Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I love the sun oven

Yesterday cooked a pumpkin, and today cooked a loaf of bread using said pumpkin, both in the sun oven!  In late October! 

I love that thing. 

Two Great Events

Friday night is the Stop Ski Link fundraiser party at the place where Cucina Nassi was:  just south of the Sprague Library in Sugarhouse Commons (if you're not a Sugarhouser, you have to at least admit that you know where that is!).  It's $100 each, which may sound like a lot, but when you consider what's at stake:  subverting the 1964 Wilderness Act, poaching local countrol of the watershed/canyon management decision making process by the likes of "Keep the Gubment Out" Rob Bishop, letting a Canadian corporation somehow insert the Devil into one of our supposed environmental brethren so that he can spew about saving us all from Big Cottonwood traffic, and PERMANENTLY POACHING OUR GAWDAM LINES it's a worthy investment, and will also likely be a helluva party to boot.  Here's the link:

And Saturday afternoon is USAW - the Utah Avalanche and Snow Workshop down in Sandy.  Even if brother Paul wasn't spearheading this effort, I'd probably still promote it, because it always proves to have a ton of really good information packed into one afternoon, and I think even avi pros will say - and in fact there's a seminar on this very topic - that no matter how much you know or think you know about snowpacks, avalanches, your partners, your gear, human nature, and yourself, it's a never-ending learning process.  Here's the info:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Up Urachus

Exactly a year ago, our friend Jim Manos was diagnosed with a cancer so rare  that literally only something like 30 people get it, so there's relatively very little knowledge about the best treatment. It's quite complicated, and I don't know the details, but fundamentally it's related to "Urachus", which looking up on wikipedia doesn't really tell this layman much ..... 

Over the winter and spring he had a tough go; up at the Huntsman Cancer Institute they threw one of the heaviest doses of chemo at him that they've ever done, and that alone nearly killed him.  They thought that four big rounds might be enough, but Jim mounted up and went for five (or maybe it was five and he went for six?). At any rate, he pretty much said "Bring It!" despite its toxicity to his body.  And then despite that chemical blast, he had some further scares via scans this summer after the treatment was over. 

But at this point, he is now cancer-free, and as a celebration of that, there was a gaggle ride last Saturday, with Jim leading the charge:

big thanks to Betsy:

who not only made cool seasonal number plates (here's Ash still sporting hers as she preps for bed!)

But also threw down for the post-ride brunch.  Thanks Betsy.

Jim's as passionate for cycling and skiing as anybody I know, and having overcome plenty of other big life-obstacles prior to cancer that most of us haven't had to experience, his fortitude will ensure that he's back on the skin-and-single tracks soon. 

Go Jim! 

(and....of course....nice bike!)

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Here in the Wasatch we are blessed with excellent proximity to great mountains, and one of our favorite outing styles is that of "ride to the trailhead and do a hike or a run".  Depending on our mood and/or goals we call it a "rike" (ride/hike) or "bun" (bike/run).  And my favorite is when I ride my fixy up to a trail and go for a run, then it becomes..... a "Fun!" 

Fundamentally, the concept of a Rike/Bun/Fun is to put your running shoes and shorts (and a bit of extra food) in your Camelbak, hop on your road steed, (Riking has been officially designated as an activity that approves of the wearing of a Camelbak on a road bike) ride up one of the canyons to a trailhead, stash your bike, change your shorts and shoes, march up into the mountains on the trails, then ride home.  Pretty simple, and addresses the sort-of annoying concept of driving our car past good recreation to go do some good recreating (and provides a good warmup before charging straight uphill on cold/tight hamstrings/calves/Achilles).  

A significant issue associated with Riking is what to do with your bike while you hike?  Given that trailheads are usually in/near thickly wooded areas, it’s generally possible to stash them in nearby woods with the rationale that “no one would think to look for $5000 worth of carbon bikes and shoes in that thicket” or bringing a cable lock.  Locking it along with your helmet to a gate/tree/signpost and stashing shoes nearby generally works fine.  However, I went out for a Fun yesterday and forgot my lock, so I reverted to one of the tried and true Riking techniques employed by veterans:  drape the cycling shorts over the handlebars to dry with the chamois-side out: 

It has proven to be a very effective anti-theft technique. 

Yesterday I did a new (to me) Fun that was only 8 miles from the house, and is both very accessible and sorta wild and wooly feeling.  Here's the view from on (sorta) high:

Quite nice, and will likely become a bit of a staple of my future Fun outings. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Giro D'Italia

Ashley and I have both had a lifelong love of bike touring, and have had the good fortune to do tours in many awesome areas, including what is probably considered the world’s best in France.  However, right there with France is Italy, and since Ash had never been there before and her not only lives in Italy but owns a vineyard in Tuscany we finally decided it was high time to take the steeds over and do our own Giro d’Italia.   And for once we planned far enough ahead to not only get to use our frequent flier miles but more importantly get our great friends Tom Simonsen and Julia Roether to join us. 

Ash’s cousin Jane and her husband Sebastiano (Seba) were key to our loose “plan”.  They have a house very near the Milan airport and also own a sweet apartment in the heart of Florence in addition to the vineyard in the Chianti area of Tuscany south of Florence.  So rather than landing in a foreign (and expensive!) city and trying to find a hotel via a taxi, we had a great familiar face greet us with a  huge smile,

then whisk us to her beautiful home in time for a huge celebratory Italian feast.   
Why hadn’t we done this before? 

While there are plenty of companies that take people on bike tours in Italy, the truth is that putting together an awesome route is – as Ash put it – “like shooting fish in a barrel.”  Just get a Michelin Map, decide on a macro plan, then make random choices of the myriad of white, yellow, and green-highlited red-colored roads on the map to wind your way through the plan.   Our general plan was to wind through area (state?) of Liguria to Emile Romagna to the famous Cinque Terre, on to Florence to get some culture, then south to the vineyard and Tuscany’s famous riding terrain, taking two weeks to do so.  Then somehow get back to Milan. 

Fundamentally, the trip was superlative. Our schedule was such:  get up, leisurely breakfast with cappuccinos (I tried….still couldn’t make it happen…), pack up, say goodbye to our new friends, mount steeds, ride the “best ever” roads all day – almost all climbing or descending on sublime, little-trafficked roads - eat paninis, focaccia, killer little pastries, gelatos, find a cool place to stay, eat sumptuous food, drink copious amounts of wine, laugh a LOT, retire, and repeat. 

I had never heard of Liguria or Emile Romagna, but these adjacent areas were quite mountainous  - we went over one 6000’ pass – and they actually were in some ways “better” riding than their more famous neighbor, Tuscany due to far-fewer tourists, bigger climbs and descents, and wilder, less-developed terrain.  Cinque Terre – right in the crook of the of Italy as it wraps around the Mediterranean - is a world-famous area of 5 little towns tucked into bays at the foot of 2-3000 foot mountains, and the hike between the 5 towns with a quick zip on a train back to your start is a mandatory stop on the “adventure travel” circuit, and this same train carries all the tourists into this area, so again the roads are nearly deserted except for the lean old guys on their carbon Colnagos charging up the climbs.  We also climbed up into an area that had a couple of minor ski resorts, which I didn’t know existed outside of the Alps or Dolomites, and like minor ski resorts in the US, their respective communities were as unassuming as the rest of the area, only with a  bit more relief! 

Ash was the patron of our Giro, and had the map out at every opportunity to plot our next move. However, one of the beauties of riding in Italy is that if you miss a turn you just take the next one because it’ll be just as good, and the next town will likely be as cool as the last.  After a week of this we pulled into Florence, where we were able to escape the tourist madness in Jane and Seba’s apartment that had veranda views of the top of Florence, including the Duomo a couple of blocks away.  A day of “doing Florence” then ensued, which involves as much strategizing and patience as it does wonder at the plethora of art that pretty much represents the end of the Church’s 1500 years of repression.  We bailed on the Uffizi Gallery (Florence’s  - or Italy’s? – version of the Louvre) but were able to get into the National Gallery to see Michaelangelo’s David; regardless of your views on biblical tales or your level of appreciation for art, that sculpture is truly jaw-dropping.   We hit another couple of museums, went into the perimeter of the Duomo to get to the airy top of the dome (via tiny staircases that had to accommodate both climbers and descenders; a fat person’s and a US fire marshall’s nightmare!) and finished off with Peroni beers on the terrace, Querciabella vino from the vineyard, and a sumptuous home-cooked dinner.  It seemed like one of those “One day in Florence” articles in airline mags. 

It’s possible to spend weeks in Florence (indeed, even months; it was packed with exchange-program US college kids) but the tourist scene and foot/leg/back destroying standing and strolling on concrete didn’t sound nearly as appealing as re-mounting our steeds, so off into Tuscany we went.  Greve-in-Chianti is the village where the vineyard was, and since it was only 30km from Florence Ash led us on a brilliantly circuituous route through (big!) rolling vineyard country to arrive at the vineyard late in the afternoon.  Alberto, the CEO of Querciabella, had warned us on the phone of the road to the vineyard:  “it’s steep, and there are rocks”.  We had laughed and told each other that he didn’t know about all the climbing we had done and looked forward to a little zip up the last hill, but as it turned out, he was right:  15-20% grade on gravel for almost 2 miles!  Once there, however, we were greeted as heroes and it wasn’t long before we were once again feasting and drinking the fruits of their labor. 

The winery was in full harvest/wine making mode while we were there,

and we got a great tour of the facility in the morning.  I always sorta struggle with wine; I like it, but so much of the industry smacks of pomposity, but to see a really cool little vineyard that is super-committed to “doing it right” – organic and as “pure” as possible – was really cool. 

We then packed up our gear and  - as our tour was winding down – started strategizing as to our next moves to optimize our return to Milan.  We had started to settle in on a plan when it dawned on us that what we wanted was a stellar day of riding, end up at a cool place, get more great Italian food, hang out with new Italian friends, and drink great wine…..ah hah!  Maybe one more night at the vineyard!  So we had yet another awesome day of rolling around the roads of Chianti that will be featured in next year’s road cycling world championships. 

Which of course was followed by more feasting, drinking, and laughs. 

As it turned out, our plan to return to Milan was thwarted by Italy’s surprisingly difficult policies regarding bikes on trains so we opted to rent a couple of one-way cars, which worked out fine.  Back at Seba and Jane’s we had yet another celebratory feast (good thing we rode a lot while in Italy!) and the next day Tom and Julia left while Ash and I joined hundreds of folks out on their Sunday rides near Milan.  A quick visit to the Milan Duomo that night – one of the signature Cathedrals in Europe, apparently, but unlike Florence the monster plaza is populated not by tourists but by Italians – and our fine trip was done. 

Ash and I had never done a bike tour with anyone else before, and Julia and Tom proved  -as expected – to be awesome travel partners and really helped make the trip amazing.  And of course, huge thanks to Jane and Seba for opening their homes to us and providing such great hospitality. 

Here’s a link to a lot more pics:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gettin' WRAD on the White Rim

As many mountain bikers in Utah  - and around the country - know, the White Rim Ttrail is truly a classic ride (this I know because I have a coffee table book called "Classic Mountain Bike"; Thirty of the World's Most Spectacular Trails" and the White Rim is in there).  It's a 100 mile loop that starts and finishes in the Island in the Sky section of the Canyonlands National park west of Moab, and after dropping off the Island mesa via the infamous Shafer Trail switchbacks a "bench" of (what I believe is) Navajo Sandstone creates a great shelf that enabled the building of an amazing 4WD road that wraps almost an entire loop in 70+ miles.  The route was initially developed by winter cattle grazing and then was "improved" by the Atomic Energy Commission for uranium exploration.  Now it's almost exclusively the domain of mountain bikers.

Most folks take three days to do the loop in river trip style, with the "kayaks" being the bikes and the "rafts" being overladen 4WD trucks.  But over the last 10 years or so it seems like we almost never hear of any of our friends doing 3 day trips and instead it's becoming increasingly popular to do the White Rim in A Day (WRAD).  Before I met her Ash had done 8-10 of these, and in our first year together we did her only 3-day.  We hadn't done it for a long time (with the exception of going to the Scotsman's fantastic wedding at the halfway-around mark in 2005) and decided it was time to return. 

In order to make a weekend out of it, we went south on Saturday to explore some awesome new singletrack (?? new to me, at least....maybe in the last few years?) in the Gemini Bridges area.  It's clear that Moab is taking seriously the "challenge" posed by the killer singletrack trails available in the Fruita and St George areas by doing a lot of work to make really fun singletrack in Moab to compliment the Slickrock trail and copious double track that historically has attracted plenty of tourist mountain bikers but waned in it's appeal to singletrack snobs.  The new trails are definitely worthy:

and are really well-marked:

And of course are becoming really popular:

Here's Ash dancing with death perilously close to the edge:

And the gratuitous "Anastazi-looking shadow on the rocks by a coupla dorks" shot:

There are at least 4 of these singletrack areas around Moab now that rival anything at Gooseberry, Fruita, etc in terms of fun, challenge, scenery, and trail quality. 

And then off to the WRAD on Sunday.  We rolled out just before first light (going clockwise) and zipped past the park gate ($5 for bikes?!?!  it was closed so of course we blew if off, but charging for bikes? c'mon....)
And had the sun rising on us as we plunged the 1400 feet down to the rim:

Where you settle into the rhythm of the double track:

The White Rim may have lost a bit of its luster for folks because there is not a single inch of single track, but the beauty is pretty amazing

and never really stops. 

As an added bonus, I found some super sick shades:

that I can't wait to start sporting around the Wasatch. 

We saw so few people that at about mile 70 we started to get a little concerned about our water poachability (from the 3-dayers) but we were able to get 2, 12 oz bottles of water from people who were doing a 3 day driving trip (which was "the only water we have; but we have plenty of soda!"  huh?  really?  you are camping in the desert with NO water?) and with about 2 or 3 hours to go we found some cyclists who had plenty of water left for us to do a refill.  

A long grinder climb to the top of the Mineral Bottom switchbacks (where the learned geologist Joe Hazel tells me he found alarming levels of radioactivity!  I won't be camping there anytime soon....) and a 10 mile spin back to the highway returned us to the start with an hour to spare before dark. 

In an era of most mountain bike rides being in the several-hour range, it is always a treat to get a truly-full day of riding on a bona fide "classic".  Stellar ride for sure. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

A seizure?

So I'm working in my office and suddenly there's a huge crash.  This morning my rack full of shoes collapsed and that was a crash too, but this turned out to be a white BMW that had driven into our neighbor's yard and hit a tree! 

After I double checked that my shoe rack was ok, I headed over.  There were a few folks milling about, already talking to 911. Someone had already opened the driver's side door, and there, slumped sideways in his seat, pushed back by the airbag, was a guy I estimated to be in his mid-50's who was unconscious.  Which wasn't suprising.  What was suprising, however, was that he was naked from the waist down! 

I went over to the other side of the car where there was better access, and was able to get to his wrist where I felt that his pulse was fine, and as I got there he started making a snoring sound.  I saw a little blood coming off his face and figured he had some blood in his sinuses, but based on my own recollection of first aid, the speaker-phoned 911 dispatcher's admonitions to not try to move him/his head, and the fact that the sirens were already wailing in the distance I left him be, figuring he was alive and there was nothing I was going to do in the next 1 minute til the paramedics arrived. 

It was about this time that one of the folks living next door said "I think he had a seizure!"  Now I'm no physician nor psychiatrist nor neurologist, but something tells me that the odds of simultaneously having a seizure whilst driving around naked are fairly low!  Either that or his seizure was so violent that he yanked his pants and undies off just before he drove into the tree! 

When the paramedics showed they were, as always, all business, and when they saw that he was naked one of them asked me "is this how he showed up?"  I was tempted to say "No sir, he was fully-clothed, but we tthought we'd take the opportunity of his subconsciousness, if you know what I mean!"  with a wink and a nudge.  But I didn't. 

They then put a C-collar on him, yanked him out of the car, and whisked him away.  I suppose I'll never know the story. 

But as I watched the proceedings alongside Linda, the matriarch of the phalanx of degenerates that make up our neighbors, I was tempted to say "well, at least this time the ambulances didn't show up for one of your overdosing kids!"  But I didn't.  And I was tempted to say "are your yappy, awful little dogs pinned between the grill and the tree?"  But I didn't.  Much self control exercised this exciting afternoon in Sugarhood. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Back to The Brink

I've often thought that running The Brink would be great, but have never done it.  But after doing it again the other day I was determined to run it this year a'fore the snow flew.  I mentioned it to Jason Dorais yesterday and he was keen to hit it right away, and it was easy to convince brother Andy, who easily convinced their buddies Tom and Matt, and we rattled up there today for a nice Brink afoot. 

Tom and Matt were definitely using it as a Recovery Brink, having done the Kona Ironman and the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim, respectively, over the weekend.  So the pace was "chill".  Apparently no Strava "Achievements" were made (if you have to ask, don't worry, that's a good thing!) so it was barely worthwhile!  But the scenery was, as ever, quite nice:

Andy and Tom approaching a typical Donner nap spot:

And the gang (sans Tom - sorry; he was struggling with a not-yet-quite-right body after Kona, which is  understandable) at the relatively obscure Critical Turn off of the Great Western Trail towards the Woods Of Despair:

Note Jason is taking advantage of the warmer weather than we had on Saturday, when I was wearing Peter's PVC rain jacket with the hood under my helmet on top of all else I was wearing. 

And, of course, we saw Peter's lone mt bike track from his Sunday Brinkage. 

On a related note, I picked up a copy of Bike Magazine today to make sure that what I have written/will write for it will be appropriate for that medium, and not surprisingly the awesome cover shot was by Scott Markewitz......

A new job!

Today was an exciting day for Ash; her first day on the new job as the Executive Director of Wasatch Community Gardens!   Here is a shot to commemorate the Big Event of Leaving For Work:

She anticipated one of her first questions would be:  "There's a shower here, right?"

for more info on WCG here's the website: 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Living On The Brink

Those of you who are mountain bikers and live in or have visited SLC know that we are blessed with a plethora of great riding in these parts.  Between Salt Lake, Park City, and Provo there are literally hundreds of miles of super fun trails.  However, despite the extent, quality, and variety of trails here, our venerable friend Peter Donner only rides one:  The Brink. 

The Brink is a route known by most, ridden by few.  After climbing the thousand feet to Big Mountain pass the climbing then really starts, with the next thousand feet happening in not much more than a mile of mean switchbacks, and that's just the beginning of the ride; many more climbs and technical descents await. Here's Ash on one of the mellower- but quite scenic - sections:

  with the notorious "Woods Of Despair" (I'm the only person who calls it that, as far as I know, but I'm hoping it sticks!) looming ahead.  The WOD a 1-2 mile section of trail traversing a huge aspen grove that has the requisite amount of downed aspens, exposed roots, and sharp gully ascents/descents.  The reward is a sublime view of Emigration Canyon, the Salt Lake Valley, the Central Wasatch, the Wasatch back, and even the Uintas in the distance, and then the descent; 2000 feet of fun, technical, brake-burnin' fun.   While "the ride" officially starts at either the top of Emigration Canyon or Little Dell reservoir, we like to start from home and spin up Emigration for an hour before hitting the dirt.  This puts the entire ride at something over 40 miles with approximately 6000 feet of vertical. 

Peter Donner has done this ride.....brace yourself.....approximately seven hundred times! 

Call it a silly obsession (as he does), an odd habit, or a lifestyle, but Peter really likes it and doesn't feel a need to do any other rides. So for the past dozen years-plus he's done The Brink from his Sugarhouse home an average of 55 times/year (and has recently broken his record and is now at 63 for 2012).  And the esteemed photographer Scott Markewitz - as an Emigration Canyon resident, couldn't help but take notice of Peter chugging up the canyon several days a week all summer laden with his huge fanny pack heading for The Brink. As a photographer always looking for a interesting story, Scott suggested a story on the Brink's benefactor for Bike Magazine, which they approved. So Saturday Peter, Ash, Scott and I went out to formally chronicle a Peter Donner Brink, forming a veritable Donner Party, as it were. 

Here's a shot of the little mountain ridge traverse, which after an inch of rain the night before, was a little gooey in places:

here's a rock that flipped up and got stuck in the clay:

and a nice descent after the grinding climb:

Here's Scott doing what he does the best of anyone:

and fueling up because he's toting 30 lbs of camera gear!
Part of Scott's photography acumen is the fact that he is strong as an ox and can hang with nearly anyone on a bike or skis, even with a phat camera and several lenses. 

Here's a shot of the big terrain we were traversing:

The Woods of Despair, claiming another victim:

despite the ramp on the uphill side of the log that Peter painstakingly put in with a trowel (in addition to his saw and axe work every spring).  On this wet day the WOD was more treacherous than usual due to the rains the night before. 

We usually associate The Brink with summertime's searing temperatures, but Saturday was damp and chilly enough to remind us that winter is on the nigh. And of course the leafing was primetime. 

Peter Donner, living on The Brink.....

Friday, October 12, 2012

My entry into blogonomy

Despite my affinity for writing and the fact that there have been times when I've written various tales  - usually of trips and adventures - and just emailed them out to folks I've thought might be vaguely interested I've never actually done a blog per se.    But recently  - and I'm not sure why - I've become more intrigued by the concept (more so than posting on Facebook, and again, I'm not sure why), so I thought I'd give it a go!

Though much of my life is consumed - both personally and professionally - by recreating outdoors, and it seems like the blogs that I tend to read are also oriented this way, I will likely not be utterly focused on recreating/adventuring because it seems like I have a notso-humble opinion on lots of stuff in addition to recreating: politics, economics, psychology, culture, etc - and sometimes feel compelled to write about them.

But for now, the thing most prominent on my mind is Ash and I's recent trip to Italy with Julia and Tom ripping around Liguria, Emile Romagna, and Tuscany on our bikes.  It was an absolute blast.  Here's a pic of the two coolest zipoff-equipped tourists in Florence:

and the gang:

stoked to be ripping down tons of descents like this:

And drinking a lot of wine like this

But I'll add more pics and a tale of the adventures in a later post. 

Thanks for reading, and don't hesitate to give me feedback on the posts, content, format, etc.