Monday, April 25, 2016

I Guess That's Why I Do It

Oddly I didn’t do a whole lot this past weekend.  I’m not the kind of person that is content to sit around and watch TV on a nice Saturday.  I have to feel pretty bad before I’ll throw that out the window.  But for whatever reason I couldn’t even come up with good honey-do projects on Saturday.  Everything I considered ended up seeming like it wasn’t a good time or I didn’t have the stuff I needed to accomplish anything.  I felt like I was pissing away a perfect day.
Late in the day I took off with my camera into the woods behind the house.  Long time readers will remember that I was once working on a trail on a forty-some-odd acre wooded parcel owned by some cousins.  But then last summer when things started ramping up in Flat Hollow I stopped working on it.  It seemed like a waste of time when I could put my energy into a better long term opportunity.
But as I try to scale back my time in far flung places trying to build trails at a snail’s pace I realize that a mile or two of passable trail in my own back yard would go a long way to satisfying my short term cravings for dirt therapy.  And I decided maybe I should put a little effort into finishing up my mile loop.
It had been a long time since I was up there.  The last time I visited was just after a bad storm with high winds.  A large tree had fallen over two switchbacks and needed chainsawing.  Since then I’ve mastered sharpening the saw myself and I just need to get in there and clear the corridor once again.  I then need to cut a tough but short section of bench to bypass an unrideable section I thought I could build.
And then there are some longer sections of bench that need to be cut or maybe even just the organic stuff scraped off and it should all go quickly.  Especially now that I have access to proper trail building tools.  Before I used a mattocks to do all of the benchcutting and it was taking a long time.  Now I have rogue hoes and a McLeod.  I should be able to knock it all out so much faster.  And better.
As I was walking through my little fantasy trail kingdom I noticed a hillside speckled with pink lady slippers.  I was delighted to find fifty or more of them within a small area and I got a few photos.  I might try to go back up this afternoon before the rains set in for the week.  Maybe take the fam.

Dogwoods are also blooming right now.  I love dogwoods and the contract they splash on a still dingy landscape.  This time of year there are darks and brilliant lights in the woods and it makes for some fantastic black and white photos.  These aren’t my favorite, but I was pleased with my initial photographic stab at dogwoods this year.

On Sunday afternoon I headed out for a GPSing slog on Indian Creek.  I had five crags still left to visit.  Two of them are of the most remote in the Gorge area.  Even when FR 9b is open Lost Ridge, Purple Valley, and Board Wall are a haul.  I had gotten Purple Valley a few weeks ago, but started feeling unwell and cut my expedition short.  I dreaded making the long jaunt back out to Lost Ridge.  Right now it holds the distinction of being (in my estimation) the most remote published crag in the Red.  It’s a four mile bike ride and a half mile bushwhack to get to the closest of the spread out routes along the cliff that makes up the crag.  One way.
I felt my age on the slog up from the confluence of Big Amos Creek and Little Amos Creek.  I didn’t bother to walk along and identify all of the routes.  Once I was certain of my location I headed back down.  I was intent on getting all five remaining crags before sunset.
But by the time I reached Board Wall and identified the first route I knew my clock was ticking.  I resolve I would at least capture Between Wall on my ride back to the car.  I had at least visited that one in the past.  While reading the new guidebook approach description for Bear Wollor Hollor I realized that years ago when I went looking for that one that I was in the wrong place.  That meant a completely new effort in find the obscure crag.  When I finally reached the King Minas pinnacle at Between Wall I decided I would come back and hike to BWH on another day.  I hated to leave, but I was tired and feeling the miles.
I have that one and a roadside crag left to GPS and I’ll be done with capturing the approaches and trails for all of the Red River Gorge North crags.
Meanwhile, Tomahawk was out riding the new trails in Flat Hollow.  I received a text from him before I set out on my GPS quest:
Nice job up there.  You deserve a lot of credit.  I will do something special for Mandy to show my appreciation.
“What’s so funny?” Mandy asked from across the table as we finished our lunch.
I turned my phone and showed her the text.  She laughed out loud too.
Well…I guess that’s why I do it, I replied.
It means a lot that people are getting out and hiking and riding the trail and giving positive feedback.  I want the trails in Bald Rock (aka, Big Sinking, Flat Hollow, PMRP) to be of the highest quality. 
I’ve talked about my selfish motivations in building new mtb trails.  But I do take a great deal of satisfaction in seeing trails on the ground that more people can use.  I believe in the power of trails.  I believe conservation can only happen if people can interact with nature.  I believe our environmental health and well-being is only positive when we appreciate the environment.  And I believe that active transportation and recreation are superior to other forms of activity.  I believe there are greater health benefits from running or biking on a trail than in running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ramming Speed Friday: Happy? Earth Day Edition

This past Sunday cyclist David Cassidy was struck and killed by an SUV on Paris Pike outside of Lexington.  While tragic in itself Cassidy was friends and riding partner with Mark Hinkel who was struck and killed almost a year ago by a drunk driver.
Right off the bat I’m going to say if you want to blame either of these men for their own deaths you need your head checked.  And your heart.  They were human beings.  If you’re going to turn the fact that they were cyclists into some politically slanted diatribe or some crass capitalist propaganda then I have no polite words for you, and I think you really need to take a long look at yourself before you continue to interact with other human beings.
I didn’t know either one of them, but likely I’ve passed or been passed by them on some big organized ride in the Bluegrass region.  I’ve been in their shoes.  Well, right up until the last second of their lives.  I have had many close calls on the road while riding my bike.  I ride responsibly.  I obey the laws for the most part.  And I am hyper alert when I’m on the bike.  I ride strategically to prevent motorists from pushing me into dangerous situations, and I avoid dangerous circumstances if at all possible.  And I’d still been clipped twice by cars and nearly killed more times than I can count.  And that’s not melodrama or exaggeration.  I’ve had to pull over on my bike and stop riding until I was able to compose myself and move on down the road after being buzzed, cut off, and (in some cases) intentionally intimidated by some motorist.
Kentucky is one of the unhealthiest states in the nation.  Yes, we have narrow and curvy roads.  The argument goes that our roads are not safe for cyclists because motorists come around blind curves and over hills and hit cyclists before they can see them.  When I was learning to drive my father drilled into my young and dumb skull that if I were to hit something with the car I was driving it would be my fault.  The default answer to every one of my hypotheticals was “you were driving too fast for the conditions.”  A deer jumps out?  You should know deer could jump out and slow down to anticipate it.  A car stops suddenly in front of me?  I shouldn’t have been following so close.  I come upon a slow moving cyclist in a blind curve?  I shouldn’t have been driving so fast on a curvy road with poor sight lines.
Morally the motorist has a greater obligation to watch out for more vulnerable users.  Of course cyclists and pedestrians should not behave irresponsibly.  But how many times are cyclists and pedestrians doing everything they’re supposed to be doing to obey the law and are stuck and killed by motorists?  Too often. 
The problem is truly a car problem.  Sure, a cyclist could crash into a pedestrian or another cyclist and kill them, but that’s far less likely than the damage motor vehicles inflict upon cyclists and pedestrians on a daily basis in our world.  Even rarer would be the case of a pedestrian bumping into another pedestrian on a sidewalk and seriously injuring or killing them.  It just doesn’t happen often enough to warrant expending brain power on arguing the “danger” pedestrians and cyclists pose to the rest of the world.  Motor vehicles and their operators on the other hand…
I’m not going to break down the numbers, but click over to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center and take a look.
To put it in quick perspective, in 2013 there were 743 cyclist deaths where a motor vehicle was involved (I wasn’t able to find a total number for non-motor vehicle related crashes.)  On the other hand, there were over 32,000 fatalities in 2014 in motor vehicle crashes.  Does it seem like it’s a bike problem or a car problem?  Did bikes cause motorists to crash and die in even a small percentage of those 32,000 fatalities?  Probably not.  And it definitely seems like a car problem.
One thing that really rankles me (and I didn’t intend for this post to stray into such morbid territory, it truly as supposed to be an Earth Day post) is when some well-meaning internet troll says they really love to see people out biking but they’re scared to death a cyclist is going to fall over in front of them and they won’t be able to stop.  For whatever reason this is a standard comment that is well-taught in Internet Troll College. 
First off, just drive responsibly.  Don’t worry about me falling over.  Give me plenty of space when you pass and it won’t matter.  Drive a reasonable speed and it won’t matter.  Put down your goddamn* phone and it won’t matter.  If you can’t stop for an object (living or not) in the road then you’re driving too fast.  Full stop.  No, don’t even try to argue with me.  If you hit something in the roadway it is likely because you were driving too fast for the conditions.  Stop being a whiny baby and own it.  And put down your goddamn phone.
Drive.  For the love of God when you get behind the wheel give the activity your full attention!  You’re piloting potentially thousands of pounds of glass and steel along a narrow ribbon of asphalt.  You are not a Jedi.  You are not a fighter pilot (most of you).  You don’t have the reaction time of the Flash.  You are not as good a driver as you think you are.  Stop being a menace on the road.  Take the phone out of the equation.  We all got along just fine before cell phones.  We waited until we got home to chat with people on the phone.  Just because you can carry the cursed thing around in your pocket is no reason to mentally check out every chance you get. 
There is no good reason for cyclists to die on the roadway.  I don’t care if you agree that they should be there or not.  I don’t care if they aren’t where you expect them to be or want them to be.  Cyclists are human beings too.  They have families.  They do important work.  They just want to live their lives just like you.  And they are no threat to you on the road.  That few second (at most) delay in your car drive is not the travesty you make it out to be.  Take a deep breath.  Engage your patience.  Pass safely.  And put down your goddamn phone. 
From an Earth Day past
*People who know me well may gasp at my use of language.  I want to iterate that I feel strongly enough about distracted driving that I don’t care what you think about my choice of words.  It pisses me off that so many people do not take driving seriously and think it’s okay to play with their goddamn phones while driving.  I truly feel that cell phones are the work of the devil and have no place in civilized society.  I keep trying to wean myself off of mine.
I also want to say that my intended audience are those internet trolls.  I use "you" a lot knowing that most people who read my blog (hi to both of you!) don't behave the way I describe or at least understand these issues from the viewpoint of a cyclist.  In this case "you" is all of us when we drive like maniacs.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hills and Meditation

Rhythm is comfort.  Each pedal stroke punctuates the wind.  Crosswinds are insidious.  It’s a struggle to find equilibrium and comfort in cadence.  I’m dragging so many miles behind me.  I feel every one hanging on my bike frame.
Then I toe up to the next climb.  I drop gears like too many bottles on the ground.  From racing to crawling up a wall.  The climb is like meditation.  I pontificate on life.  I lose myself in the grind that takes me into the sky.  Climbing is absolution.  Climbing cleanses the soul and obliterates the mind.
I don’t die at the top.  The road rolls over back to the horizontal plane.  I knuckle up a couple of gears despite the protests in my knees.  I’m moving at a crawl, but I have a few hundred feet of earth beneath me and lots of miles ahead still to ride.  I knuckle up.  I knuckle up.
After a few moments my legs have forgotten the climb and I’m racing along the rolling ridge, surfing the hills and curves and pumping my way along.  Redbuds whip past, blurring against the gray background.  Flashes of green spot my retinas.  Rhythm is comfort.  Breathing is life.  Legs are pistons.
A few days ago I rolled the Sporty Sport Bike out of the Bike Cave and pointed my front wheel toward Furnace Mountain.  I’ve been so caught up with mountain biking and trying to get mountain bike trails built (which is both much harder and much easier than I would have guessed) that I’ve passed up many wonderful opportunities for grueling meditation on the road bike.
I didn’t take the direct route.  It was going to be a short ride anyway.  The kids were at home and Mandy was out.  I didn’t need to be gone long.  But I didn’t need to ride far to accomplish my goal.
Crawling over Steamshovel Hill three cogs up from granny was no problem.  I dropped down the steep townside face and cruised out to 213.  I merged into afternoon rush hour traffic.  I know…its Stanton, Kentucky: Pop 3,000 or so.  How bad could it be?  At 5:30 in the afternoon the five lanes through town become a NASCAR show.
After I passed McDonald’s the traffic evaporated.  The climb had begun, though it’s subtle out on the edge of town.  You begin gaining slowly.  Then a short series of small but annoying rollers.  And then you’re at the base looking up.
Furnace Mountain” is 0.8 miles long and gains 468’.  The climb averages 10%.  Way back in the auld days I set out to tackle it on my first mountain bike.  That thing is geared like a mule, but I walked the first few times I attempted to climb Furnace. 
I got it clean on my third or fourth try over a year span.  I didn’t go out every day and try it.  I didn’t train for it.  Every once in a while I’d decide to go for a ride and gravitate toward Furnace.
One time I was finally dogged enough to hang on til the top.
I didn’t go back for years afterward.  We had moved back from Colorado and I considered myself a “serious” cyclist at that point.  Furnace was simply another hill to climb.  It was no Mount Evans.  It was no Genesee Mountain, or Loveland Pass, or Kingston Peak.  I didn’t think about it, I just set out on a ride one day in the spring of 2013 and my intended route passed over that bump in the road.
The climb was hard with road bike gearing.  I rolled up it though, and have not doubted my ability to ascend the short section of paved road up to the rolling ridge known as Furnace Mountain south of Stanton.  At least until recently.
After a successful ascent of Furnace on the Cannonball
I’ve not ridden the road bike much since early summer.  I’ve written about all of that and won’t rehash it, but it’s been a long stretch off the bike.  I miss the feeling of riding the roads around my hometown.  I’ve felt a pull the last few weeks, and as the weather has gotten better and better and the need for bulky cycling clothing and fussing over kit choices has gone away I’ve had fewer and fewer reasons not to just go ride.
Furnace loomed in my mind.  It’s close to home.  I once rode from my house to the top in about eighteen minutes.  But how would it feel with lazy legs?  Doubt kept the Dogrunner stabled days beyond reason.
As I geared down for the first steep section I didn’t raise the threat level in my brain.  I knew I could do it.  There was no fear of failure and no real consequences if I did.  I let the internal pressure fall away behind me as I rode on up toward the top.  I ended up in my lowest gear to be sure.  It was a slow crawl—nowhere near my fastest time—and the steady rhythm and cadence of the effort soothed me.
The first reprieve.  I’d always made it that far.  The second crux which is by far the hardest was my early nemesis.  Without much of a twitch in my gauges I surmounted the short second crux into the second reprieve.  I looked around at the blooming wildflowers in the ditch.  I breathed easy.  My legs did their job.
As I approached the last curve and the end of the climb I smiled to myself in satisfaction.  I quietly celebrated as I continued turning over the crank slowly but surely.  My apprehensions had been for naught.  Furnace had fallen once again.  As easily as ever.  I am long past the days when I don’t have the mental game for it.
That ride made me brave.  On Wednesday I needed to ride to town for an errand and I jumped on the singlespeed mountain bike and headed out.  There is no flat route from my house to town. I chose to cross over Granny Moppet as it is the easiest of the two big climbs out of the creek.  It got my heart rate up, but I never felt like I wouldn’t be able to ride the hill clean.
I’m back.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Trail Day

I keep pulling the photo up and staring at it.  I made it my desktop background at work.  I’m really proud of what my trail crew did.  And it wasn’t because I hounded them and cracked the whip over their heads.  Some knew what to do and the rest quickly picked up on trail building techniques.  At one point I looked up to see how far ahead the leaders were and saw a nice smooth, finished trail.  That brought a smile to my lips.

We built two hundred feet of bike optimized singletrack on a steep sideslope that looks incredible and rides smooth.  Not so long ago I was told that you can’t build trails like this in the Red River Gorge.  I argued with a land manager that IMBA standards were the way to go.  He argued that a 25% fall line climb was more sustainable that what I proposed which would have looked something like this:

I feel somewhat vindicated even though that land manager will likely never see this trail.  I’m downright giddy because of the outcome of the trail day I organized.

As for that trail day…I could not have done it without my wife.  First, she was patient and understanding as I’ve spent time over the winter working on getting the trail to this point.  True, I did take the kids with me more than a few times.  And I tried to maximize the times I was in Flat Hollow working so as not to feel the urge to go more and more often.  I tried to break it up so I wasn’t eating up every free moment with a Rogue Hoe in my hand.

Last week I took her and Bean to Flat Hollow for a late walk-through before the trail day.  I needed a last look at the project so I could strategize for when I would have a group of volunteers with tools in hand.  Mandy offered some good suggestions.  And she offered to make lunch for everyone.  Like I said, I could not have had a successful trail day without her support.
A lot of people were instrumental in getting the Flat Hollow Arch Trail to the point it is now.  After the Johnny and Alex Trail Day (JATD) last summer everything was in limbo for a couple of months. The aforementioned land manager and I absolutely did not see eye to eye.  He seemed to not want me to be successful in building mountain bike trails on the Climbers Coalition land.  But then he resigned.  The new land manager is great to work with.  And we’ve hashed out a good plan for trails in the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP). 
Once I had his okay I began laying out and then working on the Flat Hollow Arch Trail, to try and complete a moderately easy mountain bike trail to Flat Hollow Arch.  I was able to get Dave involved.  And Kris and his son Andy from Estill County came out and helped as often as they could.  Progress was slow but steady.  Then Brad showed up.  He’d helped at JATD and spends a lot of time in the area climbing.  And now benchcutting.  Brad advanced things quickly.  He has a lot of energy and more free time than the rest of us.  He works, but he doesn’t have all of the family obligations of the rest of us in the core group.  And that’s okay.  He’s been a dynamo that has helped me to stay motivated and inspired to stick with the project.
And so, a month ago, the trail was basically complete to the bottom of the last hill before the arch.  It is a 900’ section on a steep sideslope.  It switchbacks twice, though the switchbacks were located so as not to demand a lot of labor or time.  And because of the use of the terrain to natural redirect the trail where needed we were able to stretch it out and gain the elevation needed gradually and without tricky turns.
Then one Saturday I was able with Brad and my nephew Ty to get about 200’ of trail pushed up the slope.  All the way to the first switchback.  That left us about 700’.  Then Brad worked over the next couple of weekends and pushed the trail another hundred or so.  On trail day we were looking at about 600’ feet of trail remaining to close the loop (minus reroutes on the older upper section of the loop).
I’ll admit I was gnawing my nails to the quick not knowing how many would show early in the week.  But by Friday I knew I would have 10-11 showing up for sure.  I was confident we would make a dent in the remaining unbuilt trail.
Twelve showed.  Three left at lunch, but we were able to cut a hard 50’ of trail before then, and work in the second switchback turn.  So after lunch the 9 that remained pushed it a little farther.  I would estimate that we built 200’ more feet of new trail on Saturday leaving 400’ to finish the project.  All of the really hard work on the climbing section is finished.  What’s left is some moderately hard bench cutting with no turns.  It’s just us against the roots.
A group from KYMBA Lincoln Trail came.  Vince and Christine and Eric have a lot of trail building experience and they lended it to our effort.  I can’t thank them enough.  Kris, my main partner in crime on this, and his son Andy hauled the tools and worked hard.  We had a couple of guys from Lexington who came out to see what we have going on.  That was huge.  I’ve been struggling to build interest in the Lexington mountain bike community to get more help.  It’s been working, and I appreciate those guys so much.
And we had three ladies from Beattyville come help.  Dedra is the county tourism person and she works hard to promote Lee County and has been involved working with the Coalition and my efforts all along.  The other two ladies were a mother and daughter who were interested in finding out what was going on in their backyard.  They hike in the Gorge and were happy to see trails closer to home.
It was a great trail day and a huge success!  I can’t wait until this trail is completely finished and folks are out on it enjoying the fruits of our labor.  I have another trail day scheduled for May 14.  I hope by then we can actually move on to other projects.  But I have a feeling it will be focused on totally finishing the loop.  And that’s okay.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Ramming Speed Friday: If You Build It Edition

A lot has been going on behind the scenes with mountain bike development in the Red River Gorge area.  The USFS Trails Specialist has walked our proposed reroute of the Powder Mill Trail and he’s satisfied with what we (Training Partner and I) came up with.  Now we wait for the NEPA process.  I’ll give annual updates J
Tomorrow is the big trail day in Flat Hollow.  It’s looking like we’ll have a decent turnout and the weather is going to be stellar.  I’m hoping we can knock out the bulk of the gap in the loop.  I’ve already got another trail day scheduled in May to finish whatever we don’t get done this weekend.  We’re sooooo close!
The universe desperately wants a Red River Gorge IMBA chapter.  That just keeps rising to the surface.  It’s coming from every direction.  There’s no doubt in my mind that there is a need, and with it will come big changes.
And then there is the development which I can’t reveal at this point, but hope soon to be able to share.  It’s a game changer.  It accelerates my timelines and opens up possibilities that I didn’t think would materialize.  And it feels real.
What I’m saying is that right now the Red River Gorge area isn’t a mountain biking destination.  But in a couple of years that will likely have changed.

Because of positive control points like this
And this
I’m not doing this for the glory.  If my home area ends up with dozens of miles of mountain bike trails I’m still going to be the guy that goes out on solo dawn patrol to get my mountain biking fix.  I’ll still avoid Saturday afternoons on the trails.  On holidays I will take my wife to the beach.
I’m making this effort because it needs to be made.  No one else is driving it.  I hope that will change as well.  I hope other champions for the cause will step up and make this dream partly their own.  Of course I have so much invested now that I’m not going to completely turn the dream over.  I’ve earned that. 
The truth is I don’t want to be the guy driving all of this.  I just want to go out and ride my bike on nice trails.  Unfortunately no one else is stepping up to the plate.  I also don’t want to be the guy who in twenty years that says “man, if I had just started working on this twenty years ago!”
I’m tired of the status quo.  I’m tired of listening to the spoken assumptions that nothing will ever change.  I’m tired of settling for less than what is considered standard fare for other communities.  Why can’t we have mountain bike trails on our local National Forest when other Forests around the country have hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails?
The short answer is that there is no good reason.  It’s simply a lack of effort against ambivalence on the part of past land managers.  Current land managers are different.  The climate has changed.  The future looks bright.
I want this for selfish reasons.  But I also want this for altruist reasons.  This could bring solid and fresh economic development to my community.  It could change some health outcomes for my community.  It would definitely improve the quality of life for people like me who want this.  And I am not Quixotic in this pursuit.  I just happen to be the point man in this case.  Those are dragons and not windmills that need to be slayed.  Other people see the dragons too.  I’m not crazy.  No, I’m NOT.
Anyway, I joked to Dave that Jesus didn’t command that we go into all the world and build mountain bike trails, but I still feel like what I’m doing is a good thing for my fellow man.  If the economic climate improves in my impoverished region then am I not doing something for the poor around me?  I know that sounds delusional, but if I can glean some greater perceived benefit from my efforts that just helps me stay on target long enough to hit the exhaust port with proton torpedoes.  Like I said, I want this for selfish reasons, but I also want to do good things for my community and this is what aligns with my own values. So there!  

Monday, April 11, 2016

Big Ideas--Small Ambition

The pin flags are in.  This coming Saturday is the first big trail day in Flat Hollow this year.  I’m hoping that we’ll knock out the last few hundred feet.  It will all depend on how many people show up.  We have the tools.  It looks like we have the weather.  And we’re starting early.
If we don’t finish the loop on Saturday I’m certain it won’t take much more to close the Flat Hollow loop.  There are a lot of little pieces that need polishing, but we’re almost there.  I took my girls up for a hike to the arch on Sunday afternoon.  At one point my wife asked me: “How are you going to feel when you go up there and there are a bunch of people?”
She knows me too well.  I am sort of anti-social.  I like to do my riding alone.  I like to go out on the trails when there are no other people.  I ride early, or late, or take a work day off simply so I can avoid the semblance of a crowd.  I often fantasize about the apocalypse. 
Anyway, I hadn’t truly pondered this question myself.  Off the cuff I answered that I would actually feel satisfaction at having created a trail that people would travel to ride.  But would I?  The altruistic fa├žade I put out there is thin.  I do most of the things I do for ulterior motives.  If I could build miles of mountain bike trails just for myself I would gladly do that and only share them with a few other people.  I realize it takes a collective effort or a lot of money (which I don’t have) to make things like this happen. 
While I was away in Arizona I did a lot of thinking.  With my bum ankle I wasn’t able to explore or escape sessions like I usually do when I am in a big city for a conference.  So I sat through boring sessions and had to occupy my mind and I spent time loafing about my hotel room reading and thinking.  I read all of Stephen King’s On Writing while on the trip.  I finished my many months long journey through Harry Caudill’s Night Comes to the Cumberland and I read a big chunk of Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.  On top of reading those books I did sit through some compelling sessions.  The one on rural decline got my synapses humming.  The one on citizen led change was another great one.
From out of all of this synaptic activity I came away with a few pages of notes on my phone and a lot of ideas.  I’ve yet been able to pin any of them down into blog posts, articles, or my languishing novel.  Though I will say I have solved the plotline of the novel.  I just need to put meat on those bones now.
One gem that I took away was “what I want out of life.”
I wrote out a few lines.  Simplistic.  But I feel as if this short list has distilled my wants and needs down to the good stuff.  So without further ado, here we go:

  • I want to live, work, play, and worship in the same community.
  • I want a career that has manageable levels of stress and produces meaningful results in the world.
  • I don’t want to have to worry about paying my bills.
  • I want a good quality of life for my family which includes reasonable access to the community amenities that most people expect including health care, government services, nice public spaces, dining and recreational opportunities.
  • I want to live in a community of like-minded people.

That pretty much sums up what I want in life.  I don’t necessarily want a lot of land.  I don’t necessarily want a big house or a lot of stuff.  I do want access to mountain bike trails because I love mountain biking and I recognize that it is by far the best proprioceptive therapy I can gift myself with. 
I don’t want to be the guy that fights to get trails built or to improve quality of life in the community.  If that can be my career in the community in which I live and my career aligns with my personal values then I’m okay with being that guy.  But it’s not something I specifically aspire to.  Unfortunately I feel compelled to do those things because no one else is championing them even though most people I know express a desire for the same kinds of things I would like to see in our community.
I will be happy when I go out for a Saturday morning mountain bike ride in Bald Rock and see other mountain bikers riding and enjoying themselves.  Will I go out early and see them as I’m coming back in to the trailhead after my ride?  Likely.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Ramming Speed Friday: Arizona Rising Edition

Mind you don't cut yourself, Mordecai!

~ Glen

I wasn’t exactly staked to a starter home in suburban Tempe by Ed’s dad, but I did recently spend a little time in Arizona and I didn’t spend my time drilling holes in sheet metal.  The annual national conference of the American Planning Association (APA) took place in Phoenix this past week.  The hotel I stayed in is located on the blurred suburban edge of Phoenix on the Tempe side.  So technically I was in McDunnough territory.  Didn’t run into H.I. or Ed or little Nathan, Jr. though.

While I like conference trips and do my best to make the most of them this one was different.  I took off for a run a couple of days before my flight to Phoenix (by way of Atlanta) and rolled my ankle pretty bad.  If I had to guess I would say it was the third worst ankle roll of my life.  I was able to hobble around without crutches, but I wasn’t looking forward to navigating the air transportation system on a bum stump.

In fact, I wasn’t looking to this particular conference at all.  A few dozen seconds after my registration was complete, my flight booked, and a hotel room reserved I was overtaken by a sense of dread.  I truly didn’t want to go to Phoenix.  I just went to Knoxville for the Sustainable Trails Conference and I’ve got the state chapter of the APA spring conference coming up next month.  On top of that I had been so busy at work and seeming behind in everything…stretched thin you might say…I just wanted a normal routine for a while. 

You might ask why I even signed up for the conference if I didn’t want to go.  Wouldn’t it be a waste of resources?  Well, to maintain my AICP (American Institute of Certified Planners) I need a certain number of continuing credits.  The most time efficient way of doing so is to attend the national conference.  The conference was in Phoenix this year.  So I went to Phoenix.

I racked up a bunch of credits.  I spent all day Sunday, all day Monday, and most of the day Tuesday in sessions.  Long sessions.  Some interesting and some boring.  I drank coffee.  I gouged at my eyes.  My ankle slowly healed.  By Tuesday I kind of felt like walking around and exploring, so that’s what I spent most of the afternoon doing before returning to my hotel for the last time.

Phoenix has a light rail.  I used it to travel between hotel and downtown every day.  It’s $4 for an all day pass.  That’s a great deal and I took full advantage of it.  Even for short trips around downtown it was nice to have the pass and just be able to jump on the train and travel a stop or two. 

It’s an okay town—no Denver or San Diego—but well worth a visit if you can scrum up a reason to go.  I thought being a Coen Brothers fan would be enough.  Maybe it would have been if I hadn’t been a gimp. 

There were lots of cyclists.  There were a lot more bikes on the light rail than I ever saw in Denver or even in San Diego.  Seems like maybe in San Diego the transit system was robust enough that people didn’t need bikes for the last mile trips and in Denver the bike network was more complete and efficient than the transit system.  Does that mean Phoenix has a good balance of both?  I don’t have enough data to say for sure, but I could see getting around by bike fairly easy there. 

Why all this talk about bikes suddenly?  And not just mountain bikes?

With Spring getting ready to spring (technically…I know) I’ve been itching to ride more.  I’m serious.  I’ve been fantasizing about road rides to pick up Cobhill, High Rock, and even the Gorge Loop again.  It’s been too long.  My legs twitch.  I’m not even confident that I can climb Furnace right now.  I ponder will I be able to grind up to Hart’s Orchard with my 1x10 mtb gearing.  How can I know unless I try?

I really just haven’t been riding enough at all.  At. All.  Its time I started riding the X to town.  Its time I started riding at Veep on my lunches.  Its time I snuck out for dawn patrol circuits around the Red River Valley on the weekends.  I have forgotten that I’m a cyclist these past few months.

It feels like long distance running was a failed experiment for me.  I’m not saying I won’t try it again in the future, but I was never able to change my habits or maintain the patience I needed to progress into longer distances and faster speeds.  In short, I gotta drop the weight.  That’s all there is to it.

In the meantime I want to get back to riding.  I miss riding.  I have missed riding all along.  And that’s why I could never fully give up the mountain bike.  I only feel like the world is functioning well when I’m on the bike.  That sounds melodramatic, but it’s the stark truth. 

I was enthralled by the Jimmy John’s bike delivery guys in downtown Phoenix.  At first I thought it was a handful of random bike messengers, but after wandering around at lunch time I finally realized it was three guys hubbing out of the chain sandwich shop.  Kinda made me wish my teens and early twenties had gone differently.

A lot of thoughts have been bouncing around in the old Duder’s head.  Something else I’ve been missing is regular blogging.  I’ve just been too busy with little inspiration.  Again, a need to get back on the bike.

My cycling goal for 2016 is to claim the Strava KOM for Cobhill.  It’s a tall order for these old knees.  I need to shave almost five minutes off my ascent of the 0.7 mile segment.  Basically I want to claim the KOM by the end of the year.  I’m sure it won’t stand long.  I had it for only a short time.  But by chasing this goal I’ll have to address weight (through diet and exercise), strength (specific conditioning), and my head game.  The ride from home to pick up this segment is 34 miles.  That’s a good distance for a moderate distance ride.  And its not giveaway route.     

I’ll close with a couple of images.