Alright. Here's the problem. When I have nothing to write about, I have plenty of time to write. And over the last week i've done a lot, and haven't touched the ole blog. The marathon work months are behind me for now, and I've enjoyed two weeks off, a lot of personal travel, rewarding experiences, getting back to my roots, riding new trails, race planning, and more riding before a few corners of Pisgah close for the season.
Soon after landing from the utopia that was Fort Wayne, I headed up to Pittsburgh to spend a little time with Bella and some friends from Cleveland. My bestest friend Tara came down with my other bestest friend Finn for some Pittsburgh museum day tripping. We couldn't leave the house until Finn and Bella had had enough play time and Finn figured out how to use the doggie door.
Next stop the totally awesome Pittsbugh Children's Museum. I think I had as much, if not more fun than Finn. He's still at the age where sometimes the cardboard box is more fun than what's inside. Whatever child development specialist designed the blended art/educational exhibits should realize that some kids just want to play in dirt. Which he did. When asked (after 3 hours of stimulation) what his favorite part of the museum was, he replied "The T-rex." The T-rex was a stuffed dinosaur up in the infant level that we stumbled into....he picked it up carried it around for little. And THAT is what he'll probably remember. Cool.
Because the children's museum went over so well, we decided to go to the Mattress Factory the next day and expose Finn to some of Pittsburgh-if-not-the-country's best art installations. My curiosity was piqued by the James Turrell pieces. He works with light, or more recently the absence of it, and builds room sized installations challenging your perception of light, and space. Finn, not so much. We sat in one of his dark pieces for like 5 minutes, waiting for our eyes to adjust, which takes 20 minutes of sitting in a room so dark you can't see your hand infront of your face. Quoth Finn, "Why don't they turn the lights on?" An artistic statement in and of itself muttered from the mouth of a nearly 3 year old. He did dig a japanese installation involving two mirrored rooms with lots of color...could of guessed that.
Back to NC, man that drive gets longer and longer everytime, but that last hour or so is beautiful from Johnson City down to Asheville. I spent an hour at home, grabbed some climbing gear, well all of it, and thru it in the car for later sorting. Cam and Bess from my Grand Canyon trip were in town and had just got off working an Outward Bound course at Table Rock and invited me up for a night of wood fired hot tubbing and a day of climbing and introductions. No problem. We woke up on a chilly morning and decided to drive/hike up to the summit of Table Rock and get a look around. Cam pointed out the undeveloped side of Linville, Short Off, and whatever that gendarme on the left is...i can't remember...
Back to basecamp, make some lunch, and the head for some actual climbing. I think the last time I climbed rock was up at Cathedral when work sent me into NH, almost two years ago, and before that isolated incident, it had been another year, maybe with some Ice inbetween, but that's a different animal. Table Rock is a confounding kind of approach...and without local climber knowledge, its easy to get skunked. We found a clean face with what appeared to be a pretty good weakness, a right arching crack/corner system to a ledge. We never identified it in the book, I racked up, and went at it. Not a good pitch for my first lead in a while. Probably a good eastern stout 5.8+ with sketchy gear. It got a little heady on some moves when I spaced my gear a bit. Because of the arch, I had all my pieces extended with shoulder length slings to help with the rope drag, but 10 feet above a piece, with a 2 foot sling equals a 24 foot fall. Nice. Got to some anchors and was relieved. Although it did take way too long to construct this manky mess.
All safe...but not that clean, which was always a goal of mine. Where's my cordelette? what's that second draw doing? that's right...nothing. So I'm on one point. That's not good. Could girthed to the shelf as a back up. My climber system is actually pretty good though...autoblock on the belay and the knot means either one of those bolts could fail and he'd be okay....but if the right one fails....I'm a gonner. I got better, and the belays and transfers got cleaner on the other two pitches we climbed. This is what happens when you throw a biker back on the rock.
Alright, back to biking. After Table Rock, like the same day, I got back and went for a quick road ride with my friend Kylie. Its finally happened...a dual sport day in Asheville. I would have preferred a climbing and Mountain Biking day, but I'll take a road ride, its a start. We tiddled around for about and hour and a half, and Kylie, like she always does, got some errands done on the tail end of our ride. Friday was more road riding, into a really cold storm on the backside of Elk Mountain. Nice timing. Finished the Elk Climb, the descent to the BRP, and all the way to the summit of Town Mountain in a nice big drop down pour. The descent down Town Moutain was hypothermic at best, and I couldn't get warm the rest of the day....even while standing in the coldish, surrounded by storms Pisgah Brewery for the Pisgah Brew Crew Jersey Release night. Imagine that....cold rain and cold beer don't warm you up?
Saturday I (literally) threw Bruce in the car and headed to Athens to pre ride the SSUSA course, and enjoy Terrapin Brewing's 7th anniversary. My race promotion partner, Shey Lindner, and SSUSA spirit award winner, Mike Stanley were converging on Hawke's Creek Farm to ride the course, plan the set up, and the other events. We had a good lap on what's going to be a very busy, power demanding, tight little XC course. I can ride for hours, but honestly, 40 minutes on this thing hurt. The 4 laps for the championship are going to take a lot to stay focused and keep pedaling to win. Over a couple beers in the field we brainstormed the rest of the weekend activities, and came up with some great ideas. Works done for the day. Off to Terrapin, where Mike treated us like royalty. A thousand people were standing around in lines for atleast 30 minutes, trading beer tickets for a 4 oz tasting pour. I sat in a camp chair, and had full pints brought to me. Not to shabby. This treatment allowed Bruce and I to catch up pretty quick, and then surpass most of those in attendance until it was late, we were hanging with Brewery staff inside for the afterhours, and then bivying under the Terrpin Team tent out in the field for the night. We were woken up by a homeless guy toting a plastic festival cup of IBA, which I assume he found in the field. Alrighty! Time for an Easter Breakfast at Waffle House and off to Clemson to ride.
Isaqueena is an impossible to understand network of trails, that I have visited once before. Following 30 people and a marked course. Thus, I remembered nothing and it was proven over and over again, but we were two men with no schedule, and no cares. We covered just about every part of the area, some of it twice, some of it by bushwacking. Found some more water in which to make us feel alive...a now repetitive Bruce and I habit. Also took a couple runs at the downhill course. Fully rigid bikes don't make the best DH bikes, but I did the best I could, and got did get a little more comfortable with the wall ride. We put in a good 5 hours or riding around, did some fast twisty stuff, some gravel roads, some Pisgah esque remote feeling single track, and played on some man made stuff...not a bad day of riding. This place is only 2 hours away, but in Asheville, that drive doens't happen. In Cleveland, 2 hours was like a minimum...amazing how things change.
The Issaqeena ride was also the dirt debut of the Rohloff setup. Other than some either "unbroken in" grinding or "not enough oil" grinding the things works great. Its definitely a pig back there, but as long as you don't huck off stuff all day, you don't really notice it affecting ride quality, other than simply being a heavier bike to climb. I think it actually helps the descending, keeping some weight low in the rear and helping braking conrol. Plus, standing into the pedals and hammering flat singletrack is something I can't do on the SS setup, and it was fun launching away from Bruce on those sections. I have it set up with disk brakes and an aftermarket "Monkey Bone" to allow disk brakes and a pretty clean setup. Apparently all disc brake applications use the external gear box. Which is kind of clunky, but if you break a cable or shifter in the back country, you can still shift this with an allen key, pretty handy. Gonna run an oil service on it and try to put as many miles on it as possible between now and CTR
And finally....with my taxes done, and tax day not yet over....I had time to ride all my favorite seasonal trails in Pisgah before they become illegal like princesses at midnite. Kylie, Ed and I left White Pines, climbed the defibulator that is Bennett Gap, and descended Coontree. Both Seasonal...good bye trails. We then road spun over to the hatchery, and up 475 to the odd little entrance to Caney Bottoms, aka the paint shaker, thank you Tomato for that name that won't leave my head. I actually had a newly Suspension Experts tuned fork on my bike this time, and it felt great on Caney Bottoms. Also seasonal, you will be missed. Up the steep singletrack out of Cove Creek to the grassy road that never ends. From that, anaerobic up the stairs, push the rocky washed out climb, and make the ridge with that pesky puking feeling hanging around, and then drop my favorite technical descent in the forest; Daniels Ridge. Once again the fork felt great, and I, yes I, dropped everyone on the descent. That doesn't happen often, and it won't happen again till October. So long Daniels. Next we climbed back up 475 to Long Branch. Long Branch is a fun, twisty, non tech descent that lowers you all the way to a little Cat Gap and a little of Butter Gap. I'm pretty sure Long Branch isn't seasonal, but it doesn't go anywhere you can get out of without riding seasonals, so I guess the Long/Cat/Butter trilogy is done for as well. It was a great day of riding, the 3 of us moved really well together. I was testing out my fork again, Ed had just 69'd his Merlin TI singlespeed with a new 29" wheel and home rebuild of the Lefty SL, and Kylie was on her brand spanking new Inde Fab team build with all kinds of fancy if not dialed in parts. I earned my 340z grande Dos Equis for 3.75 and fried ice cream today. Quite a prize.