I rode the McKenzie River Trail in September of 2018 and I can certainly see why it was once rated as the best trail in America. It is certainly finds itself in the discussion when setting around the campfire. This footage has been languishing on my hard drive as it had all sorts of problems such as my gimbal was starting to go bad creating some high pitched noise that the camera was picking up. I also did not have the camera setup properly and created some lighting issues. I finally decided to put in the time to correct those things (as best as I could) and put together some clips from the incredible experience of riding this trail.
Messing Up my knee back in February was a blessing in disguise, maybe even a life-saver. My knee and ears hurt bad enough that I went to see my primary doctor, with whom I had not seen in five or so years. My knee hurt from the bike injury and my ears hurt from hearing my incredible wife wanking everyday about me needing to go have that looked at. Instead of looking at just my knee, my doctor insisted on doing a full workup as if I were a new patient. After reviewing my medical records, she took note of a diagnosis of a faint heart murmur about 20 years ago. She referred me to a Cardiologist.
After my initial visit with the Cardiologist and an EKG (A bunch of wires, pads and holes in my man sweater afterwards), I was called back in a few days later for an ECG (ultrasound of the heart). A few days after that my Cardiologist called me and informed that my faint hear murmur had degraded into moderate to borderline severe Aortic Stenosis with regurgitation. Basically, my Aortic Valve was not opening and closing properly and it was allowing non-oxygenated blood to backflow into the chamber where the oxygenated blood is at. This is causing my heart to work harder than it should. I was not having any of the typically symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain and numbness in the extremities at the time. My Cardiologist was quite the straight shooter with me in that the only way to fix my particular condition was with surgery and it would most likely need to happen within a year or two max. He set me up for a six-month follow-up with a stipulation that I should call him if any of those symptoms develop.
Between then and now I became more self-aware that I was having some of those symptoms. Fatigue, well I’m not a spring chicken and getting old sucks. Shortness of breath, well yeah when I’m climbing a steep hill on my bike and …I’m no spring chicken. Now for chest pain, I cracked my sternum in 2004 in an MTB crash and I was chalking that slowly growing discomfort up to be visited by the ghost of bike injuries past. (Which is a thing…when you are not a spring chicken)
In late September, I had that follow up round of testing with my Cardiologist and things had continued to degrade. I was not completely surprised when he told me it was time to take care of this. Failing to take action now could result in permeant damage to my heart beyond the valve and put me at escalating risk of an “unscheduled” cardiac event in the next 1-5 years.
On November 11th, I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve (with an bovine valve #prostethitic_heart_valves). I had already had a cardiac caterer procedure and no other work was needed such as stints or bypasses. I spent five days in the hospital and I am not recovering at home. Currently I’m in the “sucks to be me” level recovery at home which should glide slope into “does not suck as bad to be me” recovery for a total of two to three months. If all goes well, I’m expected to be able to resume normal life (to include mountain biking) around mid-February.
After the initial diagnosis back in March, I made a serious commitment at eating healthier and getting fit beyond just mountain biking. I feel like I was pretty close to the fittest and healthiest I could possible be going into the surgery. I was working on the premise that “Stronger In…Stronger Out” mantra for my recovery. Between all of my fitness recording devices (fitness watch, heart-rate monitor, Peloton) I have a good set of baseline metrics of where I was at pre-surgery to geek out on as I work my way back to where I was and beyond. Right now the focus is on letting the hear fully heal. The big stick in this recovery tent is going to be my sternum healing up.
I had to give my primary doctor a huge Thank You. I know myself well enough (now) to realize that if she had not sent me to that cardiologist, I would have continued to press on with my life and chalking up those sneaky symptoms to just having a tough time staying in shape as I age. I think we as mountain bikers are often limit pushers. We push ourselves to be fitter, faster, more skilled, or any number of aspects of the sport that we love. I think along with that goes a bit of just suck it up mentality and push on through. I would recommend that as your vintage starts getting interesting, you should not assume that fatigue, shortness of breath of just generally not being able to do what you used to do is related to the date on your birth certificate. Better to be on the safe side with a check up. Because it is always better to out on the dirt than be under the dirt!
The knee is all better by the way. #AfterMarketHeartParts
Riding at Mt Saint Helens on the Ape Canyon Trail and Plains of Abraham is a pretty incredible experience. From old growth forest to riding across the destruction from its eruption there is something here that should move you as a human. I went out to Windy Gap onto the top of the Smith Creek trail before heading back. This video on the back portion of the ride. The views here absolutely amazing. Here is my blog post from that outing.
This video sit around for over a year as the audio was horrible. The Hero 5 did not have particularly good audio in the first place but my gimbal was having issues as well as it was starting to get noisy enough that the mics of the GoPro focused on that noise and it also managed to start picking up my heartbeat. The whole setup was aggravating. I thought about just covering it all up with music but I was able to get it mostly wrangled in with some filters in post. The video does not do this place justice. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend this place.
I had been out here the year before and the weather was not cooperating. I did shoot video on that trip and looked at incorporating some of it into this video but none of it made the cut. Here is my blog post from my 2018 visit to this area.
I finally got around to remastering this video from playtime in Downieville.
Got through this footage, I am very thankful for the modern era of tiny GoPro cameras and gimbals. I did some stabilization work on some of the clips, but it is a balancing act between cropping and smoothing out the video. Crop too much and the field of view gets to narrow and quality goes down. Clearly I need to get back up to Downieville and get some modern footage!
I recently upgraded by GoPro cameras and replaced a gimbal I retired. I finally broke them out at to tinker around with the setups. La Costa is pretty much a local trail for me so that was where the tinkerfest was held.
While I managed to goon up some of the footage with the gimbal in wrong mode or the mounting positions not best for all conditions I did get some usable stuff. I put most some of that together here.
I moved from Hero 5s to Hero 8s and I am quite happy with the audio in in Protune mode vs what I had to deal with on the 5s. I have added wind mufflers over the mics in addition to setting changes.
The hypersmooth of the GoPro 8s is really good, almost gimbal quality. So why the GoPro 8 and not the 9? Well quite simply the 9 was not out yet and I got a screaming deal on the GoPro 8 while working on a military base overseas. I told I got two GoPro 8s for $425 out the door which is almost Buy One Get One Free compared to MSRP.
It has been a while since I had been on the Wildhorse and Santa Ana River Trails so it was time to fix that.
I meet my long-time friend Bill (aka MrMountainHop) at bottom of Middle Control. We left one lockable beer container here and took another to top of the Wildhorse. We have often included an out and back effort up to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain (9,952ft) but for today we just started with smiles on the opening descent of Wildhorse.
There is a climb to be done on Wildhorse and he is always a fair bit of work. I could tell the additional riding, weight loss and time on the Peloton is paying off. While I was no speed demon I’m pretty sure that was my quickest effort to date. The views from the top of this pretty awesome today. We had to just chill for a while and enjoy it.
The run down Wildhorse was pretty awesome but we did take an extended break for Bill to sort a pesky puncture in his sidewall right at the bead. It ultimately required dropping in a tube.
Both Bill and I were on our game and were really enjoying. Woots and hollers could be heard through the canyons on many parts the ride. There were a couple of sections were I started see plaid in my peripheral vision as we approached the lower boundary of ludicrous speed. The Swartz was with us. I did not take many pictures.
After coming off the SART we had maybe a quarter mile of downhill fireroad back to Bill’s lockable beer container. We were just cruising at this point when Bill got caught up in some loose stuff on the edge of the fireroad while setting up for a turn.
He went down hard and immediately knew he was good and hurt. After a bit of assessment it was clear he had broken his collarbone. I soon went down to the bottom and drove his vehicle up to where he was at. I fashioned a sling out a flannel shirt and a bandana.
It was not a comfortable ride for Bill back up the dirt roads to the top of Wildhorse where my truck was at. Things were actually easier for Bill driving back down the mountain as having a steering wheel to hold onto helped keep his upper body more stable. His awesome girlfriend and a posse meet us in Redlands to takeover the driving back to LA.
We both agreed we had a killer time minus the whole collarbone snafu at the end!
I have had a big project on my to-do list for quite some time since I bought the trail-trailer. That being a highly capable solar upgrade. I had previously installed 500 watts of solar panels on the roof along with a solar charge controller in a earlier effort. The next phase was to add a bank of LiFePo batteries, a 3,000 watter inverter, an automatic bus-transfer and a battery monitoring system. That stuff took sometime to complete and now it was time to head out for a weekend of fun and testing things out.
The Cleveland National Forest was shutdown due to the CA wildfires drawing away all of their resources so we had to wait until the closures were lifted. The morning that it did I was already headed into the mountain to try and grab a first-come first-served site. I was rewarded with a nice spot on the meadow.
After setting up camp it was time for quick spin around the place. It was still early in the day on the first day the forest had opened back up so the place was pretty much empty. From camp I went along the meadow and then up Aqua Dulce to Los Gatos. There was a tree down on Los Gatos that was a bit too big for me to try and muscle out of the way. Another thing that was pretty cool was the the number of pine cones all over the trail. With the forest being closed to the public for two weeks no one has been kicking them off the trail so there we all these little land mines along the trail. It was an added layer of fun for the day.
To go along with the solar/power upgrade I bought a small Traeger wood pellet smoker for the RV. These nice thing about these is you pretty much set, forget and go for a ride. While they use wood pellets to cook/smoke they do need a little bit of 115VAC power to run the controls. The power upgrade took care of this without even thinking about. Considering that this thing uses less than 250Watts max and less than 50Ws most of the time, I basically have a solar powered smoker 🙂
The In-the-field operational test of the smoker was a hit! Pulled Pork awesomeness.
The next day was a pretty mellow cruise around the meadow with Nichol. At the top of the meadow there is a pine tree that the Acorn Woodpeckers have taken over a pine tree to be used as a granary or “Acorn Tree”. The whole woodpecker family/community will use these trees and they will take turns guarding it.
One thing I think is really cool about this behavior is that initially they will get a acorn jammed into the hole so tightly that it cannot be easily removed. As the acorn dries out it will shrink. The woodpeckers maintain the tree and will rotate acorns as they shrink to smaller holes were they will more snuggly fit.
Sunday a friend of mine came up and we did a sizable loop that included a climb up to Redtail Roost followed by a run down the singletrack to Aqua Dulce. When then went up and over Wooded Hills and then a loop around the meadow. Definitely good stuff. We finished off the ride with Pulled Pork Tacos!
We chilled out with the dogs leisurely broke camp the following morning to head back home. So nice to get out of town for a few days.
So I spent that a little over two months working in the Kingdom of Bahrain. No quality mountain biking to be had there. You could make do, and I know some folks who have because they lived there, but not worth it for a visitor. Anyway, I got back and have been hitting up some of the local goods.
I can really say I have been in much of an exploring mood, just getting in some local dirt. After being away for that long, I kinda want to spend plenty of time with my wife. There is also a considerable amount of things that have to be taken care of as well.
I did however manage to grow as scraggly looking beard while I was gone. I don’t know how much longer this thing is going to hang around
I finished off my riding during our camping trip up in the Laguna Mountains with a run down Redtail Roost, Los Gatos, the Meadow and then onto Noble Canyon.
What an awesome day it was with the exception of a total of 345 milliseconds. I clocked myself pretty good on Stairway to Hell and banged up wrist and arm pretty good. (It my defense I was on the original line and not the new lower easier line). I was pretty thumped but shook it off and kept going. I managed to do another endo on the Extra Credit and that was pretty much me for the day.
I banged up my other wrist, gave a little extra smack down to the rest of my upper body and broken my derailleur hanger. The cause of the second endo was pretty easy to understand, I was riding a bit timid which is not a good idea in that section of trail. If I would have been smart I would have skipped that last climb (aka Whore) and extra credit and bailed off for a road finisher. I only had a couple hundred yards of trail left of Noble at this point, but not only was my bike broken, my will to ride was broken. I can’t think of the last time that has happened.
So for the rest of the day, I enjoyed the hammock and settled in for some Motrin and bourbon therapy. The following day I was already feeling more beat up than the day before.
That next morning we did a hike from Camp. I must say that it felt exceptionally odd to be hiking on the Perfect Cycling Trail.
So I have been behind the power curve on making reservations ahead of time for excursions. I had to go the route of finding a first come first serve site for this outing. I was looking to hit up our favorite spot, the Laguna Meadow Campground, but it is currently closed for maintenance. Burnt Rancheria was the other campgroup on the list but they were all booked up so I headed up mid-week to find an spot. Most of the first come first serve sites are tent camping sized sites. I was not the only person who had this mid-week idea as when I arrived most of the larger sites that would accommodate an average or larger RV were already occupied. One of the reasons we went with the size trailer we did was to be able to get into more places and spots. Lucky for me there were half a dozen spots that were large enough for our setup. The spot I got had just enough of a parking spot to use but it made the door face away from the site itself. No big deal as the site itself was huge.
The following morning I decided to do some snooping around on some trails/routes that I had never been or or I had been quite some time ago. My boundaries for the day were Sunrise Highway, Kitchen Creek Rd, Fred Canyon Rd and and Thing Valley Road.
Dispersed camping is allowed on the National Forest land off of Kitchen Creek Road and Thing Valley Road so I had an eye out for accessing those options on a later visit.
The more I snooped around the further east and down the mountain range I traveled. Evidently I found myself by Cibbets Flats campground thinking I had done a good chunk of descending so it about time to head back uphill. I decided to make a loop using Fred Canyon Road and Thing Valley Road to get back up on top of the Lagunas.
The climb up Fred Canyon Road was not too terribly difficult but it had some steeper spots and there was little shade along the way. I evidently made it to the junction of Thing Valley Road and continued climbing. Thing Valley Road takes you up through the Ewiiaapaayp Indian Reservation (Stay on the road) for a ways before you are back in the National Forest. As you approach the northern border of the reservation the flora transitions from desert scrub to pine trees. Evidently gnats love this kinda forest as once I was under the trees the gnats got thick. I realized I have my bug net in my truck and not in my pack. The remainder of the climb was a bit of extra work as there was some additional calories expended swooshing at those little bastards. I heard once that the the Southern California Gnat can fly at up to 6.7 mph. My top climbing speed on Thing Valley Road was apparently 6.6 mph.
I felt pretty good about the effort I put in for the day but I was certainly ready for a siesta. It was a very good day to be out on a bike.