Memorial Weekend

Memorial Weekend

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Man, i am so behind on my blog entries! I did three rides in three days over the Memorial Weekend.

The first was Santa Rosa Plateau. We've been talking about this place for a long time now and finally went. I can't believe how close this area is to town! It's super easy for hikers, bikers and picnickers (I didn't even know that was a word) to run up the road from Murrieta and enjoy this absolutely stunning area. For mountain biking, the trails are pretty short, so you'll need to find ways to extend your ride. Also, everything on the southeast side of the road is for hiking only and mountain biking is restricted to the northwest side of the road. For you adaptive riders, there is a huge dirt parking lot but no bathrooms. There might be some at the visitor's center though. No sure. Everything i rode was mostly flat and wide open with the exception of Tovashal Trail. I definitely recommend having a support rider with you (adaptive riders) if you are going to attempt it. Overall, this area is great for hiking and there are tons of benches in key spots for soaking in the views.

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This was an interesting day for me. I spent the entire week editing my previous Weekly Ride video and did not do anything active for FIVE days. I was super grumpy, to say the least. When i get in these moods, in all honesty, i just want to run. I want to throw on my shoes and just go. Getting out there helps, but really there is nothing i can do about it and i just have to work through it. The feeling is anger and claustrophobia. Usually the best remedy is to have a long surf session, take a shower and reflect on everything i am thankful for over a good beer.

The feeling extended into the next day when i rode Daley Ranch in Escondido with my new friend Thomas. He gave me a pretty awesome tour of the area which is super rocky, rutted and rowdy. Adaptive riders, you can do most of this area solo but there are spots you will get stuck in so a support rider is a must here. At least at first. The free lot is dirt with no bathrooms, but there is a pay lot with handyman parking and running water facilities. There is a grueling climb called Five Bitches so be prepared for that. Thomas did not have a chance to pre-ride the single track so we decided to forego it and downhill the main firewood trail which was super fun anyway. We also cut the ride short and skipped a whole section of trail called Crest Trail. Next time.

I met Thomas the previous weekend at Sky Park in Arrowhead. There were a couple features i needed help with and he jumped on it without hesitation so i immediately took to him. There's something about people who take initiative and just know what to do without any instruction or needing to be asked. Asking for help can be hard sometimes.

I caught Thomas on my GoPro helping me at Sky Park and it was my intention to cut to those clps during the Daley Ranch segment, but i totally forgot so here it is. Thanks Thomas!

The next day, i was mostly feeling better and went for a "hike" With Christina in PQ Canyon. She was on foot and i had the power assist on my bike turned off. This was an experiment that totally worked out. I didn't think i could do it but it turned out to be not so bad. I did turn the assist on the lowest setting for hills and inclines though. All in all, my heart rate was way higher than usual (which is good) and i got a really good workout.

 May Gray Tailgate Setup

May Gray Tailgate Setup

This was also the first time i did Tunnels without anyone touching me. Thats a big deal for me. This is the coolest trail in the area and to be able to add it to my usual route has increased the quality of my rides exponentially. Since then, i have done it several times and am now riding it with more and more speed, making it more and more fun.

Afterwards we tailgated and grilled turkey burgers for Memorial day. Here's the Weekly Ride episode about the weekend. 

Sky Park

Sky Park

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I heard stories of burmy trails winding through a forest in the sky where mountain bikers go to Heaven and come back. This turns out to be no lie. Sky Park in Arrowhead, CA is just that. Its actually located in Sky Forest, appropriately named. The trails are manicured every morning. Jumps, features and bridges are built with flow in mind and i was excited to test it all out on the green machine.

The gentle grade of the climb trail covers about a mile with about 250ft of elevation gain to access the nine miles of trails. Turns are earned here, but it's not going to kill you. Half a dozen or so trails branch out in all directions from the top, where bikers hang and chat, gaining their breath after the climb before plunging down the trail of their choice. 2 1/2 of these trails, i am told, are my choices given the equipment i'm on. The others will not be fun for me.

 To make some of the tight turns, i had to use my rear brake, throw my weight inside and drift it.

To make some of the tight turns, i had to use my rear brake, throw my weight inside and drift it.

I had my doubts about my ability to navigate everything safely on my own, but found myself rubbers up only twice in three days of aggressive riding. Thats pretty good for me. The first was a slow rollover during the climb up, trying to experiment with a different line on one of the climb's tight turns. Experiment failed. The second was on the last day and due to the inability of my rear wheel to slide out in a tight off-camber turn on the freshly watered tacky dirt. Both crashes were minor with no injuries to me or my bike. Great success!

 Shakas all around with the SDMBA crew

Shakas all around with the SDMBA crew

There was one bridge that scared me though. The top of it slanted down to the right, putting my left wheel way above my right at the apex. The steep ramp down the other side cambered to the right as well, making the wooden structure appear to kind of twist. Up high and off camber can spell the type of disaster that i have tasted too many times to chance, so i had a spotter every time. If you watch the video, the spotters don't touch me though. I was actually doing this thing myself but was just scared.

Just one other really tight turn stopped me from riding all my 2 1/2 trails completely solo. After a few runs, we figured that sending down a friend ahead of us, so they could be waiting to grab my rear wheel and point me in the right direction, was the best way to handle this thing. I had a hard time accepting this at first. The last thing i want is to disrupt someone's ride, but soon came to grips that its still fun for them, just a different kind of fun. Stopping to help your buddy is more like adventure biking with a friend than flowing a trail nonstop. Both are pretty damn fun.

 That's Sean on my left. What an Ultra Bruh!

That's Sean on my left. What an Ultra Bruh!

One person in particular made these stops, to spot me on the twisty camber bridge and spin me in the right direction on the ultra tight turn, above and beyond the call of duty. Sean Murphy, husband to Susie Murphy (Head of San Diego Mountain Biking Association) stepped up as my Ultra Bruh this trip. Ya i'm coining a new term: Ultra Bruh. It means someone who steps up big time for a bro. In the videos, you can see him popping out of the trees, from seemingly nowhere, to help me over and over again. Thanks Sean!

 Islands in the Sky

Islands in the Sky

Susie booked an AirBNB for the SDMBA crew, that sat on the edge of the mountain, above the clouds. It felt like Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back. The view left me feeling spellbound. Huge bay windows lined my room and I watched the stars at night. I woke up to the mountain peaks poking through the clouds in the morning. They looked like volcanic islands in a white ocean. We had coffee together in the morning and beers and dinner in the evening. What a fun crew!

Making the video was interesting. I didn't film anything but the actual runs, so i ended up with all this redundant POV footage and had to record the commentary and voice all at home later. The runs i feature are my final runs on the last day because those were the best. I'm one of those people that needs to really work at something to be good at it. My first runs were really slow and i got better and better each time. If you haven't seen it yet, here's the video. Be sure to like, comment and share. It really helps me get the word out. I am also searching for direction. Let me know what you want to see. Ask questions. We're all in this together right! Enjoy!

Tale of Tunnels

Tale of Tunnels

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A trail exists that haunts me. A tight corridor covered by a canopy of spooky Scrub Oak and Manzanita trees weaves down the northern end of Delmar Mesa. A natural tunnel, riders tell tales of ducking their heads to avoid being close-lined and the raw beauty of this phenomenon. I often find myself analyzing their Strava maps to see if they rode it.

Tunnel 4 in Los Peńasquitos Canyon is somewhat famous in the area, but actually, my little brother and I named it For-Tress when we were kids. We grew up exploring this canyon as children and we spoke to a homeless man one day in For-Tress. I wondered why he was there and questioned him. He seemed taken aback by my audacity. Things were very different in the 80s. This was OUR fort!

 Fairy Shrimp

Fairy Shrimp

Apparently, according to Head Ranger Gina Washington, this trail does not belong to me or my brother, but was an old migrant path. Decades ago, Mexican nationals used it to trek northward from the border. Now its an MTB icon in San Diego.

Also, rare vernal pools along the Mesa house a unique order of crustacean called Fairy Shrimp. These tiny creatures are why the trails in the area are so protected. When the pools dry up, mountain bikers ride through them, collecting microscopic eggs on their tires and distributing them to places where they will not survive.

 Matt lifting me through Tunnel 4

Matt lifting me through Tunnel 4

This area is obviously very special and this trail became one of those things i just had to do. I had to get back to For-Tress! I did try it once and it took a looooong time to get down, getting lifted through trees and supported along cambered sections. Fun for the adventure of it, but too much work to do on a regular basis. Obviously not something i could surmount on my own.

As part of my trails project, my goal is to construct a loop (not just an out and back) which includes some trail (not just fire road) that is safely navigated by adaptive riders in each mountain biking area. I thought, how cool would it be to include the coolest trail in THIS area! So i contacted Washington, and to my surprise, she was all for checking it out with me.

After a lot of back n forth, the day finally came for us to meet in the canyon and "walk" the trail together. Turns out, it wasn't going to take much at all to make the trail suitable for me and hopefully other adaptive riders. In Episode 4 of Weekly Ride, my YouTube series, i tell the story...