Archive for the ‘General MTB’ Category

XP-10 Jump Starter Review

January 28th, 2015 by MTBBill

I’m planning on doing some solo adventures in the not so distant future and while I believe I have the being sufficient aspects of mountain biking out on the trail figured out, I assessed that I needed to shore up my solo base-camping and exploring with my truck self sufficiency a bit.  I always carry a set of jumper cables in my truck which are great if there is another vehicle around but what do you do if you are out in the middle of nowhere and your battery goes dead?  Luckily it has not happened to me yet but I have had a couple of scares.    The Rainbow Rim Trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for examples qualifies as an out in the middle of nowhere ride.   You lose cell coverage at least 20 miles before you get to the trailhead and you could be waiting a day plus for someone else to come along if you are out there in the middle of the at certain times of the year.  I wanted a way to jump start my truck should the battery go dead without having to resort to install a second battery and isolator system in the truck.  I also did not want something that was bulky or weighed a ton. Additionally, I wanted a method to recharge my various gadgets I would have around the truck base-camp (laptop for futzing with photos, DSLR and GoPro Batteries, etc…)

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So after a bunch of research and gawking with various offering I bought the Micro-Start XP-10 Jump Starter/Personal Power Supply from Antigravity Batteries. I have had it now for a few months and the XP-10 fits the bill for my needs and then some.   The Lithium-Ion Jump Starter/Battery Pack is quite small for the power it provides.  Its 9″ by 3.2″ by 1.2″ and weighs just 1 lb. 2 oz.   It comes in a simulated leather carrying case with an assortment of plug in and out cables.  It regards to its primary purpose of jumpstarting my truck, it has that covered in spades.

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The Smart Clamp Jumper Cables

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It comes with a diminutive set of battery clamp cables (14.5″ Long) that plug into a specific port on the end of the battery.    Antigravity calls them “Smart Clamps” since they check for things like reverse polarity and how bad off the battery is discharged.   To use just hook up the clamps to your car battery, plug the clamps into the XP-10 battery and turn it on, if you get a green light on the clamp, hop in your vehicle and start it up.  The XP-10 provides 300 starting amps with a peak current of up to 600amps!  The directions tell you to disconnect the battery clamps within 30 seconds of starting your vehicle.    I have disconnected my truck battery completely and this thing was able to start my truck.  I did this several times and the battery still showed a full charge.  There are videos of folks starting six and eight cylinder trucks dozens of times on a single charge.

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Now for the personal power supply features. The unit has two USB Outputs that can provide 2A and 1A of charging current for whatever USB devices you may have.  At the same end of the battery as the USB ports is the connection for the battery clamps (normally behind a rubber cover) and a LED flashlight that has High, Low, Strobe and SOS modes. The company’s website list the battery as 18,000mA capacity and the back of the case list it as 66.6WH which I’m not sure how many smart phone recharges that will get you but a lot seems be in the right ballpark. More importantly the amperage it can provide is impressive.  The literature does not give a lumens value for the “Hi-Power” LED flashlight.   The beam on the light is more a flood than spot.   Comparing to some of my other flashlights I would guess this is around a 100-130 lumen light.   While the light can be handy it is was not one of my needs when looking for a jumper starter.

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The kit includes a short 4 way USB cable that has iPhone lighting and 30-pin plugs along with USB mini and micro plugs.

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On the side of the unit are 5 LEDs that give an indication of the unit’s charge level.  The power of the battery is such that I can use the battery for other things and still be confident that it could start my truck as long as I have 3 LEDS left.  The single button that operates the unit is located on this side as well.  Once turned on, the unit can detect if the devices are not drawing any power and will automatically shut itself off.   One of the outputs its provides is a 12V 10A circuit that can be used for a wide array items.  The kit does not include a female cigarette socket to the 5.1mm DC plug cable which would be quite handy.  This was not a deal breaker for me as you can get it for about $11 on the companies website.  But in my case I had one already from another piece of gear.

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An additionally output is a 19V circuit that can handle up to 3.5A.   The majority of laptop makers in the world seem to have settled on 19 volts as the charging voltage for their devices.   The kit includes a small DC plug jumper (5.1 mm that fits both the 12V and 19V ports) and 8 adaptors that fit the majority of the laptop manufacturer’s offerings.   Note for you Apple folks, the MacBook Pro and Air laptops use different voltages (16.5V or 14.5 based on various models and years) so making a custom adaptor is not a simple task for your equipment.

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Charging the XP-10 is as simple as using the provided AC-DC charging adaptor or the 12V cigarette plug adaptor. The XP-10 also has built in overcharge as well as over-discharge protection circuitry.  Amongst the other devices of this genre, the overcharge protection and the ability to be charged from a vehicle (12-14V) were huge selling points for me.    Some of the other units could not be charged from a cigarette lighter port or did not have overcharge protection.  The ability to charge the unit in this manner allows me to use this battery around camp and I can recharge it from the truck while driving to the next location.   Additionally I have a portable/backpacking solar panel (which I’m going to review later) that can output the correct voltage to charge this battery as well.   This means I can let the sun charge up the battery over the course of the day while I’m out playing on the trails and not worry about it being overcharged (which can damage batteries).  I can then use this battery to recharge my toys back at camp without having to be concerned about draining down the batteries in my truck.

I don’t have fancy official testing stuff like graphs of voltage/amperage over time stuff.   Here are some practical things I have done with battery pack.  All of the following was done on single charge.   I disconnected my Toyota Tacoma’s (4.0L V6 Engine) battery from the truck and started the truck three times.  Yes, this battery pack  jump started my truck three times with no battery in the truck whatsoever.   The following day I recharged a coworkers Blackberry from 5% to 70%.  Later that day I recharged another Blackberry from 8% back to 100%.   During this time the charge level on the XP-10 battery went from 5 lights (which I assume to be mean 80 to 100% full) down to four.  The following day I recharged my ASUS Zenbook Laptop (quad-core i7 Intel processor) from 11% back up to 96% (while I continued to use it) before the XP-10 shutdown as it was discharged.

I’m pretty freaking impressed with this gadget.  The MSRP is $209.99 and I paid around $150 for my unit.  I consider it well worth the investment for the versatility and piece of mind it provides.

 

Chasing the Sun at Lake Hodges

January 25th, 2015 by MTBBill

I have been hitting up Lake Hodges as the after-work ride as of late.   It is right on the way home at it only take a handful minutes to be out on the trail after getting off the freeway.

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Here is Nichol working a log ride.

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Critters seen along the trail.

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Views from the trail behind and above the boat launch.

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A mechanical on the Tuesday ride turned me into a reluctant single speeder.   Of course it happened right after the apex of the ride.

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So I have not dusted my night-time riding gear in quite sometime.  As an after-work ride in January chasing the sun is always part of the equation.   The sunsets have been pretty awesome as of late so “losing” the race with the sun is its own reward.

 

Winter in San Diego

January 14th, 2015 by MTBBill

My how time flies.    It been a while since my last post.  I would like to say that I have been too busy riding my bike to post, but that is simply not the case.  Between work, family, the holidays and a handful of the other things getting to the keyboard has just not been happening.

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However I have been getting out and about and doing some research and just seeing stuff.    Valley of the Moon out near Jacumba is really cool and I am planning to spend some more time out there.

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I have also been riding some trails that I’m obliged to not publish.

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The recent rains have certainly greened this up around the county.   Above is Raptor Ridge just east of Lake Hodges.

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Some more of the greenery.

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Cruising the Del Dios Trail

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One of the latest chasing the sun after-work rides

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We did not leave any daylight unused on this ride.

BLT, Redtail Roost and Noble Canyon

October 28th, 2014 by MTBBill

Saturday Nichol and I went up to Big Laguna Meadow to get in some biking and a night of camping.

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It was quite a pretty day with some fall colors up in the trees and exceptionally nice temps. After setting up camp we did a cruise around meadow.

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We were up bright and early the next morning to meet a gang-o-folks down at the lower Noble Canyon Trailhead for some playing around for the better part of the day.  We left some vehicles at the bottom and then drove up to the Redtail Roost trailhead off of Sunrise Highway.    There were at total of 10 of us in the gaggle.   Redtail roost is a fun trail that goes along a wooded ridgeline for a ways before descending down into the Laguna Meadow area.    Encountering a dude all decked out in camouflage early along the trail was good reminder that it is hunting season up here.   I was also glad I passed on wearing my buckskin jersey and Viking helmet on this ride.

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After descending Redtail Roost we climbed up Aqua Dulce to the top of the Los Gatos trail where we then descended down to the meadow.    But not without playing a few features here and there.  Here is Michael playing on a skinny.

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Dave getting in some log action as well.  Once down on the meadow we went up the east side of the meadow a ways and the did a side loop that included a portion of the connector trail that goes between the meadow and the Pacific Crest Trail.   Once back at the meadow we went around and up the west side of the meadow and caught the connector over to Penny Pines and the upper Noble Canyon trailhead.  It was here that David’s frame broke where the downtube meets the bottom bracket.   So he broke off  from the group for a very dodgy ride back to Redtail Roost along Sunrise Highway.

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It was Noble Canyon time now and there was plenty of good stuff as always between the top and the bottom.   Here is Jenny rolling through the woods up near the top.

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James playing on a jump about halfway down or so.

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James rolling into the “Stairway to Hell”

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Kevin meets Stairway to Hell.  I was kind of jealous of his superlight rig earlier in the ride, you know like on the climbs.   I was pretty stoke with my rig through these parts.  After spending most the summer riding a XC hardtail rent-a-wreck my long-legged stretched out full suspension couch felt awesome through this stuff.  Woot Woot!

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James working through some chunk.     By the time we hit the bottom trailhead most folks’ mileage device had us doing between 24 and 25 miles with a little under 2,800 feet of climbing in.   While the rest of the crew headed out, I went back up to he meadow and we broke camp down at a leisurely pace and then headed out for tasty BBQ and Beer at Alpine Beer Company.   Another good weekend on a bike.


View The Redtail Roost to Noble Canyon Route in a larger map or directly download it here

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.

 

Another Cruise in Cuyamaca

July 9th, 2014 by MTBBill

Nichol and I went back up to Cuyamaca State Park this past weekend for another ride.  We started at the staging area by the San Diego River and went up the west-side connector trail to the Visitor Center

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From there we took the Green Valley fire road up through the valley to the bottom of Soapstone Grade.

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Instead of making the left hander and going up Soapstone Grade fire road which is part of the Cuyamaca Grand Loop,  we continued straight onto the Upper Green Valley Trail and climbed up to the La Cima trail that roughly parallels Sunrise Highway. This section of trail was fairly rocky which extracts some additional energy out of you beyond what the grade would tell. As you near the top of the trail you leave Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and enter the Anza Borrego State Park.

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We then took the La Cima trail west and enjoyed some sweet flowing mostly downhill singletrack for a couple of miles.

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When then turned south onto the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT).   This a is really nice section of singletrack that offers some great views of Lake Cuyamaca and the surrounding grasslands.

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For the first half of this section you are doing some mild climbing before the trail transitions into mild descending with good flow.

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Just before the CRHT joins up with Soapstone Grade fire road at top of that fire road’s steep climb you leave the Anza Borrego State Park and reenter Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.  From here we turned east on Soapstone Grade fireroad for about a mile of flat land cruising.

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We then took the Stonewall Creek fireroad south from here which shed off elevation fairly quickly back down into Green Valley.  There are both some rocky and sandy sections on this fire road that if not handled well, can lead to an unplanned dismount at speed which could be hard to stick the landing.   Stonewall Creek fireroad connected back to the Green Valley fireroad where we retraced our route back to the truck.  This was a little over a 17-mile lollipop shaped route that had a little over 1,800 feet of climbing involved.   This was Nichol’s longest and hardest ride to date that offered some new technical challenges for her.  To celebrate a ride well done that did not include any blood letting we sampled some of the offerings from Nickel Beer Company in Julian before chasing down some Mexican food.   It was a good day to be on a mountain bike.

Return of Wednesday Stoke in Alpine

July 6th, 2014 by MTBBill

It had been way too long since I had been out to Alpine for some Wednesday stoke with Steve (AKA Aquaholic).  So some emails were sent and in the very first reply Steve was laying the ground for a lackluster performance.  He saud he has been doing nothing but working on stupid human tricks on his Jet Ski and has not been on the bike in five weeks.

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So I know Steve has been indeed working on said tricks, but not whining about no riding and bad fitness, that’s just classic Steve sandbagging.

 

Not that Steve and I race up Anderson, but I can count on one hand how many times I have gotten up that trail ahead of Steve so I was expecting to call him all sorts of synonyms for sandbagger on the ride.    When we left the trailhead it was 89 degrees and we have gathered enough brain-boil data over the years to safely assume that there a few spots along the climb that are typically about 5 degrees warmer than the trailhead.  After the initial bit of pavement spinning and the opening section of descending the climbing started in earnest.   What the Hell? Steve was already waving me around.   I declined and decided to just ease up and chit chat some.  The kind of idle chit-chat that kills me when I’m struggling as it demonstrates the person behind is not completely winded and its some subliminal pressure to give moving you slug! Steve was talking about the heat.  Now the heat normally kicks my ass, but I had just spent nearly the last month working in the middle-east where the daytime highs got up to as high as 108 and the night-time lows got down to maybe 98 at best.   These low 90’s were just downright refreshing!

After the next wave around, I took Steve up on the offer and he slowly started tailing off.  I was feeling pretty strong and the while I was not trying to push myself up the hill,  I was aware that I gears were ticking over easier than they have in the past.   I’m having and good day and Steve is having a bad time with the climb.

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About a little more than halfway up the climb the trail has been jacked by some four-wheeler folks who got themselves stuck off the trail.  There solution was to bring in a dozer and widen and “clean up ” the trail.

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So I made it up Pistachio Point well ahead of Steve and had time to document the lack of any fresh Steve droppings.

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Shortly after arriving Steve was curled up in fetal position and he even had to use the emergency binky that up until now had only been used to taunt the riders behind him.  Shortly after this picture was taken the thing fell apart from dry rot after it first only usage.

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Once the climbing was done, the tables were turned and life popped back into Steve and he was right back into the airborne routine.  I was a completely different story.   I had not been riding any “wheels off the ground” technical stuff as of late and I had not been out here in a long time.   All the rocks looked bigger and more menacing while the ruts looked deeper.

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I was able to get a little bit of air under the tires but for the most part I did not feel comfortable at all.   I just did not have the feel for it today.    I clearly need to get back out on these kind of technical bits more often.

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The main descent back down was in summer dirt mode and the upper section where the doozer had gone through really removed much of the character of this trail through there.  A few good rains should spruce it back up.   It was good to get back out on the trail with Steve again.   Plans for more Wednesday stoke were plotted over tasty beer and BBQ at Alpine Beer Company afterwards.

 

Cruise in the Cuyamacas

July 2nd, 2014 by MTBBill

After working over the middle east for the better part of June it was nice to be back home and get out onto some trails.  This past weekend my girlfriend and I took a cruise through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.  Here are a few pictures.

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Nice bit of shade in Green Valley

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Some folks seen along the along the trail

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The smile was about to be gone at this point as we neared the bottom of Soapstone Grade.

There has been quite a few changes to the park since I last updated my site that includes some new options for cyclist so I’ll have to dedicate some more time and get my site updated here in the coming weeks.