Friday, April 30, 2010

who's down?

It's Friday! I got seven days off from work and nothing but awesome weather in the forecast and 5 bikes that are just itching to get out and get their tires dirty. There are 3 possible rides that could take place over the course of the next 3 days. Today I plan on hitting Bay's Mountain with Mr. Vocabulary, we're meeting in the upper parking lot @ 12:30 and riding off the backside. If you think you can hang bring it.
Tomorrow I'm heading back to the Creeper Trail to help Melinda get her bike legs back and do a ride with my parents, sister and her crew. Should be an interesting trip.
Sunday Hungry Mother is on the menu but that will be a game time decision for us. Melinda is still not 100% so we'll make the call as to whether or not we ride the night before.
I promised myself I would keep this one short so neither of us waste time sitting at a computer reading this blog when the weather is perfect for being outside. Now I'm off to get a haircut so I can be a bit more aerodynamic for the weekend.

get out!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

M.J. would be proud of me

I think I've resolved my issue with what to do about the new color scheme on the Karate Monkey. A week or so ago in a post I was talking about the addition of some new white components. I felt like the Monkey needed a face lift but after adding a new white stem & seat there was just something else I felt like it needed but I wasn't sure what that was.

I didn't have the dough to throw down on a new white fork or a set of I-9's with white rims which would have been pretty sweet. I needed something small, something inexpensive and something that wasn't too "in your face". I think I may have found just that.

Ladies & Gentlemen may I present to you the Dakine Step-up Gloves in white.
Back in April Melinda bought me a new pair of riding gloves. Something I really needed. Normally I go with just plain black because there is not much else out there to choose from. I'm pretty picky about the fit of my gloves and my last pair while they did fit good and still do the velcro wrist strap gave up the ghost within 2-3 months. I was really disappointed in the lack of stickiness. I'll try not to complain too much about the gloves since they're were completely free courtesy of the Endura Rep. I met on a ferry ride in the Outer Banks last summer. The gloves themselves are still in great cond. and I'll keep them on hand for days when the weather turns sour and I don't want to get my new pretty white gloves dirty.
I'm sure I'll take some ribbing over the white gloves but I think they look pretty cool, they fit great and best of all there is no velcro wrist strap to worry about. I do have one small little complaint about the Dakine gloves, they're hard to get. None of my local shops carry them and none of my usual online stores do either. I will assure you that I did look locally before I purchased them online but I've been disappointed in the selection of gloves here in the Tri-Cities.

Enough about color matching & gloves, the Night Owl, is just around the corner and my riding has suffered lately so as usual I will probably be trying to cram too much riding in a short amount of time in an effort to be in the best racing shape ever. Why does it never work the way I plan it in my head. I have no kids, my work schedule allows me to ride more than most but yet I still have a hard time getting in all the miles I would like to.
I did grab Melinda and I a camp spot at Hungry Mother but I have yet to register for the race. I'm going to hold off until Friday in order to give myself the most time possible to decide on which class to race. Expert or Sport, I definitely won't feel like a sandbagger racing sport but the course for expert is more appealing and the fact that Alan is racing expert makes me feel as if I should. If I race expert there is a good chance I'm going to get my ass handed to me, if I race sport there is a possibility of getting close to the podium if the turnout is low and I'm on my A-game. I've got 3 more days to study the course try and figure out who's racing what and make my decision.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

earning my paycheck

I'll go ahead and say this now, there is nothing cycling related about this post but I figured it was a good enough story to tell here.
Last Wed. I rolled into work for hopefull for a slow nightshift to find out that my plant had shut down due to an electrical failure of some sort. Not good, when the plant is down that means alot of work for me and I was already running on fumes from a lack of zzzz's. There were a few jobs to be done so it was a hurry up and wait situation well past midnight. I was hoping to hurry up and get things going instead of stringing it along into Thurs. At around 2am I got the call on my radio to do a job and on my way through the plant I smelled methanol, a toxic and very flammable chemical that we use in our process. The fact that I could smell it was not a good thing, that meant we had a leak somewhere. Leaks are not an uncommon thing especially for a plant that runs 24/7, 365 days of the year. When we do have a leak it's really important to find it and fix it but they are never much more than a small drip. I went ahead, did my job and hurried back to the origin of the smell to try and find the leak. It didn't take me long to find several puddles forming on the ground and a small shower coming down from up above. I looked up through the sea of pipes until I realized it was coming from high up on one of the columns. We have several columns in our plant some that are 200 ft. tall but only about 8 ft. in diameter. Because it was dark out and the column was so tall actually pinpointing the source of the leak was impossible from the ground. I contacted my boss and we began the process of putting a plan together on how we were going to find and fix the leak. The only real way to do this was to climb up the column until the found the source. Since I am one of the younger operators I'm always the one who gets volunteered to do the climbing which is fine with me. I'm always up for an adventure.
As we were talking things over another co-worker scaled a platform nearby to get a closer look and realized that everytime the wind blew it blew the methanol into the ladder we would use to climb up the column.
Right then we decided that our fire dept needed to be called in case a fire were to break out. It would not have been a good thing if it caught fire with us on the column. When the fire dept rolled in we were suiting up in rain coats, rubber gloves, goggles, and face shields in case we were doused with methanol. The fire dept immediately let us know they were no comfortable with us climbing the column with a shower of methanol raining down the column just a a couple of feet from us as we climbed. After a few minutes of discussion the fire dept stated that they could have a crane brought in to lift us in a basket to the source. Normally the crane crews do not work nights but this was an emergency situation so the call was made and some poor group of guys were woken up and called into work. The longer this went on the more nervous I became. It went from me and my crew to the entire fire dept., safety, several big whigs from our dept., a lift crew and a crane crew. I also went from wearing a yellow raincoat with rubber gloves to a fire retardant suit, a full body harness and oxygen. The fire dept set up the big ladder truck with flood lights so my flashlight was a waste of time and a water hose in case a fire broke out and we were in the middle of it.
After the crane was in place we suited up, strapped into the crane basket and were lifted up the column until we found the leak. Riding in a crane basket is a little like riding the first giant hill on a roller coaster but without a seat or bar strapped across you. The scary part about it was the fact that once we got to the leak I had to climb out of the basket and onto the column which was around 100 ft. up. Thank goodness the leak was only halfway up. Climbing columns and riding in crane baskets is something I've done before but with the crowd of emergency folks and their flashing lights and several of my bosses all on the ground watching me as I attempted to fix a leak that was holding up a multi million dollar process not to mention the highly toxic/flammable liquid leaking from the column I was about to climb onto was making me a little bit nervous just to say the least.
Once we reached our destination I attached my harness to the column and climbed out of the basket and onto the column. Once on the column I realized we had not one but two leaks but thankfully they were very close together. My buddy who rode up with me stayed in the crane basket so it would not sway away from the column while I worked, that too and there was not a whole lot of room where I was at.
The leak was pretty bad but the fix was pretty easy and I was back in the crane basket within 10 minutes and one my way back down to earth. From the time I found the leak at 2 am almost 4 hours had passed by the time I was done. With that said we were still down and the next night looked to be just as busy if not worse.
It's times like these that I realize why they pay me for the job we do. A majority of the time we are just hanging out watching over things. That night I felt like I earned my paycheck and then some.
Never fear, next week I will be back to rambling on about riding bikes and talking trash. Until then you can read this post over and over and try to live vicariously through me as you sit in your cubicle staring at a computer all day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

new trails, new art

It's been a slow week lately, not much going on in the way of trips into the wooded areas. Melinda is doing better but she still has a long way to go before her bike will see any action. The doctor says no exercise including walking for at least 14 days and she's just on day 6.
We've spent alot of time walking the plant isles of Lowes, Home Depot & Evergreen the last few days and everytime we go, we buy an arsenal of plants and flowers. One of these days maybe we'll win the beautification award in Kingsport but that's probably just wishful thinking on my part. One look at my neighbors yards would send the judges running before they even got to our yard. I have to give all of the credit to Melinda, she's the one with the vision, drive and talent that makes our yard look the way it does.

Last weekend our mtn bike club had the pleasure of hosting an IMBA trail workday at Steele Creek Park. Two IMBA representatives came in town for a couple days and put on a workshop and our project was to re-route a section of trail at Steele Creek Park that pretty much stays flooded due to it's close proximity to a creek.

Before: The old trail to the left and the new projected trail mapped out with orange pin flags on the right.

After: In just a little over 3 hours the new section of trail was ready to ride and the old trail was given back to nature.

IMBA showed us there is more to closing a trail than just dragging downfall and leaves over it. All the trees that were removed from the new trail corridor were dug up roots and all and replanted in the old trail bed. It was very difficult to tell where the old trail was once the work was completed.
In other mtb club news I finally submitted some new artwork to the local bike shop/screen printer to get the new club t-shirt printed up. If your interested in one give me a shout asap, I only ordered 55 and I expect them to go pretty quick.

Friday, April 16, 2010

the world's most expensive bottle opener

I don't really have anything exciting to talk about. I spent the last two days sitting in a hospital room watching reruns of Friends and flipping through my latest copy of DirtRag for the 20th time. Before you start worrying, everything is ok, Melinda was the one who had the procedure and it was planned. She had her Tonsils & Adnoids removed and a really interesting procedure on her nose called a Septoplasty. No she didn't get the MJ special to help her hit the high notes. It was a procedure to help her breathe better at night. I feel real sorry for her as she has been in alot of pain, the meds they sent her home with are so strong that when she asks me a question she usually falls asleep before I can finish answering her. When this happens I usually end up hearing the same question again an hour later.

Once I got everything situated at the house and hauled all the trash I've been collecting in my basement down to the curb I got the green light to head out to the trails with the dogs and burn off some pent up energy. We had gotten about 30 minutes worth of rain earlier in the afternoon but as dry as it's been I wasn't too worried about wet trails.
Once I got into the woods my suspicions were confirmed, the dry ground had sucked up every drop of rain leaving the trails in perfect shape for a nice trail run. I was kind of surprised when I had a problem with getting the dogs to stay with me. Usually when they've been cooped up in the house for a few days all they want to do is run but yesterday they were more interested in putting their nose to the ground and checking out every inch of the trail. All was going good until I managed to step on a rock just right. I positioned my foot on it just in the right spot so that when I put my weight in it, it rolled to the outside and all I heard was a pop. Not a crack signaling a break but a pop loud enough to hear and give me that nice queasy feeling that makes you think you could blow chunks at any minute.
I immediately ended my run, turned around and limped back to the truck. A majority of the time if I continue to walk right after turn my ankle I manage to skip alot of the soreness and swelling. After a couple of minutes it felt pretty good but not good enough to continue running and I still had a slight limp. I knew once I sat down and allowed it to rest things might turn for the worse and I was right. That evening as I wound down I layed down in the floor with an ice pack. An hour later when I got up I could barely walk on it, just great. I downed a few ibuprofen grabbed another ice pack and went to bed hoping for a better tomorrow.
Surprisingly when I woke up it felt alot better but I'm still limping a bit. I'm working the next three days so my weekend was already a loss and hopefully that will be all I'll need to fully heal and be back at it by Monday.

Tuesday while in Johnson City I gave my old buddy the Local Cult Hero a shout and asked him if he had 2 Yakima Bow Down's in stock. He said he had one and could order me another. I had been looking around online but the best deal I could find was $161 per rack and I needed two. I really didn't want to spend $300 + on kayak racks but the cheaper version didn't fold down out of the way or have a nifty bottle opener on it. I've noticed alot of manufacturers have really jumped on the bottle opener band wagon in the last 2 years. You can find them on bikes, trailer hitches, belt buckles and now roof racks. I will admit I frequently forget mine at home when we head out on a camping trip so the two I have on the Karate Monkey's chain tensioners have saved many of my friends from dying of thirst.

I asked the L.C.H. if I bought 2 racks could he cut me a deal and he did leaving me with no choice but to go ahead and pull the trigger. Now I'll never have to worry about not being able to open a frosty beverage if by some crazy chance we're out in the wild and I have forgotten my trusty BO-2 and I picked the Mamasita over the Monkey.
I received an email from the fine folks who put the 6 Hours of Warrior's Creek the other day with a fancy little link to a web page containing all the lap times and other info regarding who won and who got their ass handed to them. I knew where I was going to stand in that regards. I started off the race in the back of the pack not really wanting to get in the mix my first lap out especially since my head really wasn't in the game. I figured if I stayed back and kept my pace at a respectable speed I'd have more gas in the tank closer to the end and be able to continue when most were calling it a day. At the time I didn't think I would be one of the first to pull the plug.
Needless to say I decided not to view the results and remind myself of how poor my performance was. Today I finally ventured over to the BMCC's website but only to see if I could find any race pics of myself on my one measly lap. Of the 431 photos post up on the web I could not find one single shot of me flying sideways through one of the many banked turns.
I could have sworn I saw multiple photographers out on the trail but I guess I was either in a worse mental state than originally thought and hallucinating or the photographers deleted all the pics of racers who bailed after 1 measly lap thinking that if we didn't care enough to put forth the effort of at least 2 laps then we definitely wouldn't take the time to looks for our race pics much less buy one.
After being disappointed by not being able to find a photos of myself I decided to look at the race stats anyway. I knew I was probably not the only one who bailed after 1 lap and I thought to myself may just maybe I was the fastest 1 lap lowly rider. Last year I think I counted at least 4 or 5 folks who pulled the plug early and wasted $40 on entry fees. As I browsed through the solo open men category I reached the bottom only to find only one other person in my category had finished only 1 lap and he managed to finish ahead of me. DAMN! Not to let this get me down I clicked on the Overall results, scrolled to the bottom of the big 1's and learned that I finished 3rd overall out of 5 racers!
That's a podium spot even if it's for the poorest showing of the race.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Elvis's New White Shoes

The Monkey has been getting the special treatment lately. New fork last fall, new carbon bar this winter, wheels and tires this spring. With the addition of a new carbon bar I had to replace the old stem as the new bar diameter went up to a 31.8. The only stem I had laying around was an old Easton EA30 off Melinda's road bike and it was a bit shorter than I was used to.
Earlier this month I acquired some extra $$ for my b-day and I decided it was time for a new stem and saddle. I've been playing around with a couple saddles that I've had lying around but none of them really felt that great. I've been running the all black scheme for a while but I've felt the monkey needed something a bit different.
Last year I went the cheap route and bought a set of pink bottle cages but after a year I decided they just looked out of place and needed to go. Not really sure what I wanted to do I looked to the car the Man in Black used to drive for a bit of inspiration.

The ole number "3".
The only other colors he ran were a small bit of red and some white. Both of these colors are pretty popular especially red when it comes to black bikes so I decided on white. The Monkey already has white lettering on it's logos and wheels so I thought it would look good if I continued the theme.

I stopped by my local bike shop and started looking around. I told Mark I was in the market for a white stem and saddle. Both of which have become pretty popular in the past year.
He rounded me up a Bontrager Race Lite stem & saddle.

This saddle is just a demo while I try out different widths. I've never actually had the choice of different widths and I didn't know what to think so I'm gonna try a couple different sizes. I knew this was an option but it's just never really been one for me. Technically there is supposed to be some sort of seat bone measuring device but I didn't see one laying around the shop. I'm not really sure what a seat bone measuring device looks like but I do know they exist. So for now I'll just try a couple sizes until I find the one that feels the best.

When I first mounted everything up I stood back and thought it looks pretty good but I think I need something else white. I'm not really sure what that is but I think somethings missing. I asked Melinda's opinion on the Monkey's new look and she wasn't impressed, she said something about Elvis and white shoes, I can't remember her exact words.

Friday, April 9, 2010

and the winner is.........

It has been decided, the Night Owl wins. After much thought and careful consideration I have decided to stay local pay a much cheaper registration fee that includes a T-shirt. No there will not be any watered down spaghetti & meatballs but I guess I will survive. There will be no swag bag full of useless phamplets to litter the ground with and waste space in our landfills.

What we will get is a good ole fashion mountain bike race in the dark. The hard part will be keeping Anthony out of the post race refreshments prior to the start. He has a bad habit of trying to find a way out of toeing up on the line when the time comes.
So now that decision is behind me I have just one more delima to take care of.

Which class do I enter?

Do I risk it all and go for the longer more challenging course of the expert class? Or do I take the easier route with all the sandbaggers trying to stand atop the podium in the bulging sport class?

This really isn't a technical course, but what it does have is elevation gain, and lot's of it. I guarantee there will be some pushing of bikes before the night is over. With the expert class your just about guaranteed to ride your bike to the limit. Letting it all hang out, hard as you can go, none of that sissy granny gear crap. Do I risk it or play it safe?

I guess we'll have to weigh the pro's & con's.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

creepin' again

Every once in a while I con some of the guys from my place of employment to get out and ride a bike through the woods rather than a 4-wheeler with gun racks attached. While I haven't pushed them to hit singletrack yet I have noticed a few actually take an interest in cycling. The few rides we have done has actually sparked some interest in learning the difference between a dept. store bike and one obtained from a bike shop. I'm still working on trying to get them to understand the biggest fattest cushiest seat is not always the best choice but hey at least it's a start.
Yesterday I joined them for another adventure on the VA. Creeper trail. This is not our first trip and they actually made one without me 2 weeks ago. Surprisingly we were able to cover 38 miles on the mostly flat double track rail trail that follows along side a river and weaves through VA. Christmas Tree farms.
Although the VA Creeper is not a true mountain bikers dream it's a nice change of pace every once in a while to get out and enjoy nature and the feel of two wheels underneath you. It's great to see guys who haven't ridden a bike in years awaken that youthful spirit and experience the thrill of flying downhill under they're own power and a little help from gravity. The only time I really pushed them was to break 20 mph at least once with a threat of whoever didn't had to buy the first round of beers @ lunch.
I did take the Karate Monkey as my choice of wheels since it was a singlespeed. I thought the lack of gears going up would give the other guys a bit of an advantage. In all reality it was the downhill that proved to be tougher. I had to draft and spin as hard as possible in order to stay mid pack going down. I should have picked a bigger gear as it was a bit dusty and I ate alot of it trying to stay on they're rear wheel.
A great time was had by all including myself and I think I actually planted a seed. A couple of them are starting to realize that comfort bikes are really meant for jumping and are considering a switch to something more aggressive.

I did receive on of these in the mail the other day courtesy of Melinda as a Birthday present.

It was actually supposed to arrive in time for last weekends race but I made the mistake of not pointing Melinda to the correct website for purchase. The folks she thought she was supposed to order it from took a ridiculously long time to ship it out. It was my fault but since my performance last weekend was less than stellar it was not a big loss. Now I just need to find some new trails to shoot.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

6 Hours of Warriors Creek - FAIL

I would love to say I had a great race. I would love to say I shot some really cool videos with the helmet cam. I would love to say we got some great photos this weekend. I would love to say all of these thing but I can't.
The week leading up to the race I felt my allergies start to act up and my head fill with congeston. When this happens I don't have all the symptoms you normally hear about like runny nose, itchy watery eyes, and sore throat. No, I feel a certain level of anxiety and loss of coordination. My motor skills feel really off and I tend to get really quiet.
I fought it the entire week leading up to the race but everything I tried seemed to be little help. I knew my symptoms were going to really affect my performance during the race and they did. Through out the whole first lap I felt as if my head was in a fog and I was having trouble focusing on my line. After I finished my first lap I pulled into the pits and began the process of talking myself into calling it a day. Needless to say I never went back out and I choose instead to enjoy the company of Melinda just chilling in our campsite for the rest of the race.

During my first and only lap while my head was not in the game the rest of my body felt good. My back did not scream at me but it did complain a bit so I guess more core work is in store for me as well as a trip to see an allergist.

Yes it was a poor performance on my part but sometimes that's the way these things go, but I will be back to race another day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

1 heckuva week

Normally my job is pretty laid back, not much goes on unless there is an upset in the process. This week has been the exception to that rule. Everyday this week there has been an issue that has had me scaling columns, crawling under equipment, swinging from overhead pipes you name I got to do it. I'm just glad we had beautiful weather to do it in. This was supposed to be my week off to rest up for the 6 Hours of Warriors Creek this weekend and I planned to let my legs rest before the big thrashing they are going to lay down on the field that is known as the Sport class in Endurance racing. That plan was quickly tossed out the window early Monday just before lunch when everything went haywire. Hence the lack of blogging this week. I've been trying to pick up all the slack of my fellow bloggers out there who have really let the cobwebs collect. I hear it all the time, "I'm really gonna start writing again". One or two posts later and the cobwebs start growing again. In my spare time I've been slowly preparing the ECO for it's 1st adventure of the season. It's always a weird feeling when I hook it up and hit I-40 for the first time that year. I hope to have alot of good stories, pictures and hopefully some video for your viewing pleasure when we return so stay tuned.