to either find another place to paddle or find another way to use the clear sections in order to get in enough distance to make the trip worthwhile.  It was nice to paddle on the Mahoning in the upstream sections where I'd never been before, but what I really need is some whitewater.  I'm waiting for a weekend when the water level and my free time are both right and I can get in a nice ride on the lower Slippery Rock Creek.  Now that's some REAL fun!!

A fortuitously placed fallen log at Moraine State Park.

Sunday my brother and I had planned on a ride over at Moraine, but he was feeling a bit under the weather and had to cancel.  I considered heading over and riding myself, but with the chilly, damp weather I settled on going to the nearby North Road trails and doing some trail work for a couple of hours.  Now that the tread is solid enough to actually ride I've managed to get over there and put in some laps.  It really pointed out where the trail needed to be tweaked to make it more bike friendly.  The twisty, narrow tread is great for hiking, but once I rode it I found that the corridor pressed too close in some areas, the sight lines were obstructed in others, and some of the turns were too tight for a bike.  So I spent a couple of hours widening the tread, cutting back undergrowth at corners, and making re-routes for the sharp turns.  I only got a little further than half way, but I think that the changes should be pretty noticeable.  I need to get my bike back out there and ride it again to see.

A too-tight corner before...

...and after.

I guess it was another so-so weekend.  I did get some stuff done, and managed to get in some riding, but I certainly hope to do better in the upcoming week.  With a little bit of cooperation from the weather, and a few other things falling in line, hopefully I'll get more miles - and have more fun.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Joys of Summer begin to Return

If you live in a place where the seasons change, then you've undoubtedly heard them - the people who complain about the weather.  All summer long they complain about the heat, and the humidity, and there's too much sunshine - and the rain storms are too scary and what if it tornadoes for God's sake!??!  When fall comes you can hear them catch their breath and take in a big inhale - to give themselves more air to complain about winter.  It's too cold, too windy, the roads are too scary, I hate it when it's below zero, what if I get frostbite??!?!  Then another deep inhale in the spring, to get the wind to start the whole thing over again.

The Ranger approaches...
I'm out there all seasons, and I like when it changes.  When the weather stays the same for too long I get tired of it and welcome the next front with open arms.  But that doesn't mean that I don't NOTICE when those special irritations return as the weather warms up.  For instance, I have the first poison ivy of the year - a little area spread across my left forearm.  When in the woods I'd noticed the little stems with the tiny new red leaves coming up, and I knew what they were.  Yet somehow while doing trail work I still managed to get some on me.  Oh well, its not the end of the world.

Another thing I've notice is that the bugs are back.  Not many mosquitoes yet, or horseflies (thank God) but the little buzzy, annoying, fly-up-yer-nose things have returned.  And ticks - can't forget those little monsters - are going strong this year. But the thing I keep thinking about is the roses.  The wild roses didn't even really stop growing over this mild winter, and now they're just booming.  When I was at Moraine I noticed that every bit of undergrowth I could see was wild roses.  There is going to be a LOT of trimming of undergrowth this summer.

All that green undergrowth is wild rose.
But it's so great to get out in just shorts and a t-shirt, which is what makes summer worth the bugs and thorns.  I had a great ride out at Moraine on Friday afternoon, but my free time was limited so I had to zip out, get in as much riding as I could in a set time, then zip back.  Not really a problem, but it wasn't the great ride that I'd hoped for.  I did take a little bit of time and take video of one of my favorite rock features. 

The entry moves.
I forgot to bring the GoPro, so I set up the camera on the mini tripod and recorded it in five sections - which meant I had to ride it clean five times.  I had a couple of "unplanned dismounts" but actually got the whole thing done in just a couple of minutes.  It was Friday the 13th when I rode, so I edited a quick little video of that one rock feature.

Sunday morning we had a trail work day at the North Road Nature Preserve.  There were about 6 or 7 volunteers that showed up, so we got quite a bit of work done, mostly finishing up a new section of trail.  Eric cut a bunch more corridor near the old road, and we also moved in some more rocks.  Kenny was the staff photographer for the day, and took some great shots.

Sunday afternoon I got in a little bit of a gravel grinder out around West Branch.  I parked by the mtb trails, but since the park closes the trails until just before Memorial Day to keep people from rutting them up (though they aren't muddy at all right now I betcha) I kept on the road.  It was a nice little ride, with a couple of hills and some bumpy potholed roads.  The sun was out doing it's thing and I was loving it.

At the parking pull-off just past where I parked someone had abandoned a bunch of cats.  I checked them out while I was there and they seemed to be very friendly and in good shape.  It was hard to forget about them out there, so I ended up heading back out there to see if they were still there.  Sure enough, once I got back into the woods a bit I found them - except one kitten was missing.  So now we have a new kitten in the house (there was no way we could take all four of them).

The white one with the black "horns" is the one that came home with me.

Diana had mentioned a couple of times that she'd like to have a cat again, and I knew Kenny would love it, so we have a new pet.  I'm sure it will be all the fun that I remember (unfortunate heavy sarcasm).  Still, it is a sweet and friendly little cat.  Lets see if it meows all night...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Here and There, but definitely not Everywhere

It was another slow week at work, but Friday eventually found it's way around again.  During the wet and muddy winter I'd heard that the trails at Quail Hollow State Park had been damaged pretty badly by irresponsible riders.  Apparently it got so bad that the park actually closed them for a while, something that they usually don't do.  But towards the end of the week I saw on the CAMBA board that the trails were not only re-opened, but in good condition.  I hadn't been out there for quite a long time, probably not even last summer, but I always enjoyed a spin around the loop there.

Quail Hollow State Park, Ohio

The trail there is a 3.15 mile loop, with one way travel.  The elevation change in the park is a whopping 50 feet, so there aren't the hills like at West Branch or Moraine.  And there are so few rocks that you could probably give each one a name.  There are maybe three stretches where you can see rocks and only one rock feature - and it looks like it was imported.  In short it's a beginners trail.  But it's still possible to have a LOT of fun there - if you just try to pick up the speed a bit.  The beginning is especially fast, as there are a couple of small descents that help keep up your momentum.  During the first year I rode Quail Hollow my record for  lap was 29 minutes.  A couple of years later I dropped it to 24 minutes.  On Friday I managed to tie that on my first lap, then I took a slower paced lap where I stopped and took some photos.

The boardwalk at the meadow at Quail Hollow.
I would have made another slow lap, maybe two, but I don't like to leave Dave waiting forever, so we headed home.  Still was a great afternoon and I was glad to get out and visit Quail Hollow again and see that it hasn't been destroyed.

Saturday I did some things that had to be done, but I did take an hour or so and get in a ride on the rail trail.  Time was at a premium, so I went to the closest trailhead and cranked out some miles.  It's nice to be able to head out for an hour and a half ride and still know you could easily ride for another hour and a half.  But sometimes you have to fit a ride in the available slot, so I was content with what I got.

Wildlife observation platform on the Western Reserve Greenway Trail.
Saturday afternoon Kenny and I headed down to Beaver Creek to camp overnight.  My brother Matt and his two kids also headed down, but since his boy has been feeling a bit under the weather they decided not to spend the night.  The kids had fun running around and playing on the playground while I set up the tent and Matt got a nice fire going.  Then he cooked an excellent steak dinner, with potatoes, beans, cider and pie - so good it was hard to believe I was out camping.

Trumbull County Courthouse on the banks of the Mahoning River.
Sunday afternoon when we got up Kenny and I had a fire to get warmed up, then packed up camp and headed down to the picnic area for trail work.  Even though it was Easter there was one other brave volunteer, Eric, who showed up.  He and I worked for over three hours to bench the top part of the new trail.

The new trail at Beaver Creek State Park (picture by Kenny)
The soil on the hillside varies from 80% rock/20% dirt to loam to clay.  Some of it is relatively easy to bench cut - and some not so easy.  But the two of us got quite a bit of work done in an afternoon, so that I'm fairly confident that we'll be finishing this thing off before the end of summer.  It's going to be a nice addition to the mountain bike trail system, but I think it'll be even better for hikers since it's a short scenic loop that's right by the parking areas.

Another pic of the new trail (by Kenny).
So there wasn't a great, grand ride this weekend like the one last week at Moraine.  But I did get to visit two places that I enjoy seeing.  There was a nice ride involved, plus another grinder on the rail trail.  And getting more done on the Beaver Creek trail was really great, as this is a project that I've been working towards for over two years. 

Nonetheless, I can't help but hope that next weekend I can get in both some rewarding trail building time AND a fantastic ride on some singletrack.  And maybe even a bit of a ride during the week, if I'm lucky and the weather cooperates.  Hey, a man can dream, can't he?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Time Warp

When I wrote my last post, the one talking about how I spent the whole weekend doing trail work, it turns out that I had an unseen passenger.  Behind my left knee, the one that doesn't move around so well so I can't actually SEE the back of it, there was a tick.  I didn't find the little monster until Tuesday, so that means that it was there at least two days, and according to what I could find out, that meant that there was a better chance that it could have transferred bad juju to my bloodstream.  Then when I got sick the next day, with a fever that just wiped me out, I really started to worry.

When I got hold of my doctor and described my symptoms he basically said "Get in here right now."  That's never a comforting thing to hear from your physician.  So I went in and they drew blood for tests and started me on some drugs in case I started to grow Lymes.  But regardless of what it was, I was miserable - fever, congestion, achy and it felt like my IQ had been reduced by 50%.  But I finally got the blood test results back after the weekend and found out that I didn't have Lyme Disease - just some sort of cold (ain't the power of paranoia a wonderful thing?)

But I did spend about ten days down and out.  I went to work the whole time - when you work at a desk with a computer there's not much difference between sitting at work being miserable and sitting at home being miserable.  But my head was so scrambled that it almost seems like the whole time I was sick didn't really happen - the Severe Cold Time Warp. It's not like I did anything that I could look back on, just sit around in a fog being sick.  But finally I'm more or less back with the rest of the world (as much as ever, anyways) and able to actually participate in living.

But after nothing going on for a week and a half I started to get my energy back towards the end of the week, and on Friday I headed down to Beaver Creek after lunch.  My plan was to get in a ride and then do a small amount of work on the new trail.  But as I've learned before, you're never ahead of downed trees when you're maintaining a trail.

There were two new trees down on Dogwood Trail.  I only had my small saw in my pack, so I couldn't clear them but I did get rid of all the branches so that you could at least lift a bike over easily.  That took up some of my trail work time, but I did get a chance to do some more benching on the hillside section of the new trail.  That has to be some of the rockiest soil I've ever seen up there, the exact opposite of the silty soil at the North Road trail project.

Next weekend there's going to be a big Beaver Creek trail work day, where I get a chance to do more than just a little bit of work at a time.  But this weekend it was time to work on North Road Nature Preserve.  Only a small crew showed up - just four of us - but we put in a good morning of work and finished cutting the corridor for the reroute around the wettest section.  The woods are waking up to spring pretty quick this year, which isn't suprising I guess considering we only had a quarter of a winter.

For TJ - this is the trail wagon from earlier in the year.
Then on Sunday afternoon my brother and I headed over to Moraine for a ride.  I was feeling a bit less than perfect with a nice headache going on, but I'd been thinking about riding all week so I was going to give it a shot.  And it turned out so fine - one of those nice, long rides in nice conditions with good company when it seems like you're firing on all cylinders and riding at the top of your ability.

I can hardly even attempt to describe how great it was.  A TOUGH ride, with lots of technical stuff to push yourself against.  No big falls, no crashes, no bike parts broke.  After a week and a half of time warp flu it was exactly what I needed.  I'm feeling sore from my legs to my shoulders, and I can tell I'm going to sleep like a rock tonight, but it's all good.

Also, this week my son Kenny graduated from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.  He left Webelos with the Super Achiever award, which you only get if you complete every single one of the Webelos achievements.  He did a heck of a job and I'm EXTREMELY proud him.