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Monday, July 27, 2020

Cloud Peak 500 - Packing Up

Some folk built like this, some folk built like that
But the way I'm built, you shouldn't call me fat
Because I'm built for comfort, I aint built for speed.

Built For Comfort, Willie Dixon (1959).

Over the past two years, I have ridden a variety of roads, paths and trails on my Jones 29+ bike packed for one and two night trips. But it's time to step up for the Cloud Peak 500. Now I'm packing for an 8 day self-supported ride on unknown remote roads with higher elevations, unfamiliar weather patterns and uncertain re-supply opportunities. Oh, and 40,000 feet of elevation gain.

I need to get this right. Here's my plan for packing the bike for the Cloud Peak 500.

Ready to roll for 8 days in the Big Horns. Just add a rider.

Truss Fork Bags (fork):  In addition to being light and strong, the Jones truss fork provides a built-in structure to support a pair of bags. Recognizing this potential, Jeff Jones and Revelate Designs created these bags, each offering nearly the capacity of a seat post bag. I pack the left side bag with a sleeping bag and a rain jacket. I pack the right side bag with a down jacket, sleeping pad, pillow and a stuff sack of extra layers (liner gloves, head band, skull cap, buff, arm warmers, leg warmers).

Harness + Salty Roll (handle bar):  My small tent occupies less than half the volume of the Salty Roll. So I stuff it into the middle, leaving more than a quarter of the bag remaining on each side for all my clothes.

Egress Pocket (handle bar):  Strapped to the Harness and atop the Salty Roll, the Egress Pocket holds my camera, wipes, toilet paper, paper, pens, and sunglasses/glasses.

Adventure Cycling Map Case (handle bar):  This map case is sized for the Adventure Cycling maps (like the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route), is water-proof, sits atop the Loop Hole H-Bar bag, and doesn't move at all in use. Perfect.

Loop Hole H-Bar (handle bar):  This bag is not visible, because it's under the map case and tucked into the space between the lateral tubes of the Jones handle bar. It is bigger than you think, is a great use of space and is on the bike full time. It holds a pump, first aid kit, sunscreen, lip balm, aspirin, Tums, and insect repellant.

Mountain Feed Bag (handle bar):  Bear spray. Yes, this bag is big enough for a large water bottle, but instead holds a large canister of bear spray a few inches from my right hand. Quick draw.

Mag-Tank 2000 (top tube by the handlebar):  This handy bag holds 2,000 calories of on-the-fly food and gels.

Showing a little dust from the last couple of weeks of riding, the Jones 29+ is loaded for the Cloud Peak 500.

Jerry Can (top tube by the seat post):  This sneaky little bag holds an entire tool kit, including a patch kit, tire plugs, CO2 cartridges, extra sealant, chain lube, extra chain links, bolts and cleats, spare derailer hanger, mini-tool, and LeatherMan.

Terrapin (seat post): This modular setup comprises a harness that attaches to the bike and a 14 liter dry bag that easily removes from the harness. I pack this dry bag with food, so I can readily remove it for overnight storage away from my sleeping area. Think grizzly. As shown, this bag contains breakfast, lunch and dinner for 8 days without re-supply, as well as kitchen utensils.

Frame Bag (main triangle):  The frame bag is divided into top and bottom compartments. The right side of the top compartment holds a 100 ounce water bladder and easily holds more. The left side of the top compartment is a relatively thin sleeve that holds maps, wallet, car keys, phone and mud scraper. The bottom compartment holds spare tubes, water filter and rain pants.

Down Tube Cage:  Strapped to the Salsa Anything Cage on the down tube is my stove and fuel.

Rear Axle Cages:  Bottle cages near the rear axle hold two large water bottles. I use one for an electrolyte drink and one for extra water.

In addition to the bags and their contents, I mounted a Cateye head light and tail light, a Cateye cyclocomputer, and a Stem Captain compass. I also mounted some old, odd-shaped bar ends near the levers on the Jones handle bars for some really different hand positions. The crowning touch is the Slow Moving Vehicle sign strapped to the back.

That's where everything goes. At least at the start.

Built For Comfort, Willie Dixon (1959), 
performed by Howlin' Wolf (1963).

Monday, July 20, 2020

Cloud Peak 500 - Gearing Up

Trying hard now, it's so hard now, trying hard now.
Getting strong now, won't be long now, getting strong now.
Gonna fly now, flying high now, gonna fly, fly, fly.

Gonna Fly Now, Bill Conti, Soundtrack to Rocky (1976).

With my Cloud Peak 500 ride approaching (Cloud Peak 500 - That's The Plan), I hit the month of July with renewed focus and some free time from my recent retirement (Ready To Play). Let's start with riding a fully loaded bike on a variety of single track, rough logging roads and good gravel.

First, spin up M-Hill on my Jones 29+ fully loaded for the Cloud Peak 500.

To start, I load up my Jones 29+ to climb my favorite in-town single track on M-Hill. Spinning up the gentle Far West trail, I stop at the "M" for a quick picture. The loaded bike demands a lower gear and more time to climb, but otherwise handles essentially the same as unloaded. It just takes some extra work to get rolling, but then it really rolls. That is an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

After a short break at the top, I ride down the more technical Sun Climb. Again, once up to appropriate speed downhill, the loaded bike handles essentially the same as unloaded. Maybe the 3.25 inch Vee BullDozer tires, the wide, swept back Jones handlebars, and the absolutely centered, upright body positioning combine for that handling. All I know for sure is that, as long as I maintain some speed, I am able to comfortably ride the loaded bike down everything that I ride unloaded. That's another really nice surprise.

Down Sun Climb, I spin some rolling loops on Far East and Founder's Valley before dropping back to the bike path. The loaded bike basically rides single track like it rode unloaded when I weighed 25+ pounds more. Overall, I am really pleased with the performance of the loaded Jones on the moderate M-Hill single track, at least on this relatively short ride of about 2 hours.

Next, a sub-24 rolling up Castle Creek Road (secondary USFS 181).

The following week, I pull out a Black Hills National Forest map to chart an overnight ride on a variety of rough remote roads. I start mid-afternoon at the Mystic trailhead for the Mickelson Trail and turn onto Castle Creek Road (USFS 181) for 11 miles of rough uphill on a fully loaded bike. Here we go.

Although a secondary USFS road, Castle Creek Road is less technical and less steep than I remember. Although the road is occasionally rutted and pocketed with water-filled pot holes, the loaded bike simply rides through or around everything. It's a nice rhythm spin along Castle Creek. Slow, but steady. Too easy.

Emerging from Castle Creek, I turn west on primary gravel road C306 (Deerfield Road) for a 1.5 mile climb on good gravel and then onto barely marked secondary USFS 190. Over the next 5 miles, the road gets rougher, the grades steeper, and the navigation more challenging. This is much tougher. The loaded bike handles it all with ease, but the added weight catches up with me. Walking some lumpy steeps in the heat, I realize that this bike will ride anything I can pedal. Eventually, I top out on White Tail Peak (elevation 6962') to disperse camp for the night.

In the morning, I quickly drop down to Black Fox Camp Road (USFS 233) and South Rapid Creek Road (USFS 231) to the Rochford Trail Head of the Mickelson Trail. After yesterday's 20+ miles of mostly uphill rough roads, these gentle downhill miles fly by. A final 9 mile spin down the Mickelson Trail returns me to the waiting Jeep. Through all those varying conditions, the loaded Jones just handles it.

Then another sub-24, starting with a nearly 20 mile climb up to Warren's Peak.

Time to ride gravel. Not our typical Black Hills Forest Service gravel sprinkles. Honest to goodness ball-bearing gravel.

It's time to hit the Bear Lodge Mountains, the northern-most reach of the Black Hills just north of Sundance, Wyoming. For some reason, the U.S. Forest Service actually spreads substantial gravel on the main roads up there. In addition, those roads offer long, fast descents on twisty, occasionally washboarded roads. It promises to be a good test for the loaded Jones.

I start at the USFS Bear Lodge campground and ride south on Warren Peak Road. Up. Up. Up. Basically, it's 6 miles up, a few rollers, and then another 6 miles up. And that's still not the top of Warren Peak. The loaded bike climbs OK, but it's heavy and those 3.25" mountain bike tires don't help. Uphill is a slugfest.

Turning downhill, however, tells a different tale. Once up to speed rolling downhill, the loaded bike absolutely cruises through thick gravel, over washboards, and around twisty turns. Bring one, bring all. It matters not. I regularly hit 25-30 mph, sometimes more, with confidence and comfort. The loaded Jones is one stable, comfortable, fast descender, even in those conditions. More to the point, especially in those conditions.

Ecstatic with the downhill performance but concerned about the uphill, I recover by campsite and plot the morning's ride. I conclude that today's 40 miles and 4,000+ feet of elevation gain provided sufficient gravel testing. With so much good gravel and so many rough ATV connectors up there, I decide to scout as much as I can the next day, by both bike and Jeep. I even drive by Devil's Tower National Monument on a short swing to the west. There's just so much to ride out here.

Wyoming gravel road (County 196) from the Bear Lodge Mountains to Devil's Tower National Monument.

Whether single track, rough logging roads or good gravel, the Jones 29+ can easily handle a bike packing load, as long as you provide the additional horsepower. In the end, I may limit the bike, but this bike will not limit me. Gearing up to fly.

"You'll able to spit nails, kid. You're gonna eat lightening and you're gonna crap thunder."
Gonna Fly Now, Bill Conti, soundtrack to Rocky (1976).

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Ready To Play

Put me in Coach. I'm ready to play. Today.
Centerfield, John Fogerty (1985).

Shaun Arritola, Craig Groseth & Rob Sorge at the end of our 5 day, 300+ mile DED Dirt Ride in 2014,
which was part of Rob's start to his "Second Half."

Several years ago, Rob Sorge, my best friend from college, retired after a successful 33+ year career as an engineer. At that time, Rob thoughtfully created an outline, or perhaps more of a conceptual framework, on how to live the next phase of his life with intentionality and purpose. He called his post-retirement phase "The Second Half" and shared it with family and friends. Ever since, he has relentlessly pursued his "Second Half," just like he pursued a loose ball on the basketball court, a baseline bullet on the tennis court, or a finish in the swimming pool.

In a recent congratulatory note to me, Rob noted that now I was entering my "The Second Half." He then added that, for me, maybe it's my "Third Quarter." At first, I thought he was referring to my playing football and basketball, which both had four quarters.

But, no. Rob wasn't referring to sports. My First Quarter was everything leading to and including a 21+ year career in the private practice of law as an intellectual property law litigator. From the start, I had the heart, mindset and lifestyle of go/go/go, achieve/achieve/achieve, next/next/next. Shoot for the top, the hardest, the best. Excel. Move up. Move forward. Move on. Next.

Eventually, I realized that working so hard to achieve makes it difficult to recognize success, let alone enjoy it. At age 47, I radically changed. All of it. Heart. Mindset. Lifestyle. I extracted myself from all of that and started my Second Quarter.

Centerfield, John Fogerty (1985).

We moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, my wife's hometown, and I began to search for a unmet community need. In a wildly unexpected development, I was led to serve our community as a Correctional Officer at the Pennington County Sheriff's Office. Now, there's a community service need that very few are able or willing to undertake, let alone endure for any length of time. It is a difficult environment that demands interpersonal communication skills and situational awareness far beyond the court room. Despite the challenges, I loved the opportunity to serve and I loved the people.

However, it's also a young man's game, which I played at my best for 12 years. But I can't play forever and the clock eventually expired on my Second Quarter. Closing in on age 62, I recently retired from the Pennington County Sheriff's Office.

Now, it's my Third Quarter. I do not know where this will lead. I do not yet have an outline, other than a determination to keep an open heart, being especially attentive to a call to serve an unmet need.

Put me in, Coach. I'm ready to play. Today.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Why I Ride, by Calvin's Dad

In a favorite comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes," Calvin's dad is a patent lawyer who loves to ride his bicycle.

This one from 1992 depicts how I feel on a bicycle, most any day over the last 30+ years. It's still timely now, as I recently retired from my second career.

Calvin's mom also sounds much like Colleen responding to my musings.

Have fun out there, whatever comes your way.