Saturday, September 20, 2014

Harrisonburg VA Trip - day 3 of 4

Up and at 'em, we packed up camp after breakfast.  The sunny skies were a nice greeting to the day after the overcast conditions of the past couple days.  Good morning for driving.

Loaded and ready to roll.

The plan was to head about two hours south to Douthat State Park.  We had done some recon work when planing the trip and learned of a network of trails at this Virginia State Park.  It looked like a good option for a second place to ride, though not as back country.  The lady we talked to at the Shenandoah Bicycle Company confirmed our idea to visit Douthat.

Nice scenery on the drive south.

The back road drive took us out of the George Washington National Forest and into the state park.  We found a site in the campground and set things up.  It was immediately obvious we were not in a secluded, low use campground like the last couple nights.

Welcome to the state park information station.
Print your own trail map here. 

After some lunch we geared up for a big ride.  We left our campground at the north end of the park and set off for the Ross Camp Trail.  The trail wasn't obvious and we ended up climbing steeply uphill on a road past some state park cabins.  It took some effort to get to the top of the ridge.

Onto the trail. 

The Mountain Side Trail and then Brushy Hollow Trail took us south the length of the park. It was a different trail here than the past couple days.  Not as rocky but more small, gravel-like rocks.  One thing was clear; you either ride up or down here.

 Our first big view of the ride.  Looking south.

 After crossing the State Park Road we started up the Stony Run Trail heading west.  And then the climbing began.  We went uphill for some time.  Then the switchbacks began and we went uphill some more. And some more and more.  After 4+ miles we reached the Tuscarora Overlook trail.

Yeah, we were feeling it on the long uphill. 

In an amazing display of confusion, fatigue, or both we completely missed the overlook.  We even back tracked a bit and still didn't find it.  Strange.  Instead of getting frustrated we continued onto the Middle Mountain Trail to head north.

 Seems pretty simple according to the sign,
not sure how we missed it.

The northern end of the trail network includes the Salt Stump Trail.  We thought  we were on our way back to the campground.  Maybe one particularly confusing trail intersection was all it took, but we ended up on some double track.  Oh well, it should eventually get us back to the campground, we thought.

My favorite picture of the entire trip.  Maybe you had
to be there, but I found this hilarious.  Count the signs.

We rode and rode and really began to wonder if the double track would lead us to a dead end.  That seemed doubtful.  Eventually a gravel road greeted us.  But which way to go now?  Thankfully a barking dog clued us into a residence and a friendly local pointed the way back to the state park.  We were a good distance back into the National Forest at this point.  Fortunately we had been eating well throughout the ride and were still energetic with good spirits on the road ride back to camp.

Not as secluded as it looks from this angle.

Back at camp the fun really began.  Perhaps our calorie depleted state is to blame but we were amused to no end by watching our camping neighbors in the campground.  From the closest neighbor who hosed down her own tent and picnic table full of gear by accidentally blasting the water spigot, to the younger couple who incessantly played frisbee games, we just watched.

As we reclined and ate dinner we observed a camping mother make 700+ trips in and out of their camper with one more thing to retrieve and setup.  At another campsite a couple of adult brothers carried a downed tree trunk from the woods on their shoulders and then spent an hour trying to chop it into firewood size pieces with a machete.  They got one piece cut off.

The other mountain bikers, directly across from us, got back from their ride and hit the showers.  Normal enough.  Walking through the campground in flip flops and undies, however, not so normal.  Maybe their Mercedes car wasn't the only Euro import.

We turned in for the night as the mother across the way was stringing up her fourth or fifth set of Christmas lights around their camp site.  I'm not sure she ever went to bed, I think she did self imposed "camp work" all night.

Ear plugs required tonight.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Harrisonburg VA Trip - day 2 of 4

Nothing helps me sleep like a pair of ear plugs.  The insects were singing loud last night so I popped in a pair of plugs and was out.  8:00 am came pretty quick and we were up making coffee and breakfast.

The bikes are still sleeping behind the tent.

We decided to do the Lookout Mountain ride from the SBC ride packet.  It looked like a good loop with some up, down, and views.  We rode from the campground and started back down the road on which we came in yesterday.

After passing the North River Campground, a more primitive choice with only pit toilets, we turned onto some double track and began climbing.  A couple trucks were randomly coming down the road as we headed up, but they were the last people we encountered on this ride.

Rocky up.

Some ridge riding brought us to rocky single track.  We had plenty of fun negotiating the rocky, off camber trail.  It was definitely rideable but required some attention.  I inadvertently rode off a pretty big drop while choosing my own adventure on a line through the rocks.  Thankfully I kept my weight back and avoided a superman over the bars.

A steep, loose rock chute gave way to some steep downhill switchbacks and a sign reading "overlook" pointed off the trail to the left.  We rode and then walked onto a rock outcropping and were greeted by a fantastic view.

One of those trees growing out of a rock.

We ate lunch and took some pictures from the rock outcrop.  It was pretty cool to sit back and see the peaks, ridges, and valley we had just ridden.  The sky was overcast like it had been all day but it didn't really seem like it would rain.  We enjoyed the scenery.

Cell phone panoramic.

One last rocky section brought us to a crossing of the North River.  It was quite a suspension bridge over the river.  An old railroad grade on the other side led to a road.

Ryan rode across, concerned about getting
splinters in his forearms from the hand rails.

No riding for me with these wide handlebars.

A short ride on the road completed our loop and we were back to the campground.  We stopped near the entrance for cell signal and phone checks, as there was none available back in the actual campground area.

GWNF: Todd Lake

Food, a hot shower, and more food restored some of energy.  Then we packed up to drive into Harrisonburg for dinner.  It was about 45 minutes east and then north to Harrisonburg.  We parked on a side street downtown and went for a walk.  Walkabout Outfitters was our first stop where we got a good recommendation for dinner.  Then we stopped into the Shenendoah Bicycle Company, supplier of our maps and ride packet.

I think there's a bike shop over there.

The bike shop was very cool and it was easy to get the sense of their involvement with trail building and support of the local cycling scene.  We talked with a couple shop employees about where we rode, where we were still going to ride, and, most importantly at the moment, where we were going to eat.

The SBC.

Downtown Harrisonburg was a happening place.  There were stores and shops, not sure what the difference is, and restaurants all over.  Lots of people were out walking.  There was an artsy feel to the area.  We ate dinner at Capital Ale House, per aforementioned recommendations.

100 beers on tap makes for a difficult choice.

After a pretty good dinner, and sampler of Colorado beers in Virginia, we found the car and headed back to the national forest.  But, we made a gas station stop on the way for chocolate milk (me) and an ice cream bar (Ryan).  I guess we were needed some chocolatey calories to finish the day.

Historic Harrisonburg: the land for the
courthouse was deeded in 1779.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Harrisonburg VA Trip - day 1 of 4

Several months ago Ryan and I began planning a fall mountain biking road trip.  After some searching around we decided on Harrisonburg, VA partly due to the acclaim for the area by IMBA.  I called the Shenendoah Bicycle Company and ordered a "ride packet" to get some maps and info on the area.  Back in August we met at Wooster Brewing Company to study the maps.

Ryan imagining the miles and miles of
mountain biking goodness in Virginia.

We made a plan to camp at Todd Lake Campground in the George Washington National Forest, southwest of Harrisonburg.  From this campground many of the rides in the SBC packet were accessible.

A couple weeks before our September trip I discovered Douthat State Park and Carvins Cove are two additional areas with networks of mountain bike trails.  They are farther from home but due to their closer proximity to interstates less driving time.  We decided to make one of these places a secondary destination on our trip.


The alarm woke me at 5:50, I dressed and jumped into Ryan's car that I drove home and packed yesterday..  I was out the driveway before 6 and at Ryan's house by 6:15.  We added Ryan's food, gear, and bike then drove south.  It was a sunny day and we made good time to Parkersburg, WV.

A packed car.

The roads became smaller as we headed east.  A older lady at a gas station in Elkins, WV warned us that GPS is misleading in this neck of the woods.  She said people doubted her in the past, asked the magistrate across the street for directions, and still got lost.  Meanwhile old man Gerald was trying to buy more scratch off lottery tickets and the lady seemed dismayed at his request for "just one more!"

In Virginia we met up with US250, ironic because the same road connects my house to Ryan's, and really got into some twisting and turning mountain terrain.  We stopped at Confederate Breastworks and hiked a short interpretive trail.  Civil War soldiers under the command of Andrew Jackson trenched in on this mountain to guard the Shenandoah Valley from Union Forces.

Signs along the interpretive trail included letters home
from a soldier stationed on this mountain.

Maybe the signs in the parking lot notifying of a lost hiker, from two years ago, were a warning that we were headed into back country, but I didn't realize it at the time.  We continued on twisty roads in the George Washington National Forest.  Pavement turned to gravel and there were no houses, structures, or people to be seen; just forest.

There were plenty of places to pull off and setup primitive camp.  Maybe this is an option for a future trip, but this time we were headed to Todd Lake Campground.  We setup in a secluded and almost level site number 12.  Out came camping gear and then bike gear.  Let's go ride.

We did a short loop on Trimble Mountain.  It was a multi-use trail for hikers, bikers, and horses.  We started climbing almost immediately and it felt kind of strange to be riding on what seemed a hiking trail.  That would be a no-no back home.

 The hierarchy around here.

The climbing was pretty continuous for over an hour.  The trail was rocky, very rocky in some places, but rideable.  We made it to what seemed the top of the mountain and had a little bit of a view, though it had become overcast.

Some rocky fun.

After the view we started down, down, and more down.  Our brake fingers were getting a workout as we bombed down the mountain.  Before I expected we were back to the trailhead where we started.  The down was only a fraction of the time it took to go up.

And more rocky fun.

It was a good first ride in the area and definitely felt more back country than most places I've ridden.  We rode back to camp and cooked up some rice, vegies, and chorizo sausage for dinner.  Watch out for the Spoon Market Butcher's chorizo sausage, it was spicy delicious.  Nice work Adam!

Jasmine rice, vegies, and sausage in the works.

An advantage of the campground compared to boon dock camping is a hot shower.  The showers at Todd Lake were working mostly well, except Ryan's seemed to emit a bull moose call when the button was pressed to keep the water flowing.  Pretty funny or we were tired and easily amused.

After some reclining, reading, and chilling out we turned in for the night.  More adventure to come tomorrow!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Dirt Ride

Easter weekend and we have a full schedule.  Fortunately I planned ahead and had my bike and gear ready to go for a trip to Mohican between a soccer game and birthday party.

Ready and waiting. 

There were a good number of cars in the parking lot.  I'm guessing there were more than a few Mohican 100 racers out on training rides.  The weather was just perfect, 55 degrees and sunny, as I rolled out.

I was not certain how much I was going to ride today, but I did a better job of packing food for this ride than the last.  About five miles in a downed a GU and was feeling good vibes about going for a full lap.  My handling seemed to be on today and I was enjoying front suspension.  The gears were nice too.

Coming up to the covered bridge I met two fisherman who looked to be having a good day.  I stopped and chatted for a couple minutes as I admired their catch.

Easter dinner?

After adding some more food to the tank I started up the climb and continued to feel good.  I reached the second trailhead and was excited to see the trail ahead was open.  At this point I figured I would ride down to mile 19 and see how I felt.

 Feeling good in the pine forest.

At 19 I crossed the road and stopped for my last bit of food.  May as well keep it going now.  Within a mile I was slowing down and felt some pending leg cramps.  After a little bit of slower riding I seemed to recover and felt a good push to the finish.

It was a much better ride than my last one at Mohican and I really enjoyed the day.  It was a nice time out in God's creation the day before celebrating our risen saviour!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rays Indoor Bike Park

For all the acclaim and the close proximity, I've never been to Ray's Indoor Bike Park until today.  Ryan and I loaded up and drove north for an afternoon of fun.  We had planned to go since new years but never made it until now.  The park closes for the season end of April, so sunny day or not we were going to ride inside.

First time to throw two bikes in the hatch.
All good with a couple blankets.

Ryan had been to Rays before which came in handy right away in finding the place.  Its in an old parachute factory in a rundown industrial park.  The entrance is not very noteworthy.

The front door.

Inside is a mountain bike and BMX playground.  I've seen many pictures and videos over the years but it was quite impressive to walk into.  The place is really sprawling and woven into the factory structure.

Ready to ride.

Rays is divided up into different areas with a cross country trail connecting it all together.  We had fun in nearly every area.

Rolling some logs.

I was amused to ride the perimeter and take different options with each pass.  It took a couple hours to really understand how all the separate rooms and area connected together.  A wrong turn just led to more fun.

 Up in the rafters.

Several places ramped up into the ceiling structure.  An incredible amount of work went into building this place.

Bike park.

We spend some time in the bike park, it's own dedicated room.  Certainly more geared for BMX bikes but we had fun on our 29ers.  This was the case throughout, most other riders there today were on BMX bikes.

Ryan navigates.

The pump track was a lot of fun.  I went around for at least a dozen laps and was amused all the way.  It was easier than I expected to get out of breath working the bike and features.

Ryan rolls a rock drop.

The sport section was a main spot for us.  There were many entertaining and challenging options to go from one side to the other.

Sport section choices.

We were there for about four hours.  Every hour and half or so we were back to the lounge for food and drink.  It's a cool place to hangout and watch the action on the Red Bull expert section.

Good times at Rays!

It was difficult to know when to be done, but hunger for dinner helped us call it a day.  We stopped at the Brew Kettle in Middlesburg Heights on the way back and had a good dinner.  It was a fun day riding bikes inside a building!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tough at Mohican

Sunny and nearly 60 degrees.  The weather was nice but will the trail be dry?  I headed to Mohican to find out.

Plenty of brown leaves on the ground.

In the first 5 miles there were a couple wet puddles to be found but it was overall pretty good.  The woods felt more like fall than spring.  Lots of brown and not much green.

Spring has not yet sprung.

There were a few other cars in the parking lot with bike racks but the only people I encountered on the trail were runners.  Arriving at the covered bridge there were lots of parked cars and people hiking about.  It was a nice afternoon to be outside.

As I started up the Mt. Doom climb I realized it was going to be a challenge on the single speed.  Seems I should have packed some food to go with my water.  I kept it going the whole way but had some slow speed, low cadence pedal grinding along the way.  I was glad to make it around all the switchbacks without stalling.

Trailhead B.

At the second trail head I reached the closed section of trail and rode out to SR97.  I probably would have been wise to take the road back to the parking lot and been satisfied for the day, but I turned up the park road and got back on the trail at mile 19.

Good thing for glasses or this would've
been a direct pupil shot of mud!

The next four miles were tough.  I was pretty worn down and without energy; I might even call it a mini bonk.  Why didn't I bring food?  Not sure.  Oh well, it was still a good roll through the woods.  The rigid singlespeed mostly kicked my butt.  I was probably not riding very efficient either, as my handling skills seemed to be absent today.  I limited the damage and arrived back to the car glad for the ride!

Worn out legs!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

To Munson and Back

Tonight was supposed to be the first club ride of the year.  That is after last week's first club ride of the year was cancelled.  Well, tonight's was cancelled too.  I guess it was too cold for some.  My gear was loaded in the car and I was ready to ride.  So, I came home from work and headed out.  I did swap bikes and headed, once again, to the swamps.

Really loving this bike.

Perhaps it's a good time to state: the Black Mountain Cycles Mostercross has really been performing well.  The past couple months of riding this bike have been a lot of fun.  The feel of steel is great when bouncing across dirt and gravel. It's great on the road too.  Yes, there's a weight penalty and I feel it from time to time, but these rides are not about max speed and there's nobody to keep up with.

The brakes are fantastic.  What a difference the KoolStop pads have made on these Tektro CR720 cantis.  The crown mount brake hanger probably contributes to chatter free braking compared to my last setup.  I guess it's possible this hanger is not needed, but I don't really see a penalty for having it.

Prime riding surface for this bike.

Today I basically did the reverse of last week's swamp ride.  I rode down to County Line Road and climbed up Harrison to Munson Rd.  After an unfriendly dog encounter when I turned on Munson Road, I met a couple out for a walk and enjoyed meeting them and hearing about their diversity farming research.  I realized the sun was going down fast and said goodbye to get moving.

On the way out, when the sun was already getting down.

The temperature was dropping with the sun and I put in a steady effort to stay warm and get home before dark.  It was an energetic end to the ride.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cold with Good Company

We made plans earlier in the week; Sunday afternoon was open for Ryan and I to get out on a ride.  After church we came home for lunch and talked about how windy and cold it was outside.  But, we made plans to ride so let's ride!

Balaclava time for Ryan!

Down into the swamps we pedaled our cross bikes until the road gave out.  Too much water and not worth the chance of a wet, cold foot early in the ride.  Engage u-turn and detour.


The change in route took us by a farm and introduced us to some cool longhorn cattle.  They didn't seem to mind the cold and were curious to see us.  Shortly we got back on track and rode into the swamps again.

Tundra swans in the distance.

We rode out on the end of Force Road to have a look around.  It was a cold, overcast day for sure.  The migratory birds were starting to appear.  We spotted a large flock of Tundra swans to the north.

Icy puddles ahead.

The feeling of cold was mostly gone and we enjoyed being out and about the dirty roads.  We left the swamps and pedaled some road to make our return.  It was a good time and I'm glad we were undeterred by the temperature.