Thursday, December 06, 2007

Specialized wishes all of us a happy cycling holiday.

Leave it to the .:Kind:. folks at Specialized to put together a Christmas present that plays Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite from nothing more than bicycle parts.
Incidentally, i saw it at, he saw it at Roger Kramer's Cycling Blog, and Roger Kramer apparently saw it at Bike Biz. My how this thing gets around.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Desk Jockey Pt. 3

The Mariachi fast asleep after a long day at battle in the office. The Mariachi gives and gives and gives... the world just takes and takes and takes.

But our hero will be ready again tomorrow. For he is always ready to pick up the phone and answer it with a calm and clear tone so that we can plainly understand him; he is always ready to type as fast and as efficiently as possible so that we can quickly comprehend his emails; he is always ready to perform office yoga so that he can last the day in complete and utter awareness.

Little else is known of El Mariachi, Man of Mystery. But if you dare, you might find him pounding the miles away on the treadmill in Acey Ducey.

The Desk Jockey Pt. 2

El Mariachi performing his daily morning "psych up session" before he strikes out upon the world...

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Desk Jockey

He is known simply as "El Mariachi," this merchant of whirly bird airtime. Little is known of the mariachi, except for his ill temperment and otherwise quiet disposition. But if you study El Mariachi from a distance, you will see him for the maestro that he truly is...

Every morning, in the Antarctic pre-dawn, El Mariachi begins the careful inspection of his stable and familiar steed. He checks for the usual stress fractures, keyboard placement, mouse laser accuracy and monitor angle. The morning's frost hangs heavy in the office coating his desk which gleams back at him with the flirtatious glance of a fair woman. Confident, he glides into place in front of the workstation. The mariachi's steady hands depress the ignition button fastened to the front plastic faceplate. The chassis crackles as the CPU fans stutter and rattle to life, gaining a steady hum. He leans back in his seat and patiently waits as his black and silver Hewlet Packard d510 Convertible Mini Tower nervously shakes itself awake. With a single beep, it acknowledges a successful POST negotiation and begins to load the Microsoft Windows XP Professional Service Pack "el numero dos" operating system. When the logon prompt finally appears, the mariachi raises his palms with the care and grace of an orchestral conductor - his digits outstretched - he deftly applies the three finger salute against the well worn keyboard's surface. CTRL, ALT, DEL. Windows reloads his trusted and familiar instrument panel. The mariachi begins to taxi onto the information superhighway as he double right clicks the Outlook desktop shortcut, then double right clicking the Internet Explorer icon which he will guide to his Gmail account. With his workstation at full stride, he glances outside his cockpit window studying all the factors comprising his surrounding conditions like the wind speed, visual range and air temp. El mariachi is finally ready for the adventure that lie ahead of him and his mounted steed. The telephone rings and the mariachi answers, he hears the sound of eager grantees anticipating his very breath...

The rest of his days are filled with the cacaphony of mouse clicks, both right and left, and the clatter of keys on his keyboard. El Mariachi is an aritst and mindful desk jockey clearing numerous paths for scientists bound for far off places.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Road Tripping New Zealand: part 2 pics

Road Trippin New Zealand: Chapter 2

I hit the gas and immediately felt the frail Super Windy wallow in the squishing gravel beneath my tyres. I pressed the reluctant Toyota further, correcting and recorrecting while bearing even harder on the gas pedal. The car bucked and heaved as we progressed, groaning under the pressure until finally popping up and over the far shoal. Shocked at my progress and proud of the mighty Windy, I retraced the previously laid tire ruts back to my original path where I resumed the road less traveled. Mt Hutt was waiting and the rain was near once again.

Pinning my hopes on the advise of the already gone hippie roadmates, I took a steady deep breath and began to chart my forthcoming uncharted territory ahead. The landscape rose around me to my sides creating a broad but steep sided valley covered from head to toe in tussocks or grass... which is where the name for this preserve came from "National Tussock Preserve". Convenient. The Super Windy and I carried on the gravel road with a leisurely pace which i had privately hoped would spare me any further flat tyres. Emptiness soon saturated the hills and valleys with which i quietly traversed. There were no others in this far away place and the silence felt total and complete. Sans the usual ringing in my ears (thank you late 90's Metallica concert). I had no idea exactly how long this road would go or how bad it would get, but these feelings were slowly washed away by the overwhelming beauty before me and a quiet sense of rightful place. Inside I knew that this was my place and my time to see it. I was designed to be there at that time in history.

Miles and miles clocked away as i moved from one tussock coated valley to the next. It wasn't too long however until the wildlands began to fade and humanity's influence once again seeped its way into my consciousness. The gravel road was replaced with pavement as i passed well kept grazing pastures. These passed onto a remote homesite which marked the end of that road's length. I took the left turn my map told me to take and I carried on to Mt. Hutt.

I picked up my pace as nightfall would be coming soon. The extra speed and smooth roads allowed me to dig deep in the Super Windy's bounty of power ;-) threading my way through forested glens at full stride. Up until i came across a bridge crossing. The twilight was dimly passing by i knew i wanted a quick break before i searched for a proper place to rest. The bridge itself was typical for NZ, single lane, wooden and painted white to contrast against the world it soared above. The water below it was typical NZ as well, deep silvery turquoise showcasing it's silty glacial sediment caught in rolling suspension. The river was broad and fast moving. It looked absolutely great for kayaking. But without a kayak and without much light, i gathered myself and carried on for the town of Methven.

Methven is Mt Hutt's "resort community" located an incredibly convenient 45 minutes away from the ski area it professed its love towards. I found the town quietly shutting down for the evening as I scanned its businesses for a modest home. The only place I found was an overpriced (but comfortable and friendly) hotel which came complete with a communal kitchen... located across the street shrouded in complete darkness. The lone kitchen served me well though, as it allowed me to cook a decent meal which I quickly consumed. I made my way to my room and fell fast asleep amidst thoughts of the lofty snow covered peaks of Canterbury. Mt. Hutt was only 8 hours away.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Road Trippin New Zealand: Chapter One pic.

The rental Carolla Windy GL in its post incident pose. Again, Notice both tyres are removed and ready for their able replacements. :-)
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My new art project...

I've started a project while on the Ice this year. I'm recreating Himalayan prayer flags out of reused Antarctic route flags. These flags are mounted to bamboo poles and are used to mark safe routes for Antarctic travelers found near McMurdo Station. It will be an ongoing project that will hopefully evolve as I make more and more of them.

In Tibet and Nepal, prayer flags are designed to eventually fray and bleach in the harsh exposure to the elements. This intended or accepted degradation reflects Buddhist beliefs towards life's own temporariness. Ultimately, this outcome will probably take my flags as well.
I've been writing the Windhorse Prayer on them and had them hanging all over Zach and I's room. I've completed close to 20 so far and probably have 20 more to go until i take this to its next evolutionary step... to put them to some kind of use.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Road Trippin New Zealand: Chapter 1

Saturday October 13, 2007

I started the morning in Hokitika, NZ which is situated on the western coast of New Zealand overlooking the heaving Tasman Sea. I struck out early in the morning to take a stab at beating the oncoming storm bearing straight towards me and my intended destinations. My plans were to liesurely drive my way over Arthur’s Pass to the Castle Hills area and give the place's legendary bouldering and caveing sites a go. Additionally, the Dali Lama is rumored to have labled Castle Hills one of the 'Spritual centers of the Universe' making it all the more tempting to see.

I departed Hokitia along a tourist drive that is designed to add no more than 15 extra minutes in travel time and showcase some of the westcoast’s landscape scenery. Unfortunately I can't confirm this claim for as I drove into one steep and twisty chicane, I misjudged the curve and masterfully thrusted my rented Toyota Carolla aground into a gaping asphalt divot cut in the shoulder. "Most Triumphant." The end result of my driving misguidance included two pinch flatted tires and some less than appealing chucnks removed from the normally sturdy aluminum rims. I struck the asphalt with such force, that I can still hear the chassis’ lingering harmonic ring resonating in my memory. Kim may recall a similar occurrence on our road trip to wonderful Akaroa back in 2001.

Here’s the blow by blow: After the impact I silently hoped that I was to somehow come off lucky and avoid a flat and so I urged the little Toy further up the incline through the turns. I may have eked out barely more than 100 more feet before the passenger side tire-drag became too obvious to continue to ignore. I pulled the car over inside the last corner’s exit and inspected the damage. That’s when I noticed that not one but both passenger side tires were flatting. Unsure of how to address my dilemma, I opened the boot praying for an even number of spares and rooted around finding the lonely single. Perhaps, I thought, I could replace the front, move all my baggage forward of the rear tires and limp slowly back to town. I broke out the scissor jack, stuffed it underneath the oil pan, and started raising the car. After barely attaining altitude I noticed the jack’s slowly increasing rearward tilt. Panicked I relented my hard fought twisting and lowered the car back down. My patience was wearing tremendously thin at this point but I kept my cool and reparked hanging the rear bumper slightly over the ditch on the uphill side of the road. Just as I reattempted raising the vehicle, a passerby swerved to avoid me and stopped to check on my predicament. He quickly understood my predicament and my lack of a bonus spare and volunteered a cell phone call to his friend with a tow truck. After that, he was off. 30 minutes later the tow came and flatbedded me and the Toy back to Hokitika. On the way back, he relayed some more bad news… automotive repair shops aren’t open on Saturday’s. But, he did say he’d see what he could do. Once we arrived to his garage he made a few calls and tracked down a friend of a friend who owned a shop in town who could maybe help. What happens next is truly the stuff of legend.

The next 45 minutes were a blur of joining him and two of his mates in the Tow garage’s 2nd floor breakroom. He shared with me a couple of cans of 11:00 AM beer and I listened to a slurry attack of “F” bombs and laughter from the two gentlemen sitting across the table from me. Mystified at the skillfull use of the F word, I counted its use in one sentence… and quickly lost count. Some 30 minutes into the breakroom adventure, a visitor and his mid 20's daughter joined us as well. I was somewhat mortified when my Tow-man began a not so sbutle pleading for oral pleasure from the girl in front of the father and everyone. He even offered cash payment for her rendered services, all of which she ashamedly and flatly denied. The father never seemed to care at all. 45 minutes finally passed and we were off to the repair garage located 2 blocks away. 45 more minutes and I was back on the highway in proper trim and speeding off for Arthur’s Pass. The eastbound storm had now just gained a solid 2-3 hours on me and was quickly threatening my plans.
I achieved Arthur’s Pass close to 2PM. The rain achieved it at 2:07PM. I went inside the tourist information center hoping to make the final call on what my odds were for continuing my quest of caveing and bouldering Castle Hills. Christina the Ranger gave me some essential beta on my plans including how to know when the water level is too deep inside the cave for safe passage and silly things like that. So I sped off in haste through some of the most beautiful country in the world. Passes in New Zealand seem a bit different than those in Colorado. Ours go waaaaay up into the rarified reaches of high alpine saddles. New Zealand’s are quite a bit shallower and seem to wade their way in between broadly separated ranges within the winding valleys found far below the snow capped and majesticly stoic peaks. Once I reached Castle Hills, I immediately changed into some decent spelunking gear and made my way to the cave’s water outlet (which is the human entrance). I plunged into the water ankle deep and slowly waded my way up to my chest… My chest is is well past my waist and the waist was Christine’s suggested highwater mark. Then I noticed the foaming water floating by me. That was the second clue in gauging safe passage. I recoiled in horror and realized that Tim Nicoll nearly succeeded in killing me. By this time, the rain had reached me and drenched the boudering routes. Hannible from the A-Team used to say that he loved it when a plan came together. So what of plans that crumble apart? Adapt.
I took a long hard look at the map and noticed Mt. Hutt Ski Area coincidentally lied within the last route before the final approach to Christchurch. Between It and myself lay an stretch of road in unknown condition. Adapting, I hit the road again and made my way downvalley to the turnoff. Upon finding my impending destiny I was immediately stopped and met with a clear decision… a proverbial (and literal) fork in the road. The start of this road began with a dodgy stream crossing equipped with some intimidating construction cones highlighting the damaged stream ingress. The Toyota (let alone myself) was surely not equipped for that, especially after my recent brush with near-disaster. Just when I felt the pressure to relent, to take the high road and stick to the road more traveled… my peripheral vision made purchase on an approaching bone stock VW Vanagon. It traversed a wide grassy hummock and stopped next to me. With our windows rolled down, we discussed the odds of my Toyota making it on the dirt road ahead. His girlfriend ensured me that as long as I got past the initial obstacle, I’d be fine. Then the driver pointed to an alternate route downstream from where I stood. It was the same route he used to get over to me. They drove off and there I was again, at the foot of the unknown. 5 maybe 10 minutes passed as I was beset with decision making. And then suddenly, I moved the level from park to drive and I carefully crawled the Corolla(sortof) over the hills and through the beach until I found a shallow pass. It was now or never. I hit the gas and immediately felt the Toy bog down and wallow in the squishing rocky sand beneath my tires. I pressed further and corrected, recorrecting and pushed on the gas even more again. The car tossed and heaved under the pressure until it popped up and over the far shoal. Amazed and proud of the mighty Toy, I tracked the previously laid tire ruts back to the original dirt road and resumed the road less traveled. Mt Hutt awaits and the rain was gaining again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Photos Galore

Keep an eye out on my gallery pages over at:

they contain all the digital eye candy i'm generating while here in Antarctica. enjoi!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Looking out my window at McMurdo Station.

Looking northbound at Hut Pint Ridge above Dorm 210. The sun is just minutes away from finally showing itself to all of the station in since its setting in March!
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From the Bog: an Irish pub in New Zealand

***Note, this entry is written in arrears as I'm now currently in McMurdo Station, Antarctica.***

With Irish folk music coming through the speakers this late wintry New Zealand morning, I sit here at the bar inside The BOG and eagerly anticipate the morning's breakfast which will come complete with a pint of world famous KilKenny Irish Ale alongside my bangers-n-mash. The Bog is an orthodox Irish Pub that also happens to serve a damn good breakfast. Unlike Americanized Irish taverns, there isn't a singe television installed blaring the ball game to distract its visitor from their pint of Guinness (or even better, KilKenny) and the music never strays from the acoustic Gaelic variety. So, suffice it to say, a visit to The BOG is well worth the 14 hour flight and 1800.00 in plane tickets.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Some pictures of the journey Southward.

Inside the Cantebury Cathedral

Looking out the bell tower of the Cathedral.

Looking up at the Cathedral.

Waterfront at Sumner, New Zealand

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Southbound, on my way to Antarctica

In Aukland's Domestic terminal waiting on our last leg of this journey to begin and I'm beginning to feel the drowsy side-effects of last night's 14 hour flight. Overall however, it feels absolutely refreshing to be back in New Zealand. I couldn't say enough about the culture and environment here, i also just don't know where to begin. for starters, its a refreshing place to travel, that cannot be said of too many places I've been in comparison. The air is clean, the people are incredibly polite (complete with proper English) and happy, and the earth is freshly cleansed from the regular rainfalls that wash the landscape here of dirt and grime. It's just squeaky clean. And speaking of landscape, aside from Colorado or Alaska perhaps, New Zealand's island borders contain a very large array of environments to tramp around in and experience. It ranges from sublimely green fern forests to the staggering 18,000' Mt. Cook. Mix in tropical beaches and you are just scratching the surface here. I am truly looking forward to spending some time here again.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Into the Heart of Darkness

Its been said that the first time someone travels to Antarctica (otherwise affectionately known as "The Ice") it is for adventure, the second time for the money, and the third because they no longer fit into regular society. So what then of those who are traveling southward for their 4th or 5th time? Does that mean they no longer fit into regular western society by a factor of three then? I'm keenly interested in finding out the answer to this hanging chad of an story as tomorrow i begin my 5th bi-annual migration into the world's heart of darkness, McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Right now, McMurdo is -7 degrees F and clear. There is no moonrise and no moonset. And from what I know, there is also no sunrise or sunset as it is just after the middle of winter there... but then again i've never gone to Mactown during this early opening period known as 'Winfly' .

Saturday, August 18, 2007

This week in pictures: Boulder, CO

This last weekend, i headed up to Boulder to visit the McCaddon Classic Cadillac carshow. Along the way, i picked up these few gems...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

North by North Park

The coastal states like California and Oregon have the oceans, vast crystal-blue expanses of water sparsely occupied by lonely island residents and seafaring vessels. But, Colorado has its oceans as well, and in contrast they are vast golden expanses of grasslands sparsely populated by stoic ranchers and pickup trucks. Both oceans react to the wind's constant push with a rhythmic and hypnotic grace. Whereas dolphins and whales slip their way through water's antigravity, horses and antelope swim chest high in Colroado's tallgrass prairies.

Colorado has 5 grassland seas to choose from, 4 of which are large intermountain basins which conveniently align themselves on a map along a north/south trend. The southernmost is the San Luis Valley, then South Park, Middle Park, and North Park. Denverites can't help but already know about South Park thanks to Comedy Central, and Middle Park hosts a local favorite ski area... but no self respecting urbanite has ever had the need to venture as far as North Park. That's just waaaay to close to our throttle twisting sibling state of Why?oming. Home to hundreds if not maybe 1000 (it is Wyoming) dinosaur bone burning and animal killin' outdoor enthusiasts. YeeHaw!

Like its sister seas, North Park is a lonely and haunting expanse of swaying grasslands encircled by panoramic mountain ranges. Our roadtrip this last weekend bisected North Park starting at its southern boundary accessed via the bark beetle stricken Willow Creek Pass (Hwy 125) and then across its lawlands past Rand, Walden, and Cowdry. Then it was off the main highway through 24 miles of enigmatically sculpted hilly ranchlands until we finally reached Big Creek Lakes. These unbelievably clear bodies of water are sandwiched between the beautiful Mt. Zirkel Wilderness and the Wyoming border.

The eastern lake of the two, called Lower Big Creek Lake, is publicly accessed via National Forest land which includes a uber traditional 70's era family campground complete with friendly pit toilets and yet more bark beetle infected trees. The lake however, was pristine and placid making for many serene fishing and paddling excursions over the course of the weekend. Looking westerly however, one could notice the valley that linked Lower Big Creek Lake to its sibling situated within the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, creatively named (yup, you guessed it) Upper Big Creek Lake.

Being in a wilderness area, we were especially pulled to the upper lake's unseen potential and mystery. Late Saturday afternoon, Bobby and I gave in to the urge to explore and with the help of a motor boat, we took his canoe in search of the unknown.

We reached the mouth of the feeder creek connecting the two lakes in short order and moored the canoe to the shore. With me in my leaky Wal-Mart rubberized waders, we hoofed it upstream reaching the lake within 5 minutes. There we stood underneath the clearing sky, whose sunlight began to gleam off of the recently rain washed towers of sheer rock-faces across the lake from us. Capitalizing on my leaking waders, i wandered far out into the shallow flat bottomed lake and fly casted into still waters highlighted in yellows by the sun's low light. 30-45 minutes later, with nary a nibble from an interested fish, we wandered back down to our canoe, leaving paradise behind, and slowly paddled back to camp.

Despite the lack of interested fish, those moments in Upper Big Creek lake gave me exactly what i had been yearning for... that certain dreamlike experience found only by surrounding one's self completely by nature. The tranquility of my environment was quietly balanced by my own rhythmic casting.

For all those Denverites who either never heard of or thought to travel to North Park, now there is no excuse.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

This week in pics part 5: North Park, CO

Lower Big Creek Lake near the Wyoming border at the upper edge of North Park.
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This week in pics, part 4: North Park, CO

Along the North Park prarie.
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Sagebrush (artemesia tridentata) west of Cowdry, CO.
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This week in pics, part 2: North Park, CO

Fence line and bird of prey just outside of Cowdry, CO.
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The week in Pictures: Wondering North Park, CO

Fenceline - located just outside of Cowdry, CO.
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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Denver's hidden 74 mile long trail

Begun in 1879 by the Northern Colorado Irrigation Company, The Highline Canal is 74 miles long, an average of thirty feet wide, originally cost $650,000 and took four long years to complete. It was designed to carry nearly three-quarters of a billion gallons of water per day, but averages only one-tenth of that now with 71 million gallons. British investors supplied the capital for the project which proposed to place a million acres of land under cultivation. However, they had difficulty securing sufficient water for the canal because earlier ditches held irrigation rights based on prior claims (thanks to Colorado's crazy water law). The seventy-four mile length of the canal drops at a super sweet uniform rate of thirty-two inches per mile making it utterly and completely flat.

While the Highline is a multiuse trail, with people using it for horseback riding, biking, walking, jogging and so on, I personally use it for canine energy release. I take the quick drive out to Titan road via US285 south of Denver and access trailheads from there. The stretch of the Highline as it exits Waterton Canyon until it reaches Highlands Ranch is fairly Nirvana inducing with its quiet and sublime lengths. If you follow it long enough, you eventually cross paths with a family owned and operated horse boarding facility that just happens to provide a prodigious amount of shade, tree ladders and rope swings - some of which are designed to propel the swinger into the Highline for a good swim. Further west you stroll past eclectic neighborhoods of geodesic and coonial homes and soon thereafter the trail enters cattle ranchland. Depending on the time of year you take to the trail, you just might find yourself "sharing the road" with the big, beautiful and bovine.

Water typically runs in the canal during the spring months of April and May and ceases in the summer swelter when you'd figure you would want it most. Bring a camera as views of the Front Range from the trail are picture worthy. Take a look below for a couple of good pics taken earlier this month.
So lets say you are crazy about biking. And, just for the sheer joy you decide to ride the Colorado Trail. If you were so inclined, this means you could start your ride from all the way back at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal effectively adding some 70 extra miles to the ride as you meandered in and around Aurora, Denver, Littleton, Glenwood and so on. Anyone game? ;)

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Month in Pictures: July:

Along the Highline Canal: east of Waterton Canyon.

Along the Highline looking west towards Roxborough.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ride Report: Buffalo Creek Trail Complex... EPIC!

If you are a regular reader of this humble Blog... you may recall the interview I held with the C:\EO of Sopris Clothing, Curtis Lewis. In it, he mentions what H3ll Hath Wrought on his poor soul during an arduous ride he had with our good friend Bill. You see, Bill is a hekka good rider and a seasoned athlete. Bill also manages to click off 3 rides each week including a 50 miler on the pavement every Sunday morning (that rat bahstad!). On that particular ride with Curtis at Buffalo Creek, they endeavored to link together several trails to complete a 24 mile loop. For whatever reasons... and I'll leave the details to those two to sort out, Curtis came back from it claiming a unprecedented ass-kicking. Given this tantalizing story, I was immediately intrigued...

So 3 weeks later, Bill and I loaded up the truck and set out for a repeat of this infamous 24 mile loop. We parked in front of the Buffalo Creek Volunteer Fire Station and unloaded our gear there. Excited for the epic that lie directly ahead, I followed Curtis' advise and stuffed my Camelback with extra provisions of food and water.

We started with a 3 mile warmup along the roadside gaining about 800 feet in elevation. Just after the crest (read as the 4th false summit) on the right we departed the highway's pavement and hit the dirt. Soon thereafter we joined the renowned Colorado Trail where the dance truly began. Immediately we began to weave our bikes deep into the Pike National Forest's earthen fabric; our knobby tyres carefully interlacing with gravel and pine needles. A days rhyhem was beginning to form...
The Pike National Forest is near uniformly graced by pegmatite gravelly soil, coloring the earth beneath your bike an orange-pink. Overall, the trail slopes gently away enough to relieve neary any need to pedal. At the Tramway trail junction, we bid the CT farewell and continued the downhill dream to 543 Road Trail where we hung a sharp left for a quick doubletrack climb. Following this past an incredible mountain cabin and ranch, we joined Buffalo Creek Road and took a right. We used the dirt road for just long enough to reach the trailhead for Gashouse Gulch which became the restart for the long, slow climb back up to elevation. Gashouse is far from a technical climb nor is it as steeply inclined as a typical front range ride, but still packs a punch.

Gashouse intersects with Charlie's Cutoff, and if you make the drive to Buffalo Creek for anything, make sure you yummy down on Charlie's Cutoff as it is easily one of Colorado's premier rollercoaster rides and something you'll never forget. Charlie's ends all to soon and joins the Homestead trail which is another swoopy stretch of earthly ribbon sure to leave you grinning unexpectedly as you pedal along its pink gravely shores. Homestead then joins Sandy Wash which means we were nearing completion of our 24 mile ride. Sandy Wash will leave an indelible image in your mind while riding its chutes and ladders up around grassy fields where the ponderosa pines grew before the Hayman fire. Its on this section of trail that I felt the unique sensation that I can only describe as bicycle dancing. Charlie's Cutoff, Homestead, and Sandy Wash all constitute a 8 mile downhill smoregasbored stuffed to the gunwales with the some of the very best prime cut trails my senses have had the privilege of being exposed to. Last, a quick left at the Sandy Wash trailhead which stole us another mile of sidehilling, afterwhich the trail dumped us conveniently at our vehicle.

All told, the 24 miles it took to link the trail system around is aimed at providing its rider 2 healthy, sustained hillclimbs that do in fact challenge your legs and lungs, but reward you with miles and miles of fast, groomed and swervey descents. Be sure to review the map before going... and don't forget the goo.

Trailhead Directions: Buffalo Creek is best reached via 285 when leaving Denver. Take it to Pine Junction and turn left at the stop light. You head down valley to the Pine Valley Ranch Open Space Park. These trails are eventually linked to the same trail complex that make up Buffalo Creek and one could easily park at either trailhead and ride back and forth between them. As you pass this open space park, the road veers left and continues along a verdant section of the Platte. As you enter the townsite of Pine Valley, carry on just a bit further and look for the Buffalo Creek volunteer fire post on your left just as the Platte passes underneath you to continue its journey to Denver.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The second annual CO Mountain Bike Summit

Thursday, June 28 - Friday, June 29 Crested Butte, Colorado

Please join Bicycle Colroado for the second annual Colorado Mountain Bike Summit, bringing land managers and mountain bike enthusiasts together to discuss how to improve riding opportunities in Colorado. Bicycle Colorado is co-hosting this event with Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), and Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce. This event coincides with Fat Tire Bike Week in Crested Butte.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Month in pictures: June 24, 2007

First pic: The Sangre De Christos from 14,110' Pikes Peak
Second Pic: End of the Line on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.

Friday, June 22, 2007

National Go Skateboarding Day

Sopris CEO, Curtis Lewis, called me yesterday to alert me to Natioanl Go Skateboarding Day. His brother had plans to set out for the Denver Skate Park downtown to represent Sopris and to enjoi the holiday. Hopefully he took some pics.

Overall, Colorado was well represented in this new tradition with events held in Briargate Skatepark in Colorado Springs, Clemet Skate Park in Denver, and at the Denver Skate Park, Colorado Skate University "kept it small" with vendors, a highest ollie contest, a consecutive kickflip contest, some skateboard lessons and DJ's to keep the vibe alive. In addition, the event was celebrated in Australia and Canada too. (Probably time to change the name from National to International?)

For video coverage, check out the following Link.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Trail Review:

Grazing Elk Trail - Jefferson County, CO
Location: Dear Creek Canyon near Jeffco's South Valley Trail Complex.
Distance: 2.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy - Intermediate
Elevation gain and loss: +278/-187

This trail review is a complete mistake. I never even knew the trail existed until we stumbled upon the trailhead by accident while on a neighboring trail (Coyote Song and the South Valley).

The Grazing Elk loops its way around a the top of a tableland found along the shoulder of Plymouth Peak in JeffCo's incredible Deer Creek and South Valley trail complex. With this geography, its poised to catch all the eroding sediment from its parent peak and this has made for a great rolling singletrack of loosely packed dirt. Its sits at enough of an overall angle to keep the rider rolling with only the rarely applied pedal stroke. All this combined with the unseasonably high grassy vegetation, and this trail makes for a fantastic roller coaster ride.

Its recommended to take the loop counter-clockwise, but with its low usage there is no penalty for going either direction. There are few rocky outcrops to give the trail any technical difficulty, but Grazing Elk trades you these thrills for sheer beauty. It's a very rare experience to glide along a mountain trail knee deep in grasses while lavender and yucca blooms color the fields around you. If you go this season, bring your sense of smell and keep your eyes up because riding the Grazing Elk trail this season is a bit like bush whacking the Serengeti at speed. Overall, it's a great ride for when you aren't in the mood for a typical Colorado Front Range grinder but still want to get out and turn the cranks in a unbelievably beautiful setting.

From the Source: Curtis Lewis, CEO of Sopris Clothing Co.

Meeting Curtis Lewis when he's plugged into running Sopris is like catching someone right in the middle of an epic battle with the "super boss" on their Okamakon Game Cube. I managed to get with him over the phone while he was campaigning the brand in beautiful Aspen, CO.

  • How long has Sopris Clothing co been around?
  • Originally Febuary 2005 and reborn September 2006.

  • How has it changed over the years?
  • Why don't you ask me easy questions like "what's my favorite color?" The big change was going from the initial exciting idea to the harsh reality of owning your own clothing company. In Sopris' case it happened quicker than I expected.

  • How does having a passion for snowboarding and mountain biking affect your clothing?
  • It contributes to to the style. If it wasn't for these elements, what would we be making? Dresses for your mom?

  • Has anyone helped out along Soprs' journey?
  • NO! kidding, absolutely. My friends and family.

  • Where do you want Sopris to grow next?
  • I would like to see it in the best local core shops to help grow their business as well as our own. I want to add an element of design that isn't out there yet.

  • Team Sopris did very well in last season's Mountain States Cup mtb circuit. How is the Sopris team doing this season?
  • 2006 was a great year for the Team. It was the first year we had a team and it was comprised of some of the best cross country mountain bikers in Colorado. But changes in the company late in '06 are reflected in this season's Team. We've moved beyond one discipline and are concentrating on showcasing on a diversity talents. We love our team and are excited about 2007.

  • Is it true you are sponsoring a kayaker now as well?
  • Absolutely, yes. You gotta problem with that?! HA! Fred Norquist is an extremely talented, modest and friendly 17 year old Carbondale, CO local. But he's competing everywhere you know, Mexico, Canada...

  • What was your last ride?
  • The Buffalo Creek section of the Colorado Trail with Bill F*ckin Meyer! When Bill Meyer tells you it's going to be a 3 hour ride, don't think he's just an old guy that doesn't know how to gauge time anymore... Because even if it doesn't take 3 hours to finish, he will find another loop to make it 4 hours! And he'll laugh the whole time that you brought 1 20oz water bottle! All the while oblivious to the forthcoming midnight fever and subsequent 3 week illness. Thank you Bill Meyer for kicking my ass!

  • Who are you listening to lately? 3oh3, Bullet for my Valentine, Rise Against, Faithless... always Faithless, The Michel Bros, TI.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ahh, the wonders of VID3Oh3.

I've come across the Fox Interbike video again, and just by happy accident Blogger has introduced patented Video Posting Technology to the world. This allows me, the content creator to convey to you, the content consumer, this fantasticly produced and thoroughly enjoiable vid. Its fairly long and has a great soundtrack, so sit back, relax, and be sure to have that popcorn handy.

Hey little girl. Did you want to know a secret? Cause I know one and it is SOOOOO good to hear it. Did you want to know what it schwas? Alright, I tell you what it schwas. I know how to play alllllll the way to the Fox Interbike Video... and I can play it faster than you can say poopty poopty pants....

Monday, June 04, 2007

Mt. Sopris Spawns A Clothing Projekt

Artists, skaters, mountain bikers, snowboarders, and lifestylers all have a common thread tying them together lately, and it can be found in Sopris Clothing. Founded in 2005 by CEO Curtis Lewis and the Birch Tree Projekt, Sopris Clothing has been a dream many years in the making.

Curtis has called the Colorado Rockies his home since day one growing up in the shadow of the famous Mt. Sopris. With its solo pyrimidal peak towering above the town, it made a lasting impression on his life. As a result, Curtis embraced Colorado's notoriously active lifestyle early on, picking up snowboarding and mountain biking. Later, he began to mix in his natural taste and artistic style. When it was time to finally transform his aspirations into reality and create his own clothing company, he chose the name of the hill that has continued to evoke his passion for Colorado: Mt. Sopris. "...for me, its the symbol of where it all began and was a natural choice."

Sopris Clothing is a small operation that is bigger than life. On any given day, you would likely catch Curtis hard at work managing his expanding brand of clothing, but you just might catch him enjoying fresh powder in the winter or in the spring and summer, railing the flow of a singletrack decent. Curtis is careful to make time for the things that infuse passion into the company and his life. In addition to the clothes, Curtis also creates and maintains all the business content; he puts together freakishly funny 16mm movies you can find on YouTube, he designs skatedecks for the locals, and all the while making sure he promotes and provides for the team...

Speaking of that team, Sopris is actively involved and totally committed to the the action sports community having already sponsored a successful pro cross country MTB team in 2006. For 2007 the team has expanded to include a semi-pro whitewater kayker, a downhill mountain bike team, local skaters and has plans of backing a cast of snowboarders when Colorado's kind powder begins to fly again this coming winter. It's this intimate connection to speed, style and good times that makes up the Sopris Clothing ethos and the natural act that drives his designs.

So when you are out in the hills, keep an eye out for Sopris. He may be out there shoulder to shoulder with you enjoying Colorado's gifts of gravity and splendor while rocking some of the most unique and inspired hand finished clothing available.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ride Review: Yeti 575 Enduro

I've come to riding a Yeti 575 after exacting a thorough 5 year long thrashing on a 1st series Santa Cruz Heckler. It was that bike that introduced me to full suspension riding and we coexisted harmoniously until a severe drive train mangling on the upper slopes of Keystone's downhill course last August. I was torn between repair or replace... and once i investigated the Yeti the Santa Cruz's fate was sealed.

First, a bit of background trivia regarding the Golden, CO based bike builder. Few may be aware of Yeti's original roots being founded in Hollywood, CA in 1985. Rather, most mtn bikers remember Yeti as the bike company from Durango who, so long ago, sponsored some of the most hallowed and revered racers in the sport's short history like John Tomac, Myles Rockwell, Jimmy Deaton, Missy Giove and Juli Furtado. Today, Yeti continues to build on the low volume and high quality ethic specializing in downhill, XC racing, and all mountain bikes.

The Yeti 575 Enduro i currently ride is spec'd out as such:
Suspension Fox 32 Talus up front and a Fox RP23 holding up the posterior
Headset Cane Creek S-2
Brakes Avid Juicy 5.0
Shifters Sram X.9 trigger
Front Der Shimano XT FD-761
Rear Der Sram X.9
Crankset Race Face Evolve XC
B. Bracket integrated w/crank
Cassette Sram PG-950 11-34
Chain Shimano HG-53
Stem Race Face Evolve XC
Handlebar Race Face Next Carbon
Grips Yeti Hard Core
Seatpost Race Face Evolve XC
Saddle WTB Rocket-V Cro-Mo rail
Hubs F-R Mavic Crossride
Rims Mavic Crossride
Tires Maxxis Minion 2.35" - ST

The bike MSRP's for 2722.00 and delivers a great value given its build and componentry. Similarly intended and optioned bikes from SC and other lower volume brands can come in for as much as 500.00 greater or more.

The Yeti 575 features 5 and 3/4 inches of travel... hence the name. The frame comes in at a reasonable welter weight of 6.2 lbs in all aluminum guise or a svelte 5.75 lbs when installed with a carbon rear swingarm. Altogether, just guessing now as i haven't yet weighed the bike, i estimate a 28 lb. finished weight.

Having its roots founded in the Cross Country Yeti ASR's design, the 575 grew its expanded travel capabilities, adjusted geometry, and bolstering gussets from the several hundred (if not thousand) rides on the rough and tumble Apex Trail located just barely west of Golden on the oft brutal front range of Colorado. It wasn't until the Yeti Team, cast and crew were all satisfied with the evolved bike's performance that the sweet sweet ride was revealed to the public in 2005.

The 575 geometry angles of 68.5 for the head tube and 71.5 for the seat tube put it square in the all mountain breed. The angles give it a well rounded character for handing nimble turns and confident fast descents while not being too slacked out for when its time to earn those downhill turns. That's right, it actually climbs despite the long travel suspension. To complement the bike's ability to clammer uphill, the Fox RP23 shock comes with a lockout feature for those who insist on a solid rear triangle. The front shock pitches in for the team as well having the ability to drop its height on demand from 140mm all the way down to 110mm bringing the front end much MUCH closer to the ground. These two features drastically change the bike's demeanor, granting the rider access to more options when it comes to keeping the momentum going during grinding ascents. I have found myself still experimenting with my preferred setups, but am thoroughly happy to have these available to me. Thus far i rarely settle all the way down to the 110mm height, and typically stick to the 120mm setting or climbs and the plentiful 140mm for the harrowing descents. The Avid Juicy 5 brakes are my first impression of disk brakes and have tossed me over the bars once so far, but overall i am endeared to their simplicity and efficiency. They do a great job of bringing the bike back to earthly speeds in short manner when employed. Also, the SRAM X.9, Raceface, and XT drivetrain combination blends well together and provides sure shifts when put to use.

The last worthy item to mention is Yeti's innovative frame design put to use on this bike (as well on the similarly built ASR). Up front, it uses a unique V-shaped sloping toptube with a CNC-machined “knuckle” in the center to provide gobs of useful standover clearance. Yeti sites the odd looking knuckle as being the strongest part of the frame. It also uses a "dogbone" for keeping rear shock movement smooth and contained in its travel. The rear swingarm features asymmetrical chainstays and small carbon inline “flex” points where the seatstays meet the rear dropouts. These carbon pieces allow for a 1.5 degree extra flex wich changes the seat stay vector as it joins the rear shock. This subtle change helps to give the "long" in the "long travel" namesake. Yeti uses cartridge bearings on the main pivot and the design allows for a great amount of lateral stiffness.

Overall, the bike is excellent at all the things that are necessary at being an all mountain bike. It descends like crazy, tracks very well, does much more than just pay lip service to the concept of climbing, and still manages to handle the drops with composure as well. I am looking forward to a whole range of rides that this bike will carry me on for some time to come.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How NOT to get to the southernmost reaches of the America's

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to have been volunteered to complete some sweet netowrk upgrades in beautiful Punta Arenas, Chile again. It constituted my second South American trip in the past year, and I was looking forward to the change in culture and landscape. I split the trip into two parts, the first week was all bidness with 12-16 hour days straight through, and the second week was destined for rambling travels. I've excerpted below, some of the trials of our trip south... it was so much fun, i thought i would share the story. enjoi!

"... On thursday, the flight we ticketed for was delayed about 3-4 times until finally being cancelled due to massively inclement weather in Dallas. Like we should be afraid of tornados or something (right Blaine?). Jonathon managed to scam a flight to LAX which was to depart some 45 minutes later (cause he was shamelssly flirting with the ticketer agent, what a man-whore) and was soon off. Rob chose to follow suit the next day and flew to LAX on Friday meeting up with Jonathon and hitherto resuming their southbound travel from there. Unfortunately for me, Rob took the last seat on Friday's LAX flight and Kim and I were forced to head east to Miami via Chicago (of all places). We also absorbed Jonathon's luggage making for a checked bag sum of 2 silver trunks and 3 large backpacks. Kim and I spent the night at a Hotel in A-town on the Airport's graisously offered dime.

Our flight to Chicago was uneventful and we easily caught the Miami flight as well. Our luck turned again in Miami however. Once Kim and I got the LANChile gate to catch our Santiago flight, the ticketer informed us that they could not honor the ticket as the agent in Denver who booked us on that flight had no jurisdiction over their flight… or something like that. Furious and panicked, Kim and I ran back to the ticketing counter which was already in a state of chaos. Apparantly, Miami is a American Airlines hub. After several attempts and with the clock ticking (and panic increasing), we finally found the correct ticketing counter… where the line was huge. We learned while standing in line that the chaos and plentiful lines were the product of a nationwide Brazillian air traffic controller strike. The effect of their strike had massive repercussions as Brazil’s entire airspace was sealed off which meant that nobody could fly to Brazil OR Argentina (cause getting to Argentina requires the plan to fly over Brazil). Hordes of people were stranded and upset. Kim and I were extremely lucky in dealing with our travel issue early enough to get one of the few remaining Miami hotel rooms still available. Getting our travel plans finally squared away however took some 5 hours at several ticketing counters. It was a near disaster but finally found resolution after arguing with ticketers and negotiating with supervisors. Kim and I were set to travel again at 9:15 PM Saturday night.

Exhausted, we made it to the hotel and spent the following day recovering and relaxing (and shopping for clothes). The rest of the trip was much less eventful and we finally pulled into PA on Sunday at noon."

Monday, May 07, 2007

watch me r_i_i_i_i_ide...

Whenever I take a little ride those mas grande Colorado hills, either astride my mountain bike or bolted to my Burton Malolo, I am reminded of the lyric titling this post. Penned by Maxi Jazz of Faithless and exposed to me via my long time riding partner C to the L, that silly little lyric has long been gutteral source of inspiration when I face off with a particularly dense patch of gravity.

I love to ride. I love the infusion of adrenaline from taking the chance of dropping something nasty. I even (occaisionally) enjoi the fitness. But far greater, The Ride for me is the chance to engage in what Mother Earth has offered to those who are awake enough to recognize the golden opportunities. I use the above lyric not just to re-inspire enough personal moxy to stick yet another chunky 75' gapper (rad i know); rather I employ it as a means to remind myself that I came to engage, i woke up early that day to engage, i drove 4 hours for trailhead access to engage... and therefore, its time to step back into the that golden moment and let Mother Earth have her way with me.

Perhaps better said, I ride so that once in a while I willfully and directly expose myself to the world's natural forces. I choose to interplay with them. I hook up the towline to gravity's mighty pull and use its energy to glide me along over cottony snow mounds whiel busting out of tree stands. It's a playful interaction with these forces when I am threading the needle between pine and aspen.

The interaction and interplay between me, the human, and the universe's undeniable and profound forces... that's why I Ride.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Arrived alive: the 12th Annual Fruita Fat Tire Festival

Despite all my best intentions, my road trips have never started on time and thankfully our endeavor to Fruita's famous Fat Tyre Fest would pose no change to this habit. That being the case, 0800 came awfully early in the morning last Friday... so we renegotiated a twelve noon departure time.
Like desperate seafaring pirates on the hunt for Spanish gilded treasure, we too thirsted for the plunder that sweetened our daydreams along our westbound journey. We sailed up, into, and well beyond the aspen and evergreen forests of Colorado's high country and descended into the barren sandy landscapes of the farthest west reaches of our great state. As we reached Grand Junction (or as my good friend so endearingly puts it, Grand Junkyard) our caravel was embraced by the Valley's warmth and red stained enormity.

Saturday, again began with the casual atmosphere that is usually reserved for opium dens. Around 10AM that morning we met up with the rest of our party, the unscrupulous and notorious Treads Bicycle Outfitter gang. After some minor repairs graciously performed by the Cannondale road crew, we set sail for Road 18 and singletrack treasures therein...

After a failed attempt of a proper start on Joe's Ridge (and a rather crappy tongue lashing from a "fellow" rider) we luckily ran into Mike, a Fruita local out on his usual ride. He completely took our rag-tag group under his generous wings and led us through several trail rides. With his help we swerved, grinded and sweated our way over true Colorado classics such as Kessel, Bookcliffs and others. I lawndarted twice that day and have a couple of raspberries to remind me of my new touchy disk brakes until my next ride. These trails, all found in the lee of the BookCliffs are fairly smooth and sandy rollercoasters weaving their way in and out of the thousands of washes along the faces of this one very big "hill". There are other more technical trails with far greater elevation gain, namely the Outer Edge Loop if you are ready for a 5 hour ride with little to no support and a high degree of exposure risk... sounds fine, but be sure to bring more than enough food and water.

We resumed our plunders across the river on Sunday morning hitting Mary's loop and Horsetheif bench. In contrast to Saturday's rides, the rocky ribbons found on the south side of I70 and inside the Colorado National Monument are vastly more technical and contain some more variety in geology. Its also tightly hugs the ridgeline overlooking the Colorado River far far below creating a more dramatic backdrop for your ride. Luckily, we once again met up with our new found guide and friend Mike just above Horsethief Bench. After several minutes of scouting lines and postulations on potential damage outcomes, Damien engineered a clean decent of the bouldery and dicey 50 yard staircase. Ian and Curtis also gambled their bodies to the trail gods there as well, but luckily the gods were not inclined to take them up on the offering. Beyond this nutty beginning we bobbed and weaved the rest of the 4 mile loop in tight formation eventually returning to Mary's Loop to finish the remainder of our ride. Mary's Loop did not disappoint either as we all feasted upon her stratigraphicly eroded spoils. Neither day saw much in elevation gains or losses, which made for an reasonable pacing given the various trails skill levels of the members in our group.

In the end, our belly's full from the weekend's trailcandy, we all gave thanks to our host and his wife, and extended our farewell's for the journey home.