Friday, February 25, 2011

Return from the Dead

I think I'm allergic to Big Jim Slade, but only when we cross certain northern state lines. It's as if some chemical change occurs when we hit Georgia soil, and I wind up sick, if I've been in close proximity to our local Majestic Stallion. This is 2 road trips now, where I've returned home sick. I'm just sayin'!

The trip itself was good. The folks at Camp Thunder BSA have changed their view point on public trail usage. In the past it was bootleg deal, no cop, no stop. Though, in this case, I suppose it would be, no troop leader, no stoop feeder, or something else way more clever that I am simply not bright enough to come up with at the moment. Now, they welcome cyclists, regardless of Boy Scout, Girl Scout, Brownie, or Taliban affiliation. You got 4 bucks, you ride. Of course they want you give THEM the $4, but you get the point. They also now welcome camping. They have these giant canvas tents built on deck style platforms, with 2 cots in each. They rent the tents out at $8 bucks a, per person. I smell a BC weekend camping trip on the horizon.

The 1st climb up from the Flint River always lives up to my expectations. It's just 10-12 minutes of granny gear grueling for this clydesdale. BJS and I discussed at the top that this climb is the worst one on the course. While there are a couple of others just about as long, they tend to run along old logging roads or jeep trails. This one is singletrack top to bottom, with switchbacks and gravel, the whole way. Finesse is important. A heavy gorilla pedal stroke will stop you dead, while your rear wheel gleefully spits a shower of rocks on the guy behind you.

The views up top are not too bad for Central GA.

I think I even found a new location for my own bike shop. Bigworms House of Repair Emporium(B.H.O.R.E) may soon be open for business!

The next morning found us at the Dauset trailhead. This is one of my favorite trails systems in GA. There are harder trails, longer trails, and more epic trails, but these are just plain fun. You can link an 18 mile loop with minor overlap, or you can time your laps to be a little shorter, to afford return trips to the truck to replenish water bottles. For those of us who hate wearing backpack style water systems, it's nice to be able to tailor the lap length.  The last few trips to Dauset have been less than spectacular. We had 2 swamp episodes, and 2 years ago we raced there in the dead of summer. Blazing, relentless, heat and humidity were on point. I'm still not sure how it could have been that humid, yet the trails were true dust bowls! Not this time. This time, the trails were as good as they get. I tested the limits of my tire's side knobs at every opportunity, and was rewarded with joyous free speed every time. The first 2 minutes down Bootlegger brings on the perma-grin.

It sucks getting home sick(not the same as homesick), but the trip was worth it in spades. Now, if I can just find a cheap helicopter, then I can move up there, and still keep my job. Big Jim says it has be a 6 man chopper, because he's tired of driving all these road trips. I'll just have to see...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Road Trip!

Another important piece to the enjoyment we share for mountain bikes is the road trip. Part of the draw to this sport is its exploratory nature. Even as kids, the moment you learn to pedal, you begin to realize that with the mobility, comes expanded boundaries. I've seen more places and sights, that would never have been available to me otherwise, atop two wheels.

My travels this weekend take us to places familiar, but not unchanged. It's been awhile since I got us lost along the Flint River, climbing the southern most foothill ridges of the Appalachians. Though I've been there many times, I'm sure much of it will feel like it's all new, and other areas will be as communing with an old friend. A sweet recipe for a giant smile.

I'm chomping at the bit, as I sit here trying to write of this. The pre-trip rituals are in place. I'm wandering the house, hoping I didn't forget anything necessary, the television is blaring my favorite mountain bike videos, and I keep checking the window, to see if Big Jim Slade has arrived, though it's 30 minutes early. Perfect. I can already taste the donuts!

Check back in later, maybe I'll post from the road. Maybe not. See ya next week!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Sunday Ride

Sunday rides are the cornerstone of most cycling communities. While many of us go out of our way to squeeze in as many rides per week as possible, the majority of cyclists rely on the weekends. Saturday rides abound, but Sunday is for the Granddaddy of group get togethers. Sunday generally seems to be the day that crew members the world over manage to coordinate their free time, and congregate in a societal manner where we misfits function at our best.Saturday may see you at Bed, Bath & Beyond, mowing the grass, or painting dining room, but Sunday, Sunday is for riding and recovery from said ride.

In the Revolutions Cyclery days, Saturday nights were spent in preparation of the Sunday Ride. That may entail prepping the bike, eating a hearty dinner, cajoling your buddies who may be lacking the proper degree of enthusiasm. Or in some cases, Saturday was just a giant party, and the Sunday ride was something to be simply survived. I remember more than one occasion, where 8am rolled around, and more than one crew member still reeked of alcohol, and one or two may actually still be a little drunk! Somehow, when you're 23, and it's 3am, 3 hours seems like plenty of sleep prior to the Sunday group ritual.

You didn't miss it, though. If you dare be late, or a few guys simply decided that you were iffy, the shop phones were armed, and your answering machine got its speakers blown out by high decibel swearing and belittling, heard by most any neighbor who may be awake, and maybe even by the sleepy drivers cruising the neighborhood streets en route to their morning coffee. Spanish Mackerel was the most common recipient of this treatment, and as those of you new to the crew can still see, it never worked. His appearance on rides is still more a marvel than a regularity. I'm not certain of this, but he was likely also the first to get voicemail, versus the machine. That little bit of technology basically nullified our wake up calls.

By 7:45, the lot would be full of guys lubing chains, trying to decide what clothing was necessary for the day ahead, and bugging me to fix something that they could just never find time to deal with before that very moment. These rides typically had 6 or 8 guys, but sometimes topped 15. It really was cool to have so many folks riding together. 

Our rides started at 8, and we had to be back by noon to open the shop. Outside of those constraints, the ride route and pace were free reign. We always rolled from the shop, and linked as many kid built cut throughs, city parks, and bum trails as possible. Sometimes the ride headed through downtown, and over to the campuses. We'd spend hours bombing urban downhill runs through the empty college thoroughfares, down loading ramps and stairs. Competition abounded to see who could hop onto the highest benches and walls, without destroying chainrings in the process. Newcomers to these rides would swear we took them out to intentionally kill their equipment, thus securing the shop's future.

On other rides, the urban trails were simply a means to an end; connectors to the trails of the day. We rode all points of the compass from the shop, only to return later, exhausted and stoked, to be lucky enough to do what we did every Sunday.

Lately, I've been missing the big group rides of old. Then along comes an email from Elio. Superbowl Sunday, Urban Gorilla Ride, rolling from downtown at 8, hitting most every trail within the city limits. Elio has been hosting these urban gorilla rides for awhile, and he once told me that the idea came from the old Revolutions rides. So Superbowl Sunday rolls around, and I find my freezing ass rolling through the early morning deserted streets of Tallahassee, to meet a ride that was born from the imagination of a guy who was inspired by our old rides. The empty city streets instantly brought the memories flooding back. The group of mountain bikers milling around City Hall, waiting anxiously to see who all would arrive, brought back even more. A few of us from our BC crew had discussed meeting this group, but then splitting off to do our own thing, but when I saw 15-20 guys ready to ride, I realized that I was not gonna miss this one.

My partners had not shown when the ride departed the meeting spot, but as we came over a big hill, headed for the trails, my guys were climbing the other side. The spectacle of 20 guys cresting the hill, lit by the early morning sun hit home, and they had no intention of missing out on an opportunity like this, either. We picked up a few more on our way to the trails, and by the time we hit singletrack, there was a train of 25 or more bikes snaking along. Silk went to the front and set a steady pace. Nothing scorching, just steady. We never stopped until we'd passed through the Fern, Tom Brown, Cadillac, and across the dike to the Alford Greenway. A quick nature break, and we were back underway, without another stop until we'd skirted the lake, and crossed to the Miccosukee Greenway. At this point, there were still 12-15 guys hanging together. Unfortunately, this is also the point that my legs decided it was time to let me know that it was time to head for home.

When I split off from the group, it was saddening to watch such a big bunch still riding together, knowing that my day was done, and not knowing when the next big group ride would come around. I didn't realize it at the time, but my wait was shorter than expected. One week in fact, was all it took. I guess it was just a perfect storm of word of mouth, but today's ride had 10 people show up, when I was only expecting about three.

Afterward, I told Big Jim Slade that we have to find a way to make this more regular. Earlier this week, Storming Norman asked what had happened to the big rides. I rattled through the list of folks who'd taken up breeding, opening new businesses, school and injuries. The crew is alive and well, but those still riding are few and far between. I offered up my contact info to a few folks who asked when and where we ride. Perhaps an infusion of new blood will be good. I look forward to the return of Wrecking Ball, and with him, hopefully Little Wrecking Ball. Juniors like Mingo Jr, Lil' WB and Rupe are the future of the crew. Hopefully they will stick with this as they get older.

Regardless of where the numbers come from, the Sunday ride will remain a staple of cycling crews everywhere. The new faces may be new to cycling, or they may simply be new to us, but either way, the flow of people meeting up to get their weekend warrior on, will not die off anytime soon.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Back In the Saddle

2011 rolled in like a freight train, and I never saw it coming! I was ready to calmly let 2010 go it's way, and had scheduled a little R&R time for myself, the week following Christmas. My little brother, whom I had not seen in over a year, was in town, along with his 3 boys. I spent time hanging with them, and watching the year quietly reach its twilight. I used the time to get in plenty of riding, both road and mountain. Phil was in town the weekend of Christmas, so a Christmas eve spin was in order. It was really cool to get to spend some time with him. His Team Type 1 venture keeps him on the go, and large chunks of last year were spent over seas.

Things were going quite nicely, until we got word that Ms. Worm's uncle was in poor health, and an unexpected trip to Michigan was scheduled for the week after New Years. Last minute trips are always sketchy, but again, all went surprisingly well. I was nervous about driving in the snow, and sure enough, 10 minutes into the rental car, I'd slid across 3 lanes and up onto a sidewalk. No harm, no foul, and we were back under way. It snowed pretty much everyday we were there, and it was post card beautiful. I wouldn't want to deal with it on a daily basis, but it sure was nice to visit.

We returned from MI on a Friday, and Saturday morning was the annual trip for Tour de Felasco. This year, every one's schedules were all conflicted, so the usual Friday night throw down was discarded. No sweat, just wait until next year! Felasco was odd this year. Due to some arrowing inconsistencies, we got off track before lunch. The group had several different versions of how to deal with it, so we wound up in 4 different groups. Each group achieving different mileage. This year I took me 6+ hours of roll time, for 55 miles, and I was only with the crew for 45 minutes of that. That sucked. Felasco is a social event for me, and the social side went right out the window.

After Felasco, my sinuses staged a revolt, and eventually took over my lungs, before finally running out of steam, and allowing good health to win out. Two weeks, I spent my nights hacking up multi-colored squirrels, and keeping my poor wife awake with the retching sounds of bronchial battle.

At long last, my schedule is returning to normal. I'm on my bike again, and even managed to put in 10+ hours of roll time last week. Now I'm just tired, but it's a good tired. The kind you strive for, and lounge in, with the feeling that your are on the right path. Coach Silk keeps calling the plays, and I'm executing as many of them as I can.

2011 came out of the gate like a wild bull ride, but maybe, just maybe, the bull has realized that I'm not to be bucked quite so early.