Tuesday, February 28, 2012

WiLsOnS CrEEk, PiSGaH FoReSt, Nc

Luis, my good friend, the artist formerly known as Mucaro Mtb Dot Blogspot Dot Com, and I have almost the same birthday in the same birth month.  In fact, we didn't even know this, but the first time I ever saw the forest of Pisgah was with Luis and it was on a weekend where we both had birthdays.  We, without really knowing each other, except through the inter web(recurring theme), went on an out of state trip, with two birthdays in tow, talk about coincidence.(need I remind you there is no such thing)

And we repeated the tradition.  For many years, going up together at least twice.  Once during our B day month and once during the PMBAR.  This year we planned a five day trip and we planned it way ahead of time.

My failure in the Deserts of New Mexico in 2011 was like a radioactive spider bite to spiderman.  After that Tour Divide Experience, however small it was, I became a different person.  I guess you could call it a mid life crisis, but I had discovered that after 20 years of straight full time work, I had not really followed any of my dreams outright.  Fortunately, in the grand scheme of things I am slow, even in my aging, and still feeling youthful, I came back to do things differently.

I made lots of life changes since my return and all have equaled even more happiness then ever.  ONE of the most serious changes I made was increasing my seriousness in my Professional Cycling Adventurer title.  Its like that has become my full time passion and work has become something that I do that helps facilitate that.  In the past it was the other way around, I was more a cable technician who rode bike, if that makes any kind of sense.  With the Trip planned so far a head, I resolved to treat it like a training camp for the upcoming CFiTT.

The morning of our day before we left Pisgah forest we spent it doing dawn patrol into the fully loaded Honda Element, heading out on speeding highways in search of John a good friend who was going to show us the SECRET GEM of Pisgah Forest.  Usually, we don't leave the campground except to restock and ride.  The four days before we spent exploiting the forest for its singletrack goodness.

After our arrival on day one, we spent the afternoon evening, cresting Black Mountain, feeling the slash of the Clawhammers brutal steep wake up call.  I know our rides our never races, but you get three strong riders together and you cant help but smell the competitive vibes.  I was last up the mountain, playing it safe, saving my legs, using my gears.  My compadre's where on single speeds and had no choice but to stand and mash and they disappeared up the mountain.

 The Crest of Black Mountain came faster then I anticipated, and when we got back to camp, we were all surprised by how quick we made it back, beating the setting sun.

Day 2 started with rain, and finished with a fun loop around the campground and me losing my side knobs on a slippery corner.  I love my renegades, but the cornering on them is tricky.

Day 3 was the hardest longest day with the most adventure to be had as we really put the crush groove down and climbed tons of peaks and tons of great descents.  At the end we had an 8 mile road ride back to the campground and it was my chance to show my single speed brothers the advantage of a 44 tooth chain ring.

Day 4 we drove to North Mills and climbed Laurel Mountain, descended Pilot rock and eventually, to my surprise I caught and passed Aaron who only 100 feet from finishing destroyed his valve on his tubeless and we could not get it out to resolve the issue.  I had broke my leatherman so I could offer no help, so Luis and I had a one on one game of cat and mouse racing back to the car, with me eventually getting crushed by 5 seconds.

Luis and Aaron are great company.  We would hang out and talk and I would go to bed early cause I wanted and needed a rested body to keep climbing and climbing day after day.

Day 5 was the unexpected part of the trip.  The adventure into the unknown.  The morning went smooth enough and after dropping off our shuttle, we started with a long downhill, then uphills, then abandoned tracks and rutted out snake run like descents, huge drops, it was a smorgasbord of everything I like.  Side cut overgrown forest roads in the side of mountains.  Treacherous river crossings.  Huge 4 foot sheer drops that you either had to Huck or ride, but you had to choose quick.  This place was heavenly and rugged, and raw and beautiful.

At the end, we had 3 miles left of climbing to get back to the vehicles.  The single speeders took off, but knowing It was my last day in the mountains I had no fear and gave chase.  I stood up, clicked up and hung in as long as I could before cracking 1/4 mile shy of the top.  I finished third in our imaginary race and gave my self third overall in the five day pisgah training camp stage race.  I still felt proud of all the climbing I did and all the descending, but ashamed about some of the drops I by passed for safety.  I made a promise to two women when I left that I would play it safe and I did.

Luis, the artist formerly known as mucaro mtb dot blogspot dot com has since moved to Colorado where he shreds singletrack mountain trails and hero dirt daily with Unicorns and rainbows everywhere.  Aaron and I have hung out since and we continue to talk.  This sport of mountain biking seems to be boundless in what it continues to offer.

I love it.

Take care,


The NaKeD InDiaN

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ThE BiG HeaLThY LooP

I cant remember what the exact day was or the time or the month, but I know it was a long while before the very first CFiTT that I got an email from Lynn Daniels asking if I needed volunteers for my event.

My events tend to be bare bones no muss/fuss affairs and I really didn't have much for Lynne to do, but I asked her to come anyway and she helped me stash my car not too far from the start the morning of the race.

Its interesting the things that this world wide web facilitates. I had never met Lynne, yet she helped me out when I needed it and asked nothing in return.

The next year she actually showed up to race the CFiTT and became the first female in the state of Florida to ever compete and finish an off road Ultra.

Lynne's courage and determination are legendary, she came out to the Huracan and raced again finishing third, still on the female rider's podium and still putting in another great consistent showing.

When I put on the Ride the Divide movie premier in West Palm at the Bicyclery Lynne showed up to donate, support, watch and purchase. I remember her shaking LiL'r NI's hand asking him if he knew his dad was a Legend... Shucks...

When my bike Broke and I after being encouraged by friends on FB started a get a new bike fund, Lynne was by far the biggest contributor of the bunch, and I was flattered once again by her kind generosity.

So once I got back from the divide I really wanted to give back, cause I like to give back. Some would say I do enough but I always recognize those individuals closest to me and I invited Lynne and Paul to do a creative modified loop in the Ocala National Forest, seeing part of the cfitt route and exploring some new stuff as well and without hesitation they were both on board.

The plan was to leave early Saturday morning and return Sunday about 120 something miles later, with a planned overnight stop somewhere in the forest, all yet to be decided and determined as the pace of the group dictated.

Edith being the sweet gentle generous spirit that she is, opened her home to Paul and Lynne staying the night before and although I had created a gpx and shared it with them too, I got the chance to tell them up front all the cool features the trip would behold.

First we would get to see the historic old abandoned ghost town of St. Francis. We would ride the old St. Francis to Paisley wagon trail. Ride loads of beautiful remote and rarely seen forest trails whilst making our way up to the ONF portion of the CFiTT. Planning as well to stop in Mill Dam to eat and restock and possibly camp, depending on mood. The plan for the trip was flexible all the way around.

We sat around that evening laughing and watching Scott Pilgrim vs the World, a movie I had seen several times as its a family favorite, but something they both got to enjoy for the very first time.

The next morning, my lovely lady got up early with us before our departure and made us fresh french pressed coffee beans. I packed light expecting the temps to not be too savage and we rolled out. The first part of the plan involved some rambling and exploring a mostly off road route to SR 44 that would take us towards the edge of the forest. It wasn't long into our route that we had to figure out a work around because of the posted signage saying the preserve was closed because of hunting. I was willing to brave the preserve, but Lynne thought better of that idea and the point of the ride was to travel as a group and make group decisions. So we did a workaround and still had fun, and then after wondering around the forest and discovering some renegade trail we found a perfect path onto the course I wanted to take and reached the second preserve.

This time we ignored the posted warning signs and decided to just ride fast and be loud and hope that no one mistook us for tall deers riding bicycles.

The rest of the route was a dirty as I had planned and proved to get us to where I wanted to go taking as much off road as possible. We rode the old rough singletrack that dropped us into the ghost town of St Francis. We ate and soaked it in taking off down the wagon trail. Once inside the wagon Trail the gap between us got big as I managed to pedal the entire thing, which mind you is no easy feat.

After a cold creek crossing we hopped on more track heading on our way to the next destination,
Buck Lake.

When we got to Buck Lake I was spooked. There were loud voices of men, rambling and talking and laughing. It made me rather nervous and after stopping for a bit to discuss I offered to the group that we go around. I didn't feel comfortable riding through the group of loud men. But Lynne basically said she wasn't worried about it and we pressed forward with me in front mean mugging through the Buck Lake Group camp.

The last thing I expected to see in the middle of the forest was about 100 fraternity boys, drinking and being loud. There were beer cans everywhere. The place looked desperate and lonely. There young men passed out on the forest road an we pedaled straight through the camp, not hearing a single comment or a single word from the group. Guess Lynne was right.

The forest road undulated up and down and I kept the pace brisk. Occasionally making sure I was in contact, but at the same time, satisfying my own selfish need to test myself a little bit. I was after all training for the CFiTT and I was in the prime place to prepare for the event. We regrouped and continued up the road, marveling at how perfect the weather was and talking about how good some hot food would be. It wasn't long before we were at the convenience store in Mill dam and the clerk pointed us to across the street as a good enough place to get a bite to eat.

Really couldn't beat the Value for food ratio at "MOMMA'S DINER", and after eating our fill, we agreed we would be adventurous and check out all the hub bub we had been hearing about regarding the Drum circle at mill dam.

Kudo's to the Drum Circle organizers, the signage was spot on and it was easy to locate the entrance. Unfortunately they wanted $25 for us to come in and participate. I was not interested in paying that much and off we went, 1/4 mile down the road where we could still hear the show and pay absolutely nothing.

We made camp while the sun still dangled high in the sky. Cleaned off in the lake. Cleared out and set up our camping area. I went all Bear Grylls on the situation and dug a hole with palm frawn bark and built the primo fire to ward off the unusually Cool Florida Fall night.

We all cozied up after building our forested hobo houses. Ate food, chatted and relegated about the day. Drum Circle music reminiscent of Commanche ceremonies was our sound track, "choice indeed".

That night it got cold. And I really wanted to sleep. I remembered that I could use my Hammock like a tent, and got out and slid it down to the ground. climbed in and amazingly enough slept real good for the rest of the night. It was hard to fall completely asleep wondering if the neighboring tribe was planning an attack, after all the drums did literally play and echo from lake shore to lake shore all the way till 3am in the morning.

As soon as the light broke the morning, I climbed out and hearing Lynne and Paul stirring, I told them to come out to see the lake. The fog seemed to be coming out of the lake and it was quite the sight. I ate a bunch of candy and some more potato chips, made crude Starbucks Via Coffee in my water bottle and drank it black, then bundled up for the chilly temps rolling out with the next destination being Lake Eaton Loop.

The road to Lake Eaton was hard packed and fast.  I got caught up in the fire roads reminiscing on bombing North Carolina Mountain Roads and enjoyed the speed the road was offering.  We got to Lake Eaton so fast that I spent a moment wondering why I thought those two places were farther apart.

After soaking in the Lake we rolled out again across the Hopkins Prairie road with our next destination being Silver Glenn.  After pedaling all the way across the forest to SR19 we were flanked by a mass of motorcycles who all gave us thumbs up and hang loose finger signs as they passed by, I have to admit I did feel the camaraderie of being a two wheeled traveler.

As always Silver Glenn was pretty and I took a moment to restock on snacks before we left again on the forest roads rambling towards Juniper.  After Juniper we climbed up and up to Forest road 599 aka the Dragons tail, hung a left, and then got on the pavement making our way to Billy Bay.  Billy bay was a mess and compared to the rest of the ride proved to be the most difficult and taxing section and I knew when we got to the end that although we had about 30 more miles of dirt left, I better reconsider our options.  The sun was sinking in the sky fast and I knew Lynne and Paul had a long drive home.

At the Gates of Alexander Springs I negotiated a reopening of the store as we were all eager for something cold to drink.  I was successful and after leaving Alexander I informed the group that I wanted to take the road all the way back.  The dirt section we were about to attempt would be unknown to me and it could be hard and fast or it could be a complete redo of billy bay pushing us late into the night.

No one argued with my decision and we played road riders all the way back to Edith's house taking turns at the front and eventually all of us finishing arms raised and happy that another great overnight was in the books.

That night we ate and relegated over Edith's delicious dinner.  We talked and laughed and were actually sad to see Lynne and Paul go.  Although I had known Lynne through the Internet and spoken to her several times here and there and watched her race, I felt after this weekend, I had made a new friend.  Its funny what a long tramping in the woods will do to build a relationship.

Take Care,


The NaKeD InDiaN