Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chunkarama, day two.

Can't speak for Scott but I woke up sore and tired from the previous day's efforts. Scott had spent some time trying to round up compadres to join us on today's ride, but Chad seemed hell-bent on self destruction (his ambitions were far greater than ours, and started far earlier than we could conceive), while Louis and clan seemed more interested in taking it too easy (shuttling). So we split the difference and headed out towards the 50 year trail.

Before even reassembling the bikes it was clear that we had a spectacular day on our hands. Again. Crisp bluebird skies, a striking ridgeline as backdrop, and mas uber prickly veg everywhere in between.

Have I mentioned anything about the not-so-vegetal vegetation?


At times it felt more than a little like an alien world. Friends in AK have bears and meese and wolves to worry about, but the likelihood of actually having meaningful contact with them is teeny. This time of year in AZ the fauna isn't much of a concern, but the flora, if indeed it can be called that, was constantly reaching out and poking, scratching, or taking wholesale chunks out of us.


The only time that we were ~free from harm was on the rock. And then only when inert. Start moving and things got scary and dangerous pretty quick. In a fun sort of way, of course...




Scoping:


Linking and avoiding:


Retry:


Soft and fuzzy, like a teddy bear. Go on--give it a big hug:


Funny that on this one it appears that Scott is pushing across a parking lot. Way STIL, combined with the fact that this rock is not sticky. We pushed the limits of our brakes, right up until we'd reached the limits of traction. At that point you're committed to hang on and ride it out--the alternative is far less appealing:


Midway through the ride I couldn't help but to notice that my left arm was sore from constantly reaching up to flip the 'lobotomy switch'... Had I known what was in store I'd have been better off just unplugging the CPU and leaving it in the car.

Actually, after looking through my pics from this day, it appears that's exactly what I did. Very few good riding shots. Sorry to have wasted the light and the backdrop, but still thrilled to have gotten to see it and ride it. Amazing area and limitless potential. It occurs to me that having a solid group of riders out there on the same day to scope new lines and pressure each other into doing them would be a great way to expand the already substantial offerings.



Another awesome day--thanks again to Scott for the guide service and complimentary terror...

MC

P.S. And again, Scott's writeup and stunning photography from this day can be seen here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Free Lunch trail, ~6pm, 16 degrees.



'nuff said.

AZ chunkfest. Really.

Seemingly ages ago (but really measured in days) the snow and cold finally came to stay and ended an almost 10-month long stretch of dry-dirt riding here in the Grand Valley. That may have been the longest ever continuous stretch of dirt riding for me, and although I knew the snow was inevitable I wasn't quite ready to be done riding dirt.

So I didn't stop.

I needed one last chunk fix before diving headlong into snow mode. Leaving town the view was depressing from a dirt-centric perspective (near Cisco, Utah):


Moab wasn't any better:


In fact, I'd learn that St. George and even Vegas had gotten pounded--with snow--from the same storm that ended our riding season. Driving across Monument Valley was awesome, as always, but didn't give me the warm fuzzies WRT riding:


Flagstaff was in full-on blizzard mode when I drove through at 30mph, and I began to wonder if anywhere in the US still had fun dry-dirt riding.

I needn't have worried. Woke up in Phoenix to 42 degrees and sun. Momentarily worried about whether to install the arm and knee warmers, but ultimately decided they were superfluous. Temps crept into the 60's for much of the short daylight hours, and that was just about perfect.

Keep in mind that anytime it's sub 90 degrees Scott wears knee warmers...

We had a blast playing over and over on the low-speed chunk of National. This would have been a five star day even forgetting about the snow I had just escaped. Can't ever seem to get enough of this kind of riding.

Scott descending Holbert.


As usual, what the pics cannot convey is the steepness of the trails, the amount of exposure involved, the sharpness of the rocks, the depth of the holes, and the unbelievable amount of vegetation all designed to remove blood from your vessel.

More Holbert:


We finished with Holbert, then worked our way over to Alta. Appropriately named as it gets you up there, and quick, via lots of nice bench cut trail connected with fun-yet-tough ascending switchbacks:






Rare (at least to me) red barrels. Did I mention the prickly vegetation?


Cruising along the ridgeline there was lots to see--not that we were able to look up:










Did I mention the steepness? Exposure?


This one does not, at first glance, appear to be all that steep.


We were both fairly puckered when descending it, especially at the lip-of-death-switchback. When we wrapped a bit more around the hillside and got a view back I snapped this shot to show a bit better perspective:


Still, pics never quite show how steep things really are...

Neither do vids:



More ridgeline cruising:


We finished up Alta, wrapped back around on lower National to the road, then climbed the road (waning daylight and even waning-er legs made that choice just fine with me) back to Telegraph Pass.


Then back onto National for some fun, fast, flowy, and of course chunky descending back toward our start.


No pics of it, but the Waterfall and especially the spine therein were highlights.

What an awesome trail.

We finished right at sunset and were thrilled to be done.


Dinner at a gyro joint followed by a drive to Tucson completed the evening, but not the trip. There was much, much more fun to be had...

MC

P.S. Scott's version of the day.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Somethin' to think about.

Whenever the subject of winter riding comes up, and specifically riding in Alaska, often very shortly thereafter comes The Question: Why? As many times as I've been asked that question, it's very, very rare for me to get any sort of clarification on the question itself. I guess I've always assumed it to be some amalgam of Why go there when it's cold or Why go there alone or Why the Iditarod or Why on a bike? In truth I must confess that I don't understand the question. To me, the question is more aptly phrased as Why not?

Still, many people do not or cannot understand the draw, and despite my feeble oral gropings through the years I've never come up with a very good answer. After all that, the answer seems to be more elusive than the question.

Sorta.

Flipping through the online news this AM I came across an article in the Anchorage Daily News, and it's a rare article in that it does a half-decent job of answering the question. Craig Medred has been the staff ADN Outdoors editor for as long as I can remember and from what I can tell he spends oodles more time outdoors than any other 10 editors (at any newspaper, anywhere) combined. So when he writes something I usually pay attention and think about what he has to say.

Direct link here.

Alaska's wilderness confounds self-importance

CRAIG MEDRED
OUTDOORS

Published: December 7th, 2008 12:00 AM

Until you have known the northland night in the cold, white silence of winter, it is hard to imagine a landscape lit only by the dim light of the stars, yet this is the way it can be.
Then comes the moonrise and you realize the night can be startlingly bright with the spindly black spruce trees casting long shadows across the frozen muskegs.

To be on the trail on a night like this with a dog or dogs who are among your best friends might be the greatest experience you will ever know if your heart runs toward the wild places.

Even along the edges of Alaska's largest city, this otherworld of winter comprises a special place if for no other reason than that the wilderness of our times, especially now just past the dawn of the 21st century, is not so much in the landscape as in the climate and the weather.

The weather is the last great wild thing uncontrolled and unchanged by the hand of man. We have gained dominion over almost everything else. We manipulate the populations of the animals to our liking. We tunnel the mountains for our roads, and fill the swamps to build our parking lots, and send our steel-glass monuments to modernity into the sky almost anywhere we want.

On a daily basis, we revel in man-made comforts as we move from warm centrally heated dwellings to warm steel steeds that transport us to the warm hum of offices and businesses. That anything lives on the planet other than people and their machines is sometimes almost easy to forget in this work-a-day world, save for those occasions when Mother Nature summons her last wild forces to rain devastation, or at least inconvenience, down upon us.

It is a reminder we might now own the planet, but we don't really control it. We only think we do. We are, if nothing else, the most self-important, self-involved species that ever thrived.

For someone on the trail in Alaska in the dark of night with the headlights off and the world brought back into the natural dimness and the elemental silence of the nothingness which was all our ancestors ever knew, the feebleness of what sometimes passes for significance in the modern world is laughingly evident.

Does it really matter if the screen on your TV measures 22 inches or 60 inches, or whether the TV itself is thick and sits on a table or thin and hanging on a wall? Is it really worth trampling to death some poor Wal-Mart employee to get a bargain on either? Is the size of a TV or the money saved over "list price" on its purchase really the measure of a man or woman today?

Most important, will it matter at the end if you have collected more toys than anyone else?

"For dust you are and to dust you will return," Moses wrote in the book of Genesis, if you fancy the Judeo-Christian version of the history of the Bible. And no matter your personal take on the authorship of that book or of religion, the ancient observation stands as valid.

Our bodies are passing coalitions of atoms that will eventually and inevitably split again into tiny particles only to rejoin in other forms someday. So, too, for our vast piles of consumer goods. Wonderful though they might be in the short term, they do not age well, and you cannot begin to carry them all with you.

All we can really carry in quantity are memories, and those are written not in possessions but in the richness of the people and the places we know.

The latter is the real gold mine of Alaska.

In a world overrun with scurry and noise, the elemental Alaska -- as opposed to the tiny slice of the state that has fallen to the onslaught of urbanization -- remains a place that can inspire awe and inspiration as to our own frailties. Detached from all that protective technology, we become once again the vulnerable animals humans so long were.

Out on the trail in the Alaska winter, nothing about you really changes, but everything does. You discover silence has its own sound and a whole other reality.

The snow collapsing with a noisy "whomp" beneath a ski seems somehow almost alive. The airborne crystals of ice that twinkle in the moonlight become an echo of the stars above, a miniature universe within the bigger universe. The crack of sap freezing in a tree makes you wonder what life is like in that whole other community of green things.

Though we might each think ourself important, we are no more important than grass, except to those we touch along our journey.

In the end, that's what matters. The only really important things we leave behind are what we also take along -- the memories.

And there are few better than those of a night on the trail in Alaska with the winds calm and the snows fast and a whole universe above seemingly looking in at the same time you are looking out wondering in the quiet what exists beyond.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My favorite part about this time of year?

Spoofs, of course.

Potentially one of the best of all time right here:


Ain't nothin' better than that.

MC

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Crisis schmisis.

Makes you wanna fill all your empty soup cans and stash 'em for next 4th of July...


By then it'll be back north of $5/gallon and Henny Penny will have declared the sky to be falling. Again.

Yawn.

MC

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

A WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 6 PM
MST SUNDAY.

SNOW WILL BECOME WIDESPREAD OVER THE MOUNTAINS OF EASTERN UTAH
AND WESTERN COLORADO THIS AFTERNOON...INTENSIFYING THIS EVENING.
SOUTHWEST WINDS FROM 15 TO 25 MPH WITH GUSTS 50 MPH OR MORE WILL
PRODUCE WIDESPREAD BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW AND WHITE-OUT
CONDITIONS. SNOW WILL CONTINUE ON SUNDAY THOUGH WINDS WILL
DIMINISH LATE TONIGHT. BY SUNDAY EVENING...EXPECT 1 TO 2 FEET OF
NEW SNOW WITH LOCAL AMOUNTS OF 3 FEET OR MORE.

{giggles}

A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW ARE
EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. STRONG WINDS ARE ALSO POSSIBLE. THIS WILL
MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS OR IMPOSSIBLE.


{tee hee!}

Friday, December 12, 2008

Merci buckets.

I find reasons in every day to be thankful for who I am, where I am, whom I spend my time with, and how I got to this point.

I try not to dwell too much on the future--so much of it is outta our control it seems silly and presumptuous to devote too much time to it. That which happens is gonna happen whether you're prepared for it or not, ya know? Besides--it's not what happens to you, it's how you deal with it, right?

What the hell am I getting at?

I finished editing and compiling all of my '08 ride footage yesterday, and suddenly had a few hundred more reasons to be thankful for the who/what/when/where and how.

If you're reading this, thanks. Really. Somehow, someway, you've probably been involved at some level in me getting to this point in life: Happy, healthy, balanced (in my own unbalanced sort of way) and enjoying every day.

Here's a little token of my appreciation.



Thanks for another great year. Here's to an indefinite continuation of that trend!

Cheers,

MC

Monday, December 8, 2008

A year of action.

In a rare fit of oh-my-god-I'm-ahead-of-schedule-for-a-change, I managed to convert, edit, and compile a year (***) worth of handheld video into one long musicless clip.

The lack of music is mostly because I haven't the time to bother finding a handful of songs to upload to the video. That's time I could spend riding! Or, uh, sleeping... An equally compelling reason for the au naturel soundtrack is that whenever I watch other people's videos invariably I turn the volume down/off because the music either seems inappropriate to the action, or it just plain stinks. Our musical tastes are as varied and subjective as every other part of our lives, and I'm thinking that although my current fascination with Meiko and Metallica (flashback!) is healthy *for me*, chances are pretty good that you'd disagree.

In short, find your own soundtrack or just hum along with us as we ride...

Scenes in the video were taken across Colorado and Utah. Where specifically? If the scenery is greenish, we were in the mountains. Red or brown? Probably desert...

And the asterisks above? Simple--this is all of my footage from Y2K7...

As often happens when boys go out and ride together, passion flows and an occasional four letter word escapes in the heat of attempting (and failing at) a new sequence or move. Tender ears? Turn the volume down now. Also, after the third time reviewing the footage when editing and compiling, I detected a bit of flatulence issuing forth from an as-yet undetermined individual. Sensitive to that too? Turn off your computer NOW, tip a volume of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew off the shelf, slip delicately into your rocker and enjoy it with some Earl Grey...

For the rest of you--enjoy. And thanks for stoppin' by.




MC

P.S. '08's footage should be less than a week away!