Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

To ring in the New Year we took on some of Florida Everglades's highest passes

Followed by the EXTREME climb to

Our legs deserved a full rest after the arduous climbs

Followed by the extreme technical decent

I nearly got a splinter.  Damn safety rails!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

For Shame

Peggy traded her Titus Racer-X mountain bike for this gem. The island life is really clicking with her.  I might have to drive north alone as she picks the bugs out of her teeth.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

I like to move it

After allowing Peggy to get her downhill bombing itch scratched at Alafia State Park

Short and STEEP
It was time to pack the bikes and head souther.  On the way we found a proud southerner for Joe.
A huge 'can't move on' flag
We drove on to Big Cypress National Preserve that had a little problem.

A little fire didn't stop Peggy from bird searching

for the elusive Swamp Chickens

I'm fairly sure that this is the best picture of the Loch Ness Monster ever (Google it)

look closely...right in the center
Then we slowed it down a bit with a night at

isn't it just like a commercial?
Complete with notable sunrise

Then on to the next destination and boredom quickly set in.

At least the driver hadn't lost his way yet...

There could be severe  penalty for in attention or wrong turn

My bad

Maybe this will tow us back on track

Okay...not really

We are getting close

Home Sweet Home at the Jolly Roger Travel Park

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A few photos from 'off-road' riding

Just a few pictures from our rides over the last couple of days.  We rode the SWAMP Wilderness Park Trails which were some of the best trails we have ridden in Florida.  The trail had many winds and twists but didn't feel like a Wild Chipmunk ride that has a much track squeezed into the smallest area possible just great single track and no climbing.

Great pine needle trail

Supportive wife
Next we hit-up what has been called the Carter Road Trails.  This was a shorter ride, but very interesting.  Again no climbing, but some very funky trail down fingers into alligator infested waters with some technically difficult terrain with watery penalty for failure.

Mad skillz!  Look out below!

with penalty...

alligators, pythons & cottonmouths oh my!

Cool feature

speed bump?
On regional difference we have noticed is how mountain biking is named in Florida.  All over the West and generally everywhere else that I have biked, trail riding has been called 'mountain biking'.  Not so much in Florida.  It is generally referred to as 'off-road biking'.  With good reason too and not because they strive to e unique.  The rides lack any elevation change, no climbing, no rolling hills just flat single track; fun flat fast single track.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Croom - out -- Withlacoochee - back by redpoint13 at Garmin Connect - Details

Another good ride today in the Croom, FL area.

Getting a late start ruled out a ride that would capitalize on the whole 32 mile loop. I opted for the a shorter 15 mile option that followed the blue marked trail out then bailed me out to the the Withlacoochee State Trail.

Very much like the Santos ride yesterday this ride crammed as much mileage possible into each acre of land. There seems to be a maximum amount of trail that will fit into an area without feeling contrived and at points parts of the trail felt a little forced. That said, this is a great trail and an extraordinary ride featuring fast corners, big drops and interesting pits.

Thank you SWAMP for maintaining the trail. On note if you use the GPS/Google Map provided by SWAMP it may leave you short of the parking area by a couple miles. Be sure to continue a mile plus after crossing under I-75 just at the crossing of the Withlacoochee State Trail again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Santos Trail

Have you ever ridden a 20+ mile mountain bike ride (not on a trainer) and only logged 230 total feet of elevation gain? 

Today I had that honor starting at the Santos Trailhead of the the Cross Florida Greenway.  This trail system winds through and round the greenway to maximize the trail distance with minimal use of acreage.  The trail was fast and windy enough to keep you on your toes and easy enough to keep the grin ear-to-ear.  We managed to ride the trail with only one tree hit!  Which is quite a feat on this narrow tree lined singletrack.

I was expecting to only ride my road bike while in Flordia, but have been surprised to find great trails through beautiful forests while down here.  This  trail system is an IMBA Epic ride too, maintained by OMBA

Our ride was a loop even though the map looks a lot like an out-and-back.  The trail continued farther, but the over pass made a great turn around point.  Next time you come to Florida bring the mountain bike as well as the golf clubs...or just leave the golf clubs at home.

 One of the cool features of the trail is the I-75 over pass that Peggy is demonstrating the proper riding form. 

Greenway overpass

I-75 N & S

And we found Waldo so we can come home!

Here's Waldo!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Civil War

I learned about the Civil War during school as all children do. To me it was long ago dates, slavery was abolished and the Union remained intact. Being a native Oregonian, the closest to the Civil War I ever got was the annual Oregon / Oregon State football game. The US history that was most real to me were the Oregon Trail pioneers and World War II (benefit of have a veteran father).

On a too cold to climb day, we drove just across the Georgia border to visit the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. The park was formed in 1890 by vote of Congress. The veterans of the Chickamauga battle returned and erected monuments where each state had been. I am sure military historians would find this park even more interesting than I did. It is a huge park with a great museum and antique gun collection. After getting a stamp in our National Parks Passport, we headed out on the driving tour.

Along the drive through woods and in open fields are monuments and canons marking battle lines. As we drove along Battleline Road, I was struck with the reality of the war and the battle fought at Chickamauga. In the woods on both sides of the road were stately monuments marking positions. I could only imagine a similar cold day and the soldiers firing single shot rifles through the trees. For the first time the Civil War seemed real to me.

This photo is just one of the battle lines with the Georgia state monument in the background.

While in Chattanooga we visited Lookout Mountain. This is where the Rebel forces laid siege to Chattanooga for two months after their victory at Chickamauga. The Union won the battle for geographically strategic Chattanooga.

We also visited Allatoona Pass which was a strategic railway and supply road. The house in the background of the photo to the left served as a field hospital. It is now a private residence.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Snake Creek Gap - Pinhoti Trail

Almost anywhere along Sherman's march south there is Civil War activity.  These sites proudly mark the activity and remind all of the history.  As you travel through the thick forest it's hard to imagine troops, artillery and supply wagons traversing this rough territory even today.  Our ride at Snake Creek Gap was no exception.

Snake Creek Gap section of the IMBA Epic Pinhoti Trail was a leaf covered and rocky-ish singletrack trail.  It climbs steeply for about a mile and a half then rolls for about five more to our turn around point.  There were multiple creek crossings that were partially iced over since we are in the midst of an "Arctic invasion" as one telecaster put it.  The trail does continue to Dug Gap and points beyond as this is just one section of a 140 mile trail that I would love to come back and ride completely...not today, not with this fitness level.

The leaf covered trails add an interesting level of difficulty to riding.  Depending on precipitation, the leaves can be dry and slick, wet and slick or just slick.  The leaves obscure roots, rock and other obstacles that keep you on your toes at all times or a quick trip off the trail will be in order.  The leaf blanket is also a bit disorienting as it's like watching a conveyor belt of plaid fabric run under your wheels hiding the hazards and sometimes even hiding the trail!

Anyway.  We had a good time and added yet another item to the bucket list.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Clemmer Trail, Ocoee, TN

In full winter biking gear (boot covers, heavy gloves, pants, etc) I froze my way through the Clemmer Trail above the Ocoee Lake; another fantastic mountain biking trail in Tennessee.

My ride was bedazzled with snow, clouds, wind and frigid air temperatures in the high 20’s and covered just less than 12 miles with 1300’ of total elevation gain.  I intended to ride more of the area’s trail network but the weather was colder than the clothes I wore--not expected this far south.

The majority of the climbing was packed into the first two miles of the ride and, on the way back, was the downhill that froze the boot covered toes.  The trail is wider than what would be classically considered singletrack, but is not double track--just ample room to accommodate multiple uses in both directions.  The climb is lined with rhododendrons that would make a spring ride even more spectacular.  Once on top the trail is fast hard pack up to the Chilhowee Recreation area, location of a civil war battle.

I rode this as an out and back journey.  There are many options to make this a loop or a lollipop ride.  When I get a chance to come back for warmer riding, I will also check out the Tanasi Trail system just up the road and an IMBA epic ride.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Raccoon Mountain Biking

Trigger - a Pivot Mach 5

A quick jaunt up the Mississippi River Trail near the St Louis Arch the only time Trigger has been released from the rack since I Saw a Bear in early August.  Raccoon Mountain was an awesome choice to dust off the fat tires with its well banked corners, moderate climbs, and beautiful scenery just outside Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Pulling into the Visitor Center parking lot a SORBA trail maintenance trailer was prominently parked.  This brought back memories.  The first time I was exposed to SORBA was at about the mid-point of the Silver Rush 50 above Leadville, CO.  I’m not sure of the elevation but it was over 10,000’ and 25+ miles into the race when some fit SORBA team kit clad punk passes me like I’m not moving as I wheeze for my next labored breath while he mindlessly chats with his friend like they were rambling in the park.  Raccoon Mountain could have been one of the places that developed his fitness.  The mostly non-technical riding with options to create multiple loops makes it straightforward to create a workout of almost any length.   Thank you SORBA for all the time an effort that your volunteer team has put into this southeastern gem. 

The Visitor Center (please sign the log sheet) has a free basic map that will guide you through your options on the well signed trails.  No matter which parking option you choose to start this ride it appeared easier to ride counter-clockwise mostly because of the stepped steep trail below the pump station.  

I have not ridden it yet, but the paved roads up to the reservoir appear to make for a great roadie climb and loop too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Climbing in Dixieland

The Title of the climbing guide for Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama is titled 'Dixie Cragger's Atlas' and the song Dixieland has been stuck in my head since we left Kentucky. So I asked myself, what is Dixieland? Dixie refers to the 11 southern states that secede from the Union and form the Confederated States. Oh yeah baby, we are in Dixieland! And yes, there are those that still fly the stars and bars.

We have been in Tennessee now for about 10 days. After leaving Kentucky we made our way to Crossville, TN. This served as our base for one week while climbing in the Obed Wild and Scenic River recreation area.
During spring and summer this is a white water rafter and kayaking destination. During fall through spring this is a rock climbing destination.

The rock climbing is concentrated at the confluence of Clear Creek and Obed River. The bluffs of sandstone overlook the respective rivers and face south to catch the weak winter sun. Those cliff bands that face primarily north are too cold this time of year. The approach hikes are relatively flat along the top of the cliffs. However, to get to the Tierney wall, it took us almost an hour of hiking. We were not racing, but also not lolly-gagging along. That was by far the longest approach we have done during this trip.

'The confident swagger is gone from your step'. That is what Tony told me on our last day climbing at the Obed. That sums it up pretty well. I did not adapt well to the climbing there. It is always an interesting phenomenon that the same rock, in this case sandstone, climbs differently between areas. The rock is less featured and instead of pockets and 'finger jugs', it is rounded and flat. The breaks can be punctuated by abrupt horizontal roofs. The roofs range from 12" to 30'. Flat, slightly downward sloping and rounded holds have never been a strong suit for me. I just don't feel comfortable or confident on the rock. Tony however had a much better time at the Obed. I am not surprised. He has always had a much better time climbing on those type of holds.

Onward further into Dixieland for some mountain biking and boulder snatching! (more on boulder snatching later)