Thursday, May 30, 2013

Remote Race Report: Transylvania Epic Stage 5. Warm and bloggy.

First, a cool pic from yesterday's stage.

See, you didn't see that on Facebook.  At times, I feel like I am blogging about events already past.  Really, most of the time.  Facebook is our immediate connection to all of our friends. BUT, the one thing that this blog has that FB can never have is my expanded narrative and my own selective timeline.  I post only the things that are important to me here, with my commentary and hopefully some humor or at least added emotion and detail.   I'm not always polished, but at least I'm honest.  So look at Facebook for the 3 second gratification of connecting with my life (or in this case, Drew's and Jim's lives), but look to this blog for the extra.

 The following information is lifted right from Jim's Facebook posts.

Jim: "Stage 5 in the bag. 26 miles in 3:36. Long, straight, rocky, loamy, descent actually boiled the fluid in my rear brake then boiled my brain on the second half of the ride. More water and less beer tonight."

I can almost see Jim's beer can off to the right of this photo.

 Drew said that today was hot and long.  The terrain was not super difficult, but the environmental conditions took their toll on the team. 

I got some intell on the bathrooms.  Two vanities, one urinal, one stall, two showers.  Then, through another door, another vanity, stall, and shower.  That is still a bit too communal for adult mixed-company bike racers.  Even Drew says it smells bad in the dorm now.

Two stages left.  Tomorrow is the "queen stage" (Better buck up, boys!), and Saturday is the finish followed by a big party.

Meanwhile, I am trying in vain to work a full load AND get my zillions of house projects done before Drew returns and we depart on yet another adventure. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Remote Race Report: Transylvania Epic Stage 4 Enduro

Today the rainy weather of yesterday was behind them, and Drew and Jim chose to represent the Utah High School Cycling League in all their sunshiney glory.

The format for today's race was an Enduro.  This is a relatively new format for mountain bike races, and Drew and Jim's first experience with it.  Exciting!  Basically each climb section is not timed. You swipe your RF card at top and bottom of each enduro stage for timed scoring.  There were 5 timed downhill sections today.
This is the line before the first downhill.
 Things went well, even though Drew told me on the phone, "you can ride a lot of steep gnarley stuff when there is a camera on you."  And his message after the finish said, "Stage 4 done. Crazy sick steepness!"  They did so well they moved up one place in the standings for male duo team!  Who says us Utahns don't know how to ride rocks and roots?

Here is the link to professional pictures from today's stage.  Danger!

But the boys not only finished in one piece...

They did so well they moved up one place in the standings for male duo team!  Who says us Utahns don't know how to ride rocks and roots?

In the end, the best part of the day was that they got to socialize with Dracula over a PBR.
Jim with Dracula. This is the "Transylvania" Epic, no doubt.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Remote Race Report: Transylvania Epic Stage 3. Team mud poodles.

Today the weather was foretasted to be cool and rainy.  That didn't stop Team Sunshine from putting on a good face.

Actually, this picture is from yesterday's start, but I only just now saw it.  I can't blog without inserting this!
 In reality, they bundled up for a 4 hour slog

The course was about 10 miles of muddy singletrack and a lot of gravel road.  Stroke of luck that this stage was heavy on the road section.  Otherwise they may still be out there.

As it were, they overtook the team ahead of them and finished like the rest of the racers, covered in mud. 

They cleaned up real well though in time for the sponsored trip to the local winery.

Tomorrow the weather is going to be hot.  We'll see if they get a sponsored trip to the pool afterward.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Remote Race Report: Transylvania epic stage 2

No pics today but the boys made it through the stage just fine.

Drew reported, "39 miles in roughly 4:56. Avg. speed 7.5 mph with 4300 feet of climbing. Very technical in parts. Saw a few broken bikes along the way. Lots of people riding hard tails...Insane!"

He said his upper body is trashed, but he was in good spirits.  No mishaps in the dorms yet.

I'll try to get him to send more pics.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Remote Race Report: Transylvania Epic Prologue stage 1 Timetrial

Saturday Drew and Jim arrived to the race venue for the Transylvania Epic. Race headquarters are at the Seven Mountains Boy Scout Camp near State College, Pennsylvania, in the Appalachian Mountains.

 On their pre-ride, the sharp Paleozoic sedimentary rocks gave them each flat tires. Flats fixed, they settled in to their luxury boy scout dorm experience.


The dorms have proved to be entertaining.  A funny mix of type A ameture racers and laid back buddies like Drew and Jim.  The oddest thing is the inclusion of both male and female racers in the same dorm and sharing the same bathroom!

Sunday was the prologue -  a time trial.  First, to fuel up at the cafeteria,

Smart racers always check out the finish line...

And intelligent racers always have a beer before a race.

I didn't get to talk to Drew at length after today's stage, but everything went well and they finished in 1 hour 36 minutes, 26 minutes off the leaders in the men's duo category.  Tomorrow is a 35 mile stage. 

Remote Race Report: Transylvania Epic Day 0: Family "calm" before the storm

Last year I floated down the Colorado River without Drew.  I drank beer and talked geology and got big thrills running huge rapids.  That was the first real vacation either Drew or I had taken apart from one another.  This week is Drew's turn to "do his vacation thing".  You know what that is right? A 7-day mountain bike stage race with a buddy, of course! (You can vote whether you think my vacation or his is more of a vacation ;-)

Drew is sending me text and picture message updates and we have been talking once a day.  I will try to post up some pics each day.

Friday he flew to Baltimore to stay with brother Trey, who's wife was out of town for the weekend.  What do two small girls and two adult men do if left to their own devices. They eat macaroni and cheese with ketchup for dinner and dress up in women's shoes.  Nice!

In the morning they took the girls to ballet lessons. Is it all about shoes again?

Ears and tutus were issued today.   
This has got to be one of the cuter pictures on this entire blog.

Saturday afternoon Drew met up with Jim and they headed off to the race with their matching bikes and team uniforms in a rented mini van.  People might start to talk.

Cali Coast

Talk about needing a vacation from vacation!  After we returned from our California vacation, Drew and I both hit the ground running and have not stopped since.  I had this post nearly ready to go shortly after our return, but computer problems and an insanely busy work week kept it from the interwebs.  But finally, here is the next installment of our California vacation blog.

After our most awesome time in the redwood forest, we pointed our van toward the coast. We popped out from the twisty mountain road Hwy 1 = the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) at the very last rays of the day to see ... WHALES!

That was pretty cool to happen on our first glimpse of the ocean.

It was getting dark so we motored to the closest state park we could find, just barely making a wine and ice run at the only store open until 9 along this uninhabited coast. We scored a good camp spot in the partially closed MacKerricher State Park. In the morning we "rised and shined".

We took a stroll out on the boardwalk and grasslands to the beach to see if we could spot some seals,
but all we saw were buzzards picking at dead seals.

and rocky beaches.

We had a lot of miles to make on an insanely twisty PCH, so we spent most of the day just driving and stopping here and there to snap photos and take in the scenery.

Oh, and stopping in Fort Bragg to bring you that first blog spot.

Since we were averaging about only about $50 per day, saving on lodging and restaurant meals because of our awesome van and thrifty spirit, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal. Problem was, finding a nice meal was difficult on this sparsely populated stretch. We finally got some decent seafood at Cove Azul Bar and Grill in Gualala.

We spent the night at Salt Point State Park, which looked on the map to potentially have great views of the ocean, but which turned out to be a shabby park with wooded campsites and no hot water. By the next morning, I was more than grouchy without a shower or good coffee, so at the first place we found north of Bodega Bay, we had a nice breakfast and walked the grounds of the posh hotel.

Then it was back on the road.

Turn after turn, gorgeous view after gorgeous view. We came across the estuary for the Russian River,

where seals like to hang out. Cool.

More PCH and finally, Stinson Beach, on Bolinas Bay, just north of the San Fransisco Bay area and adjacent to Mount Tamalpais.

A little rest on the beach before the final push to the Bay area. By this time I was really dirty (last shower two days prior) and chilled (cold coastal weather), but loving that we saw the northern California coast in all its beauty and wildness.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Awesome Redwoods. Truly AWESOME.

We resume the journey where I left off last; we had made it to the boondocks of northern California in Humboldt County. We turned out onto Avenue of the Giants, a narrow paved road that parallels Hwy 101 but snakes its way among some of the hugest giant redwood groves still standing.


We stopped at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor center to get the low down on camping this early in the season.  They have this cool display of a relatively small 1000-year old log.


If you click on the picture below, I think you can read what events were happening when this tree was a baby. 


It was already more than 4 feet in diameter when the Pilgrims came to America!

The nice volunteers told us to go up to Albee Creek Campground, about 8 miles back away from the highway, where we would likely have the campground all to ourselves. (Many of the state parks are now run by volunteers and have sections closed off because of California’s budget crisis.)

So we motored up to the campground and found a place for our rented ice-cream van among a 2nd-growth redwood grove.


There were a couple of other campers there, but our closest neighbors were actually the wild turkeys that wandered through camp a couple of times.


Drew fixed his broken spoke under one of the big trees to stay out of the light rain while I took a good long hot shower, the first since leaving home 5 days ago!  That explains how we can look so fresh and clean in this picture – look at that body in my hair!


Life is good camping among giant trees with local brews and pesto pasta for dinner.


We slept well that night, knowing the only thing that would bother us is hungry bears nosing around our picnic table. (they didn’t.)

Tuesday was activities in the big trees day.  After full breakfast of eggs, hash browns and toast, we set out to hike in the Rockefeller Forest, the largest, most impressive stand of old growth redwoods in the world.


Many of the trees in this part of the forest are over 300 feet tall.  The park volunteer explained that they can grow so large right here because the King Range protects them from the worst of the winter storms coming off the Pacific and the location inland a little ways allows for slightly less fog and more sunlight (although redwoods typically get 1/3 of the moisture they need from fog).



This is one of my favorite pictures because Drew looks so tiny compared to the giant trees.


These trees are coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). Redwoods have existed along the coast of northern California for at least 20 million years and are related to the Giant Sequoia of central California. Coast redwoods are the tallest trees on Earth. Mature Coast redwoods live an average of 500–700 years and a few are documented to be 2,000 years old, making them some of the longest-living organisms on earth. They are highly resistant to disease, due to a thick protective bark and high tannin content, which also explains why they are great for building decks. Redwoods prefer sheltered slopes, slightly inland and near water sources such as rivers and streams.

The seasonal bridge across Bull Creek was not in yet so we forded the stream to be able to go over to the Giant Tree.




This tree as been designated the as one of the world’s largest trees.  One nearby that may have been larger was taken out by a falling neighboring tree in 1991.  There are several in Redwoods National Park that are about 10 feet taller, but the number of really big ones in the grove we were in was even more impressive than seeing just one super tall tree. 

We don’t even come close to spanning its girth!




I tried to look at other things on the forest floor too.  The rain made everything so fresh.


But really it was the palpable quiet and peace that surrounded the trees that was so special. 

Nature is so many thousands of times cooler than anything humans create.  These trees made me realize that again. 

We hiked back to our campground along the Bull Creek South trail. 


After a quick lunch at the campground, we set off for the first bike ride since our 8 hours on the bikes on Saturday.  We climbed 3000+ vertical feet over 7 miles on up to 30 percent grades on a fire road to an old fire spotting lookout.


I guess I wasn’t recovered yet because that was a tough climb and I wasn’t really having a good time despite Drew’s never ending humor, but at the top were 360 degree views and we could just make out the coastal fog rolling over the mountains to the west, so it paid off.


Time for the descent down through a burned out section of forest.


And those 30 percent grades were much more fun on the downhill.


We saw this weird little guy – maybe a skink?  Looked like a cross between a salamander and a lizard.  He ran kind of funny and hissed at us.


Here is a picture of a landslide taking out the road. With all these trees and forest, the geology is way too hard to see and blog about.  I had to get geohazards in here somehow.


Enough activity for the day.  Time to pack it up and drive out.  This is a 30 second clip of driving through an the Rockefeller Grove old growth redwood forest. I suggest watching the first 10 seconds at least to get a feeling for how big they are when you are driving through them.

Goodbye amazing, awesome redwood trees!



Next we would head over to the coast and journey south.