November 27, 2016

A California Adventure

Disney decided to shut down their Tower of Terror ride at California Adventure theme park. K loves that ride and wanted to get over there one last time before it was gone. We had some timeshare points to burn and as luck would have it, found an available room for 2 nights at the Grand California Hotel right next to the park.
Hotel lobby all decked out for the holidays.
Unfortunately, the weather forecast wasn't in our favor for Saturday's park visit, but we thought we could squeeze in the outdoor attractions before the rains arrived.

First stop: Tower of Terror!! The line wasn't too bad and before we knew it we were headed into the service elevator!! I forgot how fun the ride was and how many short drops it does before the longest, final drop.

My buddy, Arturo, reminded us to grab a fast pass for the Cars ride and it was a good thing we did. It was barely 10am and our pass printed out for 7:30pm!!

We spent the next few hours walking around the park, riding the rollercoaster after some coaxing to K. Luckily, by the time we stepped in line it was only 5 minutes long!! No time to dwell on it.
Weather holding off.
We both really enjoy the Toy Story ride since it's very interactive and essentially a target shooting game. Once again, the line wasn't too long and we started knocking the targets off left & right.
Who won?? ;)
After lunch the skies were beginning to turn ominous, the rain was coming. We hopped on one more ride as the drops began to fall.
We were gettin' our kicks.
The rain picked up and began to soak us, the raincoats just weren't enough. We opted to take a hotel break in hopes that the storm would pass by quickly. A few hours later the rain had stopped and it was almost time for our Cars ride. We also wanted a nighttime ride in the Tower.
Spooky!! Made better by the actual storm!!
Back row, center. K screaming!!

 The nighttime Tower of Terror experience was worth it. They left all the lights out enhancing the dropping sensation a bit more. Very well done Disney.

The walk-up line at Cars was almost 2 hours!! We were through with our fast pass in 15 minutes. It's a really fun ride, but not 2 hours of waiting fun.

We got out of there just in time for the holiday light show over the lake.
About to be lit up with lasers.
Just like that our day was done. In spite of the weather break, we hit all the attractions we wanted to do. It was a fun day being a kid again and K fulfilled her childlike wonder for the time being..

The next morning we dined with a few Disney characters before making the drive back to the desert.
We're in bear country.
Is that Chip or Dale??

It was a fun 2-day getaway and not too crowded considering it was Thanksgiving weekend. We were both a bit surprised when it rained almost the entire way back to Phoenix. That doesn't happen too often.

November 23, 2016

n+1 Day!!

Where were we...oh yeah, Picketpost trailhead. My buddy, Bart, unveiled an offer way too good to pass up and a few days later I was the proud owner of his old bike. Not just any old bike, a Ti Motobecane hardtail 29er!!

I've been mountain biking since '94 and have never owned more than one mountain bike at a time. Ever. (I've failed at Rule #12) My (n+1) number has always been 1, until today.

I was a little surprised how well it fit since it's a medium frame and my Voodoo is an XL. But Bart and I are only a few inches different in height and bikes are adjustable!!

Needless to say, I couldn't wait to get it out on the trails. I didn't want to change anything on it for the first few rides. I really wanted the feel of it 'as is'.
Welcome to the fold Moto Ti.
It just so happened that the Red Rock Chica was down in the big city and I've been trying for years to get her over to the Gold Canyon trails. Today was the day. We met up near the trailhead and she immediately noticed the new ride. "Hey, that's not the Voodoo!?!' I think she was almost as stoked as I was!

We got rolling on a quick late afternoon tour through most of the good stuff. Enough to get a real taste of what the Gold Canyon trails are all about. Flow, fun and a little bit of tech surrounded by the amazing Superstition Mtns.
Puttin' the squeeze in Saguaro Squeeze.
I think she likes it. Plus, she's really strong, that bike weighs something like 80lbs!! Ok, maybe not.
Starting the K-Trail rollercoaster ride.
Huge wash descent on Jodi's Dream.
The shadows grow long for the final miles.

It was a relatively short spin, but an awesome ride both on the new bike and showing the RRC the goods. We'll be back to sample the rest soon.

Even at a chill pace I could tell the new bike wanted to fly. I could feel the 6 lb difference immediately. This is gonna be fun. Bart, I can't thank you enough, but maybe photos of the rig on many grand adventures will speak volumes of my appreciation. Thank you.

As a side note, the Voodoo isn't being retired. No way. It now has a new purpose. It's already been converted to a singlespeed, SS. I'm looking forward to hitting my familiar trails with that setup as well.
I have an idea for a color scheme on this fella.
Gold Canyon short tour route:

November 18, 2016

Picketpost from Home & Lessons Learned

I've been searching for a direct dirt route from my place in Queen Creek over to Gold Canyon for a while now. I haven't had much luck due to closed off areas, private property, etc. I did manage a suitable ride last year on the EV100, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for, too much pavement. Then my buddies, George & Mike, did an interesting loop just south of where I live. I poked around on their track and saw they used the Ocotillo rd alignment to get eastbound. I know I checked that option out, but only encountered locked gates. I guess they found a way through.
CAP canal at the Ocotillo rd overpass.
I decided to roll right from home adding in a few extra flat miles on the bike path & Ocotillo road to get to their starting point. This would make the route about 88 miles with the daunting AES Picketpost Punisher A route the following day. I felt up to the challenge and I needed to test out a modified fork anyway.

The backstory on the fork is, my old trusty Rock Shox Reba finally had enough of me pounding it into the ground week after week. It lived a long mtb life and I was very happy with it. A buddy from work gave me a Fox Float 32 fork he had lying around for free, but the steerer tube was a little too short for the XL Voodoo headtube. I have another friend, a machinist/fabricator, weld on an extension for me. When I picked it up I couldn't see where he did the work, it looked incredible. Either way, I was hoping to get a couple months out of it while I finally started saving for a new frame/fork combo.
The extension before the star nut was pounded in.
I had a few friends warn me about trying this modification, but no real concrete evidence of failures either. It was a risk I was willing to take.

I set out early and kept a good pace going on the flat terrain. I was surprised to see the locked gate on Ocotillo rd was wide open, as was the gate by the CAP canal. I just figured it was open during weekdays now as I saw a couple of work trucks by the canal.
Fast dirt on Ocotillo rd.
A little bit of sand, but mostly more fast dirt through the OHV area.
Crossing over US60 between Gold Canyon & Florence Junction.

Ocotillo rd turns to dirt at the first gate and is closed to motorized traffic as well, so that was nice. A few miles later I reached a fenced off parcel of State Trust Land designated for OHV use. There also happened to be a usable gate there!! This was my missing connection.  Five miles later I was crossing US60 about to link into familiar dirt roads leading into Queen Valley and a snack break.
Picketpost Mtn. rising up on the distant horizon.
This was about as close as I'd get to the Superstition Mtns.
Lush golf course in Queen Valley
I can only imagine the rowdy scene here Sat. a retirement community!!

Fueled up on a microwave cheeseburger and Doritos, I was ready to get over to the AZT at Picketpost Mtn. But first, the route threw me a bit of a curveball as it deviated from the AZTR750 route for a couple of miles beginning with a stout HAB up the backside of Whitlow Dam. At the top was a stranded barbed wire fence separating me from the nicely graded dirt road on the other side. I poked around and discovered the top strand was only looped loosely over a fence post allowing easy access through.
For once, it actually looks steep in a photo!!
Backside of Whitlow Dam.

I dropped into the Queen Creek basin for a mile or so then connected to the familiar Hewitt Station rd. Five miles later I was reunited with the AZT.
Easy pedaling on Hewitt Station rd.
39 miles from my front door, I was on the AZT.
Iconic shot along the AZT.

The next 10 miles of my route would be the slowest, mostly uphill, some HAB and techy bits of trail wind through this rugged scenic slice of Arizona. I thought if I crested the high point by 3pm, I might be able to make it home before dark.
The trail rises just south of Picketpost unveiling Weaver's Needle on the distant horizon.
A well contoured climb leads to this dramatic view of Picketpost Mtn.
Looking back on the trail approach to the 5 ultra tight switchbacks before FR4.

 I enjoy trying to clean switchback climbs or descents. They can be a true test of bike handling, balance and nerve. On this day, I had my best ever showing on this particular section. I cleaned 4 of 5 only getting hung up on the exit of SB #4, then finished off SB #6 which a bit farther up the trail. A solid run like that always pumps me up. Well, at least until I started to climb...HAB up FR4's rubbly mess. I hadn't been up here since the AES Pulverizer route in 2014 and didn't recall so many rough bits.
Side view towards Martinez Canyon.
Desert sentinel.
High point attained before 3pm!! Almost looking down on Picketpost from here.
Before there was singletrack, the AZT followed these rugged jeep roads. Ouch.

I started down the loose, sketchy descent towards Ajax Mine. There are sections of scree surfing, but it's all good. It doesn't last long before the grade lessens and it's more comfortable to open things up.

I knew I wasn't on this road for too long, I'd be turning west on Cottonwood Canyon rd, Roads out here are mostly unsigned, so it helps to know the area or have a reliable track to follow. As I neared my turnoff, the GPS beeped at me signaling an 'off route' warning. I stopped, thinking I somehow overshot my turn. As I zoomed out on the GPS I could see the track was truncated, then it hit me. Oops. I forgot to simplify the track down to 10k points as anything over that amount gets sliced off. Well, isn't that just grand? Right when I was about to head into unknown terrain. Good thing I at least studied the route a bit beforehand and had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for.

Barely a half a mile later I found a dirt road split that fit my mental description. I was still heading downhill, towards a small gap in the hills. This would take me out to SR79 where I'd cross over and find my way to the Skyline rd. alignment.

I was cruising down the dirt road, which wasn't too bad, when SNAP!! My handlebars lifted off the bike as I heard some metal bits bouncing off the rocks below and I went down. Kinda goes without saying, but the weld broke along with the sleeved insert. I was a little banged up, minor scrapes and a nice bruise on my left hip area.
That'll end the ride.
It was a little after 4pm when this occurred. I wasn't sure how far away from SR79 I was so I did my best guess via GPS and it looked like 10 miles or so. Hmmm. I wasn't sure how easy the bike would be to roll either, but I had plenty of food & water and my jacket. I had cell reception so I called K to tell her what happened and where to extract me. I figured it would be well after dark by the time I reached SR79.

I gathered up what parts I could find from my headset and started to walk out. My cables were long enough to hold the end of the bars to the nose of the seat, but I had to also hold the forks from coming out of the headtube. It wasn't the most comfortable position and after a mile of this I decided to ditch the bike in the desert for the night.
The Voodoo catching some zzzz's behind the Palo Verde tree.
I tried saving a waypoint for the location, but found out my GPS waypoint memory was full!! Oh well, I simply stopped my route recording instead. I took a few pics of the surrounding area and re-started the GPS so I knew how far up this road I'd have to come.

To my surprise I came to a private property sign about a quarter mile later, no gate, nothing out there but desert. A half mile later there was a locked gate that I was easily able to scale. Turns out there's a ranch house up a side hill and local knowledge has it that they were tired of the 4x4 crowd speeding through the canyon and littering. Plus, it's open range back there and there were plenty of cattle roaming about. I wouldn't mind asking them if bicycle travel is ok through here.
Sun dipping lower as I hoofed it up the road.
I came around a corner and there was a guy finishing up some target shooting. I flagged him down as he drove by and he had no problem giving me a lift out to SR79. While we were driving he mentioned that he used to ride as well and wouldn't mind getting back into it. He was headed back to Apache Junction and ended up dropping me off in Gold Canyon where K met me a few minutes later for dinner & margaritas. Not a bad way to end the day all things considered.

The next day I drove back out to Cottonwood Canyon rd, hopped the fence and hiked my wounded warrior out.
One of those is worse than the other!!
Afterwards, I drove over to the Picketpost trailhead to watch a few friends finish the Punisher route. It was there that Bart presented me an offer too good to pass up....(Sorry, gotta wait for the next post!)

November 5, 2016

Tortolitas & KC Cruisin'

I had been pestering Shannon to give me a tour of the new-ish Ridgeline trail in the Tortolita Mtns for a few months. It was also time for the AES Kentucky Camp ride, so why not combine efforts and hit up both over two days?

Neil was supposed to join us, but got pulled away for some trail building activities at the last minute. I met Shannon at the Ritz Carlton TH and she led the way up a sandy wash for the first mile, but it was all rideable. The next bit, Alamo Spring Connector, qualified this ride as a #locorides board meeting!! A half mile HAB (Hike-a-Bike or Haul-a-Bike or Carry-a-Bike, whatevs) was the price of admission on this day.
That shiny arm means one thing, it was warm and we were sweating November!!
A couple of ladies came hiking down the trail with a puzzled look on their face. We told them we were headed to the top and they didn't seem convinced it was rideable, silly hikers.

The trail was a gradual climb over the next 4 1/2 miles, littered with techy bits along the way to keep things interesting.
Power up!!
The last 1 1/2 miles of the climb were pure bliss. Perfect grade and zigzagging up the mountainside. It reminded my of the Skyline climb on BCT. We soon transitioned onto the Ridgeline trail for the descent back down to close a loop.
So far, most of the views had been to the inner bowl side.
A quick stop at 'selfie rock' for a contest winning snap!! That's a pancakes & bacon flavored bar from JoJe, delicious!!

Time to pick up the pace.
Mile after mile of singletrack cruising down the mountain.
This trail was rapidly climbing my favorites list!!

Then I ate shit. That mark is from my left knee digging into the ground!!
I think my front wheel hit a soft spot on the trail shoulder, who knows, but the next thing I knew my knee was sliding across the trail and my body was beginning to scorpion to a halt by using my face!! Ugh. My ribs were still sore from my Moab wipeouts and I hit them again. What's my deal?? Once again I walked away with only minor scrapes. I'm hoping to re-learn this bike riding thing real soon.

We finished off the ride without further incident. The HAB down the Alamo Spring connector went by really quick and was a small price to pay on this ride.
Pizza was calling and Shannon knew a place where not only was the pizza good, but you were your own bartender!! Whaa?? The place is zpizza and there's one slated to open in Tempe soon. (There's a few in Phoenix now).It's a cool concept where you pay by the ounce from a series of self-pour taps.

I was feeling a bit sore all over from my repeated encounters with terra firma and wasn't really up for the 46 mile version of the Kentucky Camp ride. Shannon wasn't either and we rounded up Zach to hang out with us for a leisure spin on the 29 mile short course ride.

The fast riders took off and the three of us settled into a nice pace for day.
The first climb of the day. Photo by Chuck Hill.
Chuck is often snapping ride photos for this event every year, he sure does a nice job. Photo by Chuck Hill.
It was great to hang out with Zach on a ride, such a great dude.
Whenever I hear the words 'Kentucky Camp', this is what I think of. Singletrack & tall grass through the hills.
A few miles of rolling climbing to start the day.
One larger push to really 'warm' you up!!
Grass filter.
Find the biker!! (hint: on a ridgeline)
Where are your wheels?!?
Mt. Wrightson money shot
Miles of fast dirt roads down to Kentucky Camp.
Now it's serious!! Photo by Chuck Hill.
We all came prepared with our picnic packs. Photo by Chuck Hill.
Shannon grinding out a grunt of a climb.
Good locale for a picnic break!! This is where the fast 46 mile riders caught us.
It's all downhill from here, right?
Hey, look!! It's Todd!!
Crossing Box Canyon rd. Photo by Chuck Hill.
Overlapping the first 5 miles of the day, mostly downhill now.

We finished up to a bustling parking lot. A perfect day out on the trail with great company, just what I needed. No crashes either!!