Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Adventure Cycling Association's Bike Your Park Day: Another Forced Family Outing

Life takes a lot of effort.  The picture below proves it.  One does not simply go to bed at night and wake up in the morning with 6 bikes maintained, loaded, and ready to ride.  This picture represents the effort of doing Forced Family Outings.  In this case, all anyone had to do (with the exception of Household 6) is wake up, get dressed and get in the truck.  

By the way, this was the morning that I got up at 4 a.m. to get donuts in a town where donuts are hard to get before 6 a.m.  Please see the paragraph in the Fakahatchee post about that.

This FFO was took us to the Shark Valley visitor's center at Everglades National Park.  The occasion was Adventure Cycling Association's Bike Your Park Day.  Although I am not an official spokesman, I think they had two goals; one to get people on bikes and to celebrate the wonderful national and state parks across the country.  Now Shark Valley is no Going to the Sun highway, but it is paved and best of free.  

Shark Valley has a ~15 mile loop road that takes you 7 miles straight out into the Everglades has a tall observation tower so you can try to comprehend the vastness of the Everglades.  

Notice the two knuckle heads running towards us.  When we started the ride, they bolted, which drives me nuts.  They had made it to the parking area (for bikes and the tour trams) and then ran a 1/4 mile back to great us.  

One characteristic of this ride is the alligators that line the roads during certain times of the year.  This wasn't the time.  However, we have been back several times and the road was lined with alligators.  It is weird.

This was the farthest that Newb has pedaled and he he did great.

It is flat which makes it an easy ride for young children.

All said and done, the Shark Valley Visitors center is a great place to visit.  It is an amazing way to gain a better appreciation for the Everglades.  The kids did well and this has become a favorite place to ride.  I am glad organizations like Adventure Cycling Association encourage activities like this.  It probably would have been a while before I found this place.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Off Road Drop Bars: Gary

The adventure Miami.  Of all places, this is the last place I thought I would end up.  It is not a complaint by any means, there was some shock because I am not a big city guy.  I like to be able to get away from chaos and Miami is chaotic at times....all the time.  Though I quickly figured out that Southern Florida has a great resource for those looking to escape the busy roads and city....canals.  A byproduct of water/flood management is hundreds of miles of gravel(ish) roads that parallel canals.  

There is one near my home that I frequently ride, it is great on a Saturday morning because the paved roads to get there are not as busy.  While most of the surfaces are pretty forgiving many of these roads have some gnarly stretches.  Most of the roads are made from the fill created when cutting the canals.  There is a ton of coral a few feet under the top soil.  This means that there are some stretches that are unforgiving as chunks of coral rocks poke out of the ground as the surface erodes.   There are a couple of things that I have done to mitigate this.  The first is tires, this means that 40mm tires are the smallest that I can comfortably ride with out shattering teeth or getting pinch flats (which I did on a low pressure 40mm). 

I love the Clement MSO in 40mm.  They are smooth rolling and very nice feeling at lower pressure.  However, I had one die so I ordered a set of Bruce Gordon Rock n' Road tires in a 43mm.  These are a very nice tires with a tight center tread for a little lower rolling resistance but great traction in all conditions.

Life sucking and tire eating rock and gravel.

The next improvement I made was to the handle bars.  I am on the third iteration but I think I have finally found what I am looking for.  The Giant Revolt came with about a 44cm wide with a slight flare to the drops.  Not bad but I was hoping for more, particularly when descending rough roads or trails.  I picked up a used set of WTB Dirt Drops which were closer but not quite there.  I wanted something that that felt natural in the drops.  No weird curves where my palms rest.  Then I saw it....

The Origin8 Gary Ergo Sweep OS has an amazing feel addresses my main concerns, a nice flare, adequate surface for my hands in the drops, and an amazing feeling of control and stability in the drops.  

It took a little bit to get used to riding in the drops with the flare but the drops are amazing.

I don't mind the city too much, especially when only a couple of miles west is the Everglades.  It is hard to believe that there are millions of people in the area and I love the isolated feel that the Everglades provide.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Fakahatchee Grind: sufferfest Part II

The start was an informal rolling start and with a shout it began.  We hit the road and withing 200 feet I knew we were in for a painful day.  The road was washboard and the shoulders were very soft sand so there was not mild areas.  After a couple of miles, I adjusted the air pressure in the kids tires to try to eat up some of the chatter.  

Speaking of chatter, the kids were nearing mutiny.  The first 7 miles took just over an hour with all of the little breaks to adjust.  At that rate, we were moving at the speed of smell and were not going to be done anytime soon.  We arrived at a small bridge and I decided it was a good place to lean our bikes for a few minutes.  
Nothing but blue sky....

Trying to look motivated....sort of.

Managing fluid and calorie intake is not always easy with kids.  I understand the concept, however, getting them to eat every 40 min or so is challenging.  They snacked a little and then we hit the road, it seemed to smooth up a little bit and attitudes changed slightly.  We cruised for while when off in the distance I could see the I-75 interstate overpass.  I seemed like an eternity to get there.  This is actually one of the most challenging aspects of riding in Florida.  

Whether it is trees like this or open glades, the view doesn't change and the roads tend to be long and straight.
We certainly know that mountains  or even small hills, are not an issue in Southern Florida, but the strait line and distances of the roads kind of messes with the mind.  I was beginning to get frustrated, you actually don’t feel like you are going anywhere.  The horizon, it is a place, you can see it, but you can never get there.  That is how it feels to ride in the hinterlands of Southern Florida.  

It was the best shade we would have for a long while so we stopped under the I-75 overpass and had some decent food.  I broke out the fruit and nut mix, hoping they would eat more than power bars and gels.  This ended the first round of the Grief Cycle.  It was a short distance from there to the Bear Island, Big Cypress Campground area and the roads were in great shape.  

As we turned into the Bear Island Campground, there were three rednecks fishing.  Textbook coveralls and all.  A man had just reeled in what appeared to be an Oscar.  I had friends groing up that had Oscars, I never thought to fish for them….  Anyway, I asked the man and he confirmed that is what it was.  He stated that they are invasive and easy to catch, especially with bread.   Then the lady approached me and said they tasted really good too, not as good as bass, but good.  Then another man said, “there is another fishing spot just around the corner, there is more room for the kids, but whatch out for the one eyed alligator.  If it comes near, just get the kids out of the way.”  Always nice to get good life hacks like this.

 Smooth as glass........

We started turning the cranks again and found that this stretch was the best we would encounter all day.  Shade and a packed sandy road that was smooth and hard packed as any asphalt road.  We enjoyed seeing lots of alligators, but this stretch came to a quick end.  It was time to start the return and we got onto highway 29 and began heading South, I thought that the kids would love being on pavement for a while, however this turned out to be the beginning of the second bout with the stages of grief.  

Sometimes it is necessary to taste the bitter in order to know what sweet is.  This was hero dirt.
 It is Florida, in the middle of a huge swamp.  We met the biggest alligator we have seen to date!

Off course there was a grass in front of my face.  Oh well, nobody wants to look at me.

After this stretch, it was about 15 miles of pavement and it would turn out to be the no fun.  The road runs through a panther preserve and it, like just about every other road is straight and the view doesn’t change much.  As stated earlier, this also leads to a certain amount of frustration, especially since it was warming up to the low 80s.  The no shade was becoming an issue and the crosswind was annoying.  The grief cycle began again, for a second time.  We eventually sought sanctuary under a large tree and sat in the shade a little while.  Then we took off for the only water stop on the ride.  
When we arrived at the designated water spot, we found the ice chest full of ice and water.  It was cold and refreshing and we filled hydration bags and water bottles.  I planned on taking a longer break there since the grass was mowed and the area was shady.  We were a few minutes from leaving when Karlos showed, he offered us sandwiches and cold Coke.  
This truly saved the afternoon, thus ending the second grief cycle.  We hit the road for the final few miles of pavement.  Then it happened again, we turned East onto the final 15 mile stretch which included the first 7 miles of the route.  Fortunately for us, the other 7 or 8 miles was just as bad with plenty of washboard and prepared us for the final stretch.  It was at this point that the kids began their third iteration of the grief cycle.  Their was denial that the last 14 miles would be bad, then there was anger.....intense anger, followed by bargaining, then depression, and finally acceptance that they still had to get to the car.

 Last stop before the finish, only 7 miles left!

We took our final break at the intersection that would take us South on our last seven miles.  It was rough and slow.  The kids continued to crank through quietly focused on finishing.  I tried to pump them up with some music from the Rocky IV soundtrack (to no avail).  In the distance I saw a car stopped and a guy hanging out with a camera, no big deal, probably an alligator sunning on the road.  As we got closer I saw that it was a snake and Diga was heading right towards it.  I yelled for him to move over, he looked back at me and asked "what."  Just as I yelled snake, it opened it's mouth hissing at him from about one foot away.  Nothing like a close encounter with a cottonmouth to liven up and re-energize the last three miles.  This closed out the third cycle of grief.

The event ended with us spending a total of 7-8 hours on the course (total time moving and resting).  The kids completed 59 miles, their furthest and no doubt hardest to date.  Carlos from the Single Track Samurai put together a great route, that was no doubt a challenge for anyone who participated.  Next year, we will do the back country version and we might even train.  

An honorable mention from Karlos.

 I wiped away a bit of dust (below brake cable) to demonstrate the layer of dust on Chick's bike.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Fakahatchee Grind: another sufferfest in the books.

This is too long for a single post so I will break it into two posts.  Our latest FFO (Forced Family Outing) was the Fakahatchee Grind in Southwest Florida.  The ride had three options, full century, half, and a backcountry that was roughly 79 miles.  Truth be told, the half and full were a little longer, the half coming in at 59 miles.  We chose the half, which took us through the Big Cypress National Preserve and along the borders of the Panther Preserve and Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve.  The other rides went through all of the above.  
As with most of the great FFOs, little planning and preparation went into this event.  Don’t get me wrong, it takes some effort to maintain bikes and load them in the truck, but training.......we did none.  While not the preferred method, it can be done.   So I loaded up the truck the night before to make sure everything would work.  Then I took the bikes back to the garage, we live in Miami after all.  I went to bed way later than I wanted too.  I still needed to fill the truck with fuel so I planned on getting up early to do that.  
After four hours of slightly refreshing sleep, I jumped out of bed, got dressed and ran out to load bikes and get gas.  As I loaded the first two bikes, “I thought, why am I doing it this way?”  I have a redneckedly engineered system using 2x6s with bolt on fork mounts.  One in the front of the bed and one in the rear that sit in slots for such a purpose.  Then I ratchet strap those down to make sure the bikes don’t fly out when I hit a massive pothole.  It works, it is far from pretty but it works.  So back to my thought.  I had the bikes alternating front-rear-front but I didn’t want to have to crawl into the bed of the truck so I pulled the board near the cab of the truck out, took the mount off and bolted it to the board near the tailgate.  Then I remembered why I had them alternating.  The flare on my off road drops is such there is not room for three bikes all pointing the same direction.  
So there I am at 4:15 am determined that I am going to.....wait, wrong story.  We took the suburban….never-mind.
So after four hours of slightly refreshing sleep, I went to get gas.  I filled up then decided that I wanted to get some donuts for the kids.  I drove down the street to Dunkin’ Donuts where I saw people inside making the donuts.  They didn’t open until 5 a.m. and it was 4:40 am so I listened to a radio show called Coast to Coast.  I you haven’t listened to this show you are missing out on people who wear tin-foil hats and call in about conspiracies, Alien Stuff.  In my case, it was a lady who called in to discuss this recent trend with ancestry and getting your DNA tested.  According to her, this is a government conspiracy to collect and consolidate everyone's DNA into a central database.   Hhhmmnnn, I just thought it was a ripoff……  So then at 5:00 am, I went to the door which remained locked with the lights off inside.  People were cooking and putting out donuts, I waited about 10 more minutes before I realized they didn’t open until 6 am on Saturdays.  
Undetered, I went into a gas station to get donuts, apparently even though we are in America, donuts are not stocked in not so convenient stores owned by Columbians or Venezuelans, not even the little hostess white powdered donuts.  So I went to the gas station across the street and there were three 15 passenger vans for a highway construction crew with about 20 people in the store in line to purchase one or two items each.  So I drove to another corner store where they also didn’t have donuts.  By this time it was 5:30ish am so I went home sans donut.  
By the time we got the kids and bikes loaded it was almost 6:00 am and I had been up nearly two hours and  still hadn’t got donuts.  So we hit the road.  About 1/8th of a mile later I realized that I hadn’t tighthened the hitch rack cinch bolt and it was wiggling around and I left the special wrench needed to do so.   So we turned around and I ran into the house, grabbed the wrench, tightened it and we were on our way.  By that time Dunkin Donuts was open and we grabbed a dozen for the road.  So began the day.   

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!!!