July 28, 2012

Flagstaff 100

Plans were finally taking shape for a weekend up north in the pines, I was so ready to escape the desert for some cool riding among the trees I could taste it.  The idea for the weekend was to join a few of my riding buds for a tour of the area southeast of Flagstaff linking parts of the Arizona Trail (AZT). This route would be all new to me, so I was really excited to check it out. Day 2 would put us back on familiar ground with arguably the best mountain biking passsage of the AZT, San Francisco Peaks #34. Personally, I was aiming for 100 miles over the weekend and based on early predictions of the routes it would be close.

Work ran a bit late on Friday & I still had a ton to gather up for the weekend so I bailed on attempting to get up there that night. A Saturday early morning departure wasn't so bad, and I met up with the gang: Ray, Noel, Jason and Seron at Noel's mountain retreat with full trail access right off the back deck! I've been to a few events with Ray over the past couple of years, but he's a much stronger rider than I so we'd only chatted at the starts or online, so it was going to be nice to actually 'ride' with him this go-round. It was also nice to ride with Noel & Jason again, it had been too long. In the end we kept a good pace and we all weren't too far apart in fitness.

The gang of 5 getting set to head out on our Tour de Flag. Photo by Amy.
Ray and Noel had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to ride, connecting segments of AZT with some other sweet trails in the area. They left the connections relatively organic making for a more adventurous outing.  We even mixed in a little bit of smooth rolling pavement to break up the pace. It was such a fun route with great company, this could be a regular ride!!
The forest awaits.

We wouldn't have many views of the peaks today, but tomorrow we'll be on the flanks.

Very cool to ride into this cliff held meadow near Walnut Canyon.

The caboose came unhitched from this train at Fisher Point.

Sure was some beautiful dirt up north. Photo by Seron.

Ray showing off those mondo huge 777mm bars!!

Noel & Jason rounding out our riding posse.

Incredible mural on the side of Absolute Bikes in Flagstaff. Here's a time-lapse of the creation.
Photo by Seron.
A 15 minute shower wasn't going to rain on this parade, it made it better! Photo by Seron.

Back chillin' at the cabin after a 56 mile tour enjoying a cold one, now that's a good day. Photo by Seron.

Noel was kind enough to let us get showered before heading back to camp. We spent the rest of the evening around the camp fire roasting s'mores and drinking Yuengling beer I had brought back from PA. I actually had a good nights sleep in the tent before the big ride on Sunday.

We woke on Sunday to more great weather, sat down for our over indulgent breakfast and received a text from Chuck. Still meeting at the TH at 8am? Nope, not gonna happen Chuck, swing by the campground and join us for some grub, then we'll get our ride on!!

We made it out around 9-ish to the Shultz Creek TH, then Chuck showed us a different way to get to the AZT via the Fort Valley Trails. This section of AZT is easily in my top 3 of places to ride, I've had the good fortune to experience this trail 4 times over the past year and it never disappoints. Rip-roaring cross country to start, long constant grade to get the legs & lungs burning up into the high alpine followed by a kick-ass 4 mile swooping descent through aspens & ferns groves.  We hit FR418 had a snack then we attacked the trail all over again in the opposite direction.

Beautiful overlook climbing the flanks of the San Francisco Peaks.

It's like riding in the Land of the Lost.

It's a good thing when the trail is hard to find.

One of these days I'm going to head north to Utah. Photo by Seron.

Finishing up the 5 mile descent back to Snowbowl Rd. Photo by Seron.

It still amazes me how this can be only a few hours away. Photo by Seron.
As our day was winding down, both Seron & Chuck were on time constraints. We rolled across the fast XC section of the AZT to the Fort Valley turnoff. I was showing 38 miles on the day and was determined to hit 44, so I bid farewell to the fellas and continued on the AZT towards the Sunset TH. It wasn't all about getting the miles, this stretch of trail is devine with the superb contouring and the final 4 mile descent down Shultz Creek would put a smile on the most seasoned rider.
I'd leave Seron and Chuck here to continue on the AZT

About a 1/2 mile from the Shultz downhill run.

At the bottom, clouds formed, but the rains stayed away.
I watched as the miles ticked off, 41, 42, 43.....then just as I rolled up to the car: 44.00 on the nose! This gave me a cool century for the weekend, 100.53 miles in the pines. After all that, there's so much more Flagstaff has to offer, get up here and GET SOME!!

July 25, 2012

Summer Suffer Series

I've been working two jobs for over 7 years now, luckily my evening part-time gig is fun and during the summer we start later for a 2 month stretch. I live too far away to realistically go home between jobs, but the good news is South Mountain Park is right out the back door of my day job. This allows me about 2 1/2 hours twice a week for some weekday riding on the fantastic trails throughout the park. The bad news? My window to ride is from 3-5:30pm during June & July!! Typical start temps range from 105º - 112º, or to quote my friend, Michael, I'm riding under the 'anvil of the sun'. Sure, it's hot, but you do get acclimated to it.

Riding habits change a bit, for example any opportunity for grab a slice of shade is acutely noticed and taken.  South Mountain (SoMo) is usually very crowded during the other 8 months of the year, so it's really nice to have the trails all to myself. The two overriding principles of my summer rides are this: take way more water than you'll need and regulate the ride pace.  Most, if not all, trails at the park are game for these rides. I don't cut out the ones with big climbs, I may just walk a bit more.  Here are a few routes I've done during my suffer series:

July 15, 2012

Scouting the NW Sector

There's been a recent flurry of trail construction in the NW part of the Valley, sounds like a good excuse to make the hour drive.  I had been up there back in October to ride the trails at Deem Hills and the southern portion of the Sonoran Mtn. Preserve (SMP). This time we'd be checking out the northern, newly minted, trails of SMP. I took ZERO pics of the trails while on our ride, so I'll have to poach some of Seron's, plus he has all those cool effects about mastered now anyway.
New pedestrian/bicycle bridge over I-17 at sunrise. Photo by Seron.

Gill and I cruising the smooth trails, count the tire tracks!! Photo by Seron.

Love the miniature effect, makes you look how it feels out there. Photo by Seron.

Fast flowy fun. Photo by Seron.

This is a really great shot! Thanks Seron. Chuck, Gill, me and Dave flying downhill.

The trails at both north & south SMP are super fast non-techy rollers with a few lung busting climbs thrown in to keep things honest. It's a nice contrast to the pounding one takes at South Mountain on a regular basis. I know my bike was thankful! We we led on a nice tour of the trails by Chuck & Gill, 17 miles of loops later and we were done, but it's only 8am and we drove a looong way to get here. Seron and I wanted more and Gill offered to give us a tour of the trails over at Thunderbird Park. He said he hadn't been there in a while and heard there was some trail maintenance done. Sounds like a good enough reason to check out some more new-to-us trails.

T-Bird was more reminiscent of the chunkier frontside South Mountain trails, lots of hike-a-bike, HAB. We were convinced this was Gill's payback to us for dragging him through the White Horse Hills last summer. We managed a couple of loops and a few good climbs for our effort. This had us all thinking the same thing, how can we tie all these places together for a sweet 60 miler?? Welcome new pedestrian/bicycle bridge over I-17!!
A short flat section leads to the uphill grunt.

Old Glory marks the top.

Rocky, but fun trails with great views.

Deem Hills across the way.

Gill smiling a little extra after the HAB effort he put us through, but we don't mind.

Loose steep descent, surfing the upper half.

This mountain is growing a nice set of incisors.

The north part of the valley really showcases the mountainous transition of our state.

Nice techy descent to the car. Photo by Seron.

As soon as the temps begin to drop this fall a NW epic will be had. It will link T-Bird Park, Deem Hills, SMP north & south for a great day in the saddle.

The first two tracks are from the days ride, the following two are of Deem Hills & SMP south, linking all four together will prove to be a fantastic day in the saddle!!

Sonoran Mountain Preserve North
Thunderbird Park

Deem Hills

Sonoran Mountain Preserve South

July 8, 2012

Beer & Independence

Made the trip back east that no one wants to do, lay a loved one to rest. My Dad is in a better place now, and he fancied a few good suds in his day. What better way to offer up a toast and check out a really cool place all at the same time. My wife, my two brothers and I headed off to Pottsville to tour the Yuengling Brewery - the oldest in the country.
183 years and going strong.
What a fun and informative tour. If you ever find yourself in the area, I highly recommend it. Of course there are a couple of free samples at the end and the tour itself is free.
Very cool bar in the tasting room, tons of old bottles/cans.

In the caves, no longer in use. The brick wall was 1 of 3 erected by the government during prohibition to halt manufacturing. Didn't work so well.

Stained glass ceiling was a nice touch, especially to the workers since it helped keep the work area cool during the summer months.

Fill 'er up!! Fresh batch on the way.

Canning the Lager.

Cans flying everywhere.

We took the correct side of the bar.

Tons of old cans/bottles dating back over 100 years.

The 7 varieties of Yuengling.

Doesn't look like much on the outside.
My brother was flying out of Philadelphia on the 8th, so we drove him down to the airport then decided to do a bit of sightseeing in the historic district. It had been a long time since I had been to Independence Hall & the Liberty Bell. We were about an hour early before the visitor center opened so it was nice to get a bunch of photos without all the people milling about.
Independence Hall with an empty lawn.

Wall built in 1661.

Philly is cool.

The US Mint just started offering tours as of July 3rd, we were going to take one, but they are closed on Sundays!! :(

Liberty Bell Philly Phanatic.

Signing of the Declaration happened here.

Original inkwell used in the Declaration signing.

For 10 years Philly was the US Capitol.

Liberty Bell upskirt.

Through glass shot.

The crack can be seen here.

One of the many characters in garb for the reenactment of the Declaration reading.

The annual reenactment of the Declaration reading, very cool to see.

Some of my local favorites: Tastykakes, Drake's cakes, Yuengling beer & Josh Early candies.