Thursday, May 2, 2019

Seasonal gyrations.

Spring continues her slow motion steamroll over us, like so many dank clouds silently stomping across a moody sky.

Rains have been shockingly prevalent and oh so welcome.  A creek that sometimes only runs every 3rd or 4th season unceremoniously ejected us off of it a few days ago with too much water.  Going to have to get used to that this year.

Because spring is also my busy time in the shop, and because so many friends stream through the valley en route out of the mountains and into the desert, a kitten working back to back 14 hour days can start to feel a bit caged and -- if she isn't careful -- begin to sense that she's missing out.

Loading up the van with a bike, a boat, and some food and heading to less traveled pastures for a few days is a quick way to cure that.  Or maybe not cure, but at least tamp it down for a spell.

Checked out a little place in the desert west of here to see about maybe relocating...

...then decided the neighborhood might be a little rough.

Swung north from there to inhale some late winter alpine air, but got sidetracked by the moment of spring that I found on the edge of -- and just below -- the alpine.

Met some friends in a spot that none of us get to often enough, and spent the day moving too fast and being immersed (more literally for some than others) into what we came for.

Headed home for a few days to build wheels, answer emails, order in more inventory, do a load of laundry, and snag a few rides on the fringes where the tourists don't yet know to go.

Key word = yet.

Then headed south and west and met a different subset of friends to poke our noses into a different drainage.

A wise man that probably needn't be named once said that "Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it."

That's a simple summation of how things have been around here of late.

Thanks for checkin' in. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019


I've been running Hopey steering dampers on my snowbikes for ~10 years.  I've written a lot about them here and elsewhere so I won't belabor that point. Essential, in a word.

Tried a Hopey on a dirt/mountain bike once.  Once.  Hate is not too strong a word.  Bled, finished the ride, then removed it.

The Viscoset is different.  Similar idea, different execution.  Stacked one on top of the Hopey on my snowbike last winter.  Loved it.  Ran 'em both at full max damping.  LOVED.

Installed it on this Fatillac on a whim.  Figured I'd ride it once, hate it, remove it, and call it good.  Nope.  Running it at full max damping.

So far I notice a lot less wandering of the front wheel when climbing.  And a lot less oversteer in corners.

It's staying.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The wilderness that remains.

The Reverend and I did a little tour not too long ago.  In so doing we got to see, sense, smell a chunk of the desert southwest waking up from winter and stretching her arms toward spring.

There's nothing particularly special about the place we chose.  It is much the same as all the lands around it.  We picked our route not so much for what it has as what it lacks: official protections.  So much of the land within this region is federally protected -- Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Lake Mead National Recreation Area. 

These protected parks are much needed and heavily used by people recreating in RV's, powerboats, jet skis, houseboats, and many, many helicopters.  There are still rules against riding sans road in those parks, and we have to play by those rules.  

Clearly these parks aren't wilderness anymore.  Parts of them are wild for sure, but not wilderness and definitely not Wilderness.  They have become a managed -- almost catered -- experience and you can feel it in many ways.  Perhaps in every way.  When craving a wilderness experience as I have been recently, the parks simply don't scratch the itch.

As yet there aren't many places nearby that have embraced the silence and lack of impact of bicycles.  Not enough money in it is my guess.  

But the raw desert outside of the parks still inspires, and so we found a way to link a derelict double track with washes and a short stretch of ephemeral creek to create a figure 8 of sorts, and thereby to immerse ourselves into the wilderness that remains.

What we saw was earth, sky, stars, rock.  What we felt was engaged, plus a little wind on our cheeks.  What we smelled was mud, silt, dust, dirt, occasional and welcome greenery.  What we are left with is a sense of relief.  And renewal.

In a word, spring.

Thanks for checkin' in.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Divide stories: Ground beef.

I'd left Steamboat at sunset.  Narrowly avoided rolling right up into the business end of a skunk while still on pavement.  Swerved left while she dodged right, and the encounter was over before my heart rate had peaked.  Note to self: saving batteries by running lights on low may not always pay dividends.  I rolled into the deepening gloam sensing impending rain, hoping it would stay beyond that western ridge.  A bit later I forded a small creek, taking great care to link stepping stones to keep feet dry.  Red skies at night, sailors delight?   Wet shoes at dusk, campers disgust.  Resumed riding, noting the glint of frost in grassy meadows, the steam from sensed but not seen rivulets.  Relaxed briefly knowing it was more likely to snow than rain.  Stiffened back up when considering what would happen to the surface conditions if it were to snow then rain. 

Deep into the evening I arrived at a creek of indeterminate depth. Dropped the bike and walked, poked, prodded to find a way across.  None obvious without foot submersion.  Paused to appreciate currently dry toes, socks, shoes.  Paused longer to consider how they'd feel in the wee hours -- once wetted -- as small flakes began to twirl through my headlamp beam. Decided to bivy until daylight.

Woke in the early gloam, shivering not from uncertainty, anxiety or fear, but from straight up brute cold. Not too cold to have prepared for, but colder than I did prepare for.  Travel light, freeze at night.  Moments later I splash across that stream -- the one that halted progress. Water warmer than air, shin deep, welcoming.  Back to riding, the cold breeze created by said motion chills my feet, literally freezes my shoes.  Noting the mini icicles hanging off my Lakes I have the presence of mind to wrench feet loose of pedals before stopping, forestalling an awkward fall, an injury.

Cues show a climb looming.  Legs protest but the rest of me welcomes the exertion: Work equals heat.  Rhythm is sought but not found.  Saddle sores complain so I shift and squirm to find a position that appeases them.  Good.  Now hands complain.  All will get their chance today - take a number, wait your turn.  Dieseling along up the grade a noise approaches.  Fluid by any measure compared to my labored breath and arrhythmic jerking.  A ranch truck, going my way, barely moving faster than I when the road would allow so much more.  Being respectful, maybe.  Not wanting to disturb the delicate compromise between painful feet, ass, and hands, I fail to lift a hand to wave as it passes, but exaggerate a nod of the head.  No response from within the truck.  So loud is the exhaust I can no longer hear my own ragged exhalations.

Then a new noise - something like sandpaper, perhaps 10 grit rasping across sandstone?  A rope off the bumper of the truck is looped over the neck of a cow, one that appears intact if not healthy, aside from the fact that it seems to be melting into the road as it is dragged along.  1/3 of it has already been consumed by this process.  So even is the erosion that the upper 2/3 of the carcass could pass for a live ruminant were you to prop it in a field with the correct aspect turned to. Behind the cow the road is painted green: the color of alpine grasses recently consumed but as yet undigested.  The smell that follows is not of grasses, not of beef, not of exhaust.  It is unearthly, sickening.  Not rot precisely but a cousin perhaps.  Between dry heaves, still metronomically ticking over 98rpm, I think my thanks for not yet having eaten this morning, knowing the contents of my gut would quickly join that of the cow's on the now-slick road. 

Minutes pass as the truck slowly opens a gap.  Never before have I wished that a driver were less respectful, if indeed that is what’s happening.  Perhaps it isn’t.  Perhaps he has no destination in mind, intends to drive until only a sodden end of rope remains, then to get on to his chores before the morning is too far advanced.  I glance at my cues and note that my next turn is a mere half mile away.  Anyone can do anything for seven more minutes, even if they don’t want to.

With the otherworldly scent still thick in my nose I begin descending toward the Colorado. Miles of descent, steep and slick with melting frost turning the surface ice-like.  Frozen hands, frozen feet — what I would give to switch the warm blood from my nose to either of those.  Bottomed out in fog, soaked head to toe, I zing zing across the bridge and begin climbing out.  Knees complain, ankles throb, neck is unwilling to suspend its ponderous load.  Another glance at the cues: Something like 56 miles, mostly uphill, to the next town with promise of a burger, a shake, new hope.