Saturday, January 30, 2016

Camping Adventures with the kids: Or Camping Part I and Camping Part II

Louisiana is hot, so our adventures have been reserved mostly for the winter.  My boys love camping.  I think the word love is an understatement!  All I have to say is camp and they all have their backpacks packed and are ready to go.  They are also full of energy so I decided that we would ride to the campsite.  Some call it bicycle touring, some call it bikepacking.  Call it what you will but we loaded up our rides and went.  The first attempt was a little over the top.  But I wouldn't expect anything else from the Tsunami.    

A little over the top!

To begin with, Newbie keeps track of camping by number, as in Camping part 1.  He is up to camping part 5.   Camping part I involved me loading up the BOB Yak trailer.  The BOB trailer is a great way to haul gear.  It is very stable when moving, aside from the weight of the gear, I barely notice it is there.  The trailer can haul a lot and I pushed it beyond reason.  When loaded properly it is smooth.  It was not smooth.  The draw back is when stopped, it is hard to park and tough to turn around in tight places.  

It just so happened that when we arrived at our destination, I put my foot down on a fire ant home.  I will spare you the gore and detailed photo of what fire ants can do.  In a panic I lost control of the BOB and bike.  Needless to say there was some carnage there with a bent deraillure hanger.  There was also a need for benedryl and some days of pain to follow, the swelling of my ankle was intense.  But this isn't about me, so I powered through.

Vance is a lucky young man with a Porcelain Rocket Booster to haul his sleeping gear.  A shout out to Glenn Charles who donated it to the cause

The boys are great sports.  Nine miles can be a long way with little legs.  It typically involves a stop at the 5 mile mark where we get some refreshments at a gas station.  A snack and a shared soda, sometimes a slice of Hunt Brothers pizza.

Diga loves the out doors.  He finds toads and bugs fascinating.  I personally hate catching grass hoppers.  Diga, no issues.  This is why we do it though.  I would rather have them running around outside exploring nature than sitting around the house.  

Vance found a stick bug.  It is hard to see but it is there.  The boy loves bugs.

Camping part two was a little different.  I loaded up the Mukluk.  Admittedly a slower ride with a 1x10 30 tooth crank.  But I was riding with an 7 year old and 10 year old.  I carried almost as much stuff and it is extremely stable.  The Mukluk is an amazing bike and the Old Man Mountain Phat Rack and Porcelain Rocket handle bar bag are delightful.  I have always loved the Jeff Jones Loop H-Bar on that rig.

The area we went camping had done some tree maintenance and there were some large limbs strewn about.  They were green still and wouldn't burn well but the boys didn't know that.  They spent time gathering these limbs.

Team Work!

I suppose in a few years, if they read this, they will find out these wouldn't burn.

And more team work.

House Hold 6 brought Newbie out.  They all ran around and then we started the fire.  I allow them to poke at it.  I don't know anyone that isn't mesmerized by a fire.  In case you are wondering, she brought the chairs, those were not in the panniers.  The run around until they absolutely crash.  Newbie  is usually the first to tap out and go to bed.  

On morning of Camping part two there was a soul crushing wind so only Diga and I rode home.  Nater and Newbie hitched a ride.  I really only think Diga did it for the snack at the half way point.  He is an easy one to bribe.  A slice of pizza and some root beer and he is in.

Using the drops to get out of the wind!  I love this guy!!!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Summer Vacation 2015: Destination #2, Hilton Head Island, SC

The second phase of the trip was Hilton Head Island, SC.  A good “mid-way” point between Orange Beach and Richmond, VA.  So we hit the road, after loading a metric short ton of crap in the car we drove off.  We were about out of the parking lot when House Hold 6 “Seriously?”  I replied  “What?”  She replied “Chick??”  I looked in the rearview and saw Chick standing by the door of the hotel……. “yeah, I was just messing with her?!?”……Yeah that’s it.

                     Don't judge, it is easy to leave a child when you have to keep track of four hippos!
With all of the kids in the car we hit the road and made it to Tallahassee where we stopped for lunch at you guessed it.....Chipotle.  I love their food.  Then somehow my daughter conned me into letting her buy a $6 cupcake at some gourmet cupcake place.  We hit the road and we finally made it to our destination for a couple of days.  

Hilton Head Island is an odd place for a good old Montana hick.  Just about every square inch is used, however, it is an active place and there is a lot of foot and bike traffic.  It didn't seem as packed as it is.    Some of the roads look like bike paths and are paved around trees.  But….there are bike paths everywhere.  You could ride from one end to the other on bike paths.  Now, that said, we picked up are key and looked at the map.  It was a maze and you have to go through all of these little private area security booths.  Again, bizarre for someone like me.     

We got there late in the evening and the finally found our way in the maze of small sub-divided areas.  The kids went and swam in the pool after we unpacked.  The following morning I woke[up and decided I would explore before we made an attempt to go to the beach so I pulled out the Blackborrow.  I found my way to the beach and cruised a little bit.

   A totally different experience.  The beach is a hard packed sand and the Surly Lou tires were overkill.  

The beach was a totally different experience than Orange Beach.  The sand is packed, you could probably ride a Pinerello with 22mm wide tires on it.  I enjoyed the fresh salt air and rode into the wind so I would have a push back.  I didn't put a ton miles in because I knew the tsunami would be stirring back at the room.  

I headed back and making my way to the bike path.  As I cruised down the path I noticed something.
                                  I was unaware that there were alligators everywhere.

When I got back to the room everyone was stirring.  Especially House Hold 6's hair......almost as frightening as the alligator.
The South Carolina humidity was taking it toll!
Then it was time to get dressed and do some tourist stuff.  For the record, Chevy Suburban and Hilton Head Island do not go together well.  We went to the beach and walked around for a little while. The kids played in the ocean for a while and then we went to lunch at a place called the Salty Dog Cafe.  The food was great and reasonably priced.  I ordered a crab cake burger and it was outstanding.  

       This is one for the record books, every one looks reasonably happy and we are all looking in the right direction!
We did a little more sight seeing and then went back to the room and back to the beach.  The water was very different from the clear blue water of the Gulf Coast.  It was warm and muddy in appearance. Probably due to the large river outlets.  The tide was out and the ocean was flat as a dance floor.  The kids dug in the sand and played for a couple of hours.  
Our goal is to wear everyone down so they sleep at night.  Sufficiently baked in the sun and worn out, we found all of the kids and headed back to the house.  We made a run for dinner, I picked up Chipotle.  Have I mentioned that I like Chipotle?  We ate at the room and the kids played in the pool for a while and then it was bed time.  I am not sure if they were tired, HH6 and I were.
The next day the weather was going to turn for the worst.  So I charged my headlamp and I got up at 5 a.m. so I could get a decent ride in.  I was going to shoot for 20 miles round trip since we had a realy long drive ahead of us.  I love to watch the sun rise.  As a Montana boy, the beach is an amazing place.  When the sun rises, it goes from dark to light in what seems like a flash.  In the mountains, it could be light before the sun crests  the mountains in the horizon.  Same with sunsets on the beach.  The sun just disappears and it is dark.  

It was cloudy so it wasn't a stellar sunrise.  But it was a sunrise on the beach.  
I ended up riding to the southern tip of the island and turned around at the 9 mile mark, making it 18 miles round trip.  That was largely due to time since I spoke with a local for 1/2 an hour about the Salsa Blackborow and the Army. 
As I made my way back I was passing by a golf course when I noticed something lurking in the distance.  A big alligator was walking across the fare way.  When it saw me it lay flat.  I was glad, I have been chased by many a dog over the years.  I have been shot at (or at least in the direction of) by bird hunters....
The last thing I wanted was to be chased by an alligator.  
When I got back to the house, HH6 had packed all the bags and we loaded up.  It was time for the 3rd destination, Virginia.  House Hold 6 and I agree that we could live there.  The community is very active, with people walking the beach and riding bikes on the paths and beach.  It was a great place for a fat bike like the Blackborow, though the Lou tires were definitely overkill.  I would do this again.  


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Summer Vacation 2015: First Stop, Orange Beach, AL

I love summer vacation.  When I take time off, we try to pack as much fun in as possible.  In fact, I usually come back more exhausted then before.  Summer of 2015 was no exception.  I decided that I would bring my new Salsa Blackborow and I designed the vacation to please the entire family.  The agenda took us to Virginia by way of Orange Beach, AL; Hilton Head, SC; Richmond, VA area.  The trip home was a little more direct through Brevard, NC for some serious mountain biking.  

We loaded up 4 kids with all of their stuff, a cooler packed with Monster energy drink, and a five inch tire clad mountain bike and hit the road.  I plugged in my iPhone and started my vacation drive playlist consisting classic 80's like Def Lepard added to my newer synth pop alternative.  As soon as Def Lepard started, HH6 immediatly activated our satellite radio.  I think her exact statement was   I can't take this for 2,000 miles!" So there was that. 

While not the most fuel effecient (the bike or the Suburban), it hauls the six of us and all of our stuff very comfortably.

The first goal was to stop at Chipotles for a burrito in Baton Rouge.  I love Chipotles and there is not one within 100+ miles of my location and it was on the way to our first destination, Orange Beach, AL.  After eating we hit the road and immediately hit Interstate 10 stop and go traffic.  So getting tired of hitting the brakes constantly, I diverted and we ended up driving along the Gulf and enjoyed the view.  As we drove through Gulf Port, MS I saw another sight I haven't seen in some time.  A Krispy Kreme with the "Hot Now" sign on.  So I swung a hard U turn and sped in.  I forget that many of my kids wouldn't remember eating at Krispy Kreme so I ordered a dozen flaming hot donuts.  We all savored the sweet goodness.  Seriously, there is nothing quite as good as a flaming hot Krispy Kreme.

We got back on the road and soon found our way back to the interstate.  Between the traffic jams and Krispy Kreme, it was dark when we finished our drive to Orange Beach.  We hauled our short ton of crap up to the room.  Of course the kids fought over who got to push the button on the elevator, so it was the stairs for the next two days.  
   Nater enjoying the salty morning air.

After eating breakfast we all went to the beach to swim.  The sand was deep and very loose and I couldn't wait to ride my new Salsa Blackborow and test the larger profile tires.  It was hot and the water felt great.  After a couple of hours we took a break and drove down the main strip to buy some food for the room.  

             It is hard to determine the true width of the tires in this picture but they are amazing.
That afternoon we went for a walk down the beach and looked for shells.  My kids love the beach and it is a great way to burn energy.  I did a touch of riding just to scratch the itch.  It rained the first night but cleared by morning.  It helped pack the sand a little and cooled it off a little (but not for long).  

The second full day we were there was going to be my ride day.  I was going to ride to a state park about four miles down the beach, turn around and ride back.  This turned out, like most of my adventures, poorly planned and completed through brute strength.

To begin with, Orange Beach, as for the entire stretch of beach is extremely crowded.  It is not some Lost Coast ride where only a daring few take it on.  There were people everywhere.  It didn't take long for them to stir up the nicely compacted sand.  The divots the foot prints made were deep, creating a surprising bumpy ride.  The solution was to let a little more air out to absorb some of the shock.  Of course that comes at a price, a little extra work.

The Blackborow is an amazing bike.  It handled the loose sand like as designed.  But the people......they were everywhere.  And it was hot, very hot.

                                        Where I am from, 99 degrees by 10:00 a.m. is hot.
I worked my way down the beach dodging people and chairs.  Of course I got plenty of stares as I rode by.  Did I mention it was hot?  Of course there was no shade and all I had was one water bottle in the cage.   Eventually I made it past hotel/condo row and the beach opened up.  The water was beautiful and clear.

Finally, a quiet stretch of beach.
I made it four miles down the beach to a public beach that had a rest area and some shade.  I was burning up and stood under the shower to try to dump some heat.  I drank a ton of water, filled the bottle and hit the sand again.  My legs were feeling it, it took a long while to get four miles.  That is one thing I have learned over the years of riding in the snow, you don't use energy the same way and it takes way more time and effort to get somewhere than normal.  

I was beginning to not enjoy the ride, the heat and humidity was unbearable.  I was crawling at a snails pace in the loose sand.  I stopped and jumped in the ocean.  I didn't think it would cool me off, just a break from the cramping in my calf.  I didn't bring much nutrition and I had sweat a ton.  I climbed back on and began cranking.   

Then the people, there were even more.  Everywhere.  I had about two miles to go and I was done.  No water, except for the ocean of course, and the heat and humidity was crushing me.  So I tried to make it to the road.  Here is the catch, Orange Beach is private.  I didn't realize this until I was on my way back.  When you get to the hotels/condos the beach front property belongs to the respective building.  That means codes to get through the hotel property and to the road.  I finally made it to a small road that I assume is emergency/service vehicle access with about a mile and a half left.  Of course the Surly Lou tire is not overly efficient at low pressure on roads, but it was better than the people and divots on the beach.  Plus, there was some shade.  When I got back to the hotel, I showered and drank a bunch of water, then crashed in the room trying to avoid cramps.

Orange beach for the family to go to the beach and swim, yes.  Orange beach to fat bike......NOPE!  Definitely a compromise.

Next....Hilton Head Island, SC.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rouge Roubaix: Part 3 Finish and thoughts

I was so happy to meet my new found friends again.  After our hasty break we took off again.  The clouds started to break and it started to warm up.  We continued to work a paceline holding a steady pace.  We did a lot of talking as we rode.  I learned that the previous year Stephen had bought a bike days before and he and his friends had fought through every mile.  That they picked up the older gentlemen on the course and bonded and this year they trained.  

We were just about half way when one of the brothers began to bonk.  The paceline fell apart and we all rode abreast talking and working our way down the road.  We got to a small town (small is probably still to big) and stopped at a gas station.  Two old guys, drinking "soda" from brown paper bags stood outside and stared at us.  Of course we weren't the first group of spandex clad men to ride through, the main group went by earlier.  We stopped and at some food.  I bought a Mountain Dew and ate a candybar.  We took a solid break becuase shortly after we started riding again we would hit the first climb in the Tunica Hills.  

We wanted to make sure everyone was fresh, I was offered a Moon Pie, which combined with an orange soda is possibly the best bonk breaker in the world.  Or so I was told.  The old men were asking us questions, mostly along the lines of "what in the hell are you doing riding your bikes out here?" A completely reasonable questions with an unreasonable answer "why not?"

We started off and took a hard left, and then it began.  The climb.  It is at this point that I declare that I had no idea that there were steep, long hills in Louisiana.  We bagan to climb and climb and climb.  It  was suprisingly tough and it was warming up.
I was advised to take my time on the climbs since there were multiple sets.  They had a time goal that was pretty reasonable so we just cranked along.


The first set of climbs was realitively easy.  A SAG stop at the top was appreciated.  The ladies were there with their tables set up.  They said that they were getting more traffic than the actual SAG which had amazing bacon and cheddar kolaches.  They put the good stuff like the bacon and red bulls aside until we got there.  Again, I felt honored that they would include me in the finer refreshments.  Refreshed we took off again.

There were many miles of road cut deep into the Tunica Hills.  I am not sure how much effort it took to cut these but it made for an interesting ride.




The goal was not to walk, if someone needed to stop and rest they did so, but they would do so in place and then ride.



The second series of climbs got old and I thought I would be glad to get back to some pavement.  A reminder, we were all doing this on 25-28mm road slicks.  

Then came the final strech, one that cuased a little pain and discomfort and reminded me that pavement is not always better than dirt.

Then there was this.  The picture below is pavement and it was harder to ride on than the dirt roads.

The picture below is the original of the macro picture above.

This pavement is worse than many gravel roads I have ridden in the Mid-West or Montana.

Chickens, why not!  My own lack of preperation began to catch up with me and the rough roads were causing discomfort.  At some point we got seperated for some reason and I kept pedaling.  Before I knew it I was on the final stretch and finished with the last climb into St. Francisville.  The finish was next to an old church and cemetary, Fitting if you ask me.  I fellt bad that I had broken away and didn't finish with the group.  Their spouses were waiting patiently and I told them they wer enot far behind.  

I was begining to get concerned about my co-workers.  It wasn't long before one of them, an endurance junky, came along.  New bike and tennis shoes, the race director told me he was impressed.  The other one was some ways back.  So I jumped on my bike and went to look for her.  I think I rode  about 5 miles and found her.  Then 5 miles back.  I was done.  She toold me that she had missed every SAG and was running low on food.  I was just glad she was there.

I rode back to the hotel, changed in the bathroom and loaded my bike.  I began the long winding drive home.  It was a painful drive only made possible by large quantities of caffiene.  

This is a well run event.  28mm tires are probably best (if your bike will take them).  I am gllad I didn't run my Clement MSO tires since there was far more pavement than gravel.  Even the dirt is smooth and there was only a couple of places where I had to pay attention not to spin out on loose gravel.  

I would recommend to anyone to pack as much food as they can in jersey pockets just in case.  Three water bottles is probably sufficient (again if you bike will do it).

It is worth every dime, the swag bag included a shirt, a sweatshirt, waterbottle, food vouchers, and a chance to win a bike.  The best part of the ride was easily the commaraderie and generosity of four men, for whom I owe a big thanks.  

The Rouge Roubaix: Part 2 The Ride

As stated in the last post, even a blind squirrel will find the occasional nut.  I happened to stay at the hotel that was the HQ for the Gran Fondo and race.  For once all I had to do was roll out of bed, throw stuff in my car since I wasn’t spending the night and head to the starting line.  

As I was getting ready a gentlemen approached and started to talk to me about the ride.  He was there with some friends and said that they had done it last year together and they had done a lot of work to prepare for this year.  The two co-workers who tagged along mentioned that they hadn’t done much and that one of them had bought a bike 2-3 weeks earlier and hadn’t ridden much.  People looked at him because he wasn’t wearing bike shoes as is the standard fare for something of this magnitude.  Instead he was wearing running shoes.  The gentlemen then stated that he bought his bike a week before the ride last year and it was painful but he finished.

   I  am 609

The ride was a group roll out with police escort due to the busy highway.  Before we knew it we hit the road.  The roll out was fast, there were some folks that probably should have been racing and a gap widened.  It went down the highway a few miles and then turned left off of the main road.  It was not marked and my co-workers were waaaayyyyy behind.  I decided to stop and ensure they made the turn when the race director pulled up.  I inquired about them.  Clearly annoyed he stated that they were waaayyyyy back there.  So I went back, found them and got the to the turn.  Then I took off.  
Unfamiliar with the route, I wanted to find a group to ride with.  I passed a few individuals but going back killed my chances of finding a pack of riders.  I turned on the gas and took off.  I was assuming risk by going too hard too early.  The pavement turned to dirt, more of a wet sand.  


Ironically, it felt smoother and faster than the pavement.  I found the first official marker and was I pleased to find that it was a big sign and clearly marked.  I was a little more comfortable at that point but there is safety in numbers.


Then I caught up to a group of four riders who were going a little slower than I would have preferred but realized I wasn’t going to catch anyone who would be riding at the pace I preferred.  Not wanting to be a wheel sucker and not being a part of the group I didn’t want to jump in their pace line so I hung back a little.  Then a gentleman began to talk to me.  He invited me in so I jumped in.  It was the same guy that was talking to me at the start.

He told me how last year, he bought his bike days before the ride and suffered through every mile.  His friends (two brothers) and he picked up the fourth, an older man in his 60s, finishing the ride together.  They had been training together for this go-around.   I was welcomed in the same way.  I was a welcome addition.


I was in front of the older man as we worked our way through the pace line, again, my pace was slightly faster and he would say “take it easy, there is plenty of challenge ahead.”  The first check point came quickly and the SAG stop had a nice assortment of kolaches.  I ate one, refilled water bottles and then went to start when the group called me over.  All of their significant others were there hosting their own SAG stop.  They told me to help myself.  

Did they have a spread…..cold sodas, Redbull, candy bars, and bacon.  He opened a container that was full of thick cut, perfectly cooked bacon.  It was amazing.  Then we were off down a stretch of pavement.  It was overcast and misty with a perfect temperature for riding.  Then it happened.
My phone rang, it was a work emergency and one I couldn’t avoid.  So I told them to keep going and I hoped to catch up.  I was hartbroken, these guys were great.  


  Before I put my phone away after taking an emergency phone call I snapped these photos.  I love Spanish Moss.


We were talking and working through the line.  After I resolved the issue, I cranked, again risking burning out early to try to catch them.  I came to a small town and I looked for a gas station to buy some food.  A sign marked a left turn and shortly after turning, there they were.  The older gentlemens wife was there with a 12 pack of Coca Cola.  

They had slowed their roll and waited a little longer in the hopes that I would catch up.  I drank a coke and we were off again.  What an amazing group of guys.