Monday, June 30, 2008

12 hours of Quantico

This past Saturday, June 28th, I participated in the 2nd annual 12 Hours of Cranky Monkey at Quantico Marine Corps Base. Like last year I did the race as part of a Duo team, however, unlike last year I had a female partner and we races the Duo Open Class. A couple weeks ago Liz asked if I wanted to team up and do the race duo instead of solo, which was my original plan. Full and vivid memories of the oppressive heat and rolling course made my decision an easy one and we were set to race. One of these days I will try an event like this as a solo racer, but, I also enjoy the ability to socialize a little between laps, something the solo racer really doesn't get to enjoy. Someday....maybe.

The morning started out like any other morning, only a hell of a lot earlier and a bit more stressful. Liz, thankfully, went down the day before to help out the EX2 people with registration and she set up our pit that we combined with the Bike Lane/Wakefield/Kilroy's crew. Upon arrival my teammate informs me she has a slow leak in her rear tire and asks if I can take care of it. Easy enough, until I remove the tire only to notice a broken spoke. With no spare nipple in my tool box and The Bike Lane Spinter no where in sight I begin to get nervous. Several minutes later the Spinter arrives and Liz goes in search of a nipple while I attend the pre-race hour before the start. Nipple in hand I leave the meeting early and set off to get her bike rolling. Old one out, new one in, I notice a wobble in the wheel and decide to quickly "true" it. As I apply pressure to my wrench this next spoke gives way with a resounding "sproing!". Crap, another broken nipple....and I don't have a spare. It is now 7:20, 40 minutes to start. John heroically pulls out an extra spoke and nipple from his spares bin and I get her rolling, sorta.

I quickly gear-up, one final check of the bike and pop a couple e-caps. The race starts with a long run around and into a softball field where we grab our bikes walk/run with them some more until we can finally mount them in front of the timers tent. I line up in the front row and haul ass once the gun goes off, grab my bike and enter the woods somewhere around the #12 spot. 4 guys blow the first turn and I move up into 7 or 8 on the first climb. Going balls out, heart rate pegged and legs screaming I maintain my position going into the first big climb. A couple guys make it, but, most everyone else dismounts and runs up the steep section. Back on the bike there is a quick decent, gravel road climb and we are back into the single track. Great riding through most of the course and there were a few new sections of trail that didn't exist last year. The new sections and course re-route added about a mile to the course over last year. Right around mile 9 a geared rider makes up some time on the long gravel decent as I am spun out and almost catches me before it levels out. Not wanting to give up a spot this late in the lap I kick it up a notch and make him earn any advance he has in mind. The long gradual climb out from 9 to 10 worked in my favor and I was able to hold him off until we popped out onto the flat field where he geared down and slowly pulled ahead. At the end of the lap we shook hands over a well fought first lap. I believe I rolled in 7th or 8th with a 58 minute lap.

Liz heads out on our second lap and pulls a very respectable 1:15........ and that is after she stopped to help a rider who crashed at the log pyramid. She comes into the timing tent, un-necessarily apologizes for being late, and I roll out for lap two. Lap two goes pretty smoothly, I'm feeling good but the day is really starting to warm up at this point. The rest of the day will be all about resting between laps and staying hydrated. This would be my best lap at 57 minutes and change.

Liz goes out on her second and does what she does best, rides consistently. You can set a watch by her times and number two mirrored the first with a 1:15. Out on number three I am now running into people who are apparently getting tired and confused. On four different occasions as I call up to let a rider know I'm about to pass, they turn into my passing side. People, "on your left" means I am passing "on your left"......this does not mean I want you to move left. Two people actually brought me to a complete stop as we collided in their heat induced haze. These lapses in judgment also made me kick a little harder when passing which brought on a very nasty side effect, severe cramping. I cramped up, severely, three times during this lap. The most comical one must have been me walking peg-legged up a climb because I refused to stop moving. Somehow, after all that, I still manged a sub-hour lap and came in at 59 minutes.

At this point in the day Dante has turned up the heat in his Inferno and things were really cooking, literally and figuratively. It is hot outside, hot and humid. A severe thunderstorm watch has a number of us wishing for the "8 Hours of Cranky Monkey" so we can get to the beer drinking a little sooner. A couple distant thunder booms are all we get as the clouds move out and the sun continues its assault on the racers. Upon the advice of someone in my pit, not the people drinking tequila, I stop putting electrolytes in everything I consume and run straight water in my pack. Apparently your body needs pure water to process all those electrolytes and I wasn't drinking straight water after the second lap. New plan in place I head out for lap 4. This new plan also includes reeling the pace back a little as the first place team kept increasing their lead to 22 minutes at this point. Of course, we had well over an hour over the third place team. So, I go out to ride smart, maintain our position and save a little for my next and possibly last lap. I get an occasional twinge in my leg, but, never get hit with a major cramp during the lap. I have now gone past my wish for sub-hour laps and turn in at 1:01.

Liz rolls in from lap 4 at 1:20 and things are looking good for the number 2 position. A major catastrophe to the first place team is about the only thing that could move us up into that position, so, I go out like I did on my previous lap, smart and steady. I am now drinking water with much more frequency and in larger quantities. I even start grabbing water from the check points as I roll through them. A little for my mouth and a little for my, that feels good! Lap 5 was fairly uneventful in that I didn't fall over from heat exhaustion and I didn't cramp up. Not really playing with the numbers I didn't know if a 6th lap was in my future or not. Upon completing my lap, Liz informs me that if I pull a double, a fast double, we have a chance to pull ahead of the first place team. Now, I'm no rocket scientist, but, last time I checked they were 27 minutes ahead of us. Terry was slated to roll their last lap and she was running 1:20's. I just rolled a 1:02 and wasn't going to do any better if I went out for a double. She, Liz, tells me she is "more than happy" to go out again and I tell her to "have fun, it's beer time for me". Back in the pit I shower under a hose, get into some cotton clothes and crack a cold Peg Leg Stout. Second place is just fine with me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Eventually, if you have roof racks, you will forget you have something up top and nasty things will happen. "Eventually" caught up with me on Tuesday night. After picking up my daughter I headed home after a long days work. She was talking to me about something, I can't remember what, and as I eased my car into the garage I hear the sound of 80's metal on vinyl siding and I'm not talking about Poison.

I quickly throw the car into reverse, as if to try and undo what has happened, only to find my beloved Dumpster Fixie bent and stretched towards the rear of the vehicle. It was a sad sight to behold.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Drinking the Jeff Jones KoolAid

The Outlaw posted up a demo ride with Jeff Jones and his bikes last week. Spots were limited, so, I sent him an email, PM, text message and smoke signals to make sure I got one of the coveted spots. He quickly replied and I was set. A day later I get an email from him asking if I wanted to attend a special "very limited" hooky ride that started at 1 in the afternoon and went until 4:30 or so. This would give me more time on the bike and open up a spot on the evening ride wait list. A couple late nights at work were all the incentive I needed to play hooky on Thursday, I was in.

I got to Hamburg road a few minutes before 1 to find RiderX and Jeff unloading 4 of Jeff's uniquely designed bikes. Three titanium and one steel, these creations had a look all their own. Two space frame designs with a truss fork, one Ti double diamond with truss fork and a new double diamond steel bike sporting a Jones designed, Vicious built tapered straight leg fork with MONSTER clearance. Two of the bikes were outfitted with Surly's Endomorph 3.7/4.0 tires. Only the steel frame was set up for single duty, the others were a mix of unique gear combinations. Jeff rode a 1x6, I was on a 3x5 or 6, Jay rode the 2x6 and the Outlaw, well, I guess you know who rode the single. Jeff prefers to build his geared bikes using single speed Chris King hubs with customized XTR cassettes to fit. "8 or 9 gears in the back are more prone to failure" and he can build stronger, non dished wheels using SS hubs. To prove how strong his wheels are he place one on the ground and stood on either side of the rim, he even bounced a little for effect. Sure enough, the rim was as true as the day it was built. He had two sets of prototype rims, one wide aluminum rim from WTB and a sweet carbon set from Wheels Manufacturing. I was lucky enough to ride the bike outfitted with the Wheels hoops and they were sweet. Strong and light with a price tag that would make an oil importer gasp. $850 a rim, that's each.....not a pair.....each! I'm glad Jeff waited until we were halfway down SuperSweet before he told me about the price, of course, I didn't take it any easier when we hit Rock Candy.

I'm getting a little ahead of myself though. In the lot we eyed up our respective rides, threw on our pedals and got a quick lesson on Jones design. Low center of gravity and weight shifted to the back meant light front ends. There was little need to yank up on your bars when approaching obstacles or take a white knuckle grip as your descended technical rock. The front end basically floats down the trail and only requires the lightest of touch from its pilot. The Jones philosophy and design concept is more of a "wholistic" approach to bike building. Every aspect of the bike is taken into consideration. He is not a "frame" builder, he is a "bike builder". The radical geometry of the frames means a standard "off-the shelf" fork will not work. You must use a Jones fork, be it the truss design or the steel straight leg. Both forks and all his frames utilize the same geometries and are all interchangeable. They are a "system". The frame one buys would depend on your aesthetic concerns, ride characteristics and depth of wallet. At the top of the Jones food chain is the Space frame and Truss fork. This only comes in Titanium and will set you back a cool $5500. For $1200 less you can get a traditional double diamond frame and truss fork, in Titanium. For the purest among you there is the double diamond steel frame and fork for $2450. As I stated above, all the frames and forks utilize the same geometries and sizing scheme. For the complete skinny on all things Jones you really should check out his website.

After gearing up we headed north on the blue trail and its rocky decent into the valley. Within moments I knew Jeff had a winner on his hands. I was a little more upright than on my bike and the bike felt incredibly balanced with the riders weight centered over the frame. The first time I pulled up on the bars I nearly looped the bike and decided I'd let the frame do the work for me. I would just sit back, hold on lightly and see if the "system" really worked. Bombing down blue on a fully rigid bike is not usually a fun thing. Your hands go numb, vision gets blurred and it becomes more about holding on than having fun. My Space frame and Truss fork turned that decent into a giggle fest. I was smiling ear to ear by the bottom as I couldn't believe how smooth the bike felt. I wouldn't say it felt like I had suspension, it felt better. I was in complete control, picking whatever line my heart desired without all the slop of squish or the bone jarring hits of a regular hard tail. The ride was "compliant".......very freaking compliant.........ridiculously compliant.

From the blue we headed into some tight twisty single track and the enchanted forest. The short wheel base of the Jones design came into play here and you could really rock through the tight stuff. Rock-overs and drops where almost effortless as you could move all around the bike with little in the way to imped your movement. A small peddle kick was all that was required for some of the small drops due to the light front end. It also meant you didn't have to have a saddle in your chest if you chose to roll something. The enchanted forest lead onto an old freeride trail and some fun technical descending. Rock slabs, ledges and steps didn't phase my Jones and I felt more comfortable on this foreign bike than I do on my regular steed. From this decent we made our way to a climb and again the bike didn't disappoint. It climbed extremely well on the loose rocky hill. Now, I did have gears, which was a pleasant change, so I can't really compare single speed climbing of a Jones to my Spot. The short chainstays did what I would expect and made the bike an exceptional climber.

On our way to SuperSweet, when trail conditions permitted conversation, Jeff would expand upon his concepts and re-iterated a common principle, nothing on a Jones bike is done for aesthetics. Everything has a function and that function determines the ultimate form. This function was put to the test on SuperSweet and its fast flowing lines. This trail has a little bit of everything to test the balance of a cross country bike. Fast sweeping turns, tight rocky drops, log-overs, rock-overs and trees to hop. The fast stuff gives way to the slower more technical rock crawling that is Rock Candy. Again, the balance is tested and again the Jones design shined. If there is one word to describe a Jeff Jones bike it would be "balanced". I would normally never feel comfortable enough to ride hands free on any bike while on the trail. My space frame made me feel so comfortable I couldn't help but ride hands free and it tracked straight and true every time.

We made our way to Salamander and it was more of the same sweet riding. However, by this point I was getting so comfortable on my Jones that everything was becoming second nature and I stopped thinking about how well everything worked. I just enjoyed the ride. Pressed for time Jay and I bailed to the road a little early and we were soon joined by Joe and Jeff. The three "J's" and I were headed back to the lot for round two and the official demo ride. On the way back Jeff demonstrated his wheelie abilities and would ride them for a couple hundred yards. His BMX background was evident throughout the ride and now he was doing what I enjoyed so throughly as a child, riding wheelies down the road for as long as you can see. Rockstar.

Back in the p-lot the official demo riders started to arrive and Jeff explained his concepts to the soon-to-be-newly-initiated. The gospel of this Jones is much sweeter and more refreshing than the Koolaid of Reverend Jim. The second group went out and had the opportunity, as I did, to put Jeff's concepts to the test. Much like my ride, the people liked what they rode. There seemed to be very positive feedback and a whole lot of smiling. At the end of the ride, most people headed over to The Bike Escape for a lecture by Jeff on his design concepts. Tom and Danielle have hosted several similar events and they always make their guests feel welcome and at home. There was food-a-plenty and some fine hoppy beverage provided by Clipper City and the Single Speed Outlaw Factory Team. At the end of it all we went outside and Jeff put on a small impromptu freestyle exhibition in the parking lot. Pretty cool way the end an exceptional day. All the days pictures can be seen here.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Mud, Sweat & Tears

Big Bear 2008 has come and gone and what a good time we had......when we weren't bitching about the mud, heat or screaming badger ass. As the team captain of our 5 person co-ed team I had the dubious honor of trying to get a consensus for the team name. DKEG had several, ah hem, interesting ideas he ran up the flag pole. Squadra Ballon Knotti was one he really pushed for, but, after my teammates learned a bit more of its meaning, they quickly dismissed the notion. "Fat people are hard to kidnap" was another little gem from the team sawer that didn't pass muster. Running out of time, and patience, I suggested a theme based on an excuse DaveG has used to bail on rides when the weather turns foul. An excuse so ridiculous we seldom give him crap for using it because what do you tell a guy who is "Staying at home with the latest romance novel, a glass of white zinfandel while wearing a pair of Fuzzy Pink Bunny Slippers".

Team Fuzzy Pink Bunny Slippers (FPBS) consisted of DKEG, DaveG, Shannon, Dr. Longtravel (Frank) and myself in the 5 person co-ed class. It was this race and a bet between the two David's that spawned three blogs and a whole lot of trash talk....between teammates. Good natured ribbing intended to motivate each other to train harder, or at all, in some cases. DaveG had a plan for the entire season. He was going to Crush Kegley at Big Bear and then put a hurting on me at the Wilderness 101. He would attain his evil goals through the use of advanced technology, good diet and a bag of dirty tricks if needed. DKEG took a different approach and tried the "trailwork and beer" system of training. An average of 15 minutes per lap was the bet that would determine if DaveG could in fact "kick David's ass" all over Big Bear. I love the side of people that comes out in competition, it's so .....primal. Long story short, DaveG lost. 15 minutes was just too much and DKEG really does race well, despite his training....or lack there of. The same party that hatched the David's little bet also got Frank to sign on as the 4th member of what was originally planned to be a 4 man sport class team. The beers were flowing and the good doctor, who never raced before, yielded to our pleas and solidified the original plan. After kicking ass at the Bakers Dozen a few months later, the race bug really bit Shannon and our 4 man team welcomed her addition and the rest is history.

The week leading up to the race saw some interesting developments on the weather front. Already a very wet spring in Hazzelton WV, the site of Big Bear campgrounds and the race venue, the trails got an additional 8 inches of rain just 3 days before the race. Normally the rocky terrain drains well, however, the saturated ground could do little to move the water off the trails prior to the onslaught of racers. Of course, if DaveG wasn't racing the trails probably would have been dry and perfect, but that's a different story.

Frank and I got up to the campsite about 9:30 Friday night. Our teammates arrived earlier that day and did a great job picking a site and setting up our stuff. By the time we got there the only thing to do was eat a couple burgers and drink a couple beers. You know, carbo loading. Unlike my teammates I slept great and awoke to a brilliant morning. Sunny skies and a nice mountain breeze. As my teammates emerged from their nylon shelters, breakfast was the first order of business and espressos with Krispy Kreme donuts got our motors running. Several pre-race checks of equipment were also in order as was the mounting of our mascots to our shoes. Unable to get "man sized" bunny slippers, Frank had the brilliant idea to mount small infant sized slippers to the velcro straps on our shoes. Dave and Shannon took a different approach and "skinned" a pair of adult size hides for their footwear. A some what disturbing image if you stop to think about it. Bunnies mounted, we were ready to race.

I was unanimously elected to take the lead-out lap which consisted of a run around half the airstrip, followed by a ride around the entire strip and then off into the single track. Running in general sucks ass, strap on a pair of stiff soled, floppy bunny eared bike shoes and you might as well put me in the inquisition. Stuck with the lead-out lap last year I knew there are only two choices, go balls-out and get to the front of the pack or suffer in a donkey herd of novice riders who don't know shit about racing. I went with the former and got into good position before the herd made it's way into the woods. The first two miles are normally very fast with little gain in elevation. Well, the first mile was still a fast and fun run down a trail that parallels the road, however, the fast, easy passing lanes on the climb were replaced with mud bogs this year. On this first lap the bogs weren't quite so deep or wide, but, this would change as the race progressed. I slogged my way up past the first check point only to find more mud that was already getting very rutted and soupy. This was going to be the theme throughout the entire course, occasional sections of fast single track sprinkled with large, deep and wide mud bogs that sapped energy with every pedal stroke. It was going to be an interesting weekend. Past bog #2 and back on firm ground you have a series of small climbs that really thin the field out. It is around this point you settle in with a couple guys you play leap-frog throughout the lap. One such guy for me was a rider from Plum Grove who was a talented rock crawler. While most people portaged their bikes through the large boulder field at mile 10, I got to witness him clean the whole run with smooth finesse. Out of the boulder field, the climb out of the valley was soft and muddy, too hard and draining on the single so I walked as my new friend slowly pulled away and out of sight. I would see him again at the bike wash at the completion of lap one. One hour, twenty five minutes and forty seconds was the official time of my opening lap......geez, I was cooked! I grabbed a beer, a shower and a burrito (in that order) and hoped lap two would be a little better.

"Go straight down the middle" were Davids words of wisdom when dealing with the bogs. Sure, I know that. That strategy worked on my first lap, when I could keep my bike in a straight line, and was to be my mantra for the second lap. About a mile into this lap I encountered one mother of a mud hole. I know it was there the last time I came through, but, somehow it was now different. Larger, deeper and very rutted across the entire width. My mantra in place, I aim for a watery section in the middle and held on.........for about two seconds. As my front wheel entered the hole, it quickly dropped down to the hub at which time the mud liked my tire so much that it decided to hold onto it for a little while. With all the momentum my body was carrying I had little choice but to let go and sail over my bars, superman style, into the muddy water below. My arms sank down to the shoulder and I quickly pulled myself from the muck to find my bike partially submerged like its rider. My bike groaned as it tried to shed several pounds of West Virginia mud from every rotating surface imaginable. To add insult to injury I can't even blow a good snot rocket or wipe the sweat from my brow without smearing more of the miserable gunk all over my face. As the lap progressed I notice one more situation developing from my mishap, my right grip begins to rotate under my hand .......and I don't have Grip-Shifters. Apparently the adhesive has broken down and the water has facilitated an easy and pre-mature removal of that grip. For the remainder of lap two I had to be very careful with force applied to my handlebars, never a good thing for a single speeder. I was so dirty that my teammates didn't recognize me as I came down the bridge towards the timing tent. Before the shower I did a pre-wash in the small puddle behind our camp, now that is sad. Somehow this would still be my fastest lap of the race at 1:21:48.

Lap 3, 4am Sunday morning. I was in my tent trying to get some sleep before heading out for my early morning and entirely in the dark lap. I think I nodded off for several fleeting moments, however, a deep restorative sleep was not to be. Worried about missing my next shift and a hundred other things that go through your mind kept me awake and somewhat alert. I set my alarm for 3 am and have everything ready to go the moment I wake up. As the early morning hour approaches I hear Frank outside the tent and start my preparation. He informs me that he had a rough lap with a flat and then stopped to help out another rider with a similar problem. These two incidents resulted in a 1:49 and meant I could go back to sleep. I try only to stare at the ceiling for another 30 minutes. Frank stays up to make sure I don't miss my shift and I send him to bed once I emerge for my lap. At the timing tent I see Liz again who is very much on the same schedule as me. She has a jacket and a warm cup of coffee and I can't help but feel a little envious. Just about 4 am Shannon rolls over the bridge and I go out for what will be my last lap of the race. It's pitch black, wet from the evening dew and the mud it as bad as ever. Now, even the fast sections have become a traverse of wet rocks and roots that send your wheels off in any direction with little notice. My goal for this lap is to take it steady, ride consistently and stay out of the mud bogs. Unlike lap two, I go out very conservatively and try to ride with a steady pace. Nightmares of my two flats during this lap last year still haunt me and I was not looking for a repeat. Much like my second lap I pass numerous people on this early morning run. The difference this time is most of these people looked whipped. Their spirits broken under the thick mud and oppressive heat. Many of my competitors simply pulled off to the side of the trail to rest or take in a goo pack. People seem all too eager to stop and yield when they are about to be overtaken by faster riders. Nighttime laps are hard, when you are 18 hours into an event of this magnitude, the dark can play tricks on your mind. My mind was focused on a single goal, to get through this lap without incident and keep my team in the running for a podium spot. Prior to the night laps we we in second place and looking very good to maintain. A couple "slower than expected" laps moved us down into the fifth spot with a slight chance to move up....if things went well for us and poorly for our competition. This third lap went by as I had hoped, without incident. I rode steady and smart and came in with a 1:32 for what became my final lap.

Everyone on my team gave 100% to the effort and I couldn't be happier or prouder. We had a great time cheering each other on and busting each others chops while hanging out between laps. For different and various reasons I was happy that Dave, Frank and Shannon had good final laps on Sunday. Dave felt like he was cursed when he raced in WVa, Frank was a bit dejected after his night lap and you should always end your first race on a high note and Shannon brought in the teams last lap with a smile on her face. What more could we ask for? 5th place for a bunch of 40 something Dad's and a mom (David is actually 39) is not too shabby. We rode to the whole time and never gave up, even when the podium slipped away. I can't say the same for some of our competition and I think that is sad. Ride your bike, have fun and don't sweat the small'll be waiting in your office Monday morning.

Check out all the pictures here.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Hearding Kittens

Memorial Weekend was a bike riding bust. I took the fixie down to the beach hoping to get two rides in, but alas, it was not meant to be. I should have know better, my brother was working on a rental property he is planning to sell and the boat was in need of some TLC. The fair weather meant a great opportunity to get the 'ol Hurricane ready for the summer, but first I needed to get some new bottom paint on the hull. "Easy enough" I thought as we had done a great job cleaning and prepping the boat for winter storage. However, as I started sanding, I noticed some large areas where paint had flaked off creating numerous voids in the existing paint. Most boat yards would simply leave it alone and let the next guy to come alone worry about it. Well, I guess I was "the next guy". I decided on a total down-to-the-gelcoat stripping of the old paint. Messy and more labor intensive to be sure, but, the results were amazing. The bottom now looks like the day it was first painted. Smooth and silky. No more performance robbing pock marks to deal with and that's a good thing when gas at the marina costs 6 bucks a gallon. Too bad I can't wake board behind the sailboat.

We got in some fun family time as well taking the kids to the beach on Sunday and the pool on Saturday. Jackie took a nice dip in a small pool that formed next to the ocean. She slipped and went under three times before getting her balance back. Daddy was on the move, up to my knees when she surfaced the third time with a look of surprise and horror that quickly subsided in my arms. Nerve wracking to be sure! Jonathan and Jenna were having a great time collecting shells on the beach. The cold water and high winds prevented all but the most determined from venturing into the water. Still, with a sweatshirt on, the sunny weather was a welcome change to several of the previous Memorial holiday weekends.

This past Saturday we were invited to "the Bruce's" house for a little BBQ and some slip-n-slide fun. The parents stuck with the BBQ while the wee one's help themselves to the water park.....between thunder heads. The weather forecast was ominous for much of the day, however, the nasty stuff gave us a number of reprieves that the kiddies used to their advantage. Inside and on the deck the parents were able to kick back, relax and periodically yell at their child to "wait their turn" for the slide. Ah, parenting.....what a joy!

Sunday, David and I took a trip up to Frederick, grabbed Darius and made our way to Michaux PA. It was my second time to the area but my first time on the sweet single track the park is known for. My first visit was during the 2007 Iron Cross and that whet my appetite to try some of the better trails on my fat tire bike. We meet Steve and Martin in the mountain bikers p-lot and they promptly gave us grief for our tardiness. Suited up, we started with a nasty climb straight out of the lot. Steep, rocky and a little wet from the previous days thunderstorms made for some tough climbing with tight legs. This was the yellow trail in the Caldonia area of the park....I think. Our rapid warm-up got us to the top of the climb and some loose, rock strewn single track and some fine riding. I was amazed that a trail that looked so established would have as many fist-sized rocks that it did. Normally they would have been ejected to the sides long ago, but, I guess that was the entire make-up of the bed rock. The next piece of trail was called "Stinger" and it was more of the same twisty, rock strewn single track that wove through the woods and ended with a nice technical decent onto a fireroad. Darius had to fix an issue with his front brake so DKEG and Steve pressed on and were to met us at the top of lollipop. Well, the brake job took a bit longer than we estimated and upon our arrival at the summit, David and Steve were no where to be found. Darius decides we should take the downhill portion of the trail and seek them out. This was another fast, fun, rocky trail that took us down to the middle of the road climb. We took the fire-road back to the top of lollipop and just as we were about to send out SAR we hear Davids whistle. Those things really work! With our little group reunited we set out on the "camp trail" working our way around Darius' loop. The camp trail put us onto another fireroad and it was at this time I informed our fearless leader that I was on something of a time constraint. He quickly modified our loop and we made our way directly to Abigail. Now Abigail ranks up there as one of the finest pieces of trail I have ever ridden. Unfortunately my legs were pretty toasted at this point and it was a challenge to hammer some of the short, steep climbs she throws at you initially. I pressed on, knowing that what goes up must come down and she did not disappoint. Rock gardens, slabs, drops and more, this is a superior section of trail and is not to be missed. As Abigail descended back into the valley we took a sharp left onto the connector trail that has been tentatively re-named "Stout", after it's builders favorite beverage. Stout, a fairly young trail, was full of log-overs, rock-overs, narrow off-camber bench that dropped into the valley below. The trail meandered down into and around the valley floor, hugging the swollen streams that would be a welcome sight during a hot summer ride. It popped out onto a road where Steve peeled off from our group and we quickly dove back into the woods and this stream valley trail. There were a couple narrow bridges that you really had to pay attention on. One slip would send you several feet down into a tributary of the larger streams. After a few more minutes of stream trail we had to portage over a fallen tree that was equipped with 2"x2" toe bars to keep your feet on the slippery timber. From the crossing it was more tight twisty single track that over-looked a reservoir, down into the valley one last time and a stream crossing that was actually quite deep. The refreshing mountain water breathed life into my aching legs and was an incredible way to end an epic ride in Michaux. A Smutty Nose Robust Porter in the p-lot topped off the day. Next time I have been instructed to enlist a babysitter so we might enjoy a little post ride BBQ near Ski Liberty. Next time for sure!