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!!!

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.