Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A pair of dice by the dashboard light...SWANK 2007

Props to Dave Chappelle for laying the humor ground work for my adult years. It used to be old school SNL. After Shrek's Donkey left, it has been sub-par in shaping deranged, yet highly creative humorous minds. Thanks be to Jon Belushi, Chevy Chase, Rossana Rossana Dana (Gilda), Jane Curtain, Dan Akroyd, Steve Martin and again Shrek's Donkey.

13th Baby!!!!!!!

Paradise by the dashboard light. We all relate curent nowledge to past experience. This blog entry follows suit. I once had a girlfriend from Nantucket. No. Stop! That's another story all together. I once had a girlfriend who would score poorly on Wayne Brady's sing the lyrics game show. We were listening to the radio or a cassette tape (remember those) and Meatloaf started wailing about mother nature and doing what you can and being barely 17 and being barely dressed (ah those moments!). Anyway, we were singing along and what i heard in her very non church-choir voice was just a few clicks to the left of ON. This girl could floor you with a soul wrenching version of STAND BY YOUR MAN, but Meatloaf, no. It was like Johnny Depp trying to sing King Tut or saying "I'm Gumby Damnit". It didn't work. I turned down the radio and kindly asked her what she was singing. "The words" she replied. Sweet Potato (i'll use this to protect her real name) knew of my ways and she hesiteted to repeat the lyrics she belted out at full blast. Finally, with expert provocation and probably a handful of jelly bellies I convinced her to regirgitate her original lyrics. She distinctly sang "a pair of dice by the dashboard light".

Right then and there I think I peed. I felt a tear trickle down Meatloaf's cheek, just like the Native American in that oh so great PSA for littering. She felt the song, it's gutteral representation of youth and love. She sang it loud and with pure heart but it was just a little off. Intent was there but it wasn't STAND BY YOUR MAN. That's how it was with my SWANK attempt.

Mile 16, cramps. Miles 17 - 40, cramps. Bad nutrution, probably. Prior Thursday night wheat beer fest at West 1st Pizza, probbably. What ever it was, I was a few clicks off of ON. I've raced a few of Todd's races and have been graced by his riding skills (as noted in prior blogs). It's all been rewarding but painful. This race fit the bill.

Earlier I spoke with Cissy about race strategy including the importance of not blowing up in the first 30minutes of a 4-5 hour race. She didn't need race strategy as evidenced by her 4th place finish. I should have taken my own advice. Needing to stay out of the mid-rear pack riff raff, I tried to stay towards the front. It felt great but I was not recovering very well. After an hour or so of back pain, breething hard and general pain, I stopped to leave my scent on the trail via recycled heed and H20. It's amazing what emptying your bladder will do for ya! After my two minute pitstop things improved.

A good groove finally found my legs and I pumped on. Coming back down FS 5003 to the 2nd rest stop, I found a cheering crowd in the name of the Kahne family! What a help that was - to have Shrimper, Bergan and Henry all yelling for me. I was revived and opted to not stop for fluids. I had a fair amount of water in my camelbak but paid dearly on the farlow descent. My bike decided it wasn't stoping until the first big log. We rolled, showed some style to a photographer and stopped for the first log. I dismounted and immediately did a double full-leg cramp. Calf, quad and hams-talk about standing at attention. Major "my bad" goes out to the team BMC rider. I couldn't move out of the way once the cramps hit. He was kind enough to share some of his Cliff Bar drink, which tasted like saltwater, but at that point in time it was exactly what i needed. My cramps stopped and I pointed the front wheel down and let er rip. Through most of the second rock garden we sped. Dismounted a few more times, not wanting additional permanent Farlow tatoos on my body. The too I have are enough - ones mental and the other is on my leg. I continued down and stayed with the fellow from BMC. He was obviously tired of my nervous, cramp induced chatter and sped through the harder sections like a pro. I caught him on a few of the medium hard sections and actually passed him while stepping over a log. Again I overstepped my boundaries and missed the log and stepped right on his pedal. I felt like a royal dork. I apoligized and sped on. Cramps returned full force and Mr. BMC passed me at the bottom of Daniel.

Finally FS 1206 was in sight. Only one climb remaining then a shot down Caney Bottom. I hit the turn to Caney with both legs slightly locking up. I'd gotten used to it. I hit the intersection on the FS road and remembered a great conversation i once had there. Pisgah has a way of holding memories like a picture album...you hit certain spots and the memories flood in.

After a few more agravating cramps and a fun blast to the bottom, i smelled Shrimpers monster burgers and smelled the finish. It was a good day.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

No Call Bastards

On my desk sits a home-made upright open file. It was one of the first things I made upon arrival of my first (and only) table saw. The top slot is labeled "no call bastards". Tenacious tele-marketers met their match. Each tele-marketer's call encountered a politely request to "remove me from your list, please" and i would promptly record the company name on my "no call bastards" list in anticipation of filing a complaint with the FCC. I never did file a complaint, but my intent came from a desire to fix a problem and improve my world. The past workday at Dupont had similar intent - desire to fix a problem and improve my world.

It wasn't just my world though. It is everybodys world...anyone with access to Dupont State Forest. I suppose that list is endless with exception of most people on the no fly list or on wanted posters in the almost defunct local snail mail hubs. Trail work is an excellent way to improve cycling friendships in a cycling yet "non-cycling" way. We get to know people on the bike when we ride. I learn bikes first, then names. I put a face with a helmet and a bike. "Oh, the dude on the Santa Cruz with the yellow helmet? or "Yeah, that girl on the huffy with the tassels...on her bars" - you get the point. With trail work, the helmets come off and an alternate side of each person illuminates in the dirt. Side by side we work, shoveling, lifting rocks, hoping Woody doesn't roll down the hill in his mini-dozer, but we add to our cycling relationships, build them stronger as we fix run-offs, erosion and bad design. We communicate using more than hand signals indicating a pile of gravel or yelling "low" to indicate a low hanging branch. Trail workers interact in a more human way than when biking.

It's always weird to see people out of the box you know them in. Like seeing your preacher at the strip club, it's awkward but usually has a good outcome. We all chipped in our time and did some more work on Cedar Rock. We rock armored, built a few jumps and re-routed part of the trail. In return, the state park powers who be allowed us to camp at the Barn.

I didn't arrive until Saturday around noon due to caring for a sick friend (i love playing doctor) and work was already in full force. I grabbed a pulaski and weaseled my way in to the digging groove and acted as if I'd been there all day. I was quickly noticed and put to real work laying out a line over a Volkswagen sized granite slab that was now part of the trail. We debated and stood around like DOT workers and finally picked a line. Clay Rockhound kept snooping for larger boulders and me a sucker for a challenge would help him move the 100+lb rocks from too far away and add to the turn on top of the granite slab. Each new rock caused a snowball of decisions. We moved that dab gone line at least 5 times. I politely slipped into the woods and walked up the hill for different shenanigans.

I found Z Andy working on a nice table top/log ride, Mr. George entertaining the troops with his crisp wit and cynical comments and some other folks I didn't know very well. We all worked a few more hours then left for camp.

Clay, Cissy and I decided to do a quick loop before nightfall. From the barn, we hit Airstrip, Cornholio, Laurel, Mine Mtn., then finished with a post dark/no light jaunt down Airstrip to cap off the night. That's living.

Camping was great. The stars by Bridal Veil were magnificent. It was a great time by the fire, slightly more mellow than hanging with my regular peeps, but relaxing and rewarding none the less. Needless to say, i woke up from a bike trip camping experience without the slightest hint of alcohol induced antibalance-ism-ish-ness. Sweet! We ate breakfast (a kick butt omelet, i must say) and decided our route. Bergan and Henry were ripping around the campsite on their bikes showing us old farts what youth used to be (it just happened to be my birthday so i was feeling it even more than usual). They were ready to roll so we rounded up the remaining posse and hit the trails.

We were representing with age 8 to the late 50's (i thought i heard someone say) and beginner to almost elite level riders. Who woulda thunk that we would all stay together and just have a "fun" ride. Well, it happened. As if my "no call bastards" list actually worked, and the telemarketers stopped calling, our ride was flawless and perfectly grouped and paced. Faster riders waited for slower ones, older faster riders waited for younger slower ones, slower older ones waited for...enough, you get the point. Bergan and Henry were a real inspiration to me. They attacked the trails with such vigor, such zest that it was a fricking blast just watching them enjoy the trail. This was my first ride with youngins and to my surprise it was great. It brought back memories of riding my bike with my Mom and Dad when I was there age. Rubber was just invented so the whole idea of smooth rolling tires was still a novelty, but to see these two kids attack any part of the trail was glorious. Of course when you are seed of two legendary local riders what would you expect?

Gracious was the group. We left the barn and went up cedar rock. The youngins opted for a tow line up the steeper section (i don't think they really needed them). Cissy towed Henry and Noelle towed Bergan. Note Bergan expressing his best compliment to the photographer.

To be a kid again. Oh, wait...I'm only 23! Yeah, that's what i was telling myself all day.

When we arrived up top, everyone was patiently waiting and sharing small talk, laughing, joking and just jiving well. The view rocked. Puns are cool.

After a brief pause, we flew down the new section of trail that we shaped up day prior.

Here is Mr. George and Beefcake pondering the table top jump:

This picture was taken by some girl. I was too flustered to get her name but thanks to Mr. George's calm and collective persuasiveness she seemed interested in talking with the cool mountain biker dudes that we are. We chatted and they talked me into hitting the nice soft, brand new table top jump, with work boots on. Yeah, beast ruffled my better judgement and up the hill i went. Better judgement somehow slid into my numb skull (i guess it comes with birthday #37-also see "skip out early part 2" for example of poor judgement amongst beuty vs. the log). My beter judgement was with me! Wow, a new day has dawned. I hit the jump at about 1/3 speed and per Mr. George "I could have put a bussiness card under your rear tire". My ego shrunk so much i had to re tighten my helmet. Enuf of this "business-card" hang time, I wanted some sky. To hell with better judgement, I just turned 37. I was 36 way longer than I'd been 37 at this point so back up the hill I rode. Work boots, carhart thick jeans and work gloves. I was gonna show this perty girl who the best table top jumper in these here parts was and by golly i was trying to win that perty . I hit the jump with good speed and soared to at least the height of a box of business cards. Man, I felt like da bomb. She had to fall for me now. I rolled back to my audience and they were both now star struck, no doubt. I was the rock star I always wanted to be. I finally got her name.

The entire group made it down to Cornholio/Burnt Mtn. intersecion and we parted ways. A little payoff time for being kind citizens. We hit Burnt Mtn. fast as fire on a So. Cal. beach and regrouped at the river crossing on Cornholio. I led the way across the creek and Clay, Cissy and oodles of others followed my line and made the crossing! A followed line is the utmost compliment a rider can get. So many people made the crossing, I lost count. We went up and did Laurel, Mine Mtn., Reasonover and once again the icing on the cake -Airstrip. Since I was now 37 and was utilizing my newly gained better judgement, I hit the top of Airstrip with zest and finally cleared the elusive table top jump for the first time! How fun. Our trip ended by breaking down camp saying goodbye. My tent was warm, was yours?

More weekend pics:

Monday, November 5, 2007

Skip out on work early, part 2

Part 1 was this past Wednesdays Dupont ride which we started around 2:30. Ok, twice in one week is borderline excessive. Friday rolled around and it was way too nice to stay in. The plan was to meet around noon and hit Pisgah. Cissy and I hit the parking lot a little late but with just enough time to make a quick loop around davidson river trail/long branch/cat gap before we were to meet Noelle at the parking lot. We trucked it up the river trail and i quickly flatted. I changed the flat and proceeded to act like i was not suffering. I'd glance behind me and Cissy was always on my tail just a "grinning" and riding effortlessly. Note the smile and non-painful, relaxed poise on the bike. We hit the loop fast and blasted down cat gap to meet Noelle. The three of us took off for an extension of the first loop. Cissy and Noelle were moving at great speed and chatting as well. The three of us made good time up long branch back towards 475. There are a few fields/camping spots along longbranch that are absolutely beautiful. I spent several moments absorbing the beauty of the forest. It's a refreshing feeling to look up at the sky and see leaves dropping from the tip tops of magnificent poplars and other hardwoods of species that i can never remember. We hit 475 climbed up and dropped to butter gap. I always underestimate the climb to the top of butter gap from fs475. It's not a long climb but there's enough to flatten you out as you salivate in anticipation of the great drop down butter.

One of Pisgah's behind the scenes gurus/local legends (Todd - Mr. ORAMM/SWANK) led me down butter gap a few years ago. He told me that he'd show me the good lines if I'd stay on his wheel. 1st - i was way out of shape to ride with Todd, 2nd - logs scare me and 3rd - Todd is faster than a speeding bullet. I tucked in behind his wheel and stayed there till we dropped by the bridge @ cat gap. This was a descent I'll never forget. With the words of Scottie from the SS Enterprise floating in my rattling brain as I was trying to stay on his wheel, the scenery was zooming by at light speed. I didn't have time to think about falling off logs, broken bones, face vs. tree introductions - i had one thing in my frontal lobe and that was Todd's back wheel. I followed that wheel where ever it went, over every log, rock, drop, root etc. Heck if he would have hucked off the trail on a 30 ft drop, i would have been right there. Thinking never crossed my mind - just pedaling.

At the beginning of the Butter Gap downhill, I always remember aforementioned event. Never will that smoothness be imitated by me again. It was a once in a lifetime ride that will be honored in tradition somewhere in my noggin, in a closet full of other noggin notes. Cissy, Noelle and I hit the downhill and I could hear them on my tail. It was time for a little payback. Sure they could keep my breathing above drool level on the climb but could they match my pucker level attack on this terrain? Noelle was right on my tail. I hit the off camber creek rock and had just enough time to snap a shot of Noelle checking out an alternate route over the rock. You can ask her how it was. On we went. Me feeling a little better about my riding abilities, approaching borderline "showoff level" wavered about riding one of the upper Butter Gap log crossings. My first mistake was wavering. "Obey the rules Luke" (in my best OB-1 inner voice) was going through my head as the log loomed in the distance. I hit the log slowly and sunk my back tire into an open split about 2/3 of the way across. My bike stopped ever so suddenly and i teetered to the left and gracefully exited landing upright on foot. Yay! All is well except for that little 45 degree bend in my rear wheel I noticed as i hopped off. The wheel bent back and with a little green spoke wrenching, it was good enough to ride out. Nothing like wasting a $90 rim on its inaugural voyage. It was my Mavic 317 Titanic. Bon voyage beotch! (it's since been replaced). Now I felt super cool. Two fine female riders, laughing their butts off at my inability to ride the entire log crossing. It's funny because I displayed my coolness and ballsy-ness just by riding the darn thing so it's not a question about ability but since i faltered in the easiest part of the log ride now it's a question of my humility. The ladies were graceful in their laughter and not too scolding. We finished this section of the ride, cat gap and back to the hatchery where Noelle parted ways and Cissy and I decided there was enough light remaining to climb 475 and drop Caney bottom. It was a spectacular fall day with perfect fall light and perfect fall crisp air . Trail and conversation could not have been better. An unending pause before we dropped Caney sealed the deal on the day. It was yet another perfect ride.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wake up time for freedom baby.......

Nov. 1. Scorpios will some day take over the earth. Nothing will get completed but we'll be satisfied and surrounded by creativity.

Wake up time for freedom - from "The Cult" sprang into my mind as i thought of yesterdays extended version of our weekly visit to Dupont. Xmater had the day off for religious purposes (arrival of his 1st washer/dryer set up) and we met earlier than usual. Syncronicity was in full force since i had appointments in the area and one other friend who's often on his knees (he is a hardwood floor man) called in saying he was local and wanted in on the fun. Freedom from work is good. 3:30 departure and off to Reasonover/Airstrip/Kornholio (as the locals spell it) Shoals Road, some logs and a few other trails my currently un-coffeed mind can't recall.

Freedom rings in my ears this AM, probably because i experienced it yesterday but have to sit in front of this computer and type all day. Interesting is Halloween with 4th of July emotion. It was liberating to be on leaf blanketed trails mid-day with friends who are usually working at 3 in the day. Freedom sounds crunchy with leaf blanked trails. Freedom cooled my lycra covered skin with crisp fall air. Freedom made me thirsty so we consumed beverages.

Others arrived. Mr. Surgery Makes me fast Dennis, Clay, Gravel Road Andretti and Valerie. We hit a good easy pace and wound up hitting Reasonover/Airstrip/Burnt Mtn./Big Rock and some others. Clay wins the butt stomp award for the evening. He was full force all night and riding smooth to boot.

Not much else to say.

Friday, October 26, 2007


I'm sitting in a shitty hotel at a convention in Char Latte, feeling juiced up on knowledg about concrete countertops, crappy convention food, beer, late night wings and more beer and just miss my bike and what it brings to my life. If you're reading this you are either another OCD bike fend, extremely bored or you have just entered into a beautiful relationship with me and want to know as much about me as you can find. Either way it's all good.
I'm sitting in the lobb]y and i think there's a quilting convention. Frick. Enough crap.

The Rowdy Dawg was a XXC race on a kick butt sliver of edible VA singletrak immersed in the mountains directly next to Blacksburg, VA. The race format that tickled my fancy was the XXC - a 39 mile race. I crave Mushin (pronounced Moo shin) and longer distances bring me to this beautiful state. The trail was a lollipop course with a ride up the stick, three laps around the lolli and a jaunt back down the stikc.

It was a typical race. At the start some fellows hauled ass, blew up and got passed. We had at least 3+ hours in the saddle and i had no intention of blowing the day on a silly start. I set my pace around 3rd-5th place and sat in the first hour. My buddy Jeremy was up ahead of me and I was unsure what kind of fitness he was carrying since he (Tabitha) just had another wonderful child. He's stomped me several times so I didn't discount his ability and assume anything. Ahead of Jeremy was his teammate Kevin (both from Vassago), one other unknown fellow and Matthew Lee from Bare Naked Cannondale. A few times in the first hour i reeled in the first three guys to get a feel for who was riding strong and gracful. Jeremy was pounding the trail in typical attack fashion, Kevin was just plain pumping it out on his SS and Matthew seemed to be in excellent form, fluid and quiet movement.

Jeremy dropped back after awhile and i would just catch a glimpse of Kevin and Matthew every few turns. Due to the opportunity to hang with Jeremy and drink beer the night before, my start was quite groggy. I figured the groggieness would dissipate after an hour or so but soon realized it was enjoying the race as much as me and it was in it for the long haul. Hesitantly, i accepted my racing partner (accompanied by his pals headache and poor balance) and decided good performance was going to hurt a little more than usual. A good friend of mine calls it "punishing his liver". I felt like the spokeperson for the club. I reeled up the remaining gumption in my dehydrated body and upped the pace ever so slightly. After a few miles I caught up to Kevin SS and passed him on some rocky uphill unkind to SS people. From there on out, i was alone with groggieness, the sound of my crappy Mavic hub body freaking out and the sound of my pounding head.

Evidently something is wrong with the freewheel meachanism because at 17mph or higher the drive body would hesitate to freewheel hence causing the gear cluster to match wheel speed and rotate my chain forward vs. my non pedaling front rings. The chain would slap at the tire making awful rubber vs. metal noises in addition to the foul noise emitting from the drive body. The only quick fix was to pedal the downhills, which is ok but sometimes a rest is nice. I figured it out and did what i had to.

This went on for the next few hours. I finally lost my phantom partners, groggieness, headache and poor balance. In turn I upped the pace again. Finally felt good. Just good, not grand. This is the point in a long race where unwanted race partners simply swap places. In creeped feelings of "damn, did i miss a turn" and "how close is the guy behind me"? I kept pushing it.

The trail offered excellent opportunity to hammer, recover and have fun. Some of the rock sections were tricky but never bad enough to not ride. I didn't clean every section every lap, but simply got off and walked when i didn't feel up to the mental challenge of navigating certain sections. Overall i cleaned the course with exception of one very rooted uphill section as you exited a creek, which i walked all three times. The outstanding sections of the trail included a great and beautiful climb up to a gravel road. The grade was conducive to my riding style (power it till your knees cry) so I always tried to win the race on that long climb.

I hit the hills hard, the flats harder and the downhills evenly. My strategy paid off. With 7 miles remaining, I came up on Matthew Lee. I figured he was feeling just as smooth as he seemed to earlier. I slowly caught up to him and stayed on his wheel for about a mile. We were testing each other to see what we each had in us. No problem with me, but I had to put on my poker face cause "crap" had decided to kick the butt of "damn, did i miss a turn" and "how close is the guy behind me"?. With "crap" as my new race partner, I decided to give my best poker bluff and pass Matthew and see what he had. Well, I suck at poker ((the card game)but i'm good at liquor). I passed and Matthew sat on my wheel like white on rice, which at this point i should have eaten instead of that third "just one more beer" beer.

My bluff lasted 1 long mile. That mile felt like the previous 34. I accepted my reality, sat up and Matthew passed in smooth controlled feeling good kind of style. I sat up, got in a decent pace and let the cards fall. I'd see him every few turns but just didn't have anything left. Matthew finished first we me trailing in with my tail between my legs 1 min and 10 seconds later for the silver. Not a bad day.

After the race I chatted with Matthew and learned that he's completed the Great Divide Race and the Colorado Trail Race. Impressive. I was pleased with my result.

Overall, i'd recommend the race, but not the amount of beer the night before.

Thanks to KENDA for allowing me to be a support rider. Nevegals rule!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A weekend called "milkshake".

Friends, beverages, bike and nature, not all in that order but swirled together in a weekend called milkshake, and it tasted perty damn sweet. This past weekend was "milkshake". I reference my ex live-in sailor of girlfriend's one time description of a peanut butter milkshake we shared at a little soda shop in Brevard. We each had a few chewy sips out of the white styrfoam cup. The cup wall was spackeled with peanut butter and rich vanilla ice cream. We were quiet and quiet was a stranger to us...she looked at me inbetween bites and sincerly stated "this is the best GD F&^*^ing milkshake i've ever had." Not exactly speak you'd expect from a well educated woman but we were still sitting in the soda shop. It just came out of her mouth with force equivalent to blowing liquid out your nose when someone makes you laugh. It was a force so strong it had to blow. Milkshake.

We celebrated a season of riding. Old friends, new friends, happy dogs, new dogs, old bikes, old trails, new trails, new speak, stories and letting loose. We didn't care if you were a lawyer or bin lauden. As long as you were there to shed light on the common thread. Don't ask don't tell or something like that, just don't be a hater.

I'm grateful to be a part of a group that doesn't judge me, doesn't mock me, doesn't pour guilt on me but simply accepts me and allows, encourages and demands for me to be me. I sure didn't find it in any of the Churches I've been to but once again, here it was in the middle of the woods. I didn't want it to end but the yin and yang called so home i traveled, knowing that the mundane task of work must be executed with glee or i wouldn't be able to come back next time.

I just say thanks to all who participated, all who wanted to but couldn't and those that didn't even know because they make up the yin and the yang and without knowing how bad shit is you can't know the opposite.

Thanks to all for the great weekend.
By the way, bikes are cool.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

2007 Double Dare - Race Review

2007 Double Dare – A Synopsis
Team Rhymes with Bucket
Jen Rinderle/David J. Cook

Without a doubt, the Double Dare is one of my favorite races. This year was no exception. Jen and I competed in the inaugural Double Dare in 2005 and placed 2nd, then she had to go off and get married during the 2nd running of the 2xdare so we showed up again in 2007 and gave it our all.

Jen was working in Hickory and drove into Asheville. Jennifer Drum picked her up at the airport where Jen was dropping of her rental car and they were both coming to my house for some chow. We prepared a good meal – chicken stir fry.

Jen, as usual, had all of her things prepared for the race. I on the other hand was having my pre-race anxiety attack. My repaired Steve Potts frame arrived earlier in the day and I started to build it up but realized there was no way my slow wrenching would allow for a proper build up. I took the frame to Sycamore Cycles and Wes & Crew slapped that beast together. As promised, Sycamore Cylces had the bike built by Friday at Noon, but Steve Potts had other plans.

The repaired seat tube required a 1 ½ seat post collar. Unknown to me, 1 ½ (38.1mm) is an extremely odd ball size and no local shops had one. We racked our brains and decided that a pipe fitting may be my only option, so we went to Grainger and bought a heavy solid steel 1 ½ pipe fitting to put on my re-finished, repaired Titanium Steve Potts frame. What a fiasco. Not being quitters, Jen & I scoured all Hendersonville and Asheville bike shops and were having little to no luck, when David at Youngblood bike shop on Merrimon, took the time to dig through an old parts bin and low and behold – there was the size I needed. It was old and used and he donated it to the cause! Props to Youngblood for not being greedy. There was another Asheville bike shop that found a close sized collar and charged me $10.00. The collar was super worn, scratched up and ragged. I have no problem paying for things, but the condition of this collar was questionable and the cashier/bike store guy was not overly kind. I inquired the price of a new collar and he quoted me “$16.95”…so the old ragged one with no bolt or no quick release was $10.00? Go figure. I hope they do well in their nice new shop, because I won’t walk in the door again (until I’m desperate of course).

Any way, Sycamore Cycles did a kick butt job building up my repaired ride, complete with a new Reba Race fork to replace the Huffy fork I had worn out. The bike was ready. Jen & I purchased our race food, laid out our gear, completed a gear check and started preparing for the weekend. Jen made sandwiches while I prepared the Tahoe (Ho) with our schtuff.

Our race food consisted of goos, various bars, salty chips, oatmeal pies, crackers, turkey/avocado/cheese wraps, pb&j on English muffins, oatmeal and egg & cheese sandwiches for breakfast and some starbucks frappachinos for the morning start. The best snack of each day was a diet Pepsi.

Valerie came over on Friday to pick up some parts she had delivered and helped out with the Friday night “pre-race” meal. We had spaghetti with some sauce, chicken and salad. It was a good meal and we all sat around and talked bikes & race stuff.

Day 1

We woke up, packed the Ho (Tahoe that is) ate a good breakfast then drove to Pisgah. We arrived with plenty of time. Jen & I figured, “we’re here to race, so let’s go ahead and get our bike clothes on and get ready”. We geared up, did final checks on gear, food & mechanicals and rolled over to North White Pines Group Campground for the mandatory 11:00am racer meeting. Eric of Pisgah Productions explained the usual stuff about the race: dos & don’ts, rules, regulations, etc. Jen & I checked out the competition. I was nervous but thank God Jen was cool as a clam. She kept re-assuring me that the race would be fine and we’d do great. I’m such a pre-race basket case.

Eric announced a new race format for 2007: a time trial start to Farlow Gap. We would receive our race instructions at Farlow Gap. Teams left the start at 3 minute intervals. We left in the 4th spot and arrived at Farlow in 2nd.

TT – White Pines Camp to Farlow Gap
477>276>475>Gloucester Gap>Pilot Mtn Rd>Farlow Gap

We kept our pace smooth and easy. Team “super cool purple I9 spokes” beat us there. We chatted with Gabe/Thad/Brado then reviewed our race instructions. 10 cp’s all over the forest with mostly west side travel. I know the west side well thanks to recent recon missions with Valerie. Jen & I picked our route and dropped Farlow Gap to CP 1, Intersection of Farlow Gap trail and Daniel Ridge.

CP1 – Intersection Farlow Gap & Daniel Ridge
Farlow Gap>Daniel Ridge

We dropped down Daniel Ridge to 475 and climbed back up to Gloucester Gap to CP 2:

CP2 – Intersection FS 5003/FS 140A
Farlow Gap>475>Gloucester Gap>5003>140A

Our only wrong turn in the entire race was at the Southern most point of 5003. I thought we were to the intersection of 140A but things didn’t look right. We took our CP proof picture and rolled down a 4-wheeler double track south from the intersection. The trail immediately dropped significantly and I realized we were in the wrong spot. Jen & I back tracked and rode to the correct intersection. Along the western part of 5003, we encountered some fast gravel double track descents and Jen got very familiar with some of the local gravel in two of the turns. At the CP Jen quickly cleaned out her cuts.

I snapped a pic or two and bolted for CP 3:

CP3 – Courthouse Falls
140A>140>Sumney Cove

Our ride to Courthouse Falls only took a short while. We hit the Sumney Cove trail head on 140 with ease and proceeded south on Sumney Cove. This part of Sumney Cove reminded me of riding along some spots of the Ocoee river in TN. Suddenly the terrain to the left turned into a massive drop. We found the trail to the waterfall, locked our bikes and raced down. Both of us were amazed at the beauty of the falls. Neither of us had been there before and as I’ve done in thousands of spots, I vowed to return and absorb the beauty and serenity. By this time we had drank our water so we refilled and dropped some iodine in the camelbaks. As usual, we got some strange looks from some of the visitors. We politely exchanged greetings, hauled butt up the hill, un-roped our trusty ti steeds and focused on CP 4:

CP4 – Intersection of Sumney Cove and NC 215
Sumney Cove>140>215>Sumney Cove

The 2005 Double Dare also had a CP at the 215/Sumney Cove intersection. Jen & I had hit it then but opted to continue from 140 all the way down Sumney Cove to 215. Along that route in 2005, Jen fell off the side of the trail into a huge briar bramble and could not get out. I heard her yelling, rode back to her spot, and asked if she was ok, she said “yes” then I almost peed my pants because she was stuck in the briars 5 feet below the trail. I extended my hand to help her up - only after I snapped a few pictures of her in the bushes. There is also a big hike a bike on Sumney and we decided the gravel/pavement route would be quicker. We snapped our proof picture and headed to CP 5:

CP5 – Flat Laurel Creek@Concrete Bridge/Waterfall
215>Flat Laurel Creek

Wow. That’s all I gots to say. The ride up 215 is tough. I’ve climbed this section on my road bike, and it was tough but with a full pack on a mountain bike, it approached painful. Jen & I set a smooth pace up the mountains. The grade gets steeper as you approach the top, but the view also improves. The smooth road was a good place to take some extra pictures as we rode along. Jen always smiled for the camera, well Jen just always smiles anyway. I tried to steal a few shots while she was upset or in a bad mood or frowning, but those emotions, if there, never showed through. We finally crested under the BRP and said hi to team Yazoo (a brewery from Nashville, TN). I think they were taking a safety break. Nice fellows. I want a beer sponsor too! We dropped 215 to the Flat Laurel Creek parking lot, hit the CP and continued to CP 6:

CP6 – Ivestor Gap@Shining Rock Wilderness sign
Flat Laurel Creek>Ivestor Gap

We hit the parking lot for Ivestor Gap and hit the CP with little incidence except the sudden darkness that came upon us. Jen and I both agreed that the Ivestor Gap trail was somehow slightly similar to Porcupine Rim Trail in Moab. By the time we left the Ivestor Gap parking lot for CP 7, it was fully dark and there was a beautiful orange harvest moon coming up over the horizon. It made me think of Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin. The star view from this point of the parkway was delicious! We stopped twice to gaze briefly upon the stars. Enough of that we decided and headed to CP 7:

CP7 – Wagon Road Gap@BRP
Ivestor Gap>BRP>Wagon Road Gap

The ride down the Blue Ridge Parkway was incredible! I’ve ridden the parkway at night several times but this evening the sky was incredibly clear and the stars numbered in the brazillions (a number created by our current brilliant president). I snapped a few pictures while riding in the dark but quickly realized a wreck on pavement with full pack while taking pictures traveling at 30+mph would not be good. I stopped trying to be like Brado (photographic/designer connoisseur) and put my camera away. At the CP, Jen & I bundled up for the ride down 276. We ate some food and started to pull out when team Yazoo rolled up. I had dropped a zip lock of chips at the sign and the Yazoo fellows were elated about their find. I told them to finish them off which was probably just what was needed after the earlier safety break and 3 PBR’s each from Dave Blalock (mandatory CP man) at Ivestor. Dave also gave Jen a coca-cola and I bummed a sip off coffee and a PBR as well. That PBR was just what I needed 8 hours into a race! Hooooyaa!

CP8 – Club Gap
BRP>276>477>Club Gap

Jen and I hit 477 fast. Coming down 276 from the parkway is always a blast, even if you do freeze your butt off! We traveled up the gravel on 477 until I heard the familiar eerie buzz of the power station. I am usually good in the woods at night until something like that buzz takes my mind to the land of Steven King. Jen and I rode as much of Club Gap as possible then hiked it up to the intersection. We took our picture and hiked up the Black Mtn. Trail towards Buckhorn Shelter.

CP9 – Buckhorn Gap Shelter
Club Gap>Black Mountain Trail>Shelter

Our ride over this section of Black Mountain was uneventful. There were some good clear views of Brevard off of the overlooks but we were trying to keep our speed up because we were considering continuing to the Black Mountain CP after Buckhorn Gap – if we got to Buckhorn with enough time to spare. I pushed my bike over Black Mountain from Buckhorn Gap to Presley Gap one time. I believe it was my introductory ride in Pisgah in the early 1990’s. I remember it took a long, long, long, long time and it hurt. Granted, I am in much better shape now than then, but a DQ at this point in time would make me cry. Jen and I estimated that it may take an hour to hike a bike that section and if we got to Buckhorn by 10:30, we would go for it. We arrived at Buckhorn and 10:45 and stuck with our plan.

Day 1 Finish
Buckhorn Gap>Clawhammer>477>North White Pines

We arrived at race finish around 11:30pm. Did we have enough time to get the CP at Black Mountain? We won’t know – until I go check it out. Tired and sore, we said our hello’s, reviewed our CP’s with Eric, prepared the futon in the Hoe and went to sleep. A good day of racing. 9 check points/70 miles…one more day.
Day 2

Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head, went downstairs and had a cup.[1] Somebody spoke and I went in to a dream……..ARG!!! The alarm is going off at 4:30 am why why why why???? Then I realized I was not in my uncomfortable bed at home but laying on a futon in the back of my Hoe alongside FS 477, stinky, sticky from the previous day, but somehow rested and ready for round two. Jen’s alarm went off about the same time. “Down in the south Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican Girl[2]” was what my phone alarm was saying to me. How pleasant is waking to a Love Ballad from Marty Robbins? Agreed, it doesn’t work for everyone, but it does for me. After 15 precious minutes of allowing my eyes to adjust to the total darkness of Pisgah, I slid into awaiting bike clothes I laid out in anticipation the night before. My Hoe looked like aftermath of a hurricane. Food, bike parts, water, camping items, more food, clean clothes, dirty clothes were everywhere but somehow Jen and I found organization in the first appearance of chaos and got ready for day two. Jen made some oatmeal and I took a few bites of the leftover Westfirst Goat cheese pizza we had for dinner the night before. I also ate an egg and cheese sandwich that we made Saturday morning. Our spirits were good. We weren’t exactly lively but there was a solid undercurrent emitting from both of us that we knew a huge task was eminent and we were ready to take it on full force.

We strolled over to the race venue about ¼ till 6. The race was to start promptly at 6 am so we wanted to be ready for Eric’s instructions. No surprise to us, Eric was starting the race with another time trial. Today’s TT was to Yellow Gap. Nice. Jen and I looked at the map and decided the best route was 276>1206, simple enough. Turkey Pen trail loomed on our map as if saying “you know you want me”, but Jen & I laughed and said “whoever cut’s across Turkey Pen to get to Yellow Gap is insane”. We were certain that Eric would make us travel Turkey Pen at some time in the race, as in all his prior races, but it looked like Turkey Pen would not harvest our tears this time! Yay! We realized later that some poor souls did cross Turkey Pen to get to Yellow Gap…more on that later.

Anyway, a gas station we passed, we got gas, and went on to get grub.[3] Eric staggered the starts at three minute intervals. We left in about the 4th or 5th slot, I don’t recall, but it was still dark. “Go”, yelled Eric. We zoomed to South White Pines, hit 477 and started our quest for Yellow Gap.

Since it was still dark and cold, we were overdressed. As we approached Looking Glass Falls, I saw a red blinky round the corner above the falls and thought to myself “victim #1”. Few things are more satisfying then overcoming someone in a race, even if it is a great friend. Jen & I shed a layer or two at the parking lot then continued up the hill. We planned to set a slightly more than moderate pace. The time trial would suit us both as an excellent warm up for the rough and tumble riding that awaited us on Pisgah’s East side. We came upon Erinna and Valerie and exchanged 2nd day race pleasantries with them. We passed them, they passed us and again and again. Finally, Jen & I got our groove on and turned it on. We arrived at Yellow Gap and Thad greeted us with a smile. We were not sure how we did on the TT so we asked Thad how many people were there before us – he said we were the first to arrive! Jen & I were stoked. We grabbed our day 2 instructions and began to plot our course.

As I figured, Eric’s placement of CP’s didn’t elicit joy in my mind or my saddle sores, but we were on a mission and here to do the job. Initially, our plan was to go for as many CP’s as possible, because we knew it would be hard to win without getting them all. Mills River Trail/Mullinax was day two’s mandatory CP and everything else was scattered to the North. We decided that an out and back was in order for the mandatory CP. Jen & I ate a kicking turkey/avocado/cheese sandwich and dropped 5015 (always makes me think of 5150/Van Hagar – Helllllo Baaaybee!) towards our first CP of Day 2:

CP1 – Field on South Mills River near bottom of Mullinax
Yellow Gap>5015>Bradley Creek>Laurel Creek>Squirrel Gap>
Mullinax>South Mills River

The ride down 5015 is always longer than I remember. We hit the bottom, I changed a strange flat on my front wheel then we crossed Bradley Creek and started up Laurel Creek trail. We did some pushing but kept a good pace. We hit squirrel gap trail and zoomed on down to Mullinax without any problems. We hit the intersection with Mullinax quicker than I anticipated. That field at the Mullinax/Squirrel Gap intersection has an interesting energy to it, like it pre dates history – it’s not a bad energy, but it seems different than other parts of the forest. We passed through the field, hit the trail re-route then dropped to S. Mills River and the CP where Dave Blalock waited patiently for the teams to arrive. He checked our passport and set us up for the special test: shooting a small target with a BB gun. Dave set up the gun, I lined up the target and bam – one shot. Dave gave us a bag of kick butt chips for hitting the target on the first shot. We knew our speed had to beat yesterdays effort so off we went to CP 2.

CP2 – Bear Branch Trail head@FS 5001
South Mills River>Mullinax>Squirrel Gap>Laurel Creek>Bradley Creek>
FS5015>FS1206>FS5000>FS5001>Bear Branch Trail Head

Jen & I rolled down Laurel Creek and were crossing the creek when I noticed Extreme tomato’s bike! I was in a slight daze and before even looking up from his bike laying next to Bradley Creek, I said “Johnathan”. Team Tomato was taking an obviously necessary safety break. Jen & I exchanged our usual race pleasantries with Team Tomato and inquired about their route. THEY HAD CROSSED TURKEY PEN! I looked at Johnothan with dismay. “Wow” was all I could muster out. We refilled out bladders and hit 5015 right after Team Tomato. We caught up to Jonathan’s partner but never caught Jonathan. He hauled butt up 5015. When we arrived at Yellow Gap, Jonathan was a little bummed that they rode right by the only mandatory CP of the day and had to backtrack to where they just came from. Ouch.

The ride down off of Yellow Gap towards Mills River is always fun. We started off down the hill. About halfway down, I noticed my rear tire was rubbing my frame…another broken flat bladed fancy pants spoke. What a pain in the butt those expensive spokes have turned out to be. I pulled over, analyzed the situation and wrapped that sucker around the opposing spokes tight enough to pull the wheel back into “almost true” so the tire would quit rubbing my newly fixed frame. Jen checked if I was ok as she sped by. I caught back up to her and we headed up to Bear Branch. We hit Bear Branch with no problems and started off for CP 3.

CP3 – Trace Ridge Trail@Spencer Gap Trail
Bear Branch trail head>FS5001>FS5000 (Wash Creek Rd)>Spencer Gap

Up, up and away, more up, more gravel, my sore arse and eating a big plate of Mexican Food was all I could think about. My spirits suddenly dipped low, in conjunction with my blood sugar. We pedaled up Wash Creek Rd. for what seemed like an eternity. I thought I knew Spencer Gap Trail fairly well but realized it was longer to the Trace Ridge intersection than I thought. We finally arrived. I was brain dead and Jen suggested that we take 5 and eat. Times like that are where an experienced adventure racer/friend/smart woman/excellent endurance athlete as a partner come in handy. I took Jen’s advice. We sat quietly eating Whoppers, chips from Dave at the mandatory CP, a couple sips of diet Pepsi, an oatmeal crème pie and probably more chips. We shot our CP proof photos and pushed up to the parkway.

CP – 4 Laurel Mountain@ NF/BRP Boundary
Trace Ridge>BRP>Laurel Mtn.

I was glad to see the pavement but forgot the 5 miles ahead of us was almost all uphill. I don’t know why I expected to not climb for a while, but I think my mind was still off in Mexican Food dream land. Jen could tell and suggested I stop again for a minute or two. I did as instructed and felt better. Ten minutes later, I was returning to normal race mode. My mission to finish, and finish well re-centered in my main thoughts again. On we went. We eventually hit the Laurel Mountain trail head off of the BRP. The traffic was terrible. Idiots, obviously. You know they were thinking the same about us. We were passed by a mid-size SUV twice. It had a Litespeed road bike on the roof rack and I thought to myself that it would be so much easier to be on a road bike now. Oh well, no such luck. There was an overlook at the trailhead and Marvin, Karen & new baby Mason were there having a picnic. It was great to see them. Karen is a local riding hero of mine. She kicks everyone’s butt with grace, kindness and class. Marvin does the same. There child will probably be an endurance machine! Thanks to Marvin for giving us a water bottle full of H2O. We started pushing down the trail and looking for the boundary marker. Eventually, we hit the switchbacks that were definitely beyond the NF boundary. Jen & I turned around to search for the marker thinking that maybe it was on the upside of a tree and we just didn’t notice it as we traveled down the trail. Nope. Thirty minutes later, I decided we spent enough time scouring the trail and took about ten pictures of trail identifiers that would prove to Eric we were there. Those pictures included some downfall, an “X” carved into a tree, a metal tag, rock piles and a few other things. Frustrated and anxious, we sought CP 5:

CP5 – Pilot Rock@Thompson Creek Trail Intersection
Laurel Mountain>Laurel Mtn. Connector>Pilot rock

Jen took over navigating. I was mentally spent after searching to no avail for the NF boundary which was CP 4. Jen led us up the connector trail and in no time we hit the CP at the Pilot Rock/Thompson Creek intersection. I ate more food and was looking forward to the kicking descent down Pilot Rock.

CP6 – Buckhorn Gap Shelter
Pilot Rock>FS1206>FS476>South Mills River Trail>Buckhorn Gap Trail

Jen’s husband (Ed Rinderle) and I had told Jen stories of pushing up Pilot Rock in a PMBAR race. All she could do was laugh and comment on how bad it had to hurt. We challenged ourselves in the wicked switchbacks and array of oddly shaped and oddly placed rocks. Jen rode most of the trail but kept laughing at the thought of the expression on Ed’s face while we pushed up in the PMBAR so long ago. It was about 4:15 and I was starting to worry about finishing on time. At Trace Ridge I told Jen that we needed to be at the bottom of Pilot Rock Trail by 4:00 PM in order to hit the two more checkpoints that were along our chosen route. We hit FS 1206 (Yellow Gap) road at 4:25ish. I was nervous.

To win, I knew we would need at least two more CP’s. It was just something I felt inside, but on the other hand, if we were late that would mean disqualification – and that would suck worse than not winning. We had a long way to go and a short time to get there…and we were out of water with no time to spare. During the morning TT up to Yellow Gap, I noticed a jug of water sitting on the big rocks at the intersection of FS1206 and FS476. Hopefully it was still there and Jen & I could refill our bottles. Luckily it was and it was unopened! We filled our bottles and accepted our gift of water gracefully.

Time to get serious. I was uncertain of how long it would take us to ride up the Buckhorn Gap Trail. I’ve ridden it a few times but my only memory of that trail was a winter day two years prior with the Goat himself – Jeremy Arnold/Heddrick.

Jeremy had hosted a few fellows from St. Louis and invited me along. We did about thirty miles in the wet snow that day and ended the loop with a climb up buckhorn from the South Mills River Trail. Quickly into the ride, we knew the St. Louis guys were bored with our slow pace so Jeremy explained the route and sent them on their way. Jeremy and I were pooped. Our spirits slowly sank into the mud and snow replicating the action of our knobby tires as our conversation spiraled down to grunts, then snorts then nothing at all. We both hit rock bottom and when we finally crested the trail to Buckhorn Gap we laid in the sun for about 20 minutes before we could even move or speak. It’s funny to recall, but it hurt like hell at the time…

With that as my prominent memory of Buckhorn Gap Trail, I was scared Jen & I would be pressing our luck to even make it back by the 6PM cut off. I stopped Jen and told her that we would have to ride faster and harder than we have all weekend to finish the race on time. Jen acknowledged and confirmed what I already knew…she was here to race and race hard. We kicked it down 476 and South Mills River Trail. As South Mills River started to climb, I kept telling Jen that we had to keep pushing on and on she went. I let her lead and kept telling her that our race was boiling down to this single climb. We stopped to cross a log and I asked for her pack. She didn’t hesitate. She threw me her pack and was off before I could even throw it over my back! It was cool to see Jen step up to another level of riding. She was out of the saddle and cranking up the trail faster and smoother than I had seen her ride all weekend! I knew she had it in her, but more importantly, she now realized that she had it in her as well! We hit a familiar spot on Buckhorn and I knew we were close to the top. Jen kept cranking and I kept shouting out encouragement and necessity of haste. We hit Buckhorn Gap in record speed and were both elated. We shot our CP proof picture of the Shelter and discussed our options.

I had never been to the Twin Falls CP and was uncertain how long it would take to get there and back, then down Clawhammer to the finish line. It was now 5:15. Although the entire route was downhill and the additional CP was just a mile or so off of Clawhammer, we opted for the safety of going straight back to the finish. What if we had a flat or other mechanical and didn’t make the cut off? We chose well and headed to the finish line.

Finish Line – North White Pines Campground
Buckhorn Gap>Clawhammer>FS477

We arrived to various cheers and Mike Brown madly ringing a cow bell. We had about thirty minutes to spare if you added time from the mornings staggered start. Our race was completed, the task accomplished.

Two days in Pisgah, 138 miles, 22 some odd hours, 24,000 + feet climbing, saddle sores, scrapes, bruises, broken bike parts, tired eyes and smiles from ear to ear. Nothing in the world beats the feeling of finishing a race like the Double Dare…nothing.
[1] The Beatles – Day in the Life
[2] Marty Robbins – El Paso
[3] A tribe called quest – I left my wallet in El Segundo