Monday, October 30, 2006

NPR Story on Mtn Biking

Cool story. A dude I ran into a few years ago in Saratoga is in it, Chris Pitts and my friends Jeff Olsen (formerly of Millenium Trails) and Pete Webber from IMBA. It's cool to hear friendly voices on the radio...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Party Party, Wine, More Bikes

Jeremy is now 2. We had a little un-official party for him on Saturday before his official co-birthday party with Emma weekend after next. He's talking so much it's crazy. Full sentences, new words all the time, cute faces when he's learning... damn he's a cute kid. In the morning, we went downtown to check out the monuments and get the kids some excercise. This is him over by the Cirque du Soleil tent on 10th and New York (ish). Walking behind Susan and Emma, just in case...

In that parking lot, they put down this green and blue glass stuff and some astroturf with an overhead canopy. If I wasn't such a shut-in, I would probably know what this is all about but I have to imagine that it's Cirque-related. I might never know.

Emma wasn't really happy about me getting in front of her so she took off every time I turned around to shoot a pic of her. Here's her, taking off... We walked all the way down to the WashMon then over to the WWII Memorial, which I hadn't seen yet. It's not bad. I think they did a good job. I was worried about how it would affect the reflecting pool in front of JeffMo, but it's well done. Both of my grandfathers fought in the Second World War (ok, I use the term 'fought' to mean that they were in the military at the time) but it still means something to me and I managed to find a minute or two to reflect on their service and remember them as best I could. It's been a long time since I had any grandparents. I was old enough to remember three of the four and only knew one as an 'adult' (technicality as I was 18 when Grammy died, on Emma's future birthday, no less). I do remember having some sense of her mortality and took the last few chances that I had to prod her with questions about all of the wonderful pictures she had from the early part of the 20th century. She was pretty rad.

As for the grandfathers, one was stateside, doing what, I don't know, besides drinking a lot of beer, and the other was stationed in India. I heard stories about waves breaking over the bow of the ship that he was on in the Indian Ocean, but that's about it. But I digress.

So, at the WashMon, the kids were amazed at how big the thing was. Far away, it doesn't look like much, but up close... damn. Being little takes on a whole new meaning. Jeremy was just entranced. Here's him thinking about climbing it. I know he's little, but damn. By the way, when he says 'yes' it sounds like 'jush.' Which is cute. What can I say, the kid is cute. Emma would be cute if she wasn't so damn beautiful.

Saturday night, Marthea and Ryan and their kids Eve and Madelyn came over to celebrate with us. Susan made a killer potroast and cake for us and we chowed down. Here's a shot of the boy going to town on his cake with a sly look. He ended up with two plates as Emma never seems to be able to eat more than one bite of anything sweet.

Sunday, we got up and rallied for a trip up to scenic Hereford, MD, for their 'Fall and Wine Festival.' Odd name. I loves me some Fall and I loves me some wine so... It's an annual thing for the VFD up there and they added a couple (I DO MEAN a couple) of the local wineries to the event. We got to drive the 'ru, rally-style through a cornfield (chasing a John Deere 6-wheel) for parking, there were monster truck rides, hay rides, bands (of the classic-rock/cover scene) and plenty of fire equipment for the kids to climb on. Susan had her wine, the kids got to run up inflatable kids things and watch MotoX racing and I got to relax. Mike Calfo and the Racers Edge guys put on the MotoX stuff on Sunday. I missed the invite dirt jump stuff with Aaron Chase and others which was on Saturday. City Bikes was a sponsor of the event and there was a 4x race as well. THAT would have been fun. The course was on a hillside and looked like a lot of fun. Brian had a good time.

More good news: RobEDob called me to tell me that he's bringing down a Diablo for me to 'borrow' for a while. I'm going to 'borrow' that bike off of a few hairy drops and put it through some paces. I should see it on Friday so I'll make a point of heading over to Chevy Chase to pick that thing up. No riding this weekend, but I'll have to set something up with Hillary and Brian in the 'shed soon. It's that time of year when it's actually nice to strap all of that plastic courage on and go play in the woods.

Ok, shots from the BikeToberFest thing... Here's Emma snuggling up with Susan in the back of the trailer for the hay ride with the monster truck in the background (you thought I was kidding, right?). This is Jeremy, the only two-year-old on the inflatable climbing wall thingy, getting some pointers from the other kids (who obviously had little brother or sisters). He went up and down this thing, without even slowing down, for 40 straight minutes. I'm not even kidding. He only got hurt once when about 7 teenagers came sliding down on top of him, but he didn't want to stop... Damn. And finally, here's a bad shot of the course which really lacks any perspective and probably shouldn't even be put up here but it's all I got. Hillary said she had a blast on the course but they had to destroy it when they were done. Such a tragedy. We should be able to build these things and LEAVE THEM UP! Here's hoping we can get that done at Patapsco next year.

Friday, October 20, 2006

In the Jose

Tuesday brought an early trip to el aeropuerto. Susan and I woke the kids, threw 'em in the car with some chocolate milk and rolled out.

This was a trip with the kids from SRAM to check out some new Rock Shox product. They flew my monkey-ass out to San Jose to hook up with the kids at Trail Head Cyclery. My buddy Lars runs that place and he's a good rider. He knows his stuff and that shop is THE PLACE to go if you live in the Bay Area and like to ride big bikes, really fast. I learned a lot working for Lars at Trail Head back in 1997 and we've managed to cobble together a friendship over the past 10 years.

Tuesday evening was spent in the shop with the boys of Trail Head and SRAM going over some of the new product from Rock Shox. Big Ed and Mike ReisenReisen (heh) brought a few forks to bolt on plus a few demo bikes. We had a few beers, talked shop (sorry for the pun) and talked trash, always a shop favorite.

Wednesday morning started early. Big Ed was our designated shuttle driver, Lars had a new Lyric hanging off the front of his Enduro and I was provided a Santa Cruz Nomad with a new Lyric on the front, a two-step, no less. We got some Peet's and headed over to the shop to meet up with Lars and we cruised off to Rattlesnake in the Santa Cruz mtns, right near Loma Prieta off of Summit Rd. It's a few mile descent worth a few thousand feet on a super-fast fire road with drop options and some killer 15' wall rides and 3-4' waterbars with nice off-camber landings. It's pretty loose at the bottom and generally loose all over the place. It drops down to the entrance/exit of Soquel Demo Forest (of Demo 8/7 fame).

We managed three runs on Rattlesnake then shuttled most of the way to the top of Soquel Demo but we rode singletrack most of the way to the top and down into Braille, one of my most favoritest trails on the planet. It's really fast the whole way down and it's relentless. Fast, swoopy, loose, rocky turns with the occasional log-ride to 4 footer options, all at speed. It used to be called 'Not a Trail,' like most of the historically cool trails in NorCal, but the locals managed to save it when the rangers found it. It was built back in day when everybody (us) were riding singlespeeds, hardtails, vee brakes... Now, it's big-bike time in NorCal and a lot of lines have opened and closed to allow for more speed and more drops.

The day ended back at Trail Head. We got the staff together and hit all-you-can-eat Sushi not too far from the shop. They didn't make any money on us, let me tell you. 11 of us ate and ate and ate. I should have taken pics of THAT! It was an epic feast, especially when you consider that I didn't eat all day, with the exception of that huge coffee at Peet's. Peet's is good, if you've never had it.

Ok, so the fork... The new Lyric is pretty sweet. You get coil with Uturn or 2-step with a travel adjust or the solo air, which is just 160mm. It's a 20mm thru with Maxle and comes in 1 1/8" AND 1.5" steer versions. It's got low-speed and high-speed compression damping, rebound damping and a gate setting, much like other RockShox forks. It's 35mm stanchions did a good job of keeping everything pointing in the right direction. The adjustments were intuitive (for me) and I managed to get the fork pretty dialed after our first run. I continued to mess with it most of the day (especially for the climbs, using the 2step travel reducer) and had a good time with it. It was the best part of the ride for me. My confidence was not at it's peak all day but I did manage to ride all of the stuff that I aimed at.

While I'm not a Santa Cruz bikes fan, this Nomad thing made it worse for me. You can keep your 1997 VPP technology and I'll keep to the 1991 FSR stuff. Not only that, but the Conti tires on that bad boy ruined me. Not a fan before... not a fan now.

Enough negativity, eh? I need to throw out a huge thanks to Ed and Mike at SRAM for making this all happen. And I need to thank Lars, Shawn, Ford and the rest of the crew for putting up with all of us in the shop. We tried to make up for it good feedback and lots o beer.

For pics we have a couple o Yetis and a couple o forks from Trail Head's lineup in the shop. Not shown are the 1/2 dozen Fox 40s, the Marz 888s and the Maverick DUCs. Next comes the King showcase, Mike jumping out of the truck with Lars and the fleet, Big Ed in the wee morning hours, the view down to Big Sur from the top of Rattlesnake looking South and the end-of-day wrap-up after climbing out of the Demo Forest. Poor us...

So, the future is looking like a Diablo for me with a Cane Creek double-barrel shock and a Totem fork. We'll see how that plays out. I'd like to get to a few DH races next year but my main concern is injuries. Maybe I'll sit out the SM100 next year... Maybe not...

And finally, the 07 Jamis site is up so go check it out. Did I mention that already?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Why I Love San Diego

Boy, that's not something that I can really relate fully. I moved there straight out of college back in 1996. My buddy Tom started grad school at USD a few month before I gradumeated from Salisbury and I agreed to meet him out there when I got freed up. The day after my graduation party, I packed up the Jeep (sans hardtop, duh) with surfboard and mtn bike and my buddy Tony and pointed West. We only got rained on once, for about 5 minutes in TN. I spent my time there doing the 'growing up' that I didn't do in college. It was a great time of no money, surfing, riding and hanging out just four blocks from the beach and two blocks from the main drag, Newport Ave. This was Ocean Beach (OB), not downtown SD. It was stoneytown at the north end of Sunset Cliffs and Point Loma.

Susan and I went out there for our 6th wedding anniversary to spend some time together, away from the daily grind. Of course, we love our kids more than anything, but we needed some time away alone. They spent the time being spoiled by all of their grandparents in the Philly/Annapolis area. I don't think they even missed us...

Susan and I stayed at the Inn at Sunset Cliffs which is the absolute best place in the world to go. It used to be residences right on the cliffs but it has been remodeled as a hotel. Open air, not a lot of rooms, heated pool in the courtyard, putting green overlooking the ocean and cliffs, outdoor fireplaces, lounge chairs... the works! We had a 'poolside queen' room which was a kitchen (we never used), living room, full bath with double headed (front/back) shower and queen bed. You wake and sleep by the sound of the ocean. It's also across the street from the bus stop AND liquor store with a little market inside and a hot food cafe next door. This place is worth checking out and it ain't expensive.

My buddy Pete owns this place called Bike Tours San Diego downtown, in the Gaslamp on 5th and Island. He sent one of his guys out with a couple of hybrids for us to borrow while there. Sweet. Locks and all. Pete is a Jersey boy, originally, and San Diego has always suited him. He's been there over a decade now and has a lovely wife and daughter. Lucky guy.

So, San Diego is one of the biggest cities in the US (top 8, I think) and it's east and west borders are Arizona and the Pacific, respectively. That's the county of San Diego, anyway. It's friggin' huge. The city is small and has basically no traffic by DC standards. Paradise, to be sure, as long as you can afford it. Everybody wants to live there so jobs ain't fallin' off of tress, if you catch my drift.

So, for pics we have the view west from our room at the Inn at Sunset Cliffs, bike parking - SD style, view west down Newport Ave from Sunset Cliffs Blvd and finally, my old house at 1977 Sunset Cliffs Blvd, me as Tour Guide Barbie pointing out the different surf breaks on the cliffs.

I would regret not mentioning the food. I loved living in OB because of the great variety of amazing food that was out my front door. Besides being able to skate down to the beach break at the pier with a surfboard, the food was amazing. The year I moved there, a place called Ortega's opened up on Newport. Luckily, it's still there. They've opened up another huge place a block off of Newport, but I love the original small place. It was opened up by two brothers from Mexico City. It's just the best damned Mexican food I've ever had, and I've had a LOT over the years. They have the best mole poblano sauce on the planet. Susan and I ate there twice and she f'in LOVED it. She would move there just for Ortega's. Just remember because it is not to be missed. Always take the recommendations of the staff on what to eat. Here's a shot of the original storefront that seats maybe 30 with six sitting outside. Homemade tortillas in flour or corn and everything is made right in front of you, short-order style, which is incredible.

We did the normal touristy stuff, just on bikes. I still know my way around out there and didn't get lost, even without a map. We rode the bike paths around Mission Bay, from OB past Sea World into Pacific Beach (PB) and down through Mission Beach, across the bridge, past the Marina where Tom lived after he moved out of the house and bought a boat, then right back down Sunset Cliffs Blvd to Rancho, the other amazing Mexican joint in OB. There are other Mex places, but these are the best. Rancho is your typical Cali-Mex joint, with tons of veggie and vegan options and a great carne asada burrito. They also have a nice little outdoor patio with tons of vegetation so it feels like you are in the jungle. It seats about 15 out there, really close quarters. It was great for the post-ride meal. We went out on the ride without really thinking about it and came back about 3 hours after we left. It was a beautiful day with a nice ocean breeze. Here's Susan, chilling in post-ride coma at Rancho.

We followed it up with a solid nap then hit the town for some strong, cheap drinks that seem to be the hallmark of OB. Pacific Shores. Where else can you get a glass of wine and a strong liquor drink for $8 with tip. No, they don't take credit cards... And I'm fine with it. If you go out and spend $20 drinking there one night, you'll be hungover. It's that kind of place and I love it.

We also made fish tacos one of our must-dos. Susan never tried them when she was in SD with Dawn a few years back, but we got some killer ones from South Beach, overlooking the OB pier and the beach. Total bill for beers, bloody marys and fish tacos (all plural) was about $25 with tip. And I tip well.

Here's big daddy, downtown at Rock Bottom, puttin' em back. Porter. It was good. We rode the bikes down to Point Loma and Cabrillo to check out the light house and the nice view. It's a bit brutal on a cheap hybrid, but whatever, it's bike riding. After that, we hopped over the saddle in Point Loma and rode downtown to see Pete's shop. Of course, we managed a few beers at Rock Bottom Brewery where they craft tasty beer. That's my drinking/riding shirt now. It confuses the enemy. It's an 'enemy confuser.' Thanks for that one, Bush. Here's a shot of Cabrillo. It's one of two that we have of Susan and me. And it's not even of the view from the lighthouse, but rather a view OF the lighthouse, from below, of course. I suck. At least in THIS one I took my sunglasses off.

Here's a shot of the chopped and pimped HoDad's mobile. It's a burger joint, right on Newport. They have half of a VW bus inside the place that you can sit in. It's all painted up and the headlights work. They have the greasy-style down pat. It's a place to refuel and they'll put damn-near anything you want on your burger. Not vegetarian friendly. I'm just glad that they spend their money in the right place, namely a chopped Vee-Dub bus, pimped wheels and fake surfboards on the roof. Good livin'. We actually saw this thing driving around so it's functional, but I can't imagine that it's a good road-tripper. Board-hauler and grocery-getter, yeah, but that's about it. I hope it has a boomin' system. That would just be perfect.

So I was in Vegas a few weeks ago, then cruised out to San Diego for vacation and NOW I'm being pimped out to San Jose with the SRAM boys to get intimate with their new forks. I'm leaving for a few days of shuttle runs with my buddy Lars (see previous postings) on some big bikes. Big Ed (you know who HE is, right?) will be driving the truck and Mike is along as the token rider from SRAM. I bought some new armor today so I should be in good shape but you never know. The 'log rides' out there are on the tops of redwoods so you end up six feet in the air and drop to - guess - nothing. The dirt has some built-in travel, but it will still be high-consequence. It should be cool enough to keep the full-facer and the pads on for the climbs (yes, there's always SOME climbing in the Demo forest) but we'll see. Rattlesnake down into Aptos via Deliverance? Or just a few runs on Braille to get the bikes dialed? Who knows. Who CARES!? I'm stoked. I didn't get to ride Santa Cruz at the Specialized event as they moved it to Reno (oof) so this will be a nice reprise for the year. I shouldn't be on a plane for the rest of the year. Here's hoping, anyway. I'm going to do my best to hit somebody over the head with a brick and come home with a new Totem fork. Wish me luck.

So, to sum up: too much travel makes mike a slow boy, I loves me some San Diego, Susan likes OB, I still like to ride bikes.

Ok, one-legged OB sketchy seagull and I'm out...

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