MIA Status

So man, long time no post for me. Truth be told, I have been enjoying other pursuits as of late. After spending plenty of time traveling and riding over the summer I have found life at home in the “slow” lane really freaking fun. I have been on the bike a bit, but first a little catchup.


The family (and a couple of friends) played hookie one day and enjoyed some mid-week fun at Knoxberry Farm. No lines was pretty freaking awesome.


Over Thanksgiving, we kicked up some dust in my Brother-In-Law’s yard with the go-carts.


Then there has been the weekly hockey practices and games. If it is not Jake on the ice at the Escondido Iceoplex,


It is Will at Tricity Inline rink. Always good times.

Early this week, a few friends and I did a little riding east of the Laguna Mountains. This is an area that I have not done much riding in so it was cool to check out some new stuff. Kitchen Creek, Fred Canyon, and Thing Valley were all on the menu.


It was not too long into our uphill exploration that some of the white stuff made an appearance. While just in the shadows at first, by the time we got up into the Lagunas proper there was more snow that not on the trails.


It is always a treat to get snow on your tires here in Southen California. Today’s dosage was just right, while enough to be a bit burdensome in spots it was for the most part  fun to hear the crunch under your wheels.


After bit of play up top we worked our way back down to lower elevations and a welcomed bit of warmth.  There looks to be some good scenic loops that can be put together out here. I have to go back a time or two to get everything figured out. One thing is for certain, I had a pretty cool time out there on the bike.

Back to Hitting the Local Stuff

I got back from Japan a couple of weeks ago and have been taking it easy for the most.  Enjoying the “normal” things in my life like the kid’s hockey games, practice, honey-dos, etc…. Oh, and I managed to break my FN left big toe just strolling through the house.    So not much in the way of blogging about mountain biking.  But I been squeaking in some ride here here and there.

Before the toe breakage, I met up with one of the usual suspects at one of the usual suspect spots for some playtime on the rocks.   After not riding here for over six months, the rocks and all the moves looked bigger.   I’m going to have to repolish my game in this area.

Just a couple of days ago, I tested out the toe on ride through Calvera with my youngest son, Jake.  While the toe was mildly a pain, it is okay to ride with.


What I was really stoked about was how well Jake was hanging.   I rode at around 90% of my normal pass and he was right there the whole time.  We did not do a whole lot of stopping either, just riding.  

Kids never seem to amaze me at the rate at which they progress.   We had a really good time out there and we got in around 12-14 miles all together.  It was a good day to be a Dad and on a bike.

“Taiiku no hi” Ride

 This past  Monday was Columbus day in the United States, but I’m not in the States.  Lucky for me Monday was also the Japanese Holiday of  “Taiiku no hi” which is “Health-Sports Day”.   What better way to celebrate that than a bike ride. 

Fall is happening here.   The summer heat is gone and the cooler temps of fall have taken over. There are no huge splash of colors just yet but you can tell that mother nature is dusting off her brushes and shaking the paint cans.

The closest mountain to town is Yumihari.  I have been on most of the flanks of this mountain and have found some stuff to ride in all those areas.   The place suffers from little use and even less maintenance.    This place would be incredibly awesome if there were enough riders to keep this place debrushed.  I was focusing on the southern area today and was quite pleased with what I found and that it is seeing some use.   One such trails was an awesome benchcut along a ruggedly steep hill side.

I eventually found my way over to what I was looking for.  There is a large statue that you can see from town perched up along the ridgeline that I had been eyeing from work for a couple of weeks now.    This thing is huge.  At least 20 feet high and it sets top of 20 foot raised base.  This was a great spot for some snacks so I enjoyed them while taking in some of the views. 

There was an old couple there tending to the grounds.  Eventually the husband and I struck up a conversation which was a mixture of my bad Japanese, his bad English and a healthy dose of International Charades.   From the jest of the conversation, the man was 70 years old and his father made the sculpture.    He was very proud of his father’s work.  He was also proud of the fact his wife was much younger than him (only in her 50s).   The wife snickered at this and gave him a gentle slap on the arm.  While I did not catch what see said, the facial expressions translated to something along the lines of “You Dirty Old Fool”.  While he looked old, he was mighty healthy and was doing some significant work like cutting grass, trimming back branches, etc…   I hope to be that spry when I am his age.  You can tell they loved and cared for this place.    After a bit more broken chit-chat over a can of coffee he gave me, I was on my way.  After such a nice little life enriching experience I could have called it a day right then and have been quite happy.

Lucky for the me the old man had “Charaded” me some more information on trails, so settting off from the shrine, I did some more snooping around.

What the old man had pointed to was a really cool bit of trail where you descend down along a mostly steep ridgeline through a forest of mixed bamboo and hardwoods.   It was a pretty fun descent with some scary bits thrown in when things got rocky and really steep.  

After this I climbed back up the mountain and hit some one the loops I have done several times which put me back onto the side of the mountain I wanted to be on.   After another rather technical descent I popped out into another neighborhood.   From here I zipped along a series of narrow twisting sidewalks that descended the rest of the way down the mountain back into town.  I love when the navigation calls for anyway that is downhill to get “home”.    I might get another ride or two in before I leave Japan but if not this would be a downright cool closer ride.

Tooling around the Tawaragaura Peninsula

Yesterday, I decided to check out the peninsula to the south of Sasebo.  The plan was for this to be road ride and be on the lookout for some trails to explore on another day.  I was actually looking forward to a ride where I did not have to deal with the arachnid gauntlet of webs across the lightly used trails around here.  Last weekend, I must have taken 50 spiders to the face and it got old.

Peeping around on the online maps it looked like the peninsula was gong to be “country” so I packed plenty of snacks.  Onigiri is my favorite ride snack in this parts. It is a triangle of rice with some type of filling on the inside (I dig the tuna) and whole thing is wrapped in seaweed. 

After a bit of hilly road work I got to a pretty cool park overlooking the “99 Islands” area.  The islands are quite pretty and as you travel around there are every changing views as your angles to the numerous islands change.

The main road I took while heading out on the peninsula stayed up on the ridgelines for the most part.  There are quite a few old farming roads that head down to the various nooks and crannies along the shoreline.   Many of these roads are much more narrower and far more interesting that most of the “Trails” built by the various land mangers in San Diego County.


While humping back up one of these old roads, I came across another crab.   While I’m only a couple hundred feet above sea level here, I was still amazed to see them up this high.  I did a little research and found out that the crabs here have adapted to living away from the tidal range so you can find them all over.   Like the one I saw last week, this bugger did not like having me around.  He did manage is get some pressure on my thumb through my glove and I must say that this little guy has got quite a pinch. Doesn’t he look pissed?

As I ventured further out towards the end of the peninsula I found the roads turned away from the southern tip.  I managed to find an old road bed turned trail and decided it was worth a look as it would keep me working my way south.    I learned a spider sweeper technique for riding around here.   I take a nice green stick about 3 feet long and keep it between my right hand and handlebar grip.   When I see spider webs I sweep the stick around out in front of me.   It works well when climbing non-technical stuff, but not so much when descending or in technical stuff.   Of course I look like a crazy mashup of  a mountainbiker and an orchestra conductor on crack but what the heck the spider thing gets old after a while and this lets me keep moving. 


The old road bed led me up to what I believe is a series of old WWII bunkers.  (I have yet to confirm this, but I am told there are nuemerous ones in the area) Some of them are dug into the side of the mountain while others are dug down into the mountain.  They were really trippy.   This was the biggest one with five interconnected bunkers dug into the side of the mountain right at the summit. 

This was one of the ones that was buried down into the top of the mountain.


When I was in the large interconnected bunkers, I was not alone.  There were some bats that called this place home.   When I got too close that started flying around and moved into the adjacent bunkers.  Since I had started at one end by the time time I got to the last bunker, they were all concentrated into the one room.  They did not want to go outside and since I was standing in the archway between the rooms, they were a little perplexed.  I spent a lot of time working on getting a shot of these little guys.  They would often buzz within a foot of my head as they thought about going past me to get to the other room.   The camera flash usually sent them wheeling around away from me.

This is the best closeup I was able to snag.  Ain’t he cute?   I heard this species is closely related to the endangered Texas Perot Bat.

After harassing the bats for long enough, I continued along my way of poking around on the peninsula.  There was lots of farm patches up here as well as a small community.  Looking back to the north I could see pretty much every peak I have gotten to so far in Sasebo.

I decided to drop down to the Shirahama Beach were I was expecting to see hordes of Japanese hotties in bikinis.   I had to settle for nearly having the beach all to myself while enjoying an onigiri and views of the East China Sea. 

The water looked inviting but you would have to watch out for these critters which were in abundance.

I spent quite a bit of time checking out some of the nooks and inlets. I’m sure some are only accessible via boat.   I took lots of notes and waypoints of the many old abandoned roads and nearly overgrown trails that dot the area.  I have enough dots and dotted lines for a return visit.

I got to a road junction where I could take the fairly direct route back, or I could take the more round-about way back along a big eastern chunk of the peninsula I had not gotten to yet.  Thinking that I could stay down along the shoreline I took the road downhill into a small fishing villiage.  I really like these small seaside towns, I feel like I’m closer to the culture when in places like this.   I dig watching families fish, old couples tending to thier crops or just strolling along the narrow coastal streets.  The people are so warm and friendly particularly when you know enough of the language to exchange basic greetings and be polite.   When you look on the maps the peninsula is listed as Sasebo, however the three or four folks I talked with on this ride all asked if I had came “from” Sasebo.  Clearly they don’t think of thier quite little neck of the woods as Sasebo and now, neither do I.   The ride back along the more scenic route was anything but the flat cruiser shoreline ride I had expected.  Between the little fishing villiages the road would climb back up into the hills and then drop back down at the next village.  I don’t know how many undulations I went through but by the time I got back to the hotel I was throughly pooped.   It was a good day on a bike.

Toro Peak Access

It has been brought to my attention by a lawyer representing the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians that the land around the summit of Toro Peak is part of the tribe’s reservation lands. Since my original posting of Santa Rosa Mountain and Toro Peak page in 2003, they have added signs to alert the public to the fact you will be trespassing if you go all the way to the peak. I have requested a meeting to see exactly where all of the boundaries are and get the full story on things. In the interim from what I have gathered from other sources you would cross onto the reservation lands shortly after the fork in the forest road at 12.8 miles. This is roughly halfway between SR-21 and SR-22 way points on my map. You can find numerous printed guidebooks and online resources that make no mention of the land ownership and access issues. Sometime in the last six years keeping the public off of Toro Peak has become a greater concern to the Cahuilla Indians. Hopefully my photos of this truly magnificent peak will satisfy your curiosity because you will be trespassing if you climb the last mile or so to the summit yourself. Also don’t forget to check out one my early additions to the site.

Comfort Dirt at Sycamore Canyon

It was way too freaking early for a Sunday morning when I got up to meet Chip and friends down in Santee for a 7AM ride through Sycamore Canyon.     I had not seen Chip in a handful of moons and I had stuff to do in the afternoon so it worked out well.   I had also not been out to Sycamore Canyon in a really long time.  I think it has been over a year.   It was good to see Chip and good to ride Sycamore Canyon again.


All of the singletracks below the south gate of Goodan Ranch are in pretty good shape and the main trails in the park proper had seen some SDMBA TLC over the winter months.

After making our way to the upper trailhead at the north end of the park we continue northward and the did the area known as “Tip-Top”.   We did a nice lollipop up this area before coming back to the upper trailhead and taking the Martha’s Grove trail.

The run down Martha’s Grove was fun and it it was fairly zippy return back to the trailhead in Santee.   I was done and headed back towards home by 10AM.   This was very satisifying ride that was just the right size.   Like a good meal with a modest portion size, it was just enough to make you feel full but not uncomfortably stuffed.   Not every ride needs to be an epic, a training hammer fest or an out-of-beyond exotic ride.   This was like a comfort food kind of ride.  You know like a PB&J and a glass of milk.  (Pick your favorite)

Long Time No See! or “Funk Busting”

So there has not been too much on the MTB scene that I have felt like writing about since I got back from Japan.  That does not mean that I have not been riding.  I just did not seem too inspired to write about it.   I have gotten in a couple of quick spins through Lake Calvera on my singlespeed and even caught the SDMBA San Clemente Singletracks Ride.  These rides while fun where just not doing it for me on the trail scene.   I have noticed I get like this for a week or two after epic riding trips.   I have come to think of it as “Post Killer Trip Depression” or “Epic Lag”.  Pick whatever shrink-babble works for you but I was coming off some awesome trail riding and was looking for some new dirt  to ride in SoCal.

I had not ridden with Bill O’Neil in freaking ages.  Well maybe not ages but nine months is a pretty long time.  He busted up his wrist really bad late last year and had to deal with a long recovery.  Combined with my traveling schedule earlier this year and the better part of a year just slipped by.  It was time to kick this “Epic Lag” in the ass and catchup with Bill on some singletrack.   The person who organized this ride thinks it is best to keep the names of these trails “off-the-air” so I’ll leave things as that.  While you may find these trail segments on most of the older topographic maps of the San Bernardino National Forest, you will have to be a little adventurous to ride some of these bits. 


The rewards were certainly there and it was just what I needed to bust out of the Post Epic Funk.  


The trail was just what I had expected, fairly buff and flowing.  One thing I had not realized was that I had been missing the continuous moving that is so much easier to do back here in SoCal.  The steepness of the terrain in the area of Japan I was in often meant that your riding mileage was often broken up by short hike-a-bike sections.  It was pretty awesome to just be able to “go”.   At the same time these trails revealed my fitness level for the continuous “go” has been dropping off.  Way to many rides of stopping to navigate and take pictures.  I suppose there are far much worse ways to get out of shape 🙂

Ultimately we knocked off a good chunk of mileage on some pretty cool trails.   We even had time to stop and smell the flowers.  It is always refreshing to get on the trail less ridden and try something new.    Doing it while catching up with friends is a nice bonus.  Oh yeah, there was tasty microbrews waiting in the cooler at the end of the ride.

Exploring the Kamakura Mountains

Last weekend I went out to revisit some of the Kamakura trails I have been on in 2004 and also check out some of the trails I had never ventured down before.   This area is really awesome and it offers a lot of great trails that range from mild buffness, to scary hairball rocks and roots.   Navigating around here can be real interesting.  There are lots of trails optons and not all of them are well marked.   Even when marked, there is the whole language barrier thingy for me to help keep things interesting.

There was no shortage of good trails.  

 One of my favorite things to do when riding out here is to stop by this mountain rest stop were you can grab a bit of local grub as well as a mid ride snack.  It seems like you are out in the middle of nowhere until you come upon this place.   This group of hikers I had been leap frogging around for about and hour or so as I checked out most of the various splits in the main trails while they plodded along.   

 Yummy Oden.  It is mostly different types of Tofu, veggies and seaweed. 

 After lunch I decided to check out a route that none of my friends had tried before.  (Or at least not talked about)     The trail started near the mountain hut and went to the Kencho-Ji Temple in Kamakura.  

 For being a trail to place considered peaceful and good, the trail was more like a guantlet of trail evilness.  There were enough roots, rocks and drops to get most riders thier fill of technical playtime.  This would be a good trail to come and session all the features on. 

After a but of tough riding and a fair amount of hike-a-biking I arrived to the mountain peak above the Kenchoji Temple.   What followed after this was a very long, narrow and steep set of twisting stairs.

The stairs lead to the upper area of the temple known as the Hansobo which is the temples inner sanctuary. There are numerous and very impressive statue of creatures known as Karasu-tengu which roughly equates to Crow Goblins.  They are considered part of the protective spirit of this place.


 The Kenchoji Temple ranks first among Kamakura’s so-called Five Great Zen Temples and is the oldest Zen training monastery in Japan.   It was built in 1253.

The light was pretty crappy that day for taking pictures and I seemed to be having a “bad camera day” for some reason when it came to getting a good shot of the temple buildings.    There were lots of artists out working on thier craft and I soon figured out they had all the right viewpoints.   Thier paintings were much more interesting than any pictures that I was trying to get that day.

After spending about an hour on the temple grounds I meandered my way through downtown Kamakura and back to the apartment.   It was good to get in some culture along with a nice chunk of riding as well. If you like to read some more about the Kenchoji Temple first check out this site before hitting up Google.

I love bamboo!

Who cares about the little retaining clip dohicky thing anyway?   That is what I have often thought about the clip that goes onto the end of the post used on XTR brakes to keep the pads and the spring in the calipers. I have also thought of these as being along the same lines as “lawyer tabs” on forks.   I mean the post is screwed in anyway.    Okay so I noticed the clip had went missing a week ago.  No big deal.   Well out on a ride a couple of days ago it became a big deal.  All of the sudden my back brake went completely dead.  Lever to grips and no pumping would help.  I was also in the middle of precarious dip in the trail so it was “exciting” to get through the section and then get stopped.  I check out the brakes and holy smokes!  There was nothing back there.   Both pads, spring and retaining pin gone.   At that moment it hit me that I was a good ways from getting back to a street where I could limp back “home”.   I was also nearly at the highest elevation I would be for the entire ride.  Every route I knew of to get off of the mountain (I was exploring a new area for me) involved a white-knuckler descent.

Well I was not going to get anything fixed if I did not find my brake bits.   The good news was there was only about a 50 yard section of trail from where I knew by brakes were working perfectly to the spot of total failure.   Not too far of a distance, but the trail is only about 12″ wide and dense foilage is all along the edges.  So off in search of I went.

When I was growing up in North Carolina my Dad and I did a lot of hiking and one of our hiking activities was looking for Indian arrowheads and artifacts in argriculture fields and along the river and lake banks.   After tiling and fresh rains was considered prime time for looking for these.  It was good Father-Son times.   Beside it being a fond memory, the point I bring this up is that you develop a skill for scanning the ground and looking for stuff when you do this activity much.   I went into scanning mode and started looking for the brake bits.   I first made a quick pass along the trail just to set my end points and see if I could get lucky.  Nothing on the quick stroll.   The second time down the trail I went much slower and was focusing on just the 12 inches of the trail.   I managed to find one of the pads.   How can I fix this with one pad?  Better keep looking.  One more really slow pass netted me the other pad that was laying about three inches off to the side of the trail and was paritally hidden by leaves.  What a lucky bastard I was.   It had taken about 40 minutes so far and I was not interested in prolonging this anymore.  Time to figure out what to use for the post and spring.    My zip ties were too big and while I had some wooden matches for a retaining pin, a couple of rides ago I gave up all of my tape to boot a friends sidewall so I was out of something easy to hold the matchstick in place.

There is one thing in bountiful supply in Japan, bamboo.  It is nearly perfectly round, smooth and comes in an assortment of diameters.   I stripped a piece of bamboo of its leaves and slipped it into place folded it over and the small end was flexible enough to allow me to use it as binding string.   Sweet!

Now what to do for a spring?   Bamboo to the rescue again.   I got a bigger diameter section of bamboo this time and cut out a section slightly bigger than the normal gap in the pads.   I then split the bamboo, cut to  length and wedged it between the two pad backings.  The folded over piece of post bamboo also served to hold my spring piece in place.   After a few quick tests I was stoked to see the green bamboo was providing enough spring action. I felt confident enough with the setup to not bail on the ride.  I ended up riding about another 20 miles that day.    The following day on my way our for a ride, I swung by a local shop and picked up a set of pads, a spring and retaining pin.   I put it in my pack so I would have a “spare” in case my bamboo should break. 🙂