Archive for the 'Biking' Category

PEEG 2.0 – My Surly Pugsley Bikepacking Rig

Bikepacking - My Surly Pugsley Wallpaper

4 Sporks in 7 Years

I must say much has changed in my life in the last several months. I suffered through a drama-packed job situation which is still settling and I had many opportunities to learn and do new things. Below are the details of some of the more interesting events of the last few months :

  • *I have changed jobs on 2 occasions with the possibility of a third coming
  • *I achieved Security+ and Network+ certifications (to get bonuses and add resume filler, currently prepping for CISSP & CEH), and a Cloudshield Certified Developer Certification
  • *I lost my fourth spork in recent memory at work (probably stolen again)
  • *I took a Christmas vacation to Colorado with my immediate family where I learned how to … quickly … put on snow chains and of the value of owning a Subaru in snowy conditions
  • *My motorcycle has broken down to an extent
  • *I have been prepping for the whole grad school routine again
  • *I finally finished Jades Robot Costume only to have her declare that she will no longer be known as Pickle
  • *I ran Warrior Dash as Lt. Dangle, and lost the keys to the cruiser (this one must be told verbally. I could spend all day writing about it)
  • *I may have determined what the hell is wrong with my weather station
  • *And finally Laura got a job … just kidding

Jerb Drama
The biggest life changer in the last few months was without a doubt, my job situation. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the DoD contracting process, a contract and its allocated positions and financial resources are usually reassessed or bid on annually. I worked with a small company developing software for a NIDS/NIPS system deployed by the Air Force. Most of my coworkers were rather unconcerned about losing the contract since our company had it for many years and since the government was relatively happy with our products. In fact when the negotiations for the contract were being made the contracting office and people affiliated with our work requested that bidders provide a detailed and technically specific development plan consisting of several hundred pages of information … in like 15 days in an apparent attempt to ward off bidders. Despite all of this, I was still pessimistic. I just had a weird gut feeling about it all and several small signs popped up as we closed in on D-Day. On the last day of our work we still hadn’t received an answer as to our future. Only then did I begin to see a shift in the moods of many of my coworkers. We all had to pack our stuff to avoid having to be escorted back onto the premises in the event of losing our jobs. The next night we finally received an email from our interim team leader who was rather shocked himself when saying “we did not get the contract”.

So like that I went from being the happily and gainfully employed breadwinner of my family to an unemployed software engineer (yeah think Office Space again). The good news when these things happen is that the company who wins the contract typically hires several of the old employees to fill gaps in technical skills specific to the project. This was also the case this time however the winning company grossly underbid on the contract resulting in all of the former employees having to walk the fine line between taking care of themselves and taking care of friends and former coworkers. In a way it resembled the shittiest game of musical chairs ever played, where those left standing when the music stopped playing had to drastically alter the lifestyle etc. For whatever reason I happened to land in the lap of L-3 Communications which was subcontracted by the winning company to provide developers, and for what it is worth I consider myself very lucky that I did. They are a very large established company who take good care of their employees, and they provide a $5000 bonus to me if I can get somebody hired … *wink*. That being said I do miss Meritec and my old coworkers. I was wonderful working with all of them.

I have since settled in again and though I still feel rather stressed concerning my new more senior role with the project, I have learned a great deal and can honestly see myself leading a development team in the near future. The biggest setback so far with the new company is that I lost my friggin spork AGAIN! I don’t know how or why but the damned things keep disappearing from my desk drawers. I know how asinine it might seem to think that someone is walking around stealing sporks, but we have caught no less than 3 people in the act of tossing our drawers late at night for CDs/DVDs/Pens etc. I will be the first to admit that one of them was almost entirely my fault since I probably left it in the break room. The others just walked off mysteriously. I am thinking about installing an alarm and/or booby traps. A bunch of crap it is.

Professional Development
So now that I am with L-3 (which offers certification bonuses) and since I have witnessed first-hand how quickly I can be out of a job, I decided to go certification crazy. I pretty much spent all of December reading Security+ and Network+ books to prepare for examinations. I learned earlier in the year that CompTIA had decided as of 2011 their A+, Security+, and Network+ certifications would expire every 3 years or so, unless a bridge examination was paid for and passed. Since I took both of mine in December I am certified for life (with the completion of CPEs).

I decided to use a Prometric testing center to take my first test, Security+. I had been studying for about 10 days or so, and had the material down pretty damn well sans some of the specifics regarding digital cryptography methods. The nearest testing site with an available date was located by the airport. I assumed that each test site would be fairly similar and quickly purchase my voucher to take the test at 2pm.

I woke up early on the morning of the test and rifled through my note cards and practice exams. Sometime around 10am I received a call from the test proctor who asked if I was taking the test at 2:00. When I informed him that I was, he asked if I would rather take it at noon or even 1pm. I told him I did not want to move it up because I was driving to San Marcos after the test and moving it up would require me wandering around somewhere for an hour or two. He then had the nerve to inform me that he was there until I finished my test and that he wanted to get out of there by 1pm to do something. He kept pushing his case on the phone, and eventually as I became more and more pissed, I gritted my teeth and told him I will be in at 1pm.

I arrived at 1pm and he immediately quipped that he could have been home by now. Again I was left rather speechless. I figured I would just go in, knock out the test and be on my merry way. I sat down and began the 100 question test. The first 10 or so questions were alien to me. It was crazy. I had studied very hard, I knew my way around my study material and could pass any assortment of 100 questions out of their 500 or so question test bank with a 98% average. The actual test however asked oddly worded questions that were either tricky or outdated. Often times the questions concerned subject or acronyms I had never even heard of. I was about halfway through the test when my little panic alarm went off in my head. I sat there dumbfounded and embarrassed, finding it hard to swallow that I was going to fail a friggin Security+ exam when my job was to develop secure software for the friggin DoD. I actually contemplated walking out and saving Joe Gotztago his hour or so and returning home to study for a test retake. After a few minutes of starring at the screen I became a bit more rational and thought; F-it you are here, you spent 2 weeks studying this shit, if you fail you are going to crash and burn not walk out.

So on with the test. Another 10 questions down, another 2-3 marked for review. It was about this time that Joe Gotztago apparently retreated to his little Civic and began BOOMING baselines through the wall. I really couldn’t believe it. Being a Kramer I quickly deployed our famous “I can fuck with you worse than you can fuck with me” game plan and made it a point to sit there and review every friggin question to the last second of my time limit. Honestly I was done reviewing at about the 1 hour mark but I wanted to stay there, stare at the wall, stare at the camera, pick my nose, and doodle on my scratchpad. At that point I didn’t care if Joe Gotztago was missing the birth of his first born child, my ass was planted like a Chia Donkey. I pressed the submit button about 20 seconds before my time expired and prepared myself to receive a proverbial kick in the sack. To my absolute surprise I was informed that I had passed with a score of 860 or some such, with 750 out of 900 being passing. Don’t ask me how. So on the way out Joe Gotztago was pissed off and kept commenting that he wanted to be home, and that next time I should sign up for an earlier test. I just smiled and nodded and walked out the door knowing damn well I would never take a test there again, and that I would be able to look forward to a couple of study free nights.

I wish I had an awesome story for the Network+ exam. I really don’t. I studied hard again, picked a Prometric testing site in Austin, and passed it rather easily with an 880 or something (90%).

Currently I am studying for my CEH exam next month at a much more leisurely pace.

Halloween
Alright so on to Halloween. I wanted to do something over the top this year but I could not figure out what. I wanted to hit one our costumes out of the park, but was afraid time constraints would lead to 3 ground outs (there Laura are you happy? … I used a baseball reference). I spent some time looking around at Electro-Luminescent lighting. You can buy it fairly cheap and sew it into jackets, etc. I thought about sewing some into my motorcycle jackets so that when I give my bike gas the sound of the engine would cause it to glow more (they sell audio sensors). I really wished I had the time to make something like this. Oh well maybe next year. While searching around for Daft Punk patterns and pictures I stumbled across a guy who created a friggin Daft Punk replica helmet. <-- I am still amazed by that. That served to remind me that I am no artist and that I should stick to simple shit. So for me I only had to visit one costume site to fall in love with the Lt. Dangle getup. I spent a couple of months growing out my wannstache. Logan’s costume was not an issue since she inherited Jades from last year. I had asked jade 8-10 weeks before Halloween what she wanted to be and for some reason or another I drew a sketch of a robot and she was sold. I had a pretty good idea how everything would look and fit together, but I could not figure out how I was going to create the flashing panel buttons on her chest. Originally I figure I would just buy stain glass tiles and wire some Christmas lights behind them, however the light would not diffuse correctly and it frankly looked horrible. I then though I would purchase an old Simon game off of Amazon or EBay and mount that sucker to her chest box. Do you have any idea how expensive those things are nowadays? Like 100 bucks! I ended up going to cheap and shitty route of just cutting rectangles out of rubber mats we bought. It took a few weekends to finish everything. It all came out rather well except for the stupid buttons … oh yeah and except for the fact that I made her eye holes too high and that the lights mounted on her shoulders prevented her from turning her head too much. Most of our neighbors were in fact impressed and requested to get pictures of her etc. I suppose the costume would have been less glamorous to them if they would have stayed on the porch long enough to realize poor Jade had to remove her robot head entirely between houses just to be able to see and move. Oh well. Simple fixes for Logan’s robot next year right?

Christmas
This was the first Christmas I spent back in San Antonio where I was comfortable enough financially to take a vacation. Since I like an 80 degree Christmas about as much as I would like rooming with Glenn Beck, we decided to head up to the southwestern corner of Colorado. Of course since everyone else in the Northern Hemisphere were had to make out arrangements a few months ahead of the trip. After calling no less than 20 places we decided to stay two nights at the Elk Point Cabins on Vallecito Lake, about 30 minutes Northeast of Durango. We also had to make reservations for 2 nights in Cloudcroft, 1 night going up, and 1 driving back.

Once we knew the trip was on, we began looking around for stuff to do. I found out Santa was going to give Jade and Logan Polar Express tickets to the Silverton train, so that took care of one evening. The hostess of elk Point Cabins suggested a horse pulled sleigh ride around the mountain as another fixture in the trip. we figured we would leave the rest of our trip unplanned since we might want to split up or do something else etc.

About two weeks before Christmas I woke up early to begin studying for my Network+ exam. I glanced at my phone as I typically do early in the morning and noticed something wrong. I have a pseudo-live image of Cloudcroft (up to 30 minutes old) as my phone wallpaper. That morning when I looked I saw a huge pile of something and a bunch of chaos. I quickly went to the upstairs computer and logged on to pull up the high resolution feed and looked in amazement as I realized a large portion of the historic downtown district (3 shops) had burnt down. It was a very sad scene since it was approaching their most profitable tourist season, and since the shops were nearly 100 years old, and since we would be visiting that very place in 14 days or so.

So on to the trip. there wasn’t really any excitement until we reached Colorado (except for Laura forgetting all of the girls snow clothes for whatever reason). I had checked the Durango weather for the last week and was actually afraid we would get up there and not see any snow. There was about 4 inches or less of packed melted/refrozen ice/snow at our cabin when we got there, but as we headed down into town that quickly disappeared. We went shopping in Durango and hung around town waiting for the Polar Express ride at 6PM. Weatherbug had changed their forecast to 100% chance of snow that night and the entire area was put under a Winter Storm Warning. Naturally my mother and father were a bit nervous about this since they came up in her Chevy Malibu, and since they aren’t accustomed to dealing with snow. We all decided to buy groceries in town in case we ended up snowed in at the cabin.

That night after the polar express ride we drove to the cabin together, played a few gamed and prepared for our winter storm. The owner of the cabins randomly gave us a nice set of snow chains that had been left behind by a previous renter. We moved my father’s car up to the top of the culd-a-sac so that he would not have to drive it up a steep embankment in snow and ice. I went to sleep that night very excited. Every time I would wake up I would roll over and try to peak outside to see if the snow had started. Around 4AM I finally fell into a deep sleep.

I woke up cold at 6:30AM or so. I shuffled out to the main room to see my dad fighting with the fire place. He immediately informed me that it was snowing. It wasn’t coming down very hard though. My dad and I decided to drop my mom’s car off at the local one-stop stop about 2 miles up the road and directly across the lake from our cabin. We figured the plows would operate more regularly there and that we would have a better chance of finding help etc if we needed it. Before taking it there I had to put on those damned snow chains. Wow that was quite the adventure. The gloves on they were too bulky for me to put on the chains, however if I took them off my hands would freeze and literally not work. It probably took us an hour or so to get them on. By the time we were done the snow was coming down like angel shit. We returned back to the cabin tired and dirty. We spent the rest of the day sledding, fighting, eating, and playing games. It was one of the best days I had in years.

ForrsterFor the next 24 hours it snowed and snowed and uh … yeah snowed some more. The place looked like Michael Irvin’s coffee table. There was about 20-26 inches on the ground the next morning and I started to wonder how much the Forrester could handle. We had to head up a semi-steep hill with about an inch of ice underneath it, and my ground clearance is only 9inches or so. As we assessed the situation the snow actually stopped falling. We took advantage of the weather and quickly hopped into the car to drive to the Malibu to dig it out and bring it back to the cabin. It took several attempts to make it up the hill since the plows left a rather nasty 3 foot embankment. The depth of the snow and the ice on the hills gave me fits even with all-wheel drive. After using about half of my clutch plate I blasted through the wall of snow and onto the cud-a-sac. From there it was smooth sailing to the general store.

Thankfully the snow was very lightweight and made for some easy shoveling. We had the Malibu out in no time and were heading back to the cabin. I already mentioned that both of my parents were petrified of getting snowed in. Honestly when I woke up that morning and saw that 2 feet had fallen I was beginning to wonder too. The plows did a good job with the roads, and the snow chains and all-wheel drive did the rest. It only took us about 2-3 hours to pack both vehicles and begin our trip back home. By the time we made it down to Durango the roads were in a condition that warranted removing the snow chains. We did run into more snow showers on the way home and the road was packed with snow for a hundred miles or so. Other than that and our stop at Ruidoso, the trip home was quiet and uneventful.

All 4 of my girls don’t work now
So my two daughter are much too young to work. My wife hasn’t worked since my oldest was less than a year old (approaching 7 years now). However my motorcycle at 37 years old has always worked, that is until a ride home from work mid-December. I was approaching a stop light and as I down shifted it shut off entirely, almost as if I had hit the kill switch. Due to its age the bike often acts in peculiar ways. I had become familiar with its eccentricities through riding it frequently. THIS though was new. I know I did not stall it. Once I came to a stop I put it in neutral and hit the start button; nothing. It wouldn’t even turn over. Normally this would be a battery issue except that my head lamp was on full blast and that I had no issues starting the bike only 3 minutes or so earlier. So there I was in the dark on a bike that wouldn’t start, in a rather remote are about 11 miles from my house. I looked around to see if I could determine an obvious culprit, which I couldn’t. Since the area was flat it would not be that easy to jump it. The only option I had was kick starting the thing.

Now I had read in a book or two about the difficulty of kick starting a bike, even when it is warm. I had never tried it though. The situation I found myself in was such that I had no other options than to see if I could make it work. I sat upright pulled out the kick start pedal and went to town. Stomp – right foot rest pedal to the shin – Lift – repeat. This went on a good 25 times until to my utter delight the bike started. Of course by then my shin was bruised to hell and back but I couldn’t care less. I had kick started my bike, something other cyclist that have never ridden a bike older than 1979 or so have never experienced.

So once I got home I tinkered around with it again. I charged the battery up and tried to start it and got the same results. I suspected a short, but tracing the starting switch the starter motor, I found none. I originally suspected the starter motor, but that wouldn’t explain why it just randomly shut down in the first place. In fact, I still don’t have an explanation for that. I did order a battery from O Reilly which I will pick up on Tuesday. I am keeping my fingers crossed that one of the cells was bad in the old one. With luck she’ll be working again soon.

Belated Gallery Update
Below are the galleries I recently updated, including our Christmas adventures.

Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Road Shots
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->New Mexico
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->New Mexico->Cloudcroft/Ruidoso
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->New Mexico->Carlsbad Caverns
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado->Polar Express
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado->Durango
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado->Vallecito Cabin

Holidays->Christmas 2010
Holidays->Halloween 2010

Flats Dominoe

Last week was a bad week for transportation. After riding 550 miles on my commuter without a hitch, I had 3 friggin flats in 3 rides. After I got the third one I decided to take my bike to the bike store. An employee there spent the next 30 minutes removing glass, thorns, metal shavings, small pins, and other sharp items from my tire. Funny enough it never crossed my mind to perform such a check. Needless to say that has been added to my maintenance check list.

Not to be outdone my wife decided to play chicken with a Diesel Dodge Ram 7500 pick up truck (the 200 Megaton variety). The result was a flat tire on the front passenger side of our Element, most likely cause by the engine and every other valuable part of the car collapsing in on it. They just don’t make tires like they used to. Hopefully I will get better tires on the new vehicle I now have to purchase.

Time=(Time^Time)

Time seems to be moving along quite quickly as of late. I have settled into a routine of riding my bike to work, working out, riding home, working on my house, and sleeping. A few months ago I bought, installed, and configured my weatherstation. Also, I started playing tennis again, or I suppose I should say I plan to resume playing competitive tennis again.

Last weekend I finally had time to do some long awaited Ahuiz Gallery maintenance. I dusted off some old volleyball photos from 1872 and posted them. Hopefully I will find someone with more photos of 2010 NIRSA Nationals. Apparently I was just too busy to take any. Anyhow the additions are as follows:

Volleyball
Volleyball->NIRSA Nationals 2010
Volleyball->NIRSA Nationals 2005
Volleyball->NIRSA Nationals 2003
Volleyball->Camp Phoenix Volleyball
Volleyball->Dale, Texas
Volleyball->All-Navy Volleyball

Holidays->Christmas 2009

Family->Mom and Dad
Family->Tanyas Bunch
Family->Mathews Bunch
Family->Mathews Bunch->Wang Woody Johnson

Miscellaneous->Weather
Miscellaneous->Weather->Weather Station
Miscellaneous->Weather->Hurricane Alex

Mountain Biking->Bluff Creek Ranch pt 1+2

Travel-Texas
Travel->Texas->Los Maples State Park pt 1+2
Travel->Texas->New Diana (Tanya’s House)
Travel->Texas->South Padre
Travel->Texas->South Padre->South Padre 2010
Travel->Texas->South Padre->South Padre 2010

Motorcycles->My CB500

Shanoh Dorso

Bluff Creek Ranch

Bluff Creek RanchI went on another mountain biking excursion this past weekend. I originally intended to swing by Rocky Hill Ranch but could not get a hold of anyone to make reservations so I opted to visit Bluff Creek Ranch nearby. I had read on on austinbike.com and MTBR that the trails there were very quick and enjoyable. I asked my father if he would be interested in coming along so he could hike and snap some pictures.

We left San Antonio around 9AM on Saturday and arrived in Warda, around noon. I was very surprised at how laid back the place was. When we arrived there were several cars at the owners house where you register for camping/biking etc. The rates weren’t too shabby. A campsite was $10 a night and included unlimited use of the ranches 7+ miles of trails. Firewood $7 and Ice 1$ per pale. They also sell organic, homegrown, beef and steaks (which we vowed to try the next time out). The campsites at BCR were remote, private, tucked away in the pines near a small lake. The unlimited supply of firewood also made camping enjoyable. in the end, I would go back to BCR just for the camping alone.

We had been there about an hour when I decided to give the 7 mile loop a go. Navigation was fairly easy, just keep the pink markers on your left. After about 10 minutes I caught up with a group of 7 or so riders and decided to wait back for a few minutes so I would not be stuck behind them. The next portion of trail consisted of scores of bermy switchback. The sandy loam that is prevalent in the piny areas of Texas kept me honest enough as there were a few occasions where my back-end slid a bit. After another 5 minutes of riding I came across the same group of riders and decided I would attempt to overtake them. One by one they moved aside and let me by. By the time I got to the front I noticed that two of their stronger riders we giving me a chase. I went all out for about 10 minutes or so in a point of increasing our separation. In all honesty I was a little nervous of possibly gassing out midway through the ride since I did not know what to expect. Eventually I could no longer see or hear them behind me. I came up on “Gas Pass” and locked what remained of my rear brake. The back end of the trail was very fun and included quick ascents and descents. In hindsight it was significantly more demanding than I anticipated. On two occasions I came off my bike during climbs, one of which I never successfully made it up. Around 48 minutes later I arrived at our campsite thrilled but exhausted. The back end of the trail has several table top jumps but I simply did not carry enough momentum as I approached them to clear any of them. I was a bit bummed that I could not take my phone with me to capture the ride via SportyPal since it was practically dead (dad’s truck did not have a charger). I opted to take it on my final ride instead.

After resting for a while I showed my dad around the back portion of the trail. He was game for taking pictures as I attempted again and again in vain to clear the tabletops. For some reason I was feeling a bit sheepish and for the most part was not even lifting up on the bike. It was starting to get dark so we went back to the campsite and set everything up. As some point of time I spoke with the owner about the work he had done on the trails and about the level of riders that race out there. The prior week he had 539 contestants ranging form beginners to experts riding the course. I asked him about the times in order to get figure out where I would fit in. He informed me that some of the faster pros could finished the 7.5 miles in little under 30 minutes. The intermediate class usually finished in the high 30’s and low 40’s. The beginners anywhere in the 40’s or 50’s. I had pretty much peddled my ass of the first round and I am almost positive I finished around 42 minutes, putting me at the back of the intermediate pack at best. I instantly had motivation for the ride the following morning.

I had one of the best nights of sleep I have ever had camping. The temperature was nice and the sound of the wind sweeping through the pine trees put me right to sleep. When I awoke in the morning I felt refreshed and ready to go. We starting packing everything up and I used the opportunity to stretch and warm up while listening to my Ipod. I decided it was time to head out around 10AM, and for the first time ever opted to take my music with me. I was a bit more reserved toward the beginning of the trail this time around. I did not want to burn out toward the end like I did the first ride. I also opted to hike-a-bike 3 portions in an attempt to sacrifice a little time for energy down the road. Midway through the ride I came up on a legit 6-foot-horned longhorn. Thankfully I scared him as much as he scared me. As I peddled away he actually contemplated rushing or bluffing. That was an interesting situation I tell you.

I had a little bit more energy toward the end of the loop than I did the previous day. I fumbled with my riding gloves in order to turn off SportyPal (all the while losing another 30 seconds). In hind site I should have attempted to climb every ascent sans the carpeted one which I cannot honestly see making it up on my Cake. My final ride result are here. I finally found some of the limitations to my Android GPS capabilities. Since many of the switchbacks were tight and practically overlapping, the final SportyPal distance read about 6.5 miles, instead of the actual 7.5 I will take the owners word on that one 99.99% of the time. After all he lives there and built and has ridden the course for the last 20 years or so. This also lowered my average speed. I noticed I was above 10mph the majority of the ride, yet finished in the mid 8’s.

BCR has to be one of my all-time favorite rides. It doesn’t zap you so much that you swear off riding all together for weeks as is the case with Mt. Laguna and Flat Rock Ranch. I could have ridden it 3-4 times comfortably in the day I was there. The speed of the course is a welcome change from the rock garden friendly, hill country rides. I really want to ride every trail worth riding within a couple of hours of my house, but BCR is going to make that hard. I have already vowed to take Alan there the first week of April, Pickle sometime in the Spring, and Laura any time we can. In all honesty I cannot think of many things I would improve except for a couple of teeter totters in place of cattle guards. I talked my father into swinging by Rocky Hill Ranch on the way home, so I would know where it was and what it was all about. The riders there looked very competitive, and I now understand how so many people bitch about “Fat Chuck’s Demise”. The hills out there are much larger than I expected. Maybe that will be my next destination. Who knows?

Below are my GPS exports:
Bluff Creek Ranch .kmz
Bluff Creek Ranch .gpx

Check out the gallery also.

Back on the Saddle and Exploring GPS Capabilities

Flat Rock Ranch Ride Government Canyon: I have been back in the central Texas area for 6 months now. During the course of the first 20 weeks I did not even think much about biking as I did daily in San Diego. That all changed recently after I took Laura on her first MTB trip to Government Canyon State Natural Preserve, a popular mountain biking destination about 15 minutes from our house. It was a pretty descent ride, but not a great choice for a ‘first’ ride for Laura since it is pretty difficult to sustain any speed on it due to its rockiness and since Laura was riding a bike with a blown front shock. She still managed to enjoy herself as she went comakazi down many of the medium sized loose steps without ever wrecking to her credit and my amazement. She did get beat up pretty bad though. If it weren’t for some of the downhills she probably would had sworn off biking forever. We discussed the ride afterward and I was relieved to learn that she was much like my old riding buddy Alan who would ride (or hike-a-bike) up to the summit of Everest if it meant that he could bomb down about 20 feet of trail. I reviewed the trail here @ singletracks.com. We will be back again when I purchase and install her new front shock and when she wants to go for some revenge.

The Collective – Seasons: Though I had a lot of fun at Government Canyon, and even started sporadically riding the 11 mile trip to work on my Wingra (San Antonio drivers might possibly hate bikers more than any other city. Once some douchebag drove across three lanes and into the shoulder and missed my left peddle by about a foot going about 60mph just because he wanted to scare me or prove a point), I still was not daydreaming of riding all day as I used to the last few years in Maine, Afghanistan, Maryland, and San Diego. A LT.-commuter where I work randomly dropped by my cubicle to talk to me about riding and he expressed interest in Mountain Biking. After a while I told him about The Collective’s “Roam”. He went on his way, and I decided I would look to see if they had done anything else since “Roam”. I learned that they had released “Seasons” in 2008. 1 amazon visit, 10 minutes, and 50 dollars later, The Collective Trilogy was on it’s way to my house.

I had watched “Roam” about 50 times in the last few years. Whenever I needed an immediate shot of need-2-ride, I would watch some of the B.C. trails and instantaneously I was ready to go. Laura called me at work one day to inform me that DVDs had arrived. I could not wait to get home and throw “Seasons” in. I was loving every minute of the music and cinematography when a portion involving Stevie Smith practicing a local downhill run at an insane speed grabbed me. Between clips of Stevie commenting on his mother’s commitment to his success (she shuttles him up the mountain, sometimes 6 times a day) and his overall progress, Wintersleep’s “Orca” plays in the background.

i’ll be a killer whale when i grow up
i’ll be a vulture
i’ll be an animal
a carnivore
i’ll be a monster
clenching my jagged jaws
over the capture
i’ll be a killer whale when i grow up

i’ll be a tidal wave when i grow up
crashing on harbours
i’ll be a tempermental element
a raging water

i’ll be a perfect storm swallowing over
i’ll ba a killer whale when i grow up
i’ll be a monster

i’ll be a hurricane when i grow up
an ugly thunder
i’ll be a forest fire about to flood
over an empire
i’ll be an avalanche chewing its rupture
i’ll be a killer whale when i grow up
i’ll be a monster

i’ll be a killer whale

This portion of “Seasons” is a drug to me. I have watched it so many times I have lost count. The lyrics are beautifully appropriate. Steve absolutely nukes the mountain with a combination of speed and grace that I cannot recall ever seeing on film. Slow motion shots of him transitioning positions and blasting through puddles add to the allure. This 2 minute clip of film just might be my favorite in any genre. It would be an amazing music video by itself. It is video crack and I have since been in need of an almost daily fix.

Flat Rock Ranch: So the local gouge is that if you are serious about mountain biking in Central Texas/Hill Country Area then you need to go give Flat Rock Ranch a shot. It is a full-on MTB ranch with about 33 miles of well kept trails. Lance Armstrong even races some of the endurance races there. Most of the reviewers say that it can be quite technical and fun. I asked Laura if she wanted to give it a shot and she was game.

We arrived at Flat Rock Ranch at noon, a bit later than we anticipated. We opted to ride the 17 mile lower loop since it had an 11 mile bail out. We turned on our Android – GPS tracking apps and set off (more on that later). I was surprised when I immediately came across a fun little step on a small portion of speedy downhill that led through a creek crossing. The was the first time Laura ever attempted a water crossing so she was a bit reluctant. The next 15-20 minutes consisted of a relatively uneventful climb. After about 45 minutes we reached a very quick portion of singletrack that eventually led us to a couple of sick berms. The next hour consisted of a long and steady climb to the top of Pipeline Hill. By the time we reached the top I was really feeling the effects of the stomach flu I had a few days earlier. “Evil Worm” was fun, but not as fun as all of the reviews of it would suggest. Our favorite lines were “Crazy Ivan” and “Angle Tree” both pretty quick. It started to get dark and we had not come across another trail sign after “Angel Tree” so we blasted down the loose gravel of one of the fire roads that led us back to our car. All said and done, 14 moderately technical miles, no significant wrecks, mishaps, or bike damage, and a ton of fun and experience for us both. I will definitely pay many more visits there. For more information regarding the specifics of the “Lower Loop” at Flat Rock Ranch, check out the GPS data and maps in the next section.

Flatrock RideThe Great GPS Debate: I began researching Android based GPS tracking apps a few nights before our trip to Flat Rock. I wanted something that would record distance, elevation, and max, min, and average velocity without eating through my battery in an hour. I envisioned using the app to record all of this data and to upload our rides to Google Maps for sharing.

I had already installed an app called BuddyRunner on a whim that I might soon go hiking or running. It seemed to do just what it advertised. Eventually I stumbled across SportyPal. Many riders on bike forums had recommended it though I was not terribly excited about having to use their mapping application over Google’s. I found out that I could export my rides to a GPX format which I could then open with Google Earth and save in KML or KMZ format. Another recommended application is called RideTrac.

After playing with all three I decided to get rid of BuddyRunner since SportyPal has a very similar functionality including estimates for calories burned etc for over a dozen specific activities. RideTrac is a biking specific app that includes a wealth of ride information. I installed SportyPal on my Android, and Laura installed RideTrac on hers (she forgot to turn it off until we had almost reached the highway in our car so our numbers may be a bit off). Here are the results:

I decided in the long run to use SportyPal. I liked its ease of use, and was a bit wary of RideTracs report that we gained 1800 feet in elevation. I also like the idea of being able to compete with yourself. SportyPal has the capability to analyze your fastest 2000 M, and other random time metrics.

What Next?: I am presently making plans to visit Rocky Hill Ranch, out in the Lost Pines near Smithville, TX. The trails are said to be very quick and I love riding through pines. I will post GPS data and pictures afterwords. Laura and I are expecting our tax money back soon. We have allocated a chunk of change for biking, namely a new fork (likely a Dart3) for the Stumpy, 4 Kenda Nevegals, 15 tubes, A work stand, a LifeFitness Exercise Bike, and a bunch of Twin Six apparel. Those that aren’t familiar with Twin Six should check out their site. Their designs are very slick.

Below is the link to my Flat Rock Ranch Album
Mountain Biking -> Flat Rock Ranch – Comfort, TX

Peace, and happy riding

Bikes; Pickle Moves on to Two-Wheelers, and I Begin Commuting

I decided to take Jade bicycling to Blockbuster a few days ago as we had done once before. The trip is only about a mile one way but there are many streets to cross and heavy traffic. As we were heading back Jade lost focus of what she was doing and ran right off the sidewalk and into an unused side street. She did her best to stay on the bike and avoided, for the most part, a substantial spill. We continued biking back to the house. About 5 minutes later I looked behind me to see her, and her bike lying on their sides on he sidewalk. She seemed okay, but I could not figure out how she wrecked with training wheels. I watched her get up, mount the bike again, and topple over 5 feet later. I looked harder and finally noticed that one of her little plastic training wheels had broken off. I can only assume that it had been damaged from her little spill off the curb. Once she noticed that her bike was broken she lost her mind and began to cry uncontrollably. I walked both of our bikes back home, and promised her I would fix it.

The next day I pulled her bike out and began to modify the one remaining training wheel by raising it to offer more support. I took her around the front yard and let her ride around. She did it fairly easily. At that moment, I thought … the hell with the training wheels. I told her I wad going to take off the other wheel as well. She was reluctant at first but finally agreed. 5 Minutes later she was riding around the playground area in front of our house unassisted. Her rate of progress blew my mind. One day she could barely operate a bike on training wheels, on the next she was riding around on two wheels at her own pace. Being as impressed as I was, I started to teach her more subtle skill sets, like braking approaching turns and peddling through them, and standing when you need to apply more torque and power. Now she can pretty much do everything. She still has a little bit of a problem placing the peddles where they need to be for her to get the bike moving, but she can do everything else very well. I will post a video for family members soon.

The reason I took Jade biking to Blockbuster to begin with was because I bought a commuter bike to ride to work on. At first I planned on dropping a few hundred on a shitty 10 speed with a light frame, but, being the Kramer that I am, I ended up leaving the store with an 1100 dollar Gary Fisher Wingra *shown*. My WingraNow that does pale in comparison to my mountain biking expenses, but I certainly did not plan on spending that much. I have learned however that in the biking world (and just about in every other area) you get what you pay for. One of the best things I purchased was a tray/bag set that was mounted above my back wheel. They are very light, and the back clips right in. I fill it with toiletries, tire patches and kits, and a change of clothes. Once you are through biking it detaches and transforms into a small duffle bag. Pretty cool really.

The 7 mile ride to work is very pleasurable. About 60% of the route is along the water. While riding I watch the sailboats, take in the sunset, check out the Star of India and the USS Midway, try not to run over the homeless sleeping on the sidewalk, and otherwise absorb the sights and sounds of the city. The first day took about 40 minutes, but I have since shaved the ride down to about 33. The gas money we save even at $2.50 a gallon is certainly worth mentioning. I figure since Laura has been driving me and dropping me off, only to pick me up later (about 10 bucks in gas a day) that I will save 50 bucks a week in gas alone. All said and done this thing should pay for itself in 4 months of riding. I do feel a little like a hippie, but hell I am in great shape and would like to remain so. I should also mention that my stress levels have dropped, my metabolism seems higher, and I feel more awake at work. Why I didn’t try this earlier is beyond me.

Site Updates

I just finished making a few updates to my gallery. I finally completed the Boston Gallery and created my Mountain Bike Gallery. I also categorized all my videos and added several recent biking videos here. Dad, I finally posted my woodwork pictures under my miscellaneous gallery. They can be viewed here: Woodworking projects

In addition to gallery changes, I will be updating my contact and project pages.




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