Monthly Archives: September 2017

Nice Rack.

Some progress made. I got the new kayak rack (which consists of a Rola Sport roof rack and the Thule J-cradles for the boat), as well as the bike rack (a Curt class III trailer hitch receiver and the Swagman Chinook rack itself). I won’t actually be able to transport the boat safely until I get the front Vanguard bull bar to tie the bow to (I’ll tie the stern to the hitch receiver), but that will be here Monday. I’ll install that myself, just like I did the other components (and had to buy some ramps so I could crawl under the thing). Also Mondayish, I intend to order new DAI Alloy wheels (black, natch) loaded with top-of-the-line BF Goodrich All Terrain T/A tires. Sheesh, who knew a new ride would be so friggin’ expensive?

I’m also still waiting for the CanvasBack cargo area liner for the pups (because fur), and I’ll have to order a second set of J-cradles in the off-chance I ever need to carry both my boats. Just the cradles were kinda pricey, though – about $220/pair – so that can wait. But so far, I’m pleased with the Pimpin’ of My Ride.

racks-small

Go Climb A Rock.

jeep-wide-filtered-622
Obviously, no paddling today. Instead, I decided to see why I chose to buy a 4 X 4 in the first place.

jeep-vert-filtered-sm
So, I saddled up and headed to the PCSF, site of many, many hikes over the past year. But no hikes today – where I’m going I don’t need…boots? Something. Anyway, I headed all the way to the very back, to Insurance Bluffs. I was here back in March, but I hiked in, a good 18 miles. Not this time, kiddo! The roads aren’t terrible, but I wouldn’t have wanted to drive the Big Giant Truck back to the bluffs – regardless, driving the Jeep was just as much fun as hiking was. Once at the bluffs, I jockeyed to get the Jeep as close to the edge as possible for pictures. It’s a strange sight, looking at the backup camera and seeing a 1000′ drop just a few feet behind you.

From there, back out to Davis Pond – another road I’ve hiked, but not driven. Surprisingly, there were people camping there – so, of course, I know what I’m going to do next. I think Jeep makes a tent-thingy that attaches to the liftgate, so, yay, something else to buy! Because I didn’t want to intrude on the campers, I didn’t hang around, but instead, headed to the familiar Snooper’s Rock. However, unlike previous visits, I didn’t park at the parking lot 1/2 mile from the bluff; I drove down the trail right to it. Awesome.

jeep-wide-filtered-1-622
And all of this got me thinking. Buying the Jeep is going to open up a whole new set of possibilities – trailheads, mountain bike trails, kayak put-ins and other places that were inaccessible to me in the past. Just when I thought I was starting to run out of adventures, there are now pretty much unlimited places I can explore. Of course, I have to get a blanket for the back for the pups, a bike carrier, kayak carrier, maybe a trailer for the motorbike, bigger tires and probably other things I’m not thinking about. I did order – and received – a set of awesome floor mats. You know, those heavy rubber ones that will hold like a gallon of water. When muddy boots, wet water shoes or other gear come into play, I’m sure they’ll prove to be worth the investment. That whole NDE a few months back has really changed my perspective on what’s important and what isn’t, and I intend to squeeze the most out of every day. More so.

waveWhile I was taking photos at Insurance Bluffs, a guy on a BMW enduro motorbike came riding up (an enduro is a bike that can be driven on or off road), and we had a great conversation about bikes, the PCSF and what-not. I think he was a little surprised to find me back there all by myself, but once I started talking bikes, he relaxed. See, if I had been on my bike, I could have given him “the wave” – if you’re not familiar with this ritual, when two motorcyclists pass, they always wave, as if to signify they are part of the secret fraternity of people who know how to keep their balance and aren’t afraid to be creamed all over the highway. Now, when I do it, I wave like Miss America, so I’m not sure I’m part of the frat just yet. But it got me thinking (again) – is there a wave for Jeeps? That’s sort of a club, as well, I guess. What about VW Beetles? Unicycles? Skateboards? Are there all sorts of “secret handshakes” I’m not aware of? I guess the next time I’m out in the Jeep, if another Jeep driver makes some weird hand signal, I’ll know I’m part of the club – and I’ll respond with my Miss America wave.

Link:
PCSF Photo Album on Facebook

Super-Fancy.

Yeah, I guess I’m super-fancy. But I’ll circle back to that. First, this:

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Clearly, that’s my motorbike on the back of a tow truck. To make a long story short, I had my first road trip planned, so I was prefunctioning for it – had the new leather chaps and all my gear on, and the silly thing conked out. No idea why. Checked all the obvious stuff, asked the Google – nothing. So, I called Flo and had their awesome Roadside Assistance pick it up and take it to the shop. Now, I play the Waiting Game (“No, the Waiting Game sucks – let’s play Hungry, Hungry Hippos.” – Homer).

Now, this is how I do things. Motorbike craps out, so I…buy a new car. More specifically, a new Jeep. Even more specifically, a new Jeep Cherokee Latitude 4 X 4. Hello, adventure!

click for larger

click for larger

So far, I just love it. Love. It. There are so many awesome things about it, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Of course, now the real fun begins – I have to get a hitch receiver added so I can add a bike carrier for the MTB, I need to add the components to the roof rack to carry the kayaks, maybe a trailer for the motorbike for my next trip to Southern California (there’s no way I’m riding a motorbike 2200 miles cross-country, but having it in Cali would be great), and I want to get some larger wheels with appropriate off-road tires (which I suspect is going to be a pain – the tires have pressure sensors in them that displays the current tire air pressure in the onboard computer, so I’ll have to figure that out). Speaking of the dash, it’s like the Starship Enterprise:

I'm pretty sure one of those buttons launches the space shuttle.

I’m pretty sure one of those buttons launches the space shuttle.

I’ve just started scratching the surface of the electronics. The backup camera is awesome, as is the navigation system. Of course, it’s fully integrated with my iPhone, and the uConnect system allows controlling of all the gadgetry via voice. There’s a camera in the rear view mirror that senses oncoming traffic so that if you have the high beams on, they automatically dim, and the app on my phone allows me to unlock it, start it, flash the lights or whatever from anywhere in the continental US (sorry, Alaska & Hawaii). Really, it’s just awesome. So, I am, indeed, super-fancy. Deal with it.

rugged-smallTo inaugurate the Jeep and my ongoing adventurous lifestyle, today, a hike. First hike of the season, and it showed. I headed up to North Chickamauga Creek Gorge; I’ve hiked along the Creek to the blue hole, but never up on the ridge. It was…intense. Only did 9.5 miles, but it was possibly the hardest 9.5 miles I’ve ever done. Very rugged ascents/descents, and many downed trees (mostly due to last year’s wildfires in the area) to climb over. Took more than 6 hours. Part of the issue was that I don’t have my “hiking legs” back yet – despite “leg day” in the gym every other day, hiking is different than squats. Also, I crammed my pack full – at least 40 pounds – to condition myself for hiking season. Still, it was a great trek. Beyond hiking a new trail, I found an abandoned coal mine, just begging to be explored. I only went in about 75 or 100 feet, because I wasn’t properly equipped for spelunking. In addition, the mine shaft split off in different directions, so without glow sticks and rope to mark my path, I was a little afraid of getting lost. I’ll return, and explore it more fully – and I can’t wait. But there are lots of new places to explore, since I now have the 4-wheel drive capability to get to some of the more isolated areas I’ve heard about. Yep, hello, adventure.

"Working in a coal mine, going down, down."

“Working in a coal mine, going down, down.”

I only ran Movescount on my Suunto during the hike. I had Endomondo running, but my phone died, and I didn’t realize it to connect it to the extra battery. No matter, this is why I run two devices. And, of course, both devices lost the signal down in the mine. Probably nothing I can do about that on the future trek.

click for larger, or Movescount data

click for larger, or Movescount data

Tomorrow, I think kayaking. Because I don’t have the kayak rack for the Jeep yet, I’ll take the truck (which I kept, just for this reason – also, having a big-ass truck comes in handy sometimes). So, Jeep to the gym (natch), truck to kayak. If my motorbike wasn’t in the shop, I’d take it out as well, for a nice little vehicular hat-trick. Oh, well – next time.

Link:
North Chick Creek Gorge Hike Photo Album on Facebook

Iron, Man.

Really not a lot going on this weekend – I was surprisingly light on adventure. I guess sometimes you just don’t feel it, and this was one of those weekends. Kinda sucks, because the weather was great – my motivation, less so. Oh, I still went to the gym – I’d have to have a spear through my head to not do that. And I did get out just a little bit, but nothing really exciting.

Saturday morning, just a quick spin on the motorbike down to the North Shore. The Ironman 70.3 competition is going on this weekend, so I went to watch some of that. I’m seriously considering throwing my hat into that ring next year. The race is 70.3 miles, consisting of a swim, a pedal, and a run. The swim portion is 1.2 miles, mostly downstream, so I can do that with no problem. The bicycling portion is 56 miles – I can easily do that, as well, even on my mountain bike (and I can’t imagine the looks I would get riding my MTB against all the $10K race machines – if I bought a road bike, I’d be pretty much unstoppable). However, the running is the question. 13.1 miles. Now, I can “go” 13.1 miles, no worries. I hiked 26 miles with a 40 pound pack (and one pissed-off bear), but whether I can run that far – I just don’t know. My limit for running at the gym is generally around 6 miles; the spirit is willing, but the knees are having second thoughts. So, I dunno. We’ll see.

Anyway, so I rolled down on the motorbike to have a look, and it was a nice ride. I guess I’ve about decided to keep the bike, now that I’m finally bonding with it. Well, actually, maybe not. They’ve come out with a new one that I really, really like:

nm4-622

That is just awesome. Automatic, antilock brakes, all digital. Nice. It’s a little smaller than my bike in displacement (700cc versus 750cc), but it’s just…sexy. I might at least go have a look, maybe take a test drive. Regardless, I think I’m going to make some upgrades to mine soon – I need a luggage rack, and I’d like to replace the exhaust system – the pipes. We’ll see. I did wash and wax it after my ride, so it’s looking pretty good.

Sunday, just a quick bicycle ride. The Ironman continues, so I decided after the gym to go check it out once more, and get a little closer to the action. No one says much about bicycles riding around the festivities; I don’t think they would have appreciated me rolling through on the motorbike.

bike-wsb

Not a long ride; only about 12 miles. Really, for me, that’s nothing. I did, however, ride up (and back down) the very challenging Cameron Hill, as well as up to AT&T Field. There were just too many people, and too much traffic, though. I prefer quieter rides.

Yeah, I flew down that hill. 28 MPH. Not a record – I hit 35 MPH on the bike once, but believe me, going that fast on a MTB on pavement is a white-knuckle affair. Maybe one day, when I’m properly equipped, I’ll find a good, long hill and see just how fast I can go. I suspect with the right conditions, I could get over 40 MPH. As long as I have the GoPro going, in case I get creamed. What’s the point of getting killed if no one gets to watch it?

So, not much of a ride, and only the 4th or 5th one I’ve had all year. But as the weather (quickly) cools, I’ll be doing that more. I may try to take the boat out once or twice more, but it’s time to move on to other, cooler-weather activities. I guess summer is endless, after all.

Endless Summer.

Well, I guess summer is pretty much done, and this one was essentially the same as the last one. Gym, work, adventures, bitching about carbs and repeat. I really need to do something about that. I did have some pretty awesome adventures, though – mostly on the water. Hundreds of miles of paddling, and I saw some pretty cool stuff. Still, I kinda feel like I’m missing out on…something. Dunno.

To close summer, I took the motorbike out a couple of times, and went on some nice rides. Sunday, up and over Signal Mountain, via the infamous W Road. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but just never have. Basically, it’s a road a few miles long up the side of the mountain, with extreme hairpin turns at the top (and other curves along the way). I don’t think I’d like going up in a car, but on the bike, it was quite fun.

Once at the top, back down the front of the mountain. Luckily, it was pretty early, so not much traffic, because it’s a pretty fast roll. I also tried out the new GoPro Chesty harness I just ordered. As the name implies, it’s a chest harness to mount the GoPro on – I bought it because I intend to go horseback riding in the next couple of weeks, and I can’t really mount the GoPro on a horse’s head. It was a little tight getting over my motorcycle jack (which, sadly [kinda] is waaay too big for me now), but it worked well, and adds a pretty interesting new perspective on the bike.

North Shore - click for larger

North Shore – click for larger

Monday, the holiday, I headed down to my regular stomping grounds, the North Shore. But this wasn’t completely a pleasure ride – I got the bike up on the freeway for a little bit, just to open her up. Freeway riding can be incredibly dangerous – you’re just one crack in the road, one pothole, one oil slick, one bad driver away from instant death. I did, however, cheat a little – I took the same route to the gym earlier, just to check the road to make sure it was moderately safe. Spoiler alert: it was. I lived. It was great to be flying down the freeway again, even if only briefly – in Hawaii and DC both, I was on the freeway all the time, and never thought much of it, but this is the first time I’ve gotten on the freeway on this bike.

Following the freeway, just some puttering around the North Shore – the Market Street Bridge, the Veterans Bridge, other points of interest. The MSB is always challenging, because of the steel grates in the middle of the bridge; but, we made it over, no problem. I also mapped the ride, as well as yesterday’s, and composited them into one. No real reason – just because. It’s not like I’ll ever MTB up the W Road or anything, so this was a chance to add it to the Master Adventure Map.

The W Road and North Shore rides - click for larger

The W Road and North Shore rides – click for larger

So, two good rides to close out the summer. In fact, I’ve been kinda bonding with the bike lately, so much so, that I’ve about decided to keep it. Sure, I won’t ride it all the time, but on a sunny day, when traffic isn’t too heavy, it’s quite enjoyable. And, believe it or not, it is actually pretty decent exercise. Not as much as my mountain bike or kayaking, but hanging on to 600 pounds of motorcycle while doing 50 miles an hour does require some effort, as well as skill. So, I guess that counts for something. I used to think about how lucky I was that I never got killed on any of my previous bikes when in Hawaii and Washington; now, I guess I’m over playing it safe. I’m too old to “live fast, die young, leave a pretty corpse”, but I guess the “live fast” part doesn’t sound too bad.

Sadly, it’s almost time to put the bike in the barn. There’s still maybe a month or 6 weeks I can ride, but falling leaves on the road are dangerous, as is ice, and it’s established how much Mother Nature hates me. Maybe I’ll spend the winter souping her up a little. Or something. We’ll see.

And hopefully, next summer will be better.