Mountain Bike Bill, The Dirt on the Dirt

Mammoth Day Two

What a fun day in Mammoth we had yesterday.   After leisurely getting up and around, the boys and I went off to do some fishing at some of the local lakes.    Fishing is a good way to help teach the value of patience and we should have been doing this more often.  With my kid’s daily life of video games, hockey, skateboarding, bikes and all the other things that keep them buzzing with activity it was good to put things in the slow lane for a change.  We were all reminded that is called fishing and not catching.   


On several occasions we watched trout swim right below the rock were were perched on.   One even came up to the surface and gulped down a bug that just landed on the water. 

I was really stoked when my boys not only got to see a Bald Eagle but also watched it swoop down and pluck a trout right out of the water.  The eagle then landed on an dead tree nearby and proceeded to scarf down the trout.

While all Bald Eagles are big birds this was not a huge eagle like the one I saw in Anacortes, Washington earlier this year.   One thing is for certain I was so stoked that my boys got to have such an awesome nature experience without having to turn to the Discovery channel.

My mid-afternoon we decided to cut the fish some slack and headed back to the condo.   Looking at the clock we realized we had enough time to catch a gondola ride up the mountain.  Jake and Casey had some shopping on thier to-do list so Will and I suited up and headed out for a run down the mountain.  Will has been bucking to do some of the more difficult trails on the mountain.   I was also looking forward to some of the more technical and feature/stunt oriented trails as well but at the same time the Dad in me has been apprehensive about putting Will in over his head.  

After talking with some folks I decided to test Will out on the black diamond upper section of “Skid Marks”  that starts off right off the top of the mountain.    Will did quite well through the rocky bits and switchbacks, but did take a minor “soil sample”.   He did have all of the protective gear on so he did not even get a scratch.   I did find that following my son through the technical and semi-exposed sections made my riding more difficult as my brain kept switching back and forth between mountain-biker and dad mode.      

Once I realized that Will’s bike handling skills have been improving significantly I found that I was able to spend more time riding with him as a fellow mountain biker and and less as a protective father.  After Skid Marks we took the more intermediate trails of Paper Route and Juniper down the mountain and enjoyed some great swooping and flowing singletrack goodness down the mountain.  

The late afternoon light was really nice and colors of the mountains were starting to go off.   We stopped a couple of times just to take in the views.  Will has always enjoyed the thrill of riding but I think something may have clicked this afternoon about intrinsic value of experiencing the scenery and of the overall outdoor experience beyond simply the enjoyment of riding the bike.

Changing Ride Plans

 So the plan for today was to hit up some Santa Ana Mountains Fireroad Up Singletack down action. One phone call from a total stranger yeseterday afternoon changed those plans. The stranger in question was the manager of a gas station a few miles from house. My oldest son, Will, had gone skating with some of his friends and something had gone wrong. The paramedics had already been called and all the guy would say that he had really hurt his right hand.

When I arrived the local fire department paramedics were already on the scene and had loosely wrapped up his thumb in what had already become a blood soaked cloth.  They advised me that they could save me a lot of money if I drove him to the ER myself, but his hand needed to be looked at right away.

So before long we were at the ER.  At this point I had not seen the wound yet but I was worried as Will said it was sorta numb. When the assessing nurse took of the dressing to get a look it as we were dealing with it was all I could do not to openingly freak out. Parents are meant to see their childrens’ bones. But there it was, back to the first knuckle was flayed open with the nail off to the side and the skin and muscle off to the other side with the bone showing. Our time spent in the waiting room was exactly zero seconds as we were whisked off to X-Ray and then Orthopedtics.  Will was a popular guy as many folks came by for a look. It did not take long for the doctors to make the call to bring in a hand-surgeon. There was going to be a delay in the specialist arriving so in addition to the normal pre-surgery stuff, “Dr. Feelgood” made a visit and gave Will some Morphine. Will was giggly happy for quite sometime before doozing off.

So the hand-surgeon arrives and within an hour Will is in the operating room to have his thumb “repaired”. That term seemed odd to hear as I expected something like sutured or set.  Repaired just seem so serious.

After a long couple of hours, he was out of surgery and off to the recovery room. The surgeon seems to think that it should heal up just fine.  He was kept overnight and released this morning.  He will be back to the the doc again in a few days to see how the healing is going and to see where to go from there.  Geez, you only wish for the best for your kids and it hurts to seem them hurt. Will will be taking a break from Hockey, Biking, Skating Boarding and the Electric Guitar for a bit. School work should be a little interesting as well since he is right-handed.

Of course like father like son there was a video camera on the scene. My bet is that his buddies will soon have it YouTubed.

Bill and Will Roadtrip Day 3 – Mount Pinos

Man, the things we do for our kids.   I got up at around 7AM and loaded up all my gear in the truck while Will was still sound asleep in the tent.   All of Will’s biking gear had been staged in the tent last night.    I drove down to the bottom of the mountain at 6,400 feet and started a 6.5 mile pavement climb back up to the campsite at 8,200 feet.  Will certainly has it in him to do this climb as he had tackled Palomar Mountain earlier in the year which encompassed 4,700-foot climb over 11.1 miles.  I wanted this ride to be more about fun than fitness today so I cut out most of the climbing for him.  The climb back to camp was not a steep one and I found it pretty easy to keep a pretty descent pace even with 2.6 Stick-E rubber tires.   I thought about taking the McGill trail up but I wanted both Will and I to experience a “new” trail together.  When I got back to camp, Will was already up and making himself some breakfast.

Views in the morning

I had left a few things back at camp so I would not have to climb with them, mainly my camera.  While I was getting that stuff in my camelbak, Will (who had already gotten geared up) commenced to start talking a little smack about Dad being a fiddle-fart.  So, I set him up.  I snippedly told him to “Go on ahead, you know I’m just going to catch you, even though I already climbed over six miles this morning”.   Well that was all it took, Will took the bait.  He casually said, “See you up the road” and pedaled off at a normal pace.  I yelled at him as he rode off, “Don’t start off too fast or you’ll be sorry!”  The hook was set.  Just when he thought he was out of view (but not quite), I saw him drop the hammer.   Nothing left to do now but reel him in a few minutes after the pace, grade and the thin air above 8,200 feet get done with him.

I finished up what I was doing and got rolling.   After a couple of turns in the road and Will still being out of site, I was impressed.   One turn later and I saw him, hunched over his handlebars on the side of the road.   The voice of Phil Lidgett came through my head, “Oh my, the young rider has cracked! There will be no hopes for a mountain top win for him today.”    Will got to rolling when I neared, but his pace was mighty slow and he complained of not feeling good.   We took an extended break for him to recover and I could not help but get a devilish grin on my face, when I told him to come on and stop fiddle-farting.  I wish I had my camera out to catch the look on his face when it dawned on him that he had fallen for a parental version of a Jedi Mindtrick.

View from Pinos

After he recovered, we soon left the pavement to continue climbing on a fireroad up to the Mt Pinos summit at 8,830 feet.   It was a fairly mellow climb and the views were pretty nice even with a bit of lingering haze from the NorCal wildfires.

Bill and Will

From here it was a mostly downhill affair back to the top of the pavement where we hooked up with some pretty nice and mostly buff singletracks that included the Harvest and Southridge trails.  These bits of goodness took us back by our camp and down to the McGill campground.

Harvest Trail

From the McGill campgroud, we picked up the amply named McGill trail which was an absolute heavenly bit of singletrack that worked its way down the mountain.  The grade was never steep and it was virtually buff the entire distance.   I rolled through hundreds of Kodiak moments and only captured a few.

Will in the trees

This picture provides very little justice to the view.

Killer View

Will had one of those moments of inattention that caused him to take a soil sample on a switchback.   After the initial uggh following the thump, he chuckled and dusted himself.   He then went back up the trail and nailed it the second time around.

Dusting Off

The blissful descent was over far too quickly and we were soon back up at camp and packing up.   Will has not learned much about repairing flats and other mechanicals yet so a solo descent down the McGill trail was not on the table.  I did let him ride the road down.  He thoroughly enjoyed the speed-fest coming down the mountain on the pavement.  We spent the rest of the day getting home and chatting about what a cool week we just had.   Once home it took all of about 15 minutes before Will was out the door to skate and hang with his friends and basically get back into his busy routine.   I’m sure as the teenage years roll in and along the competition for his time will get tougher so I am really thankful to have the time with him now.  ¦lt;/p>

Bill and Will Roadtrip Day 2 – The Central Coast

We woke up fairly early this morning to some nice sunshine over the Laguna Seca Recreation/Raceway Area.   Will reluctantly said his legs were sore and he did not think he would be up for riding today.  I’m glad he told me as I would not have wanted to push him into riding and then not enjoying himself.  We were orginally thinking of going to Montana Del Oro State Park and get in some riding.  

Laguna Seca

The nice thing about working off of an idea vice a schedule is that you can change things pretty darn easily.  After a bit of breakfast, we broke camp and hit the road.   It was just earlier in the week that the Pacific Coast Highway was reopened after being shutdown for nearly a week due to wildfires burning in the Big Sur and other areas of the Los Padres National Forest.   It has been quite a few years since I had been on this highway and I had forgotten just how pretty this drive can be.


 We stopped at many places along the way early on to take in the sights.  This was a good thing as before long the coast became completely socked in with thick fog and we could not see much at all until we were near San Simeon about 90 miles south of Monterey.


One of the really cool stops we did was at vista lookout about five miles north of Hearst Castle right off of the Pacific Coast Highway.  Here you can check out a large colony of Elephant Seals.  These are some big critters and the males make some mighty deep and throaty noises when other males get around their babes.

Elephant Sea

This fellow reminded me of a disgruntled Walmart customer say a earlier in the week.

Elephant Seal

We continued down the coast until we neared San Luis Obispo.  Instead of going to Montana Del Oro State Park we turned inland and made our way to Mt Pinos near the town of Labec.    We ended up at the Mt Pinos campground that sits at 8,200 feet and we had the pick of the place as we were the only ones there.  Later that evening two more groups would come in, but for the most part we had the great views virtually all to ourselves.

Camp sweet camp

We had several hours of daylight left after we got everything setup and the next thing you know Will was bucking to get on the bike and mess around near camp.   I joined in on the action and played around on a log.

Log Ride

The South Ridge trail starts right from the campground and goes down to the McGill Campground a couple of miles down the mountain.   I had to see the camp host down there so when I drove down, Will took the trail.   He was pretty darn excited when he came off the trail and proclaimed it was the coolest singletrack EVER!   The trail is setup as a cross-country ski trail and has plenty of small rounded jumps that are just the perfect size to catch some XC sized air.  Will really dug those and I was stoked to see him stoked.

Will Air

Back at camp, we enjoyed the last night of being able to have a campfire as a ban on them would start the following morning, due to the dry conditions.   We climbed into the tent an hour or so after sunset.  When we are back at home, Will is always trying to fight off going to bed.  It is like the world is moving too fast and he is going to miss out on something if he is sleeping.  It was nice to have him so easily climb into his sleeping bag.  I was reading a book and I had barely turned one page when I looked up to see him already down for the count.    Tomorrow we would get in a good chunk of riding in.

Camp fire

Bill and Will Roadtrip Day 1 – Santa Cruz

Will and I spent the earlier part of this week in San Jose where Will’s hockey team was competing in the National Roller Hockey Championships (NARCH) in the San Jose. While the teams bid for the championship ended earlier than planned we had other things ready to go. We would take the slow route home to San Diego and get in some camping and riding. We did not have a set schedule just some general ideas.

Our first day was a ride in Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz. I have ridden here several time before and I knew Will could handle the place. We started off near the park headquarters off of Pacific Coast Highway and started working our way up to the top of the park using the Engelman Oak and Long Meadows trails (fireroads). Will has not been biking much lately so that and the recent hockey made for a good bit of effort on his part.

The Climb

Once we got up to the top of the park we ventured over into the UC Santa Cruz area. Since this included some gravity-assisted riding, Will was having a heck of great time.

UCSC Cruising

After the UCSC fun, we popped back into Wilder Ranch and worked our way over to the Old Cabin trail which is one of my favorites out here. I was pretty stoked to see that Will cleaned everything on this trail. While he might be getting pretty descent on a bike, he is a pretty horrible “model” in front of the camera. If given a chance he will make a silly face everytime. I pretty much have to sneak attack pictures of him.


While Will was starting to feel a little tired, after describing the Enchanted Loop to him, he was game. Once again the boy surprised me with how easily he picks up new skills. On a tricky switchback into a rooty ledge he got up one of the smaller ledges without even blinking. We then sessoned it for a bit and he cleaned one of the bigger ledges after a couple of tries.

Ledge Up

After this we took the Baldwin Loop down to the ocean. Will complained that the trail was really bumpy and that is when I realized that Will had spent the entire ride with the rear shock locked out. This was his first real ride on a full-suspension rig and he did not realize it was locked out. Will is really tall for his age and has been growing like a weed lately. Having already gotten taller than his Mom, he can now fit on my medium Spider by swapping out the seatpost and stem.

Down to Ocean

Down along the ocean we followed the bluff trails back to the park headquarters. Will was getting pretty darn pooped by now so the breaks came a little more often.
Break time

I did manage to get in a “sneak attack” picture during the break
sneak picture

We finished off the rest of Ocean Bluff trails at a reasonable pace due to a strong tailwind which made it pretty darn easy to tick over a big gear. When we finished up we had logged in just over 20 miles and the boy was pooped. On our way through town we hit up a little hole-in-the-wall Falafel shop that I love and introduced Will to some new cuisine.

Will at beach

It was getting pretty late in the day and we knew we would not get too far down the coast this evening. I had a “Camping California” guidebook with me and while I drove south, Will would read out the description of spots down the road from us. The Laguna Seca Recreation Area ended up sounding pretty good so we swung by there and grabbed a spot. The Red Bull Moto Grand Prix was starting to ramp up for the weekend, but there were plenty of spots still open. I packed my smaller camping gear so that that it would not take long to setup and break camp each day so we had camp setup in no time flat. After some chillaxing, hot chocolate and a few snacks we hopped in the tent and were soon crashed out.

Camp at Laguna Seca

Finishing up hockey in San Jose

What a fun time we had in San Jose.    The team played really well, but had one game were some team-wide hiccups cost them the game which ultimately ended their bid for the championship a little early.   The good news is they beat all the Canadian teams they faced 🙂    

Other really cool things happening were that both Will and his fellow teammate Dillon did exceptionally well in the “Sniper” skills competition against 44 of the top shooters in their age bracket.   Will made it into the final seven and Dillon went on to win the competition by throwing down some sick moves and making six goals in seven shots against some of the best goalies in his division.

Now that we had some extra time in our schedule we took advantage of it and headed down to Santa Cruz for some fun on the boardwalk.  

This ride, which we now refer to as the Barf-O-Matic 5000, was a heck of a lot of fun for the boys.

After the ride, things were not so much fun for Drew(left) and Will(right).  Zach (middle) did what any kid who did not get sick would do, laugh like hell at the others.   It was great!

We ended up making a long evening out of the boardwalk and did not get back to the hotel room until late.   The orginal plan was to get up early tomorrow and head back to Santa Cruz to do some riding.   We were both pooped so we decided to make a later start in the morning.

Hockey in San Jose

Okay here is a little non-MTB content for the blog.  My oldest son  (Will) and I are spending the better part of this week up in San Jose while Will’s hockey team, The San Diego Fear, compete in the North American Roller Hockey  Championships (NARCH).  The facility at the Silver Creek Sports complex is pretty impressive and is well suited to host the championships that includes over 400 teams in numerous age brackets from all over the Canada,  the US and Central America.  Will’s team is playing in the 12 and under Gold bracket against 22 other teams who made the cut through the regional qualifiers.

NARCH facility

The boys played their first game today and won against the Golden Ridge team from British Columbia so they are off to a good start.  

Game Play

After the game we did some tourist stuff and went down to Monterey for some sightseeing that included the Monterey Aquarium.

Fish Kisser

There is a bit of the MTB tie-in here.  Our plan is to take a couple – three days to get back home when we are all done with some camping and biking along the coast.  We have not decided yet, but Santa Cruz, Montana Del Oro and Mt Pinos are high on our list of camp/mtb stops.

Gutting It Out

Quote of the Day: “This would be so easy without the cramping”

 I was going to be climbing Nate Harrison Grade up to the top of Palomar Mountain for my weekend ride as I was to met with a lady who owns to chunk of property up on the mountain.  This is no small ride as it is an 11.1 mile climb with 4,700 feet of climbing.  Will heard me talking about it on Saturday afternoon and said he wanted to go.  He remembered this from a drive we had done in the truck a few times.   I stressed to him that this was a serious ride with an 11 mile climb.   In true young mind fashion that never ceases to amaze me he replies with “That means we get to go down the mountain for 11 miles…COOL!”.    I warned multiple of times about the size and effort required for this ride.  I also reminded him that I was not going to let him weasel out of hockey practice that night.   He was undaunted, so I woke him up bright and early Sunday morning and we headed out.  

Will at start

On the drive out, I talked to him about pacing yourself and how Nate Harrison Grade is a great teacher of pace and rythm climbing.   We were climbing by 7:30AM with a nice temp of only 60 degrees.  I knew it was going to be a roaster today, so the plan was to get up in elevation before the valley turned into a large scale brick oven.

Will early on

Will started out all charged up zipping ahead and talking some smack.   I snickered as I knew that would not last long.  Fifteen minutes later, the tables had turned and my boy was suddenly more interested in the “wisdom” I had to offer vice the “babble” I was spouting a little further back down the road.   So while acutely listening this time, I noticed he had grown enough as of late to warrant a few tweaks to the seatpost and saddle.   While I did not take a picture of it, his seatpost looks a lot like our dated height marks on the closet door back home.  Geez they grow quick. 

Stopping to smell the lupins

There were plenty of wildflowers in bloom along the climb and we took plenty of breaks along the way.  He was really finding “his” pace and a good rhythm.   The temps were climbing faster than we were and just about when I was going to declare it hot, we reached an elevation where things started cooling off.

I think I can, I think I can

At around the seven mile mark, Will started getting the first twinges of cramps in his quads.   We was not interested in turning around.  We did take breaks more often, and he was more open to the mocha flavored Clif shots, banannas, and electrolytes that he was turning down earlier.

Around the nine-mile mark the boy was suffering and the “This would be so easy without the cramping” statement came out, which I could only reply with (with a bit of laughter in my voice) “Yep, been there done that”.   At this point the thought of turning around did come up.   I told him we could turn around if he wanted to, but we were really close and getting to the top would be quite an accomplishment.   After a long break, he decided to keep climbing.   I was impressed. 

Near Top

Most of Nate Harrison Grade is a fairly smooth dirt road,  with the last mile or so at the top being pavement.   Just before reaching the pavement is the rockiest section of the whole road.  While normally it would be no big deal, when your fighting off cramps it can be a real pain.   He soldiered through it and once on the pavement he spun along nicely with the cramps mostly subsided.

We enjoyed ourselves at the top,  grubbing down on the remainder of our trail food.   I could tell that he was stoked to have pulled off the climb.  Will spent little time actually looking around and when I called him over to check out some particular sights he reminded me of our “mission” for the day, “Dad, I did not pedal up this mountain to see the view.  I came up here to ride down.  Lets Go!”   


So down we went.   Gleeful giggles were heard many times.   The Dad in me was scared a few times at his speed, but at the same time the mountain biker in me was going “HELL YEAH!

Down the hill

What took hours to climb took somewhere around 20 minutes or so to descend.  It was a stupidly hot 99 degrees at the bottom.   No big deal, when you have a 30+ mph breeze in your face.  After some Mexican food on the way home and a dip in the pool, he was ready to head out for hockey practice.   He did look a little flat on the rink, but I was pretty freaking impressed with how he gutted things out over the course of the day.   Oh yeah, he had no issues going to be bed early that night. 🙂


Walking Wounded

So I am on the walking wounded list, but not from mountain biking.   For those who have been following the blog you will remember I took a good thump while getting some flight lessons near Alpine about a month ago.  Part of the thump was on my right hip that resulted in a huge technicolor bruise on my right leg and hip.   I had just gotten over that for the most part.   So after being gone all day on December 29th doing the Palm Canyon Epic, my boys were itching for some dad time.  So on the 30th, I took them out to our local inline hockey rink  for some skate time.   I was pretty beat from the day before so I decided that I would not be playing, but instead I would just screw around and keep feeding passes to the boys.    So instead of putting on the whole hockey gear package, I left the griddle in the bag.  Bad call!    

Will shooting puck 

So while messing around my oldest boy decides that it will “funny” to check Dad.   Of course it would be even funnier if Dad was not looking.   So my boy clocks be really good, and I swear I got completely horizontal prior loosing any altitude.   BAM!   It was all I could do not to call Child Protective Services to inform them that something really bad was about to happen to my kid and they were not going to get there in time.     I had landed exactly on the same spot I had hurt the month before.  It hurt like hell but in a different way than before, this felt more sharp that the bruising before.    

I ditched my ride scheduled for the next day and waited a couple of days to test it out on the bike.   When I did get on the bike I felt okay peddling on the road out to my local ride (Lake Calvera).   It even felt okay on the smooth stuff.  However when riding on rocky stuff, anything that requires body English, and getting off the saddle things got painful in a hurry.  After an hour I was uncomfortable and basically not a happy camper on the bike. 

 It is never a good time to get injured, but this was quite unfortunate timing as I was planning heading out to Sedona to meet up and ride with some friends from Colorado and NorCal in a little over a week.    I don’t see my hip being in shape for multiple back-to-back days of riding so I had to cancel.    Major League Bummage!

Arizona Riding

I’m going to get some X-rays done in the next day or so to see if I did something really bad.  


 UPDATE 11-JAN-08: I could insert bunch of Doctor verbage stuff here but basically the X-rays showed that I had not fractured anything, but I’ll need to take it easy for a couple more weeks.  Yipee!