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.