Wednesday, December 30, 2009

redneck silliness

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I thought this video was pretty hilarious and it reminded me of a photo I recently saw of some friends back in TX who experienced a snow storm, big for them. I think I saw 3 or 4 snows as a kid growing up in the Lone Star State. Anyway since TX is flat and there are no good hills to sled down, (that's sleigh riding for you East TN folk), they hooked up a rope to their riding lawn mower and pulled each other up and down the street. I hope there were no abrupt stops made.

all clear

What the heck have I been doing as of late? Not really riding and I hate to say this but it's kind of been a nice break. What? Yeah I know, I guess it's why I haven't blogged much. I haven't been lying around on the couch drinking beer, I've been shocking my muscles in other ways. Melinda has been off for Christmas and it's been nice having her to work out with. The dogs are good company on the trail but she can actually talk back to me with words instead of noises or motion which makes her much easier to understand. We've been running, hiking, lifting weights & trying out P90X, one of her Christmas presents.
P90X will hurt you, 30 minutes into the 1st DVD & I pulled a hamstring and had to call it quits but a little ice and ibuprofen and I was back at it the next day. Whoever says stretching is not necessary is an idiot.

Why no riding? The last winter storm that blew through our area wreaked havoc on every trail system within a 2 hour drive leaving us with really no place to ride and it's been too cold for me to ride on the road. Luckily NTMBA and the Tri-Cities have one of the best trail crews around. While much larger cities like Asheville are still looking at their trails wondering what to do with all the trees that fell, we are looking at ours which are now clear of debris thanks to a few hardy folks who know what it takes to keep riding all year round. Melinda's uncle, Joe is the one who did most of the work and organization of the work days so hats off to him and everyone who helped him.
Bays Mountain is still closed with the same issues but we're not allowed to go in and help clear trees yet because of a wolf problem. Before the snow hit, strong winds blew a tree down crushing the fence of the wolf den allowing them to escape. Most have been caught but 2 remain on the prowl and the park will remain closed until they are found.
So with all this time off the bike I have taken it upon myself to try new things and stay motivated. Hopefully this weekend will see some singletrack goodness but with rain in the forecast who knows. I'll just keep looking at the new shiny bits on the dirty Mamasita and continue to wonder how they will feel once they get dirty like the rest of the bike.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

are the holidays over?

Once again the holidays are over and every year I say I'm not gonna eat bad, yeah right. I say I'm gonna workout everyday, yeah right. I did do a little better than usual but there seemed to be a few to many cinnamon rolls out there that found there way into my mouth. I have been trying to sneak in some calorie burn time as much as possible but the elliptical trainer at work is really getting old and my ipod selection is getting stale.
Still no riding here for me as the trails are not completely clear but they're close thanks to a mean crew wielding chain saws and clippers. I wish I could say I have been out there in the thick of it doing my part but I haven't, all of the work has been done while I sit at work. Thanks again to all those who have done the work, you are very much appreciated. What's funny is there are probably alot of riders out there who probably won't know there was ever a mess.

Santa was good to Melinda and I this year, I'm anxious to get out and test out some new gear and bling. I spent a good portion of a day installing new cranks on both Melinda and my bikes. Some carbon here and there and a whole new cockpit for the Mamasita.
Probably one of the coolest things I got was a flip cam.

I'm kind of obsessed just a bit with shooting video and taking pics which does make the blog a bit more interesting in my opinion. I have a feeling this little guy will see alot of trail time and up the cycling videos a bit. I generally hate having a bunch of stuff in my jersey pockets but this thing is too much fun to leave at home and it's very simple to use which makes shooting video with full finger gloves on a whole lot easier.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

back in the woods

Travels last week, a bunch of rain, a bunch of snow & working nights has really taken a toll on my time on the bike. With the wintery assault mother nature just laid on us it looks as if it my be a while before any of us see any trail time at our local singletrack hotspot, Warriors. Us country folk here in the south may not be as used to the snow as some of our northern brethren and 6 inches may not be a big deal but the snow we saw this week was wet and heavy knocking out power, water and uprooting trees everywhere.
Melinda, the dogs & I got out and hit the trails today for a little snow hike and to access the damage.
We found several good sized trees blocking the trail and a bunch of smaller pines that fell creating a domino effect in several areas.
We didn't arrive prepared with a chainsaw but we were able to remove 4 small trees by hand and clean up alot of debris.
I was able to lift this pine with the force but that is is far as I got it. I guess I need to work on my Jedi skills a bit.
It was nice to get out and hike after being stuck in the house and enjoy the snow which is something we don't see very often.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Sorry for the lack of posting folks everything has been on hold for the last few days. Last Friday I got the call, my Grandma passed away. We knew it was coming as she hasn't been well for some time. Luckily for me I had just started my monthly 7 days off so traveling to the Lone Star State was not a problem as long as I could score a good deal on my travels. Fortunately I was able to score cheap tickets on a flight out of Knoxville and was able to save even more money by staying with family.
I was really only there for a day and a half so I don't have much in the way of good stories to tell. I will say that I had a hard time recognizing my home town with all the changes it's gone through since my departure. I used to make return trips once a year but as I get older I seem to travel south less and less. I felt a bit embarrassed to admit that I did not know my way around town when I was asked to drive my Uncle's car after the funeral. I moved away before my 16th birthday and what used to be farmland is now peppered with shopping centers.
Upon arrival I was expecting warmer weather but other than the lack of mountains to block the frigid wind it felt about the same. I did manage to eat some good Mexican food, something that is hard to find in east TN despite the fact that there are quite a few Mexicans here.
One thing I found interesting were the street signs that instructed motorists to "Share the Road" not with cyclists but motorcycles. I was surprised to see this but I guess it does make sense since they share the same dangers as cyclists, maybe there needs to be a double duty sign for motorcycles & bicycles alike.
Despite the fact that a majority of my trip was centered around a funeral I did get a rather interesting tour of my Uncle's collection of antique trucks and cars. My Uncle has a fascination with 1950's era Fords. In his collection I counted 6 trucks and 6 cars all ranging from the late 40's to the late 50's. Had it not been freezing and I not been wearing thin slacks and funny black leather shoes I could have spent the entire afternoon in his backyard listening to stories about each vehicle.
My sister and I flew back in town late last night and it feels good to be back in the mountains even though the Mexican food is below average but I feel like it's a more than fair trade.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program of singletrack, bikes & big stinky dogs.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Cold weather, not my favorite time to ride but I still do it. I've never been a fan of cold weather riding for 2 simple reasons, my hands and my feet. No matter what I do they get cold and rarely ever warm up. I've tried everything from plastic bags to the fanciest cold weather riding gear I can find to combat the needle stinging sensation that hits my hands as I try and squeeze the brake levers or shift gears but nothing seems to help. Sometimes I can get my hands to come back to life but it takes some work, but for the first couple of miles it's pure agony, my feet never really seem to come around. I think it has something to do with my circulation but that's just my best guess. Every year I try a new pair of gloves thinking this pair just may be the ones that keep me from thinking at any minute I may loose a digit or two but deep down inside I know that won't be the case. I know what your thinking, "Hey Greg it's just a sign of getting old". Not so, I actually have seen an improvement in my years and I think being in better shape has something to do with it, possibly increasing my circulation. No matter what the case I will continue to ride but chances are if I'm off all day I'll pick the warmest part of the day and ride by my self rather than meet up with the guys at night when the temps drop into the 20's. If the warmest part of the day is in the 20's I'm strapping on my trail running shoes, I stay warmer that way and the dogs like it when they get to roll with me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

a mouth full of nails

Nothing really biking related here but there was some excitement all over East TN as Mother Nature unleashed her fury on us in the form of some really strong wind gusts. As I pulled into my driveway at home I began assessing the damage. Half of the ridge vent was blown off my roof and laying in the yard, and couple of shingles were missing.
Three trees must have gotten tired and decided to lean on their neighbor, one couldn't find a buddy to lean on so he just laid down on the ground. I spent the next 2 and a half hours on the roof replacing the ridge vent and I guess a good portion of my day tomorrow will be devoted to staking up my evergreen trees. There is just too much junk in my neighbors backyard to cut them down.

Melinda thought it would be funny to snap pictures of me on the roof with a mouth full of nails.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sugar Hallow investigation

Sunday I took a break from Christmas shopping and spending too much money in stores I'd rather not talk about and I got out in the woods on my bike where I belong. Lately there has been some rumors flying around on my local mtn bike forum of a new or semi new trail system in a local city park by the name of Sugar Hollow. The system is rumored to have been built by a group of boy scouts and to have 8 - 10 miles of singletrack. I decided Sunday was a good day to go out and lead an investigative team to see if the rumors of singletrack goodness were true or not.
I downloaded a map off the city's website and jotted down a few notes of which way to ride that some mystery guy posted earlier in the week. On my way out of the house I noted that the weather was a bit warmer than the previous day but I grabbed my winter riding jacket just in case I got lost trying to navigate my way through the woods with a poor excuse for a map. Upon arrival the sun was shining but as soon as I stepped out of the warmth of my truck I realized that I was going to need the jacket for sure.

It must have been 5 or 6 degrees colder with the wind whipping around the parking lot freezing my finger & toes, a great way to start off a ride. Even tough guy Chris Dillow looked cold as we waited and waited and waited on Fat Tony to roll in. When F.T. finally rolled in he apologized for being late and muttered something about baking cakes and pies. As luck would have it F.T. has yet to repair his brake lever despite repeated attempts in his bike shop/kitchen. I offered up one of my trusty steeds as a loaner and he accepted.
Unfortunately tough guy Chris Dillow and I continued to get colder and colder as we waited on F.T. to switch out my, never let me down, SPD pedals for some others named "Candies", which are also loaners because Crank Bros. is repairing his supposedly bomb proof "Candies". What a great name for a bike part that supports a majority of your body weight.

Once all the part swapping was complete we finally got our ride underway, frozen digits and all.
We entered the woods and I was surprised to see alot more snow than anywhere else. What little snow we got on Sat. had melted away by that afternoon.

There was indeed 8+ miles of singletrack that circled the campground. We did have to ride though the campground to connect all the segments of the trail that were short and broken up in places so I would definitely suggest taking a map with some sort of route planned out.
The trail did lack switchbacks in some necessary places causing us to do a bit of hike a bike. The one set of switch back turns we did find lacked the smooth "S" curves that I'm used to and used a more "Z" like approach making it a bit difficult to ride in the snow and wet leaves. I won't complain much though as 8+ miles of singletrack located right in the city is a rare gem and with a little work they could be a great set of trails to ride after a hard day in the office.

Before we started the ride I told F.T. he was welcome to ride either the Monkey or the Mamsita, he chose the Monkey since they have previously spent time on the trails before with success. Sunday was a bit different story and I think it may have had something to do with the "Candy" pedals he out on. On one of the more technical sections the KM threw her chain sending F.T.'s knee right into the stem. He danced and rolled around on the ground in pain while I had a talk with the Monkey, told her to play nice and replaced the chain.
As we rolled into the parking lot I looked at my computer and noticed we were about 2 miles short of the expected route. I rechecked the map and realized that we had indeed missed a large section but decided to leave it for another ride in favor of the warmer conditions of our cars.

Friday, December 4, 2009

what's on your Christmas list?

Every year I ponder on whether to make out a Christmas list or not, actually I always plan to make one but every year I decide to keep it simple and I think to myself, "be conservative". You might be thinking to yourself, Christmas List? Who really does that? Well my family does and has for years, it's kind of a tradition and we always buy gifts for each other anyway so making a lists makes things easier. It's actually kind of a fun thing to do, see what my folks put on their lists especially my Dad, he likes to add items that are usually out of everyone's price ranges just for a laugh. It's not unsual to see an AK-47 or some sort of antique British race car. Me I kinda like to do the same but of course the things I put on my list are bike related. This year was no exception, halfway through my list I added a pumptrack, hey why not. It really wouldn't cost anything other than a little hardwork. For the past 3 or 4 years a Surly Cross Check has graced the list, this year a new color was requested, "Beef Gravy Brown". I know I haven't raced much CX in over a year but I love a good CX bike and a steel frame has been on my mind for some time now.
When Melinda and I first got married it took her some time to get used to making out a Christmas list but we eventually won her over. She still has the shortest list of the family. The first year she submitted her list, my Mom was surprised at her list accusing me of making it for her. She did have a few girly items but there was also bike parts which my Mom thought was crazy. What girl puts bike parts on her Christmas list? I had to convince her that Melinda made the list on her own with no persuasion by me whatsoever. I think still to this day my Mom has trouble with believing it and I'm pretty sure she has yet to buy her anything bike related. She always goes for the more proper female items or at least in her mind.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

bad ju-ju

As stated in my previous post Melinda's brother Dustin, his girl Melissa and their 1 year old house wrecking machine Chase were in town last weekend for the big turkey cook-off. They live up north in the great state of Pee-Ya where he swears the trails are tougher to ride than they are down here in the cushy south. I say cushy because we line sides of our trails with old discarded mattresses so when we loose control on our perfectly groomed trails we don't get hurt. There are an abundance of old mattresses lying around if you know which neighborhoods to look in.
We don't get to visit with them on a regular basis but when we do we try our damnest to make the best of it and sneak in a ride or two. This last weekend being the holidays and such we had to keep the non-riding family members happy so we only snuck in one ride and we barely got that one in. The plan which changed 56 times for what reason I'm not sure, I think there was some behind the scenes tom-foolery going on (somebody didn't want us to ride). Once everything was straightened out the plan was to hit Bays Mountain Saturday afternoon and ride the backside. Not to leave anyone out, Nana, Melissa & Chase tagged along to do the other non-riding aspects of the park. Just leaving the house was an adventure, We met at 12:30 but didn't leave until after 1:30 because somebody kept having to go back into the house 6 or 7 times to get this or that. The funny thing was, it was the same person, one that wasn't riding hence the behind the scenes tom-foolery comment.
Once we finally arrived at the park Melinda's aunt realized she forgot her helmet and had to return home to get it. I was really beginning to think our ride was sabotaged and wasn't going to happen. it was now after 2:00 and the park closed at 5 and we were planning on riding the backside, not a quick thing to do.

Melinda, Dustin & I went ahead while Olga retrieved her helmet with plans to meet at the top of the mountain. We rode slow and steady and I played around with a bunch of new camera mounting positions for new angles. I'll try to get a video together sometime this week and post up. Once we Olga and Joe caught up with us we headed down the backside. I glanced at the time and decided we weren't gonna make the whole route. Dustin and I continued down for a shorter version while everyone else took the new trail Bear Run as a short-cut back.
As Dustin and I descended down the backside I kept waiting for him to pass me as he was a bit faster downhill than me the last time we rode together. I kept turning around and looking for him but he just got smaller and smaller and he fell off the back. Finally once outta sight I stopped and waited and waited and waited. When he caught back up he stated that he had taken a trip over the bars smashing his Garmin and leg. He kept blaming it on the sun in his eyes and the brown ice. What I don't understand is up in Pee Ya the leaves fall earlier in the season and so the brown ice shouldn't have been an issue for him, I've ridden Pee Ya in the fall and you can't see the trails because of the leaves. I told him if we don't keep moving the sun's not gonna be a factor much longer and seeing the trail is really gonna get tough. I picked up the pace a bit in an effort to make it out before dawn and that's when things started to turn ugly. We finally reached the bottom and cut left down a trail that can't be mentioned in an effort to save time and Dustin flatted. He didn't flat just any old tire but he flatted a Panaracer Rampage 2.3, one of the burliest tires out there. We jumped into tire changing mode and and as I watched him pull out all his gear I noticed something was missing, the pump. No biggie, I had CO2, I started digging around only to find one cartridge, not enough juice to inflate a 29er tire. Ouch, we gave it what we had and only got about 10-15 lbs. at best guess, definitely not enough to carry Dustin's towering frame. I told him to ride it like a feather and keep his speed low but it didn't help much as he went for a second trip over the bars.
I made several calls to the rest of our crew to see if we could get some support in the way of a pump. I guess back in the parking lot while they were so busy making sure we had our phones on us they forgot theirs so we made no contact with them until they got to the car. I conned them into driving my truck up the forest service roads to meet us part way but we still had alot of ground to cover.
While we limped his bike out I told Dustin something was very wrong with his karma, ju-ju or the bike gods were angry with him because nobody has that much bad luck. Burning a Huffy in sacrifice might be in store to get him back on track, either that or the next time we ride it's gonna have to be the Greenbelt with a support car following.

Not everyone had a bad ride that day, Melinda really surprised me with her efforts. She really attacked the trails. I hope she keeps that up and I hate that we split up because it's not often enough that we get to ride together.