Friday, December 30, 2016

Ramming Speed Friday: Chainring Year in Review


So many people are hating on 2016.   And I get it.  Prince, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Bernie Sanders…it’s been a big year of losses.  The rise of Donald Trump has been the scary shadow darkening it all.  I don’t necessarily want to delve into the political apocalyptia, though I fear in the future I’ll be unable to ignore it.  Instead I want to focus on the focus of this blog which should have been reporting on my outdoor adventures in 2016.

Early in the year I spent some time revisiting Clifty Wilderness.  It wasn’t an intentional hiking theme; it just seemed to happen.  I hiked the Douglas Trail into the Upper Gorge, along Swift Camp Creek below Funk Rock City, and I made a trip down into the amazing gorge of Mariba Fork.  While I had a different reason for visiting (GPSing climbing area approaches for Rakkup) I used the opportunity to capture some of my better imagery of the year.  Those three hikes along with others I made over the course of the year tugged me back toward the Gorge on foot to explore and enjoy my favorite wild place on earth.
 

 

Also early in the year we experienced Snowmageddon.  On Bean’s birthday we enjoyed the Hatton Creek Nordic Center’s fine offering of completely ungroomed terrain.  The best skiing was along Hatton Creek Road after my neighbors had packed it down into a solid sheet of ice.
 

 

The year has definitely seen the explosion of interest in mountain biking in Eastern Kentucky. My own efforts to grow mountain biking in the Gorge area have yielded fruit.  We completed the Flat Hollow Arch Trail and “The Extension” section of the Hillbilly Hayduke Trail.  We also began what will become a marquee riding experience yet to be revealed.  And I started work on the Shackle Rod Trail in Bald Rock which I hope will become one of the coveted easy/intermediate difficulty rides in the region. 

Dave and I worked with the Forest Service to identify a viable reroute to the old school Powder Mill Branch Trail.  Surprisingly they have agreed to divert resources into the trail and it’s in the pipeline to be studied and hopefully approved for much needed reroutes and a significant extension which will nearly double the length of the trail and make it a much better experience.
 


In other locales ongoing efforts have come to light and a great deal of interest has been shown for the Prestonsburg trail system at Jenny Wiley known more commonly as the Sugarcamp Mountain Trails.  The trails at Cave Run and around Morehead have been growing and we finally got momentum behind an Eastern Kentucky mountain bike advocacy group in the Cave Run – Red River Gorge Mountain Bike Alliance which will soon be a chapter of IMBA.

Of course the presidential primaries yammered in the background throughout the early part of the year.  It was hard to believe the Republicans offered up such poor quality candidates while the Democrats focused on making Clinton their one and only champion.  Of course we were entertained just like the Romans who loved watching their favorite gladiators.  And in the end there was just carnage and ruin.  But I digress…

I also worked to improve the quality of recreational life in my small community.  I’ve been working to get two new boat accesses in Clay City on the Red River and in the long term to get more small craft accesses along the River along the entire length of the river.  We’re soooo close now!  I also championed a short multiuse trail south of Stanton through the community industrial park and applied for a grant to get it built.  We haven’t heard yet if we were awarded the money, but there is a distinct possibility that it may see daylight in the coming year as well.  I convinced my employer to create a space for me and they agreed for me to be the unofficial (for now) regional bike-ped coordinator and trails and greenways specialist for our area.  While I’ve been focused a lot on land use planning I have been busy working on other trail projects and we hope in the future that I will be able to dedicate all of my time to these efforts.

I also spent a few months as a board member for KYMBA Bluegrass, but left to help get the new IMBA chapter going.  I’ve been elected interim president until we have enough members and a full board but I have a feeling the title is going to stick for a while.

Our Slade Trail Town efforts have paid off as well.  I sat on that committee and provided significant input into a vision for trails in the future.  I think Slade’s recognition should have been a foregone conclusion, but I’m happy to have been a part of the committee that actually saw the process through and made it happen.

Through most of these efforts I’ve struggled with my role.  The deep and honest truth is I don’t want to be an advocate.  I don’t want to be the guy who works to create trail opportunities and who plans and builds trails.  I really just want to come home from a hard day of writing from home, throw on my kit, and go hit the trails until dark or hunger overtakes me.  To be one hundred percent honest I don’t care about community or synergy or any of those lofty ideas.  I just want to ride my damn bike.  I get dragged into all of the other things because no one else has stepped up to be the champion in my area and so therefore none of the experiences I want to have exists.  I teeter between selfish ambition and in a lucid vision for what the area could be.  The vision is what keeps me hyperfocused, and the selfish ambition drives the strategies to recruit, cajole, and shame others into helping me realize the vision.
 

I rode in a few new areas this year.  I went to Knoxville, Tennessee in the spring for the Professional Trail Builders Association conference.  It was a great conference, and I got to sample riding in the area including the Knoxville Urban Wilderness, Sharp’s Ridge, and Bandy Creek in the Big South Fork.

As a family we made a couple of trips to ride the Dawkins Line to our immediate east.  I made one detour and quick ride at Jenny Wiley on the way back from a SOAR conference in Pikeville.  Continuing in the conference opportunist theme for early 2016 I rode at Waverly and the new Parklands at Floyd’s Fork in Louisville during the Governor’s Local Issues Conference.
 
Dawkins Line Rail Trail

Parklands at Floyd's Fork

Sheltowee Trace south of S-Tree
 

I also finally rode at S-Tree south of home.  I meant to ride the singletrack section of the Sheltowee north of the campground but ended up taking a wrong turn and rode quite a bit of the multiuse (ATV/MTB/hike/horseback) section south of S-Tree.  While it wasn’t a terrible experience it did just reinforce in my mind the travesty of the management of the Sheltowee Trace.

Over Fourth of July we camped at Zilpo on Cave Run and paddled a bit in our new kayaks.  We obtained two as birthday/Mothers Day/Fathers Day gifts for Mandy and I and two more so we could take the kids.  We also spent time on the Red River and checking out some area lakes and ponds over the summer.  We’re really looking forward to improved access on the Red at Clay City in the coming year.
 
 

Once again Mandy and I and her dad and Jeaph and Casey made our annual pilgrimage to Loudonville, Ohio for the Mohican 100.  Jeaph did the race and I committed to photographing the race.  Afterward Jeaph insisted that my photos were the best of all those he saw online from other photographers.  I was skeptical, but when I looked at the other galleries I realized I had taken some memorable shots.  That inspired me to try and shoot the Rough Trail 50k ultra-trail run in November and try to sell my images.  While the photos turned out good I failed to capture the entire field.  I also lack the technical skills to set up a working online interface so I have yet to put the images out for purchase so I feel I have somewhat failed even though I managed to get some decent shots.  I don’t know that I’m ready to start doing this even part time until I sort out the business side of it.
 
Mohican 100

Rough Trail 50k
 
In writing I finally got to see my name in print.  Keith Snyder’s third installment of the RIDE short story collections was published.  My piece “All You Haters” was the first story in the book.  That boosted my confidence and gave me a shot of inspiration.  I still have not put Leadville or Bust out into the world but I got a lot closer.  A good friend designed a stellar cover for me and I almost pulled the trigger to buy ISBNs for digital and print editions.  Soon…
 


I also penned a piece I called “The Economy of Rock and Dirt.”  It began as a blog post here, but I also submitted it to my local paper and they published it.  While I didn’t get a lot of positive local feedback it has become a sort of outline for my public meeting rhetoric in regards to economic and tourism development.

While I still long to be a professional writer I just don’t see the clear path out of the dark labyrinth of my mind carrying the words and ideas I have been burdened with.  It’s complicated and exhausting to think about.

Last Christmas I got some new climbing gear.  Alter in the year I sent my old camming devices off to have their slings replaced.  While we didn’t exactly have a good ROI in 2016 I am determined to return to climbing at least at a casual level.  I may never climb hard again, but I will climb as long as my body allows.  I fully intend to be active into my sixties, seventies, and hopefully beyond. 
 

 

I made a disappointing but enjoyable return to mountain bike racing in 2016.  Instead of shooting for the moon with endurance racing I tried my hand at short course mountain bike racing.  Initially I had intended to participate in a slew of the Kentucky Point Series races but only managed to make the Cave Run and Capitol View Park (Bluegrass State Games) races, and I finally bit the bullet and did the 12 Hours of Capitol View race though it cost me some recovery time after a couple of hard crashes in the mud.  Mandy and I also participated in the Wildcat Mountain Challenge in Livingston.  While I enjoyed it thoroughly despite being woefully unprepared for the effort many of the racers were rightly annoyed at the poor course markings and slipshod organization of the event.  It did act as a sort of shakedown cruise for our new kayaks.
 
12 Hours of CVP
 
The summer was punctuated nicely by the KYMBA Women’s Clinic.  I volunteered as a “local trail guide” and Mandy participated in the event.  We both had a great day and it inspired us to go visit Cave Run soon after.  Mandy enjoyed that trip as well, despite it being a ride suspiciously like many of our historic epics in the past.  But instead of being disastrous it was actually an enjoyable mountain bike ride in the woods.  I can’t say enough good things about skills clinics.  I feel like my own riding would greatly benefit from one and Mandy and I both agree the Women’s Clinic did a world of good for her.  It wasn’t that she didn’t have it in her to be a good rider.  She’s been a solid road cyclist for years.  She’s put in hundred if not thousands of miles on her bike and knows her way around velocipedic conveyances, but just simple demonstrations and practice of basic skills can bring a rider up to a common level of proficiency that increases the enjoyment of the activity whatever it may be.  I hope that the CRRRGMBA can host many such clinics in the coming years.

As a final bookend of the year I had an epiphany.  Ever since I discovered an unnatural love for long distance mountain biking I’ve wanted to see a one hundred mile mountain bike race occur in the Red River Gorge area; not within the Gorge proper but in this immediate area.  I’ve considered putting one on myself ever since we moved back from Colorado.  The main hurdle was the lack of a good off-pavement route. 
 
 

Autumn was dry in our neck of the woods as it was in many places.  After a protracted dry spell I decided it was time to go out and revisit some old haunts that I had found destroyed by ATV/ORVs while we abided in the Colorful State.  First I rode Spaas Creek and Pumpkin Hollow in an eighteen mile loop.  I realized I was riding a portion of the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway which had opened to the public earlier in 2016.  It had been pieced together as an “off-road” scenic tour of the Gorge area for street legal off-road vehicles.  It was advertised as being all on county “maintained” roads.  I enjoyed my Spaas/Pumpkin loop and when I looked deeper into the DBBB I discovered it was a ninety mile loop.  Ninety.  That’s almost one hundred.

That revelation alone didn’t spawn a one hundred mile mountain bike race, but the gears were turning.  What popped my clutch was learning that good old Joe was planning to put on a one hundred mile mountain bike race.  Joe—who had no idea people raced mountain bikes that far before meeting me—Joe—who is not a mountain biker—Joe—who has never raced mountain bikes in his life or participated in a mountain bike race…Joe was going to realize my dream and vision.  If it had been anyone else I think I would have been stoked.  If someone else were organizing the race that would mean I could just sign up, train, and utterly fail to win.  BUT, that would also mean things had really changed in the area and mountain biking was really taking off.  Instead, it was just Joe trying to capitalize on something he knows absolutely nothing about.  Deep in my bones it felt wrong.  Something in me snapped, and I began fighting to make my vision for a mountain bike race reality.

I have days that I just don’t want to do it.  I regret ever committing to doing it.  I could still walk away.  I’ve not invested much money in it yet.  Just a couple of URLs.  But I want to see this happen.  There has been a huge wave of positive interest in the race.  I have people offering to help.  And I’ll need help!  It’s going to be a lot of work.  It’s going to be a big thing. 

I harbor no illusions that someday my job will be organizing this race, so that hangs out there like some space junk for our colony ship to hit.  Our Starship Titanic. 

Something holds me on this course.  For now.  I want to see this through.  Too many things in life I give up on.  Too many things in life I leave undone.  It’s my burden and my curse.

When I do complete things they end up being good.  That should be enough to keep me motivated, but somehow it’s not. 

I got a new bike this year.  It’s a mountain bike.  It’s a plus-sized bike.  It’s designed for moderately paced adventure and not so much for racing.  The bike is fun to ride.  It provides opportunities for escape and for experience.  I guess for a bookend to 2016 that’s a pretty good thing to sign off on.  I have the tools to pedal away from my front porch and go out into the world a-wheel and just be.  That should be enough.

I’ve decided in 2017 I will go back to tracking my bicycling miles.  And running.  And maybe hiking and paddling too.  I won’t do this to humble brag.  My intention is to keep myself motivated and inspired and hopefully to show others what is possible. 

My hope is that a year from now you’ll be reading a more mellow and satisfied Chainring.  My hope is that a year from now I will be offering you less gadgets and more game.  My hope is that in the coming year we can forget the coming atrocities, neglect to care about socio-political divisiveness, and just ride our bikes.  Or hike on trails.  Or paddle the rivers.  Or lay on our backs under clear night skies and lose ourselves in the stars.  I don’t need a moon to howl at.  I go quietly, and carefully, and try not to make my presence known so much.  I rather to look back and talk about where I’ve been and who I’ve ran with and dream about where I’ll go next time.

The last thing I really need to say is that I have come to appreciate my family for different reasons this past year.  I know I may not have conveyed that distinctly here, but its been something I've worked quietly in my mind.  I love my wife more than ever.  We've had our rough times in 2016, but after seventeen years together I am as confident now as I was all those years ago that we are right for each other.  We compliment each other in ways I truly still do not understand. 
 
My children are growing into amazing people.  It's hard to believe they're almost ten and fourteen.  They've shared this journey with us and they've been a part of all of my adventures whether they were with me or I was thinking of how I could include them the next time I visited whatever incredible place I was in at the time.  I may have failed to crack the nut but not for lack of will.  I wrestle with other demons that make it difficult for me to process the world outside my head.  Sometimes I get lazy and opt to focus inwardly.  That's my own struggle, and I forever seek to throw off that burden from my shoulders, but as of yet have not.
 
 
 
Having said all that, I look forward to watching my kids grow into adults and to see who they become and all of the amazing things they'll do in life.  I hope I have brewed some recklessness into them, but also a sober and thoughtful approach to life and to changing the world.  If not, that is my intent in the coming years.  The underlying and perhaps unstated theme of 2016 for me has been: "if not me, then who?" 

 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fatter Than Average


 Ages ago I was a non-traditional college student at Eastern Kentucky University.  I was in my thirties, married, and had two kids.  Of course I was less than cool.  I felt myself invisible on campus to the younger crowd.  Late in my tenure there I took a gen ed health class.  I had put it off for as long as I could, but finally, I had to take the class as I approached graduation.  I won’t even go into the STD video I was forced to watch.  I begged the TA to not make me watch the graphic video, but it was a requirement of the course.  To graduate ultimately…

Anyway, one of the required assignments of the class was to attend a campus health fair.  At the second station a pretty young co-ed asked me to stand on a scale.  I sighed and stepped up.  I knew I was fat.  I knew to the nineteen year old very fit young lady standing there with the clipboard I must look like a middle-aged slob.

She noted my weight, handed me my form to take on to the next station and said “Next.” As I walked to the next health station I looked at my weight results.  There was weight, height, BMI and where I expected to see “overweight” or “obese” the young college student had written boldly “FATTER THAN AVERAGE.”

I had to laugh to myself.  I knew that couldn’t be a clinical term.  It probably applied to me.  But c’mon, fatter than average?  Oh well.

The first time I had the opportunity to ride a fat bike was at a Surly bike demo in Buffalo Creek, Colorado. We were living in the Denver metro area at the time.  I was a fully time bike commuter, fledgling mountain biker, and Leadville 100 aspirant.  Actually, I think it was right after I had DNFed during my first Leadville attempt.  Anyway…
 
Surly Krampus, Buffalo Creek, CO
 
My local bike shop had sponsored the demo along with Surly and I desperately wanted to go ride a Krampus which is a 29+ bike.  That is, it’s not a fully fat bike with 4” tires, but slightly slimmer with still very large 3” tires. I loved that bike.  The plus bike was a dream to ride on the pea-sized decomposed granite of Buffalo Creek.  I was smitten to be sure.  In fact, I wanted to leave Surly with my empty debit card and just ride off into the sunset on the Krampus.  But like the civilized human I am I returned the bike and continued to pine for it for years.  Money was an issue.  I couldn’t justify the coin needed to procure a Surly Krampus whilst housing two other mountain bikes, a cargo bike, and a road bike.  Still I pined.

Last year I came across a review of the Marin Pine Mountain.  I had been riding my singlespeed Redline almost exclusively.  I had put a rigid fork on it and was loving the simplicity and elegance of a rigid singlespeed bike.  However, I wanted a better geared bike for my aging knees and hips that would inspire me like the singlespeed.  I wanted a bike that would appeal to my love of that old 1994 Cannondale M300 that I’d converted to a cargo bike.  I wanted a bike that would speak to my sense of nostalgia.  Marin’s fully rigid 27.5+ 1x10 Pine Mountain fit the bill. And so I Pined.  I called Mike’s Hike and Bike as they were the only local Marin dealer.  They didn’t have them.  Would be after the first of the year (2016).  I called back.  And again.  Until they had them and I went on a cold day and rode a large frame Pine Mountain around the parking lots of downtown Richmond, Kentucky.  I was hooked. 

My new bike is fatter than average.  Oh yes, I finally got one.  It’s a funny story that.
 
 

I was racing around the day of the Rough Trail 50k taking photos and shuttling aid station supplies when I ran into THE Mike of Mike’s Hike and Bike at Koomer Ridge Campground.  I stopped to chat for just a second.  I wanted to ask if his shop could rebuild the suspension fork on my Cannondale.  It’s been five years; the bike needs some serious love in its bearings and seals.  He said he could and gave me a ballpark idea of the cost.  He also offered a suggestion accompanied with a knowing grin:

“Maybe it’s time for a new bike.”

I agreed, haha, and mentioned I needed to get bearings for the front wheel of that bike too.

Before I bolted to interject myself back into the race I also mentioned that I was still interested in the Marin Pine Mountain he had in his shop.  With that I was off and racing my own race in support of the race.

Back at home that evening I mentioned to Mandy the conversation I’d had with Mike. I gave her the less than thumbnail sketch of the conversation I described above and near the end of my epic tale she cut me off:

“I bought you the Pine Mountain!”

I was uncharacteristically speechless.

In a flood of words she told me how she had called the bike shop and purchased the bike.  She defended telling me of it because listening to me tell of my conversation with Mike she panicked and was afraid I would do something rash like buy the bike outright or put it on layaway like I had threatened a couple of times.
 
 

In my defense I wouldn’t have done either of those things without consulting her.  The only bike I’ve bought without previously discussing was the Redline singlespeed and that was because I sold Minus to fund the purchase.  Bike-for-a-bike kind of situation…

Anyway, so now I have a bike I can better relate to from a body-type standpoint.  We’re both “fatter than average.” I’ve never really been drawn to the full fat Pugsley or Moonlanders and their ilk.  While I can see the appeal the plus sized bikes have seemed more my speed and shape.
 
Imitating my ride
 
I do have to add that when I do the Mohican this year or any KY Point Series races or the 12 Hour Race I will be riding the Cannondale (aka, The One).  Its lighter and more nimble.  The Pine Mountain is just not a racy type bike.  But then again, I’m not really a racy type guy.  I occasionally donate money to various race events and then proceed to get in the way of everyone behind me who is gunning for the finish. 

I don’t know, maybe I will race the PM on shorter courses.  But for the long stuff—for Mohicans and Leadv…other endurance races—I’ll likely ride The One.

And that is my post-Christmas report. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ramming Speed Friday: Politically Correct Holiday Edition


It’s that time of year: office potlucks, white elephant/Dirty Santa exchanges, mall traffic, Christmas stress…y’know, fun!

It’s also the Ragnarok season of Five O’Clock Dark.  This very morning the reality of it finally settled upon my tired shoulders.  There is no time.  No time to ride, no time to escape the rat race.  Dreary.

I’m off work today.  Bean asked me a few days ago if we could do some trail work over the break.  I’ll have to make a plan for a decent weather day, but that’s definitely on the table.  And some riding is in order.  Not only is it Ragnarok, but it is (in Kentucky at least) the Season of Mud.  Most of winter our temps hover above freezing but we get enough precipitation and not enough sun to dry out the top layer of soil.  The dog creatures track it in.  We track it in.  Trails are coated with it.  Mud.

It’s not all S.A.D. though.  Despite my recent feverish week off from being sick I actually feel pretty good these days.  My back feels amazing.  For the first time literally in years I don’t feel the chronic tight, painful pinching in my right side lower back.  And my knees feel the best they’ve felt in almost as long.

What’s my secret?  Mandy and I bought a new bedroom suit including a new mattress.  It’s helped that I got rid of the thirteen year old Honda Civic back in the summer.  My current SOV has better seats and my back has been happier since I made the switch.  But the new mattress has really made the difference. 

Of course now that I feel better I have less time to exercise and recreate.  I’m definitely not in top form for riding or running.  I seriously lagged behind the group at the Gravel at the Gorge ride. 

The opportunity I have right now is to start fresh with a healthy body.  If I take care of myself, eat better, resist overuse, allow myself to recover after hard activities, then there should be no reason for me not to get back on top of my game and maybe even exceed the fitness levels I’ve enjoyed in the past.  It’s time.  I’ve wasted so many years on stupid behaviors and poor diet.  I moan all the time about wanting to rock climb again, to be a stronger cyclist, to be a better runner, etc., etc. 

I also don’t want to be the fat slob who organizes a bike race in order to hang onto my glory years.  I want to be the kind of rider who can race my race.  Maybe not win, but at least hang with the big boys and girls.

Oh, did I mention I’m going to need to ride the course to test it?  And I want to do the Backcountry Byway in a single day.  That’s going to take an increase in my fitness levels.  I also want to at least do the 100k version of the Mohican this year.  Maybe the hundred mile if I can get my butt in gear.

I hate these posts where I pontificate and speculate on what I will be doing in the coming months.  I much rather to simply report on my everyday adventures.  I’ve tried to get away from this kind of post, but as we near the end of the year I feel the urge to plan and to make promises that will be hard for me to keep.

I’d decided a long time ago that I will return to accounting and reporting on my monthly cycling mileage in 2017.  I’ve not kept up with my mileage totals since 2013.  After my last Leadville race I decided trying to keep up with it was just depressing.  But I realized a few months ago that not keeping up with my mileage dulls my motivation to ride more. I need goals and aspirations.  And yeah, maybe my numbers won’t be as impressive because I’m not a full-time bike commuter anymore, but I need to hold myself accountable and provide some kind of template for inspiration in my life.  I’m not doing as many events anymore so there are fewer goals to shoot for.  And the events I am involved in are more as a participant than as a performer.  Heck, I couldn’t even place in the fat guy category at the Bluegrass State Games mountain bike race last summer.  I need to up my game.

I may take a little time off next week from writing.  Or at least public bloggular writing.  But after the first of the year I’m going to try to nail down my format.  It won’t be a drastic change.  I’ve typically been reporting on Monday of the weekend’s adventures and trying to fling out a Ramming Speed Friday that expounds on the weeks observations about adventuring and life in general.  I’ll keep this pattern, maybe try to do a more regular hump day post as well, but I fully intend to post up at the end of the month my mileage totals for road cycling, mountain biking, and running.  I may toss in my progress on health and weight management, but I don’t have a solid plan yet for how I’m going to tackle that in 2017.  But things must change.  I can’t keep eating like a teenager at 43 years old.

So until we meet here again in this back alley of the internet:

Merry Holidays.
 
 

 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Gorge Gravel Grind


I didn't ride the Easy Rider Cycling "Gravel at the Gorge" ride this past Sunday.  At least I didn't ride all of it.  Jason had asked me if I would help out based on my familiarity with the area.  I drove a second vehicle to help herd the gravelly cats as they rode a tour of all the gravel roads in the Gorge proper.  The only part I rode was from the steel bridge to Indian Creek and back; about ten miles, and then I drove along with the group, retrieving wayward riders, and eventually helping to collect everyone at the posh lunch stop.
 
Jason provides food, drink, a camp fire, chairs, warm water for tea or hot chocolate, and the comfort of knowing your back is gotten.  On a cold day like this past Sunday an Easy Rider trip is just the ticket.  While you could go do this ride on your own it was nice to have a SAG stop partway through the ride to gather, warm up, refuel, and then press on. 
Six hardy souls rode down to the Red River Gorge from Lexington.  They were rewarded with steady just-above-freezing temps, lonely roads, and some of the best scenery in the world.  I know, eastern Kentucky in winter is a bit drab and gray, but with all the foliage off the trees you can see more of the infamous Corbin Sandstone that the Red is famous for.  That makes for unforgettable views.
The temperature stayed resolute at just above freezing and we were treated to a light snowfall up on the ridge while we sat around the fire.  For me that is the best way to get into the spirit of Christmas.  There’s nothing like being out in the woods when there’s snow a-flyin’.  Nothing.  And I would rather be nowhere else on earth on any given winter’s day than in the Gorge. 

 
I might have ridden more with the group if not for my late sickness.  My lungs aren’t back to 100% just yet, and the ten miles I rode taxed me enough.  I couldn’t keep up with even the slowest of the group—which is not like me at all—and if I tried to ride and talk at the same time my lungs burned.  I opted for a warm Jeep for the remainder of the day after coming back from Indian Creek.  I had a couple of tankards of coffee to sooth my lightly bruised ego as well.
 
The route was really good and Jason and I both agreed it would be a great staple gravel ride for the area. Thirty-five of the sixty-three mile route is gravel roads.  The rest of the paved roads are part of the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway and take you through the heart of the Red River Gorge past numerous trailheads and overlooks.  This route capitalizes on everything that is legally rideable in the area with the exception of a few mostly unknown singletrack trails.

For me this would make a grand front porch ride too.  The regular Gorge loop on the road bike is a fifty-three mile ride for me.  Doing the Gorge Gravel from home for me would translate to about ninety miles which would be a great distance for me to work back up to.
 
The other aspect of this is that people are getting more and more on board with the idea of cycling and mountain biking in the Gorge area.  Momentum is building.  With the increasing interest in the Sugarcamp Mountain Trails to our east in Prestonsburg, the resurgence of Cave Run as a mountain biking destination, and of the efforts of myself and a few others in the Gorge area to build trails and trail opportunities things are changing.  It feels like we're getting ready to hit critical mass as well.

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sick Days Are Not For Being Sick!


Ugh, I've been sick.  I don't get this sick but maybe once a decade.  Five year intervals at the most.  I was in bed for four days.  I had to take four consecutive sick days.  That just ain't right!

The doctor (whom I rarely see) concluded it was a "bronchitis-like thing."  It wasn't the flu.  My symptoms were fever up to 103, lack of energy, intermittent cough, slight nasal congestion, and the occasional headache just to make it fun.  Other than the fever and weakness nothing was severe.

I felt somewhat better Saturday.  I had a trail day scheduled in Flat Hollow and despite the cold temps forecasted people were actually planning to show.  My original intention was to meet up, hand the tools off to Brad, at most walk them to the start of the new section, and go home.  I woke up feeling pretty good.  I had a day’s worth of antibiotics and a good night’s sleep behind me.  So I ended up staying all day watching the progress unfold and "supervising."  In truth they did pretty well without me.  But I was stoked to see the trail cross and then climb out of a steep little gully.  The group built twice as much as I'd hoped for and three times as much as I expected.  There were six of us total.





Last Sunday afternoon I took a short scouting ride.  I've got to sort out a couple of sections of the hundred mile race and I've got to do it quick.  There's a section on the off-road park that if I can get permission it will need some clearing.  It's less than two miles but overgrown with Mordor briars.  There's also a short rock step that will need a bench cut trail to get past.  Short section though...




The Saturday before that Bean and I went out and flagged for the trail day.  Seems like I did so much more right before getting sick, but really most of it has to do with planning this hundred mile mountain bike race.  I'll dedicate a post very soon to the race.  My mind is so far behind right now I just can't seem to formulate the thoughts to begin planning blog posts.  Maybe I'm still a little foggy of mind.  Maybe the fever got higher than I realized.

The first day I was sick I thought I might be able to get ahead on my writing.  I thought I could do a lot of race planning.  I thought—worst case—I could binge watch all three Hobbit movies and the LOTR trilogy.  I failed to do any of those things.  I did zero writing.  I managed a tiny bit of race planning early on, and Boone and I were only able to get through The Hobbit trilogy and the first half of the first half of the Fellowship of the Ring.  Such a bummer.


Today’s post is a day late and short to boot.  I promise I’m still alive and kicking.  And I promise that really soon I will be back to normal levels of internet littering.

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Friday Post

I've been sick all week; hence no posts. I've had a fever as high as 103.4F.  Today I feel human again.  I'm hoping I'm finally on the mend.  I had a few different things I could have written about despite being basically laid up in bed all week.  But I had to put all that aside.  I had to process a bit.  Yesterday Dave texted me and told me our mutual friend John Haight had killed himself.  Its just crushing news when you hear of this happening to anyone, but when its someone you knew it leaves something of a hole.  It makes the world seem a little less ordered.  I did my best at a post in regards to this.

The first time I met John Haight was at Pebble Beach in the Red River Gorge in probably 1997.  I had heard about him from some mutual friends from Morehead. They spoke of a climber called "Hop."  Despite a few local tours of Clack Mountain and Slabcamp by the mutual friends I never ran into John.  That day at Pebble Beach I had just sketched my way up a 5.7 hand crack called Environmental Impact.  John casually walked up a gear protected slab called Central Scrutinizer. Hanging from the anchors over the crack I took a photo of John on that upper slab.  We chatted along with everyone else at the crag that day but it would be years before our paths crossed again.

Some time after that my climbing partner and I went to visit Slabcamp.  As we drove in on Clack East we passed John on his road bike just crushing it.  It's still less than ordinary to see serious road cyclists in Eastern Kentucky and maybe more so then.  John was an accomplished cyclist as well as a good climber.

When my family owned Red River Outdoors John would stop in frequently and chat.  We never climbed together, but we shared common interests.  Maybe that became more apparent at the IMBA trail clinic in Morehead last year.  We both attended and after the clinic John wanted to come help with the trail work in Flat Hollow.  He'd also asked if he could hire my professional skills to help lay out a camping area at Graining Fork Nature Preserve (Roadside Crag) in which he was part owner.  We talked about the potential for mountain biking in the Red and around Morehead.  We definitely had the same vision.



Last Easter John was in a bad car wreck.  I never got the details, but apparently it hurt him pretty bad.  He had a long slow recovery.  His wife April had to skip one of our IMBA formation meetings because "John was having a bad day."  I knew it wasn't a good situation.

I guess the last time I talked to John was at Roadside.  He was helping his partner Grant Stephens on his cabin. Lily and I stopped to chat with them.  We talked big plans.  Then the wreck.

I'm a bad friend.  I wanted to call.  I didn't have his number.  I could have gotten it from Dave.  It was just awkward.  And that's no excuse.

I was in Morehead more than once after the wreck.  I meant to call and maybe go visit.  I blew it.  I'm a bad friend.

I don't think my having visited him would have helped.  But I could have shown him I cared about what he was going through.  That's on me.  

John took his own life on December 7th.  I don't know the details.  I'm not going to even speculate here.  I know John had a passion for the outdoors and a great deal of energy and life.  He'll be greatly missed in the outdoor community in Eastern Kentucky.  He was well known as a climber, a cyclist, a trailrunner, a paddler, and in Adventure Racing circles.  I'm sure there is much about John that I didn't know.  I'm sure that is the greatest loss, that more people won't get to know him and share in his passion for the world.

John focused during the 2014 Fig Adventure Race

The only thing I can think to do to honor his memory and the memories of others I've know who've taken their own lives is to try and create as much light in the world as I can so the darkness has no refuge.  There is no use in looking for meaning.  There's no use in giving in to the despair.  All that matters is to fight the darkness with everything we've got.

Here's a lesser known line from the famous Dylan Thomas poem.  Knowing John this seemed more appropriate:

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, 
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, 
Do not go gentle into that good night.

See you on down the trail, my friend...