Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hurricane Cliffs Trail System: A road trip....finally!

Originally we were set for a September Gooseberry Mesa trip but that fell apart at the last week before we were to leave. Two broken riders + one broken bike equals 0 road trips. Still wanting to get one trip in before the snow flies...well, not in So Cal, but it will be flying somewhere...we set our sights on a bit lower elevation, St George/Hurricane, Utah. I had come across a few write ups on the 'big loop' that tied together several trails in the Hurricane Cliffs Trail System and together made for a 20 mile or so loop that seemed to take 3-4 hours and was nearly all singletrack with little climbing. Cool. If I am going to drive most of the day to get somewhere, it needs to be more than a 2 hour ride.

We watched the weather as the date came near and it looked good. Highs in the 60s and no rain. Reservations for camping were made at Sand Hollow State Park, a fairly new park that caters to OHVers and is just a few miles from the trail head.

Time to hit the road.

I had built a removeable bike stand out of a spare front door threshold and some fork holders I had laying around and the bikes sat in the Surburban nicely upright and out of the way.

The coolest thing was that every time I looked in the rear view mirror, I could see the outline of the handlebars and brake levers with the road behind them disappearing into the distance. Road trip.

Across the Nevada desert through Sin City and into Utah, we arrived at Sand Hollow and found that we were one of the very few to be camping there. It was quiet and had great views, huge pull throughs with hook ups, and a very open, expansive feeling to it. Nice. All set up, we checked out the red sand that was everywhere in small drifts. Buddy Steve checking it out: "Hmmm...we wont have to ride in that deep sand, will we?"

That night, after a hot dinner of chicken, onions, and various veggies all tossed in the skillet, we were hanging out around the campfire to stave off the cold when in the corner of my eye, I caught the shape of a small object moving behind and off to the side of buddy Steve. I said. "Steve, don't move! There is an animal behind you and I am going to get the flashlight." It never occurred to me what this sounded like from Steve's perspective. I left out the fine detailed adjectives like small, cute, fuzzy, and mostly small. For all he knew there was a Cougar behind him and I was practicing the technique known as "I don't have to be faster than the animal trying to eat me, I just have to be faster than you" ploy. Flashlight indeed.

Coming back I was surprised to find a small fox sitting about 6' away and very interested in our dinner scraps. He was getting none of that cuz we had eaten it all. He checked out our camp pretty well before looking for better diggings somewhere else.

I had done all my research online to get trail head locations, ride descriptions, etc, and I had purchased one map from With that, we set out in frosty but clear weather to find the trail head. On the road up to the mesa, we got behind a very large, very slow truck. This made us cranky and such that we completely missed the dirt road that we wanted to begin the ride on (shown as arrows in the pic...arrow one, big, slow truck...arrow two, road cut into hillside). Arriving at the top of the mesa and at the real trailhead, we realized we never saw the road cut and turned back in the truck to find it. How did we miss that? Oh yeah. Slow truck, cranky us. Back to the trail head at the cell towers and the kiosk, trail map, and plaque about the historic Hurricane Canal.

We had decided to ride the trail loop counter clockwise based on advice from local riders, although it was pretty evenly split on which way we should go around the loop. To do that, we parked at the Hurricane Hill/ Rim Trailhead and rode back down the highway towards town about a hundred yards or so then turned left onto a graded dirt road and began climbing in the 45* morning air. It was not long before we were peeling layers. I had decided to take the Karate Monkey set up as a 1x9 (no granny ring) and a hardtail of course. I really wanted to ride the big 29" wheels on ths type of ride to see if it was still good or not. More on that later, but the lack of a tiny gear had me warming up pretty fast.

On this ride, you really are never very far from town or the highway that you cross once or twice. Despite that, it can feel like you are waaay out there, all alone at times. Nice feeling with a comfortable reality in case things get messy. With the town of Hurricane below, we rode the fireroad till we came to the Gould's Rim trailhead. Gotta love the sign.

The trail runs along the rim of the canyon, not really exposed too much, but fun and mildly techy, Mostly, just windy and fun. If this was a portent of things to come, we were gonna be stoked. The cold wind was kinda nasty at times and we were playing the layering game for awhile.

More Gould's Rim.

At a dirt road crossing, we picked up Goulds (not Gould's Rim) and the trail took on a different character. It snaked and climbed its way around a bluff and finally over the top after enough dips and twists to make ya dizzy. My back was beginning to feel the effects of the heavy pack and that had me a bit concerned as we were not quite a third of the way done. We shall see.

After about 2 hours of riding, picture taking, and gawking at the cool views, we hit the J.E.M. trailhead, across hwy 59 and at the corrals. Lunchtime. Finding a spot to hang feet over what must be a waterfall when it rains enough, we dug into Chunky Chicken spread and bagels. Ambrosia, I tell ya. I was really looking forward to J.E.M. as one reason I rode it this direction, was to ride 'down' J.E.M. which was supposed to be uber-flowy and fun. It was. There were a few sections of the steeper parts that presented you with a ledge and nothing but air beyond as you rode closer and closer and then juuust before you locked the brakes in panic, would reveal the trail dropping off and down. Good fun. I cannot believe how good the bigger wheels of the 29er feel when dropping off those ledges. I was not jumping off them, just rolling off at speed, but it was pretty amazing. I like it. We walked one really nasty spot, but the rest was flowy and smooth. Definitely the highlight trail of the trip. Not too many pics, just too much fun to stop. We made up a lot of time here after the very slow Gould trail. The lunchbreak and J.E.M. had revived me and things were moving along nicely, back, legs and all. One pic below is a Where's Waldo moment as brother Steve rails the downhill ledges on J.E.M.

J.E.M. ended too soon and we followed the map past the intersection of J.E.M. and the China Wash trail and found the Hurricane Rim trail. It was interestiing how each trail had a unique personality. Gould's Mesa was a mix of everything and very mellow. Goulds was tight, slow and twisty, but fun. J.E.M. was fast and smooth with a couple of heart in throat moments on a few ledges that really were not all that bad once you hit them, and now the Hurricane Rim trail. It was quite difficult, actually, at least after 3 hours of riding and with no granny gear, it had a fair amount of climbing overall, nothing reeeal steep, but it was a bit of a workout. Also, it has large sections of trail that seemed like someone had poured concrete slabs, broken them into 3 foot pieces and then separated and tilted them ever so much. Now, a few inches of travel on each end and a fat tire and it is no issue really, but I was on a hard tail and I have gotten lazy over the years from too much time on FS bikes. I pinged the rear rim a few times until I remembered how to ride a hardtail again. Once I smacked it really good (strong rims, those DT Swiss TK 7.1s) and surprisingly never flatted. 29" wheels not withstanding, I would have liked a bit of rear squish here. I would run bigger tires than the Maxxis Ignitors for my 200lbs of rolling weight if I were to do it again.

Rim Trail and the Virgin River.

Supposedly one of the mesas in the distance is Gooseberry. I will take their word for it.

Soon enough we hit the peak and could see the Suburban in the distance. A quick section of downhill and we were back, 4 hours and 15 minutes later. Considering the moderate pace, picture taking, lunch, one detour that did not work out and the resulting retracing of steps, we probably could have pulled it off in 3 hours and change if we traveled light and pedaled faster.

A few thoughts on the day: 29ers are made for this kind of riding. The longer the ride, the better it felt and the big wheels were fast, secure, and great in the desert terrain. The Thudbuster seatpost kept things sane for the old bum and back, but I really need rear suspension to get the most out of a day like this. It would have saved a lot of energy on the Hurricane Rim trail as we climbed up all that broken rock. 1X9 is surprisingly versatile. I pushed a few sections for maybe 10' to 30' but that was about it. On the fast responding hardtail with the big wheels, if you could push the gear, it would just motor up the trail at a good pace. I would love to do this ride again on a light 3-4" travel 29er and take no prisoners.

Back at camp, we fired up some steaks and taters (vegans, look away!) and watched the sunset do its thing. The fox came back to see if we felt like sharing, but even the apple pie plate was clean. Sorry little dude. Too much riding today to leave any crumbs.

Drive, ride, eat, sleep, drive back.

Road trip accomplished.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Road Trip Eve.

The Suburban is loaded, the tent trailer attached. Bike gear, food, tools, maps. Camera, GPS, new bike mags fresh off the shelf.

Tomorrow, Utah.

Heh. Road trip.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Ya gotta know where you came from if you are going to know where you are going.

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863
This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America's national day of Thanksgiving. During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders like this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.

Sarah Josepha Hale, a prominent magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on 28, 1863, urging him to have the "day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival." She wrote, "You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution." The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise."

According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln's secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary that he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Thanksgiving Morning Ride: earning the right to eat a lot later on.

The shadows are long on a November morning. It is cold, too. Well, at least for So Cal. Feels like Fall at last.

Like most back yard So Cal stuff, it is a fireroad that often follows or ends at a power line. No matter. It is all good for a pre-turkey ride.

The Karate Monkey in repose, absorbing EMF for the ride down.

Looking back before the descent, the typical rolling hills of the area, brown, not so dramatic, but laced with a lot of riding potential. Sigh. Not like the pics that some lucky souls have as their back yard, but no snow, no ice, and it is fast becoming 65* or so as the day warms. I will take it. That is the northbound 5 freeway in the pic, slogging along at 20 mph towards multiple grandma's houses.

Monday, November 19, 2007

You can never go home again.

So, after a few hours on the KM and those big ol' wheels, I did a quick experiment tonite. With the Utah trip a week away, I was debating which bike to take for the JEM/Gould/Hurricane loop. The 29er has no granny ring and no rear suspension. the Cannondale Prophet has all that in spades but no big wheels. I had pretty much settled on the C'Dale but tonite I did a quickie ride on the 29er and then hopped on the Prophet and spun around.

Ahhhh...wellll...hmmm. This sucks.

OK, back to the Monkey. Uh huh...that feels familiar.

Back to the Prophet, repeat, rinse, wring dry, etc. till opinion is obtained.

The result? I will likely never go back to the Prophet or any small wheeled bike again. It felt odd and high, narrow, short, waaayy too plush in back, sloooow to pedal (and the Prophet is a pretty good pedaling bike actually), and nervous. When I stood up to pedal, it seemed like I was 2 miles above and beyond the front wheel and I have taken that bike down some fast stuff in the past and it felt fine...then.

The one standout feature one the Prophet is the Lefty fork. THAT is one fine piece of work there.

I am still amazed how quickly I got used to the 29er and how well it works for me. This is going to cost some $$$.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

29er Trail Time

Took some time off the bike this weekend but I had a good week by my standards...something like 5.5 hours of saddle time all on the Monkey 29er.

Lovin' it.

The 1x9 drivetrain is surprisingly versatile. I am pretty convinced that in many parts of the country this would be all the gears you would ever need. If I was a stronger rider, I maybe could get away with it here, but there would come a day where the lack of a granny would get me at about hour 3 of the ride and I would detonate and walk a while. Having no big ring is no big deal as I only want to go soooo fast on the hard tail anyway.

Speaking of hardtails, the 29er really does ride much nicer than the equivalent 26er. Pretty smooth and if I was not so beat up in the low back from too many miles on the old odometer, I bet I could get away with this or maybe a soft tail for 90% of my riding. As it is, after about 2 hours or less depending on the type of trail, it starts to fatigue me pretty fast. Still pretty amazing how quickly I can move down the trail on a hardtail. Big wheels keep on rollin'.

Very pleased with the squishy seatpost. Without that, I would be hurtin' for certain.

The next ride will be on my 26" 5" travel bike just to see how things compare. Wonder if I will miss the big wheels?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Road Trip: St. George here we come

Ahhh, Utah. Lots O' good stuff there for outdoors folks like me. I had a group trip planned in September to Gooseberry Mesa but one by one we were all sidelined by injuries either to our bodies or our bikes.

So, here it is nearly December and NOT ONE road trip this year. Completely unacceptable. St. George it is. Itinerary: One day's easy drive to St. George from So Cal and set up camp, next day ride the combo of JEM/Hurricane/Gould...should be a good 3 hours or so, give or take, camp that night while stories flit around the campfire of today's bravery, and pack it up the next day back to home.

What bike should I bring? The new Karate Monkey 1x9 29er or the 26" Cannondale Prophet? Hmmmmm.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Thanks for the memories.

Tonite while riding with Joe W., Stan the Man, and Steve the recovering crash addict, I had one of those Kodak moments. We had just finished the downhill of the Castaic racecourse and we were headed home. Stan and Steve were just ahead to the left of me and were bickering good naturedly like an old married couple. Joe was still grinning from the euphoria of the downhill on his new Stumpy with more suspension travel than his old steed and there I was, taking it all in. It occurred to me that right then and there, with all of us old guys having a great time in God's creation on these silly bicycles that our wives think are...well, are silly...that mountain biking is a great sport and I am so blessed to be able to do it, to be reasonably good at it, and to have friends who feel the same way.

Thank God for small things like moments in time like this.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

29er: Time to get building

Well, other than a couple of small parts on order, the biggest chunk of hardware preventing me from beginning the frame build came in the mail while I was at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. Came home to this:

Nifty RST M29 fork with accessories, pump, t-shirt. manual and stickies. Cool, The fork looks really nice, kinda a pearl white. Time to get swinging wrenches and make a bike.