Fall Family Fun

Evidently we have an addiction to Autumn because we were back at it Sunday and Monday.

Sunday afternoon we drove up to Big Spring Hollow to have a picnic dinner and hike with the kids. A lot of other people had the same idea, but it wasn't too crowded.

The first meadow.

Saw a Ruffed Grouse on the way up.

More crazy colors.

The big meadow looked amazing at twilight with the moon rising.

Monday we went up to Timpanogos Cave.

Kade had issues. He didn't like the steep edges of the trail or the height. I carried him half way up and then finally he got brave and started hiking and then he was fine. When we got to the cave he didn't want to go in, so I carried him in. He was upset and wanted out, but I kept working with him until another switch flipped and he was excitedly exploring the cave features. I'm feeling pretty good about my parenting psychology skills, but I'm sure they'll throw me a curve ball soon enough.

On the way up.

The heart of Timpanogos (but I don't think they call it that anymore - what's up with that?)

Stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, and cave bacon.

Nice flowstone.

I always forget how steep and long the hike is up to the cave. Only 1.5 miles, but over 1,000' vertical. The views were spectacular, especially with the colored leaves.

The kids enjoyed the cave. It has good decoration and is tight and twisty, but not claustrophobic. Take a flashlight for each kid (how did I not think of this?). The cave closes October 19th so if you want to see it this year do it soon.

Web Fun Roundup

I've had a few good web "things" come my way recently. It's sharing time.

Autotuned Carl Sagan, with Stephen Hawking. Amusing, yet substantive.

Remixed 1987 dating video. The personalities, fashion, preferences, hang-ups - it's all here. I can't help wonder, what's happened since with these guys?

Awkward Family Photos is having a couples contest. Here's my favorite entry so far:

Blackhawk Blaze

Saturday was the 2nd annual Fall Blackhawk, since we did a similar ride last year. Like last year: pleasant weather, the trails were in good shape, and we enjoyed riding with Jesse and Patty.

We parked at the Loafer Mountain trail head then went up Blackhawk, down Frank Young, across Rock Springs, down Jones Ranch, jogged over to Payson Lakes, down the Blackhawk then flew down Bennie Creek. 14 miles of outstanding single-track punctuated with a few technical features and only marred by some spots of dust.

I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

The first part of the ride with Loafer Mountain in the background.

The trail is fun, but even better when you add Fall scenery like this:

Jesse and Patty climbing the head of Beaver Dam Creek.

Jolene likes this tree - every Fall we've been down Bennie Creek this maple is lit up in deep red.

I've Seen Fire

Jolene and I did a quick ride up Big Springs Hollow this evening. It would have been shorter but we couldn't ride very far without seeing another amazing display of Fall colors. Get to the mountains soon, the colors won't last long.

Heading up the trail.

The upper meadow.

The gully crossing.

The big meadow.

The dirt road out of the big meadow.

Two turkeys.

Near the end I came upon four turkeys only 10 feet away in the trail. They scattered as I stopped to pull out the camera. As I walked around trying to get a photo I was hearing other turkeys in the bushes. Jolene and I wandered around trying to get photos of them and spooking them from one place to another. A few times they flew up into the Cottonwoods - I don't believe we'd seen wild turkeys fly before.

The turkeys were the icing on the cake of a fantastic ride.

Topeak Mountain Morph Pump

Over the years I've had good and bad mini pumps. The last pump I had was finicky - it always took several tries before it locked onto the stem properly. So on a ride I asked Alex if he could recommend a pump and he immediately gave a strong recommendation for the Topeak Morph series of pumps. So I bought a Mountain Morph a month ago.

They are called Morph because they transform from an ordinary-looking mini-pump into a small floor pump. I've used the pump twice now and it is much easier to use. No more death gripping the pump head to support it on the stem.

The Morph pumps work like a small floor pump: Unclip the head and attached it to the stem via the foot-long hose, fold out the foot pad and stand on it, extend the handle and rotate it sideways then pump air.

The head can accommodate Presta or Schrader valves by unscrewing the cap on the head and flipping two pieces inside.

The Mountain Morph pumps a good volume of air with each stroke. It didn't take long to fill the 2.1" wide tire on my 29er bike.

Most important is the reduced effort. It takes me 2/3 the time and 1/2 the effort to pump up a tire.

The pump is larger and heavier than other mini-pumps. I have plenty of room in my CamelBak so size is not a big deal to me, and I'll gladly carry a few more ounces for a pump that works well. If you want smaller and lighter, the Mini Morph may be the pump for you.

There is also the Turbo Morph G (a Mountain Morph with a gauge) and for road bikes the Road Morph and Road Morph G (with gauge).

I'm impressed with this pump and recommend it. And Alex reports his pump has held up pretty well over the years.

Autumn Panic

When the days get shorter, the air gets cooler and the leaves start changing color I panic a little. Even though Fall is a great time to ride, I get nervous it won't last long enough for me to get in all the riding I want to do before the snow flies. The only remedy I know is to take every opportunity to ride.

This means pulling a night shift in Corner Canyon on Thursday. A good ride with a good crew. I rode Clarks, Ghost Falls, Canyon Hollow, and the upper part of Jamie's trail. I ended my shift a little early and headed home at 11:30, but as I loaded up the bike I could see an undulating string of lights moving across the mountain side as they rode out on the BST - in the words of my son, it looked freakin' awesome. Rick wonders if the locals call in UFO sightings on Thursdays, after seeing it myself it looks like an alien invasion.

Saturday morning I joined a big crew to work on Jamie's trail. The trail dozer had cut a few more miles of trail and we were there to add the finish work. I spent a lot of time kneeling in the dirt cutting out roots (aka derailleur destroyers). When I rode back up the trail I was amazed at the transformation. This trail is good and only getting better. Jamie joked that one possible name for the trail is Divorce since Jamie has spent 5 weekends in it. My vote is for Pogostick. But maybe the right name will come once the trail is complete and we get a feel for it.

Just a little dirty from the trail work.

After the trail work Jolene and I met up with Andy and Rhonda for an outstanding Park City ride. Not a good start when I realized I forgot my shoes. Luckily we had just purchased some new MTB shoes for Jolene in Heber on the way up. I bought some cleats at Cole Sport, squeezed my feet into her new shoes and we were off. (Yes, my big toe hurt the whole ride, but it was so worth it.)

The Crest loop was one option on the table, but in the end we went with a fantastic route Andy put together. Up Crescent Mine Grade, down Thayne's Road, up Powerline, around the Shadow Lake Loop, down Keystone, down Apex, down Steps, across Riser, down Empire Link, up Tour de Suds, then return on Mid Mountain and finish off down Spiro and back to the cars on Silver Spur.

The ladies cranking up Crescent Mine Grade.

Jolene and I on Apex.

I was on the full suspension 26er Prophet today. The headset of the 29er X-Caliber is worn out (I should have it fixed this week). It was weird to be back on "small" wheels and full suspension again. I was riding like a spaz at first, but settled in after a few miles. I had to keep reminding myself to stay in the saddle. The cush of the rear suspension was nice. The new, full-coverage shift cable worked great all day with no shifting problems that weren't operator error.

Jolene all smiles on Empire Link.

All the trails were good, but the highlight for me was ripping down Empire Link. The trail flows through a thick forest and is loaded with humps for catching air.

There were definite signs of Fall with the leaves changing color. I recommend you get up there this week or next to check it out.

The Autumn colors are in the air.

We ended the ride with a long downhill run. Spiro was sweet. 25 miles and around 4000 feet of climbing.

After the ride we were all hungry. We ate 3 buffalo burgers and a turkey sandwich at Squatters. After dinner we said good-bye to Andy and Rhonda and drove home. A most excellent Saturday.

The Vuelta Stage 17 Thriller

Last night I watched the last 45 thrilling minutes of Stage 17 of the Vuelta.

A 5-man break was out 6 km from the start of this flat stage. As usual the peloton was drilling it near the end to reel them in. The peloton was hitting speeds over 70 km/h (43 mph) and was eroding the gap fast.

The break faltered 5 km from the finish as they jockeyed to avoid the lead and looked over their shoulders for the charging peloton. Finally Maaskant took charge and shot off the front. Then Roux made a huge bridge up to Maaskant, rested for a while on his wheel, then took the lead.

With 3 km to go the peloton was bearing down under 30 seconds away and Roux was giving the pedals everything he had left. At the last turn the peloton was right there but Roux took the win by only a few meters.

It was one of the most exciting sports moments I've seen. You could feel the impending doom as the massive peloton charged forward, closer and closer to Roux. At a left turn through a round-about you could see Roux exit with the peloton right behind him entering the round-about (see the video below). Jolene and I were both physically tense as we watched. And how sweet it was when Roux crossed the line.

This video recap is pretty good, but cuts out too much. If you have this stage recorded, go watch the last 30 minutes or more to get the full impact.


I saw this sticker mentioned on the UMB forum - not a bad idea:

There are two other stickers to chose from.

Group Ride Close To Home

Met up with the Bike Peddler group ride tonight since they were riding close to our house. We rode up the Water Tank Road, up Betty, up Fretty (my name for the new trail between Frank and Betty), up Frank to the Altar, then up Lament. Here we split - Bill and Nate went on to Dry Canyon while the rest of us went down Crank and Ireland then back down the Water Tank Road.

It was a good ride. I haven't been up in the foothills for over almost two months and since then it's turned from green to gold. The trails were in fairly good shape, but the recent rains had caused water to run down the trails in places washing away dirt and leaving loose rocks. But it wasn't bad and was less dusty.

The sun was setting as we rode down Ireland lighting everything in golden orange. I snapped this photo quick and was surprised how well it turned out. Nice pose, Josh!

It was good to ride with some folks I hadn't seen in a while and meet some new friends.

Bike Maintenance: Shift Cable

I did some work on the bikes before the Moab trip. I tried to get my old Prophet going for Moab, but stupidly tried to clean a shift cable only to get it stuck. The Prophet has a ghost shifting problem that shows up after only 3-4 rides of installing new shift cables. Talking to Mike at the UMB shop we hit upon a simple idea which I hope will fix it.

The bike has lugs on the downtube for the cables and normally there is a break in the cable housing here and bare cable between the lugs. But the front wheel flips dirt and mud up onto the cable which runs down into the housing, gunking it up.

So we installed solid, unbroken cable housing from the shifter all the way down to the rear derailleur. While at the shop I noticed that Bruce ran solid cable housing on his Prophet also so I'll bet he had the same problem and arrived at the same solution. I'll get the Prophet out for some test rides to see if this change fixes the ghost shifting.

I'm not certain why frame designers / bike manufacturers put these break in the cable housing. Sheldon Brown states that it's to save weight. I think that's a bad idea for a mountain bike - I'd rather gain a few grams in shift cable housing to get smoother and longer-lasting shifting.

LoToJa Hangups

Look what LoToJa finishers got for their $180 and 206 miles this year:

(photo stolen from Zeph.)

I expect to see these hangers displayed in car windows around the valley as they supplant the ubiquitous stickers.

The hanger made of bike parts is unique and well-made, but not much of a keepsake. Do you invite your friends to the closet to view it?

It could be worse. At one of the ICup races (Draper?) instead of a T-shirt or socks they gave out a square of cloth (hanky?) with the ICup logo on it, and back in 2007 at Sherwood Hills they gave out a 2x2 foot square of cloth with the course and sponsor logos printed on it. Left the racers puzzled - what was it and what should I do with it? Most became grease rags.

I was glad to see the LoToJa leg stamp was small and subtle:

(Photo stolen from Rick.)

Evidently guys with flashlights were checking for leg stamps in the dark before the start. Dang, missed my change to be thrown out of LoToJa and get a misdemean.

Plenty of good LoToJa stories from the blogs / forums / etc. It's a worthy race/ride and my hats off to all the participants and volunteers. Just because I'm the LoToJa curmudgeon doesn't mean I don't respect or appreciate the effort it takes to train for and attempt this course. I just like to poke fun at LoToJa. Everyone needs a hobbie, right?

My Best Recorded Crash

Like a nuclear explosion, mountain bike crashes are terrible but somehow beautiful.

While riding the Sovereign trail near Moab I had my best (worst?) recorded crash. A rare uphill endo. Onto rock. Behold:

I still laugh when I watch the video. Let me break it down:

Mark and Paul rode up the ramp, over the tabletop, over a gap then off the end of the rock (as you can see in my previous post). The ramp had a ledge at the bottom and one at the top. Mark and Paul told me I'd need to pull the front wheel up to get over the upper ledge, as they had done. Well I felt my 29er wheels would roll right over that little ledge so I only gave a half-hearted pull up on the bars (Mistake #1).

Also, I hadn't realized that my longer wheel base was going to be a problem (Mistake #2). When the rear wheel hit the lower ledge it pushed the front wheel down as it hit the upper ledge where it stopped dead. It also bounced me up and forward, launching me over the bars.

And I was too far forward (Mistake #3).

I was fully expecting to roll right up the ramp, so when I started to fly forward I was completely surprised. The catapult action was swift and I barely had time to get my hands out in front of me and turn my head.

Luckily I hit flat on the rock and only had a few minor scraps. Landing uphill also helped minimize injury. I smacked the side of my helmet on the rock which saved me from a face-plant. My sunglasses and helmet were comically askew.

The chain was wedged into the spokes, but we got it free without too much effort.

All in all it was a painless crash, but it looks violent.

After gathering myself up and attending to the bike I took the ramp a little more left and made it just fine.

It's been a while since I had a good crash. The Arizona crash in February was a doozy. In the last few years I've endo'ed on the Ridge trail, fell over into a hole at Solitude... Hold on here, ever since I started riding with Mark 3-4 years ago I only crash on rides with him. Sorry, Mark, I can't ride with you any more, my body can't take it.

Mark's First Moab

I've been trying to get Mark to Moab for two years. This weekend it happened.

(No, I didn't make the "MOAB 2009" in the photo above. We came across it on the Sovereign trail.)

Friday morning we (Mark, Mark's brother Paul, and I) drove down to Moab, checked into the hotel then headed up to the Slickrock trail.

It was a beautiful blue sky day, but pretty hot (in the 90s). After gearing up we rolled out of the parking lot, across a bit of sand and up onto slickrock. Mark didn't say much, but I imagine he'll blog about his first impressions of riding on slcikrock.

After the second junction with the Practice Loop we climbed to the first seriously steep slickrock ramp. I remember my first time here I looked at the steep angle of this slope and couldn't believe it was possible for a bike to climb it. But when some others went up it, and I tried it myself, I was a believer. Mark made it up without trouble.

Going down Fried Egg Hill I did the half pipe and Mark followed, taking a slightly more mellow line.

Riding out to the junction with the loop I was feeling crappy - my heart rate would not come down, I was dizzy and my legs felt like lead. Not sure if it was the heat, the lack of riding recently, the jolt of going from riding in the car to hard riding, or just a bad day. (I did have an emergency evacuation by Shrimp Rock and felt better afterward.)

At Cogs To Spare, Mark made a good first attempt and Paul cleaned it on his first try! Mark played "Eye of the Tiger" on his iPhone and made it on his second attempt! Here's the video (if you listen close you can here the music):

I was concerned I would have trouble on Cogs with my hard tail 29er, but it did fine. I tried 5 times, made it over the steep, short middle ramp twice, but could not summon the mojo to complete the climb. The walk of shame up Cogs was bitter.

Not my best Slickrock ride, but still plenty of good stuff, and it was fun being there with Mark on his first ride.

Saturday morning we rode the Sovereign trail.

My technical skills and confidence improved from the lack-luster ride the day before. For fun we kept a casual running score of technical stuff we made or didn't make. This added some friendly motivation throughout the day.

Where the trail enters the inclined slickrock expanse we stopped to play around. We found a sweet line up a ramp, over some tabletop rock, over a gap then off the end of the rock - see photo below.

Here's a video of Mark rolling it:

I had a rather spectacular crash here that I'll cover in my next post. (Update: the crash post will be up this afternoon.)

Then we climbed up the slickrock as far as we could then went back on Sovereign.

After lunch we rode the Klondike Bluffs trail. At the end we hiked up to see the hoodoos. On the way back we decided to give Baby Steps a ride. We skipped the upper trail which I felt was not as fun as riding back down the slickrock section of the Klondike Bluffs trail. So we started down Baby Steps in the middle (after a minor navigational blunder by me). The trail has worn in better than the last time I rode it and I quite enjoyed it. I even cleaned the rocky notch move at the top of the hill (on my third attempt). (Mark A.: I've revised my opinion of Baby Steps.)

I suggested we go to Bartlett Wash for our final ride, but Mark wanted more Slickrock trail. We rode the Practice Loop then out to the Wooly Gully where Paul rode through it on his fifth attempt.

(I should have picked a better place to video. The ledge Paul climbed getting out of the gully is angled sharply left to right which takes finesse to get over without your rear wheel sliding out.)

We made it back to the car as the sun was setting. Even though my legs were tired, they had more punch than on Friday and overall I felt and rode much better.

Congratulations, Mark, on your Moab initiation. Now when can we go back?


  • Perhaps it's best not to do Slickrock as the first ride.
  • A hard tail 29er is a good bike for Moab, particularly for crossing sand, but I would have preferred a full suspension bike.
  • The food was good at Eddie McStiff's, but they wouldn't substitute mashed potatoes for cole slaw and they charged us for another tiny tub of salsa to go with the chips we ordered. This inflexibility and nickle-and-diming left a bad impression.
  • The turkey avocado panini and strawberry smoothie at the Peace Tree Juice Cafe were excellent.
  • Only one mechanical: Paul burped his rear tire on Sovereign. The Stans had dried up so we put in a tube. I love my new Topeak Mountain Morph pump.
  • Always carry TP. A gauze bandage is a functional, but inferior substitute.
  • The burgers at Ray's Tavern in Green River are still the best heading-home dinner.
  • iFart is the best iPhone app ever (according to Mark).

Labor Day Weekend

We had a good Labor Day weekend.

Saturday morning Jolene and I joined Steve and Derek for a mountain bike ride up American Fork Canyon.

As we drove up the canyon around 7:30 we passed Mark, Elden, Sam and Doug on their road bikes. Unfortunately for them, and us, the drizzling rain started coming down in earnest. We sat in the van at Salamander Flat for 15-20 minutes until the worst had passed.

We rode up Pine Hollow and out the Ridge a ways and then a few miles on some new trail that looks promising, but is still very soft and rough. I got a stick in my rear derailer that knocked it out of whack and my shifting is still not right even with some adjustments.

American Fork Canyon has some eye-pleasing vistas.

The new trail.

After the ride we went to the new Lindon Aquatics Center. It's very nice. They have a big lazy river, a small water slide, a good-sized hot tub, a nice splash pool, a separate lap pool, and a FlowRider. The pool bottoms are a textured rubber with some padding - it's soft and doesn't chew up your feet. There was very little chlorine in the water - they may be using a salt sanitation system - it was nice to not have irritated eyes or smell like chlorine.

Kade and I on the suspension bridge over the lazy river.

Kade and Kara on the raft.

We had a good parenting moment. Kade was afraid to go down the slide. We knew he'd love it if he just go once. We cajoled and pleaded. Then I told him I'd stop bugging him if he'd just go once with me. He said he'd think about it - progress. Then we told him we'd get pizza for dinner if he'd go (we were getting pizza anyway - yes, sneaky) and finally he gave the OK. We went up and he sat on my lap as we slid down. Then he went by himself, and then did 10+ laps on the slide.

Monday we borrowed my Dad's canoe and went up to Payson Lakes. The weather was nice and we had a good time canoeing, picnicing, wading, cloud-gazing and simply enjoying the outdoors.

The kids canoeing.

A water gun salute.

This evening I watched a rebroadcast of the BYU - OU game - some pretty good football there.

I also watched stage 9 of La Vuelta. A nasty climb at the end with a peak grade of 20%! (And I thought the Butterfield 16% grade was brutal.) Those guys suffered up that climb. There was a break of 7 with a 6 minute lead and I thought they were gone, but the strong climbers from the pack caught a few - amazing.

Now it's back to work, but Moab is coming this weekend!