Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Utah Weekend – Little Creek Mesa

May 18th, 2015 by MTBBill

Our last day of the Utah weekend found us rolling out of the hotel at a pretty descent time and headed out to Little Creek Mesa with a pit-stop at River Rock Roasters  for some caffeine and sandwiches for a mesa-top lunch.  I have ridden Little Creek several times before and this place is just great.  It has pretty much everything I want in a trail.  There is plenty  flowing singletrack with technical goodies.  Huge vistas that start right at your feet , rock slabs to play on with features big and small, and nature’s beauty all around you.  It also has a feel of being far and away and the route finding you have to do (even with the aid of a GPS) offers a kind of mental engagement that I love in a trail.

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We started out on the main loop and soon found ourselves playing on rock slabs with Zion National Park in the background.

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With all of the rain over the last handful of days there was plenty of water pooled up in the depressions in the rocks.  The big rock slabs gave way to forested single track that was just awesome with the fresh scent of moisture.

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I was not expecting to see snow on the mountains west of St George.  I just don’t see how the views from this mesa could ever get old.

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“The Hot Tub” along the western rim of Little Creek Mesa.  This was one helluva spot for snacks.

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The rain had lots the cacti blooming.

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Better to look than to touch.

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The main loop took out to the fork for the North Point loops. There are some sweet bits of single track goodness as you head out to the North Point with Gooseberry Mesa typically in the background.

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I had ridden this thing a couple of times before but failed to notice the gap this slab went across until this trip.  I guess I was too focused on where I was going.

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The same gap after it opens up a bit.   What an amazingly gorgeous day!   Once back out to the main mesa  we enjoyed a bit of route finding as there seemed to be cairns here, there and sometimes seemingly no where.  You could play out here all day.

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Our playing around eventually took us to “The Waterfall”, one of the iconic features of the mesa.  This was my first time doing the waterfall with actual water around.  I dug how the water showed the line I took. The dark line on the slab is the rear tire while the much fainter line to the right of it is the front wheel.  Here is a shot from a previous trip that shows the led in.  We took the Magic Carpet Ride trail back to the trailhead.   After leisurely enjoying some refreshments and more snacks we had to lament about the reality of still having day jobs and the continual puzzle of how to grow old without growing up.    Considering that we spent that last few days playing in the dirt and riding bicycles we had scored points for neither growing old or growing up this weekend.   That shit would have to wait until tomorrow.

Utah Weekend – Boy Scouts & Zen

May 15th, 2015 by MTBBill

We woke up on day 2 of our Utah weekend to find that it had rained most of the night.    After consulting with the folks at Over The Edge in Hurricane, we changes our ride plans for the day to kept from mucking up the trails. We went out to the Quail Overlook Trail System which is beside the Quail Creek Reservoir.  Colloquially this place is known as the Boy Scout trails due to a nearby Boy Scout camp.

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Oh my this place put down some techno-spank right out of the gate that included tight rocky single track with plenty of “power” moves.

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The trail system primarily includes four loops on three sawtooth escarpments.

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The builders have done a super job of laying out the system to maximize the use of a rather small chunk of land.

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This place is advertised as an expert level trail system and I can’t argue with rating, but I will clarify it.   This is a “slow-tech” wheels-on-the-ground playground. There is not a lot flow here and it is not a bad thing, its part of the character of that place that just seems to pack “It” into the miles.

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I particularly enjoyed the combination moves.   Things like a rocky climbs with ledge moves coming out tight switch backs.   There were plenty sections where you seem to be continually in a state of using body English.

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The most northern loop called Adventure Scout was by far the most technical of the bunch out there.   We ran into one of the primary builders of this trail system (Quentin – – Awesome Job Quentin!!) and he described a couple of sections as best ridden “Balls over Brains”.  It is interesting to note that not following that advice could have you literally going “Balls over Brains” into some very unforgiving terrain.   There is a lot of effort per mile designed into this this place.  We only did a little over six miles and it felt like we had done twice that.   I really dug the combination of power moves and the bit of  mental “checkers” required to clean the stuff out here.

As we enjoyed a tasty smuggled in San Diego microbrew over lunch, we decided that we had enough gas in the leg tanks for an afternoon session.

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We hit up The Zen Trail which is right on the outskirts of St George.   I had heard lots of good stuff about this trail and it has always been on the To-Do List but have never gotten to it.

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Things opened up with a climb and soon we were near the edge of the mesa.

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There is about a total of 1,100 feet of climbing on this route.    We could see ominous clouds slowly moving our way.

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The variety of this trail is quite awesome. Rock crawling, sweet single track, vista, there are lots of goodies out here.

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When we got to the top of the mesa we had some great views of Green Valley below.  We could also see the rain a coming!  Shortly after the picture above, the rain caught us and the camera remained holstered in my pack.   The descent was exceptional with a combination of sweet single track and with some slick rock.  There were also a few undulations along the way that put a little sting in the legs at this point in the day’s overall effort.   We also missed a turn and found ourselves on double track.  After a bit of uphill backtracking we hooked back up on the single track that lead us back to the trailhead.

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Just as we were getting back to the truck the rain stopped and the sun broke out.    Ahhh rainbows and microbrews from heaven.  We were living well!

 

Utah Weekend – Guacamole

May 11th, 2015 by MTBBill

This past weekend Bill O’Neil and I made a dash to Utah to get on some good red dirt and killer rock riding.    We were quite surprised that a storm had settled in the SoCal area the night before and brought in some much needed rain along with some snow at the higher elevations.   It was a mighty fine time to get the hell of Dodge.   The destination for day one was the Guacamole trails perched up on a mesa outside of Virgin, Utah.   After copious amounts coffee, beef jerky and a tank and change of fuel (burned at a highly uneconomical rate), we crossed into Utah to be greeted with storm clouds.   As we rolled through St George and Hurricane we were intermittently getting rained on but I had learned that in this neck of the woods if you don’t like the weather wait five minutes.  As we rolled through Virgin there were clear skies above and the dirt road that goes up to the mesa had just a puddle or two.

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It was a bit brisk and windy but beautifully sunny when we rolled out onto the first trail segment called Margarita. This was a new trail to me and I was stoked to check it out.

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It was not long before we juked onto the Salt on the Rim trail and got in some good views along with the sight of incoming weather.   Someone in Seattle once told me that there is no such thing as bad weather only bad gear.  We had the gear, but from the best we could tell it looked like this storm would pass us just to the south.

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We did end up get a little sprinkling on us as we made our way out to the main Guacamole Loop but it only lasted a few minutes.   What we were left with was straight up hero dirt.

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We took a connector trail called Lime (These trail names rock!) that went out to another loop called Holy Guacamole that took all the way to the southern tip of the mesa.  We had good views of Zion Nation Park as well as the north rim of Gooseberry Mesa from here.

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This is some fantastic single track with good technical challenges through amazing landscape with Zion National Park just a stones through away.

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In several spots the trail is literally along the park’s fence line.

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Holy Guacamole this is a fun trail!

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The Holy Guacamole goodness brought us back to the other side of the earlier loops we were on that eventually took us back to the trailhead.   This was some grade A trail awesomeness and it will certainly not be my last time riding on this mesa.   Shortly after we got off the mesa and headed back to St George we got into a good bit of rain.   We were pretty stoked at our window of fortune with the rain and we were particularly glad we had decided to get a hotel room for this trip vice our typical camping arrangements.  It was a mighty fine start to the weekend.

Sasebo Catchup

October 10th, 2014 by MTBBill

I have been back from Sasebo for a couple of weeks now.   The last few weeks that I was in Japan was pretty hectic.   I did have time to ride but little time to do much posting.  Here are some pictures.

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From the north slope of Mt Yumihari.   I come to loath the rental wreak that I had.   Cantilever rim brakes!   I now that the hand shake strength of a pair vise grips.

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Views found in a break in the foliage.

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There was plenty of rain which kept most the trails soggy for way too much of the time I was there.  I often did the road climb up to the top of the Mt Yumihari after work.   It was almost always a chasing the sun kind of ride.  While I typically beat the sun, the rain got me on more than a few occasions.

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Views from a park at near the top of Mt Eboshi east of town.

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Sasebo as seen from Mt Eboshi

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More of Mt Eboshi

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More views from the chasing the sun series

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I lost the race against the sun on this ride

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Intentionally enjoyed losing the race on this evening.

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Views from south of town.

Sunshine Ride in Sasebo

September 7th, 2014 by MTBBill

Over the last month that I have been working over here there has been about four individual days that it has not rained for some portion of the day.   The soil composition in this area is typically clay based which holds up to the rain well but becomes treacherously slick.    The cantilever rim brakes coupled with the 1.75 tires on my rent-a-wreck hard-tail makes riding of this stuff with an moisture on them at all downright sporty.   

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 It rained early Saturday and had been sunny ever since so I decided to test the waters on one of the prominent mountains in the area, Akasaki.   The trail has seen some maintenance earlier in the year so the tread was in good condition and the trail was well brushed. I could tell during the climb that traction could be a problem on the descent as plenty of finesse was required on the climb to keep from breaking the rear wheel loose.   The views from top were exceptional.

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  The descent of this trail was however still pretty slick and made for a squirrely descent, particularly in the turns.   Notice in the photo above there is some four fingered braking going on.  If I would have known my work project was going to be extended by nearly a month, I would have brought my bike over.   On the plus side this rental is completely unforgiving so it forces you to handle the bike precisely.

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After way too much fun on the “easy” descent, I passed on this trail under the guise of discretion is the better part of valor.   I opted to spend the rest of the ride scoping out trailheads and crossings off the back roads of the area for future exploration when the trails are drier.

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This sign unfortunately does not say “Hiro-San’s Texas Style BBQ 100 meters ahead”.   There are lots of wild boar in this area and I believe the signs either says beware of boars or indicates a typical boar crossing.   Ummmm Bacon!

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Shirahama Beach was the apex point of this ride.    A snack and a little bit of chilling was in order before it was time to start a good bit of climbing on the return leg.

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I have come across about half a dozen of these land crabs here in Japan.   I was a good half a mile from the ocean and at least 100 feet plus in elevation.   These are the basically the same kinds of crabs you see around the rocks in most stateside beaches but these guys have adapted to thrive away from the shorelines here.  Mr. Crabs here was pissed.

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A view of Kujyukushima from Tenkaiho Park.   I have ridden on all of these peaks at one time or another with the exception of the volcano looking peak to the left, Mt Atago.   It is still on the list.

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This is literally the lawn mowing crew at this park.   The grounds keepers stake out the goats and once they eat down their circle they move the stakes.  Pretty cool.

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Got Grass Will Mow!  (Will through in fertilizing your lawn for free)

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By the time I made my way “home” I had covered 22 miles and 3,000 feet of climbing.  A yummy Nippon microbrew was definitely earned.

Pre-Typhoon ride in Sasebo

August 7th, 2014 by MTBBill

Earlier this week, work has taken me back to Sasebo in the southern part of Japan.  I’ll be here for about a month and change.  I had debated about shipping/bringing one of my own bikes over here for the duration but between the cost and hassle, I decided to take my chances with getting a rental.    I’m thinking I maybe should have went with shipping one of my own bikes over as the pickings were slim at the rental place.

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The steed for this trip is a total Throw “Way The Hell” Back rig complete with canti-brakes.   Brakes is a bit of an optimistic term in this case, slowers is more appropriate.  On the plus side, I’ll soon have hands that can grip like a bear trap and I should not be accused of skidding up the trails around here.

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The weather guessers were calling for a typhoon to come through the area the following day so getting a ride in before that was a priority.   The outdoor adventure center were I rented the bike is more centered on scuba and deep sea fishing than biking so I had to spend quite a bit of time get the bike setup and tuned before heading off for the late afternoon ride.   I’m fairly certain that the clipless pedal I put on the bike doubles its value.

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When I started out from my hotel room, a nearby thermometer read 90 degrees with the humidity being around 85%.  I was sweating and I was barely moving.   The climb up Mount Yumihari is on narrow paved roads.  The plan was to take the pavement up and a couple of different trails down and then back into town.

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The climb is fairly steep and it was good workout.   I have done this climb numerous times so I knew what to expect which helped with the climb but I was still getting worked. Once I got to the top I realized that all the pre-ride tinkering had eaten up my daylight margin.   I was pretty certain that taking the trails back down would end up being a night ride.   A night ride I was not really prepared for.  So I went with plan B and enjoyed the views from the top for a leisurely bit before taking the roads back down the mountain.  This should help with the jet lag.   This is not my first time MTBing in Sasebo so you can find other Sasebo related blog posts here.

 

Quick Trip to Japan

November 7th, 2013 by MTBBill

Work this past week has brought me back to Japan on a short trip.  I did bring along on my bike essentials and on Sunday I was able to take the rental bike out through some old stomping grounds on the Muira Peninsula.  It was a cloudy overcast day and while the sun seemed to threaten to make an appearance it never did.   The good news was it was not raining.

This started out with a bit of street riding from Yokosuka over to the town of Zushi.   I had forgotten to bring my GPS and maps of the area on this trip so the plan was going to be to stick to know routes.     When I first got into Zushi was when I had to make my first decision about where to ride.  I could either roll over to the “Duck Pond” area ride  that stuff and then link up with the Tennin trail system and drop down into Kamakura or I could turn south and hit the Fugato-yama area.

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I opted for the latter and after a bit of street climbing and some steep cement steps I was into the woods.  The rain from previous days made for some treacherous bike handling as the clay bases soil in the area gets a traction rating of “butter” when wet.    Slick sections of clay and wet angled roots all added to the overall excitement of being back on the trails that I have come to enjoy so much.  The loop I had planned in the Fugatoyama area included an out-and-back segment up to the peak.   On my way back from the peak I stopped at the junction of a trail I had never taken.  It drops you way down into a large basin area to the south.   Several years ago I had explored down in that basin coming in from the other end.    I was quite certain I had been at the other end of this trail down in the bottom of the basin.   Taking this trail would not only be a bit of exploration but would also mean committing to the follow the basin trail system down to the west and out on the opposite side of the peninsula from where my hotel was at.  I took the path I had never traveled.

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The trail was somewhat I expected in that it was steep and followed along a watershed.   The previous rain made part of the trail more stream than trail in spots and it was always fairly narrow.  I was digging being on some new dirt while hearing the little voice in my head fretting a little that I might be wrong about where this trail is going.

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Turns out I was right about the trail once down into the basin, I turned onto a trail that flowed a stream down to the west.   The trail was extremely small and rugged with lots of water crossings at this end.  The further west you go the more established and less rugged the trail becomes as this trail seems see more usage by hikers at that end.

After following the trails out to a trailhead I followed a series of streets out to the western shore of the peninsula.  From there I turned south and followed the roads and streets south through Hyama.  The route turned out to be a little longer than I remembered.   I was happy to recognize the turn off for the dirt road up Ogusuyama, the highest peak on the peninsula.

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I was due for a pick me up so a snack from a local store and one of favorite treats was in order.   Canned coffee served hot from vending machines that are all over the place here.

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After the caffeine hit I started the grunting up to the peak.   I made my way up to the an observatory at the top.   From there I took a trail my friends here have simply referred to as “Trail 2″ that will take you into the Kinugasa area.

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This may be the first time I have stopped to take a picture of this section.   Its mighty zippy through here.

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Another fine section of trail.  Not too far beyond this point I was back on streets and roads and headed back to my Yokosuka hotel.  My legs were fairly cooked and mud splattered grin from ear to ear.

 

There is no MTBing in Bahrain!

September 8th, 2013 by MTBBill

I spent the tail end of July and most of August working in Bahrain.   For those who have never heard of the place it is an island in the Persian Gulf east of Saudi Arabia.    The maximum elevation is maybe 100 feet and pretty much everything is sand so the mountain biking opportunities are mighty freaking limited.    Of course a Surly Moonlander would help a little in that department.   Hmmm I wonder if I could get one with some S&S couplings on the frame?

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Even with a bike, I would have a hard time getting motivated to get out in the heat and ride.  Everyday it was over 100 by 10AM.   Several days in particular it was 108 with 74% humidity.

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I did manage to get out and grab some sights while I was over there including the Grand Mosque

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I took a tour of the Al-Fateh Grand Mosque on one of their “open houses” for non-Muslims. [aka Infidel Outreach Day :-)]   Work involved a lot going back and forth between an office and the outside.  After a few weeks of the cycling in and out of the heat and AC I came down with some chest and sinus crud that required some antibiotics to knock down.      The project I’m working has several phases to it so I was able to come home for a couple of weeks in between one of the phases.

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I was still not completely over the crud when I got home so I refrained getting back on the bike and potentially backsliding with the crud.     My girlfriend and I did make a trip up to Palomar mountain for a bit of mild hiking.   It was really nice to see some greenery in mild temps.

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One of the locals we saw along the trail.

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By this past Friday I was feeling well again so a dawn patrol ride out at Mission Trail Regional Park was in order.   There was some weather moving through the area which made some cool rainbows.  I had ridden on the west side of the park in quite sometime.   So I hit up the Jackson, the Rim trail, S-turns and the Soycott trails.    I had not checked out North Fortuna from the north slope so I looped back around and when up North Fortuna from the north slope.  I had my long-legged bike so it was overwhelming a hike-a-bike in that direction but would be a very techy ride on the descent.

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After getting up to the North Fortuna peak, I descended the south slope to the saddle and then continued on up to South Fortuna.    It had also been a long time since I had taken the South Fortuna staircase.  I knew there were many spots were you had to pick and choose your battles but there were quite a few more than I remembered from my last go at this trail.  I want to say that the techy sections were in worse shape than before, but it is more likely that my skills and/or nerves have slackened up some.

Either way it was great to be back on the bike and again.   I’m heading back to Bahrain tomorrow and I’m not looking forward to another stint of being off the bike.   Work can be so pesky sometimes!

Killer Weekend in Hurricane Utah

April 5th, 2013 by MTBBill

I have a mountain of pictures to sort through from this past weekend of camping and riding near Hurricane Utah. Here are a few I’m working on.

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Friday we drove from Socal to Gooseberry Mesa where we setup camp and got in an near sunset ride out on the North Rim Trail.

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Saturday we did the Hurricane Cliffs Trail System Loop of Goulds Rim, JEM and the Huricane Rim Trail

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It was a great loop of about 21.5 miles in length and with a surprisingly sizable amount of climbing.   We had plans for a late afteroon ride on Gooseberry as well but ending up enjoying tasty beers at camp instead.

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Sunday we went over to Little Creek Mesa.   I had only ridden the Main Loop on a previous trip so we had plans to hit up some of the other goods out there.   We ended up doing the main loop and then getting out ot the North Point.

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After the North Point we worked our way over to the Magic Carpet Ride trail to get back to the trailhead.   We had plans to hit up a bit of Gooseberry before sunset but tasty beverages and semi-done legs dicated chilling at camp.

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Monday morning we got fairly early, grabbed some breakfast and headed out from camp.

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We hit up the South Rim trail

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As well as the Hidden Canyon trail in both directions.   I finished up the ride with nothing left in the tank and the legs completely shot.    A great way to finish off a long weekend of riding.   We soon had packed up camp and were making our way back to SoCal.    More to follow….

Back in Japan – Yoko Dirt Time

November 11th, 2012 by MTBBill

Due to my last work project running long in Sasebo, my time back at home was just a week long before I headed back to Japan for some work in Yokosuka.   I flew back into Japan on a Saturday evening and decided to try and shake off some jet lag with ride on Sunday.

After grabbing a rental bike and setting it up with my pedals and some sizing tweaks I was through on the bike garb and on the road.   Today was not an exploration ride but a return to the Fugato-yama area which is one of my regular stomping grounds when I am in this neck of the woods.

It was a beautiful sunny day with a touch fall briskness in the air.  Despite only having about 6 hours of sleep after being up for 26 hours I felt really good on the street riding out to the trails.   I think this was a combination of being a bit fitter than I have been in the last six months coupled with still be ing a bit on Japan time with only having a week on US time.  Whatever the reason, I was digging having some energy in the tank and some iron in the legs while out in some nice nature.

The trails were in exceptionally good condition.   Obviously it had not rained heavy for maybe a week as some of the sections that are hellishly slippery when moist were fairly managable which was another bonus. 

It was a substantual act of being unselfish that I stopped to take this photo.  This is a long section of awesome flowing gravity feed goodness that just makes you smile.  Most times of the year the steep hillside is somewhat hidden by the vegitation.  With winter on its way the mixed forest flora is thinning out some to reveal more of its often “stealth” exposure.

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I did not have a huge route planned out here on this day as I had plans for the evening.   I had a handful of street miles to ride back to my hotel after popping out of the woods.  So there I was “just riding along” on the sidewalk along highway 16.  I managd to clip a sign like the one above while going about 20mph that jerked my handlebar pretty hard.  I was able to correct enough to keep from going full on body surfing on the concrete but the bike went way off line and Iended checking a concrete wall with my shoulder.    My head also smacked the wall, but my helmet completely earned its keep so the melon was no worse for wear.

For those who have been wondering, my test reveal that roadside Japanese concrete seems to have an average grit fact of somewhere between 30 and 45.   

After a very stingy shower, I hopped back on the bike and rode a did a few more miles of street riding over to friends Ken and Emi house.   We had nice evening of catching up things over tasty Japanese microbrews and a yummy homemade dinner.   It was a mighty fine opening day back in the land of the rising sun!