Santos Vacation 2015

Oh gawd, it’s been forever since I posted something. Partially because of the trip I’m about to write up, and partially because I’ve been busy doing all sorts of random things with dogs and my car, which are both in various states of sickness.

If you’ve been reading along, you saw that I recently had to deal with Turbo, my 13 year old Belgian Malinois, nearly dying from side effects of the onset of heart failure. She’s stable and happy now, but the cost of emergency and follow-up care vaporized the budget I’d set aside in my mind for taking a foul weather-escaping trip to the Santos Trails in Florida. Then, Wednesday night last week, I was at my parents’ house when I mentioned how bad the weather was going to be (again) and, while I was glad Turbo was doing ok, I really needed some long training hours that I just wasn’t going to gut out in the slush here in Memphis.

My mom said she’d like to go to Florida. I took her up on it, and, early Friday morning, we were literally outrunning a sleet storm to get ourselves down to Ocala.


Saturday, I had to make morning trip to Target to cheaply replace the hydration pack I’d left at home (again).


Once I hit the trail, I rode out and back along some of the OMBA Epic Ride route. The best maps I’ve been able to find are on this page, though none of them show 100% of what’s there. I stopped along the way to visit folks racing the Santos 12 hour. I was slightly tempted to race, but glad decided to just go out and have fun instead. I found Dicky immediately following his discovery that he and his teammate were in a podium spot and actually had to concentrate on racing.

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I also saw some old school components


I quickly discovered that the trail was covered in a much-thicker-than-last-year layer of fallen live oak leaves.


They’re super slick, so the turns were occasionally treacherous. Live oak trees are some of the most beautiful living things on the planet, though, so they’re totally worth the leaf surfing. I sort of hate posting pictures of them, because a camera phone doesn’t come close to capturing their enormity.




By the time I made it back through the race course area, I was out of water. I stopped and wanted to beg for some in the pits, but everyone was somehow distracted by racing or partying, so I just took this picture and left.


I made it a point to reserve a nice room with a kitchen so that I could cook healthy meals for my mom and myself. Meal #1 was steak and broccoli (I added some bread toasted with olive oil for a few extra carbs).


Sunday’s adventure started with a little sightseeing. We drove west a ways and checked out the Gulf of Mexico.


Since I didn’t want to ride as long that day, I had my mom drop me off at the far west end of the trail system at the Pruitt trailhead. I found out from this scenic spot where the trailhead gets its name:



I had calculated that my ride would take around 3 hours, so I drew directions on a map for my mom and told her I’d be at the east end of the trail around 3:30. My plan was to have her pick me up at the Greenway Bikes shop. When I arrived, it was exactly 3:30, and I went inside to purchase a beer and sat around enjoying the sun and waiting on my mom.


My mom proceeded to get very lost while she tried to find the shop. The shop closed at 4, though one of the shop guys stuck around until 4:30 because he was trying to be nice. I shooed him off and found a shady spot. Around 5:something, the shop owner, Dano, pulled up. We chatted some, and he was nice, though, he asked me where I was from and where I was staying and why I was waiting around at least three different times. He offered to split a Victory V12 with me, so I didn’t stress his apparent lack of sobriety too hard.

My mom eventually found the shop. Dano was still there, and, in the course of his repeated asking of where are you from/where are you staying/where are you going to dinner tonight, my mom, being the proper Southern woman that she is, though obviously a little uncomfortable dealing with someone who was less than sober, asked him, “where are you from?” He replied back with a crude answer about his mother’s anatomy… to my sweet, proper, Southern, 70ish year-old mom.

Given the absolute absurdity of the situation, I found it to be pretty hilarious at the time, though, looking back, I somewhat regret not losing my shit with the dude and telling him to apologize for being an ass.

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Needless to say, if you’re at Santos, keep your moms away from Greenway Bikes.

At least the beer was good.


That night, we had chicken thighs and green beans with a spicy mustard & yogurt sauce (the sauce was my mom’s idea).


I was stoked that I’d picked up a little vitamin D while I was out.


My third and final day was the long one. Since I’d stopped for photos and navigation on the previous days, I decided that I’d only stop once an hour for a food break (the Target pack didn’t have hip pockets, so I had to take it off of my back to get to my food). I rode to the far end of the trail system and back- approximately 32 miles out and 23 miles back. I did stop to take a look at this guy along the way:


I also stopped when I wrecked at mile 52.5 of 54.5. Leaf surfing is only one mph away from leaf teleporting. Back at the trailhead, I ate a snack and cooled off a bit. I still had a good bit of daylight, so I wanted to go back out and ride a lap of the Vortex Loop- the tech loop a couple of miles from the main trailhead.


While I was trying to figure out where the loop started, I met Tim, the owner of Spokes mobile bike shop. We chatted a bunch and he showed me a lap of the trail. I like the bermy fast stuff that makes up 98% of the trails at Santos, but the Vortex loop feels a little like Arkansas. Tim and I made a hot lap and headed back to the main trailhead. I ended up with nearly 6 hours of riding for the day… a great way to finish off the 3-day vacation.

Outside of Florida, the South wasn’t doing so well.


I wished that we could have stayed there way longer. The sun and opportinity to train hard on fun trails temporarily hoisted me up from my baseline of mild depression, so it was a mental vacation as much as it was a physical one.

The weather in Memphis is still pretty terrible (as it is most places that aren’t Florida). I’ve only ridden once since I came back, though I’ll probably hit the trainer this morning before going to an inversion workshop at Pike Yoga.

The light at the end of my cold, dark tunnel?


We’d originally discussed my Colorado sabbatical beginning the first week of April. However, Jon Davis (owner of 92Fifty), scheduled the 92Fifty Moab camp for March 26th-29th, and he wants me there A)because they need a mechanic to work on participant bikes, and B)it will give me a chance to meet and bond with the people who come to the shop most often.

That’s not to say it won’t be cold when we return to the mountains after camp, but the sun is bright there, so I don’t think it will be too bad.

Adventuring in the Covington Pike Bottoms

The weather in Memphis has been totally normal this week… that is to say, we rode in short sleeves on Saturday, and on Monday, we awoke to piles of sleet on the ground.

Sticking with our theme of being bored with the same trails (and knowing that since the weather was great on Saturday that those same trails would be packed), Matt and I struck out to explore what local cyclists call the “Epic” trails. More often, they’re referred to as the Covington Pike Bottoms, and they’re equally as popular for ATV pilots as our usual Shelby Farms trails are for runners, hikers, and cyclists. It’s basically a bunch of tracks through the woods along the south side of the Wolf River (and, as you venture westward, crossing to the north and continuing on towards the Mississippi). They stay incredibly muddy year round because of the ATV traffic, though when it hasn’t rained for a couple of weeks, you can pick your way around the bogs and have a pretty nice adventure.

As of Saturday, it was very slow going- the ratio of good riding to “picking around wheel-deep mudholes” was about equal. A summer drought is normally your best chance for a higher ratio of riding-to-bogging. We still had a good out and back adventure, though… occasionally stopping to watch ATV drivers and whatnot.




On the way back, we were stopped at a neighborhood trail entrance by the Memphis Police. More accurately, two cops were arresting ATV drivers as they emerged from the woods and into a neighborhood where the residents were fed up with loud, somewhat drunken jackasses going 50mph up the street and slinging mud all over the place. One cop told us to get on someplace else because they were going to go in and get more people out. We found a suitable detour, though, and stopped to make friends with people we met along the trail back to where we’d started.

As is customary for all weekend blog posts, we met with friends to watch the UFC Fight Night at El Toro Loco. Matt made a matching shirt buddy while Torian and I made fun of individuals who exemplified our respective racial stereotypes.


Sunday the weather transitioned from nice to arctic-ish. People battened down the hatches in preparation for a winter storm that would eventually dump several inches of sleet across Tennessee. We took an evening adventure to WalMart and speculated a purchase of a fatbike, but decided against it. It was an entertaining trip, nonetheless.


Screw the milk, bread, and batteries…


The storm system didn’t disappoint, if it was buckets of sleet you were dreaming about.


I was happy to have a chance to test out my all wheel drive vehicle

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High quality entertainment right there.

I was tempted a couple of times to go ride, but ended up deciding against it because A) in order to not get hit by a stupid driver, you’d need to drive to a trail to ride, and B) it’s solid ice… not snow. It’d be like riding on a rutted hockey rink. I’ll stick to trainer rides and donut-ing my car in parking lots.

Rides and Dog-Kid Problems

The thought of leaving a “new” trail unexplored was too much to bear, so on Wednesday, Matt and I met John on the Wolf River Trail and adventured our way back out to find the end of the Nutbush Highway (see previous posts). After some sidewalk riding and light bushwhacking, we did, indeed reach our goal.



(If you don’t recognize it, that’s the bridge that I was monkey-ing around on in my last post).

It seems as though the Nutbush Highway ends at JFK Park, though we didn’t fully explore all corners of possible exits because John needed to get going. One more trip may be in order. The woods along the Wolf River get severely squished near the next main road to the west, so it’s highly likely that we found what’s at least very close to the end.

Views from the ride back…




Matt and I dropped John off at his car and continued riding. The magic of the day continued when I found that my sample-size 4-pack of Gu Chomps was a 7-pack (I’d already eaten one when I realized my long-ride miracle and took the photo)


The goal of the day was to go longer than 4 hours, but be home by 5:30. Our adventure took us towards Grey’s Creek. The trail out that way in in great shape right now.


We ended up with a little over 5 hours, and celebrated with a trip to the Chinese Buffet. They’ve got a “Mongolian BBQ” station where you can get vegetables and meat cooked together while you wait, so it’s pretty great.

Then, things took an unexpected turn…

We came home and let the dogs out like normal. After they came back in, I immediately noticed that Turbo, my 13-year-old Belgian Malinois, was breathing funny and looked a little freaked out. My dog-mom intuition said that this was bad… real bad. Within a few minutes, we were at a nearby emergency/overnight clinic.

Turbo’s heart rate was in the 220-240bpm range (normal for a stressed out dog at the vet is around 140), an arrhythmia caused by a gross enlargement of the heart muscle. Also, the portion of her right lung that was weakened by her previous bout with pneumonia was collapsed. There was a very real chance that if they didn’t get her heart rate down and stable that she’d go into cardiac arrest. It was bad enough that the vet gave me the advanced directive paperwork to sign…that was tough.

The treatment plan was to stabilize and monitor her overnight so that the underlying cause of her issues could be determined. There are effective drug treatments for some dogs with heart disease. There are also some things that could have been going on- like a tumor, that aren’t treatable. We wouldn’t know until an ultrasound the next day.

I spent the next 18 hours or so periodically crying, hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst.

I finally heard back from the vet around 2:30pm yesterday, and he said that she was suffering from cardiac myopathy that was causing a cascade of things, one of them being the arrhythmia. The cause is generally unknown (“being old” is basically what it comes down to). The good part- as an otherwise healthy dog, she was a very good candidate for drug therapy, and, though this is eventually going to get worse and untreatable, until then, she’ll have a good quality of life. According to Dr. Abernathy, “If I didn’t have a stethoscope, I’d have no idea that she’s as sick as she is.”

I’m really happy that Turbo gets to stick around a little longer.


She almost immediately expressed her happiness with being back home by tearing in to a bag of oatmeal from the pantry while I was in the garage.


The overnight vet bills mean that I’m going to have to cancel my “Eff this weather, I’m going to Florida” trip that I was tentatively planning according to the forecast for next week:


I’m pretty OK with that, though.



More Bikes and MMA!

Hey, another weekend of riding bikes and doing MMA stuff! I’m OK with this trend…

Matt and I struck out on a “typical” Wolf River Trail ride from the house on Saturday. The only modification we were going to make was a stop off at the U-Haul just off the north end of the trail in order to pick up the coffee mug I’d accidentally left in there earlier that week while they were installing the hitch receiver on the Impreza. After the pickup, we were going to head back south and follow the usual trails back home.

However, once said mug was tucked into Matt’s Osprey pack and we were re-entering the trail, we discovered a 4-wheeler trail continuing north. Sense of adventure kicked in, and we began following it into the unknown. I don’t think that anyone in the general public knows who owns the woods immediately adjacent to the Wolf River, but given the lack of policing of ATV traffic in the area, I don’t think anyone cares. It’s one of those good/bad things about this city- we get the opportunity to go on these sorts of adventures, which is good and exciting. However, the opportunity exists because no one “cares” about that part of town, and the police in the area are far too busy taking care of the (frequent) “real” crimes in the area to worry about trespassers in the woods.

It’s definitely not a place you’d go alone.

We ventured out as far as we could, given our time constraint. We needed to be back at the house in time to finish prepping for some friends to come over and watch the UFC 183 Pay Per View at the house. We’d talked earlier in the week about meeting at a sports bar, but I’d then decided to say “eff it” and buy the event to avoid the crowds and crappy service. It turned out to be an excellent choice.


Because, at Buffalo Wild Wings, there’s not enough room to imitate Nick Diaz during round one:IMG_6565

You also don’t have couches, blankets, and a chair that’s usable as workout equipment:

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Sunday morning, I awoke to rain. Steady buckets of rain. For reasons only known within the depths of my brain, I felt like suffering. So, I went out on my cyclocross bike and did a 20 minute power test in the rain.


The power test was alright. I needed the baseline if I am to start adding in some structure to my workouts. It wasn’t my best by far, but also not my worst February 1st numbers, either. The suffering part? Well, it ended up being too warm to suffer. Other than feeling a bit muggy in my jacket while I was going full-gas, I was pretty comfortable.

Suffering, denied.

Later in the afternoon, Matt and I went to watch Torian (from the previous night’s antics) test for his jiujitsu rank. I’d never watched such a thing, so it was interesting to get a feel for how it works (though, according to John, everyone who is capable of ranking/promoting students is different).


That night, we hung with much of the same crew for a Superbowl party. Also, I rallied the Impreza through some wet gravel in John’s neighborhood, which, though the game and company were good, may have been slightly more exciting. I can’t decide if I should wash the mud off or not. It kinda looks more natural with the dirt splatters all over the front end/windshield.

Syllamo Work/Ride

I don’t have a receiver hitch on my new car yet, so this weekend’s trip was a test of how well my bike fit inside the Impreza. The dropper seatpost made short work of packing:

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That car is entirely too much fun to drive on mountain roads. Years ago in another life, I used to do my fair share of “unsanctioned competitive driving on public roads.” I sold that car (a Honda DelSol with a few modifications, one of which was nitrous oxide), sometime around 2007, and have been driving less sporty vehicles since then. I’ll admit, the Impreza is re-awakening my deeply repressed speed demons.

I packed and left early enough on Friday that I had time to ride most of the Yellow trail Friday afternoon. I’d heard that the Calico Rock prison inmates had worked out there some, and I wanted to see what all was done (last time I was out, the yellow trail was pretty rough still). I found that they’d worked from the north end of the yellow down the easier sections and about a mile in to the longer, more difficult area to the south of Blanchard road. They are cutting a true corridor. It could potentially change the personality of the Syllamo’s Revenge race in May because they’re opening up room to pass in some areas where there previously wasn’t. It looks pretty extreme right now, but within a year, the dynamic nature of the trail will take over, new rocks will grow from the ground, and singletrack will be very single again.

I had just enough time to stop at the overlook and take a few photos.




Back at the car, I met some guys who were in town for Saturday’s trailwork day. They were getting an early start with a little afternoon clearing (and post-work beering).


I made it back to the cabin in time to catch the sunset. I don’t know how many of you have sat and watched a sunset from beginning to end, but I’d highly recommend it. The process I watched from the porch involved the “right at sunset” oranges and yellows which, about 10 minutes after the sun disappeared behind the mountains, would give rise to full on golds and reds, which were eventually swallowed up by blue and gray darkness from the east. All you need is a porch, a glass of wine, and a blanket. Give it a shot.




Saturday morning, a group of 20ish people gathered at the Scrappy Mountain trailhead. We split into two groups, and mine went out to one of the worst sections of the yellow trail for line trimming and major tread repair in an area that (surprise!) was logged off in the past few years and had since become an ongoing problem with overgrowth and erosion. I ran a line trimmer for the better part of 3 hours while others repaired the singletrack-wide and hub-deep washout that had eaten into the exposed tread. Around noon, we stepped back to admire our work and have a brown-bag lunch (ham on white bread… which, at the time was excellent, but was felt in my insides for the next two days).

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Random tandem, built by Frank at the Carbon Repair Shop.

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After lunch, we worked on maintaining a section of bench trail near the parking lot. It was leafblown, and the rocks that had filled in the “bench” were either raked or cut out. I used something that was basically an axe handle with this sort of head-


…to cut the worst parts of the collapsed bench. I’d swing and chop while a couple of guys followed me with rakes to even out the surface. Then, I accidentally deleted the good photo of the work we’d done. So, you’ll just have to go ride it yourself and admire the blister I procured in the process.


That evening, the sunset was as beautiful as ever.

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I also finished the puzzle I’d started last time


Sunday, I’d planned an epic ride. I started out around 11 at the Green/Orange loop trailhead, and rode the Green Trail, then part of the Orange and Blue down to the Highway 5 trailhead- about 10 miles. Then, I realized, at 1 hour and 22 minutes in to my ride, that the pocket of my pack was open, and that there was no iPhone where there should be one. I resigned myself to either walking or riding at 3-4mph back up the trail I’d just come down in hopes that it’d turn up. Three hours later, I was back at the trailhead parking lot without a phone. There were multiple cars there (the Green Loop’s scenery, shortness, and proximity to the main road make it a popular afternoon hike for locals). I started my backtrack, talking to any hiker or biker I saw along the way. Still, no dice.

Then, about a mile and a half in, two ladies were coming towards me while I was walking (with my bike) up a hill, staring at the ground. I asked them if they’d seen a phone, and on of them looked very excited. She asked me to describe it, and, when I told her the case color and that there was a picture of an adorable black and white dog sleeping on the lock screen, she pulled it out of her pack and told me they’d found it right by the parking lot.


My day was (somewhat) saved. I headed back towards the parking lot. I almost packed up for the day, but then decided to make some happiness watts up Green Mountain Road to check out the parts of the trail we’d fixed the day before. Not exactly the epic I was hoping for, but I was out in the woods for upwards of 5 hours, so there’s that.

Monday morning, I decided I wanted to ride the parts of the trail I’d had to walk the day before. So, I rode the Blue and Orange trails clockwise… in my “expert” opinion, the climb from the Highway 5 Trailhead back up the Blue and then Orange trail is the most difficult climb of the entire system. It’s way harder than the CCW climb up the “staircase” section, because it much steeper and looser. While I was out, I blocked off a go-around on the short but techy “east of Highway 5″ section. There were fresh tire tracks on the right side of that tree. You know who you are…


I ran out of time to do the whole loop, so I finished up on Green Mountain road. I was trying to get a photo of my shadow. None of them turned out very good, but right after I took this one, a bobcat ran across the road in front of me. It’s probably just out of the left of the frame in this one:


It’s always a little (or a lot) sad to leave the mountains. However, I had to get back to Memphis so we could record this week’s episode of Just Riding Along. Oh yeah- and my Pillar wheels came in. Unfortunately, I broke another damper in my Rockshox SID RCT3 fork, so the bike that the wheels are going on (the Jet9) is now out of commission. I’m hoping that I can finagle a Pike out of the warranty, because the SID obviously wasn’t made to handle what I’m (or lot of others, apparently) are throwing at it. I also start physical therapy for my knee this week. The patellar tendinitis that struck down my winter running hasn’t fully healed itself, and has kept me from doing anything plyometric- like kickboxing or other cross training. So, I’m hoping to finally get that resolved.

In the next day or two, I’ll have an official team/sponsor announcement. Still working out the final kinks so that I can give you all the info you desire.

Training Camp 2014(5) #3

As I mentioned before my post about logging, it rained solidly from Thursday afternoon until Saturday morning. I chose to ride the Red trail because its gravelly surface means it is basically unaffected by any amount of rain. To add difficulty, I wanted to ride from the Blanchard Springs Trailhead, meaning I’d climb a forest road to get up to trail level. However, I arrived at the trailhead to find that the low water crossing to get from the parking area to the trail was flooded.




Water like that is nothing to mess with. I could probably make it across. I could also get cold, wet, and/or seriously injured trying to make it across and failing. So, I put the bike back in the car and drove around to the usual trailheads on Green Mountain Road. I parked at the 2nd one and rode the couple of miles up to the Red Trail. While I was out, a layer of clouds settled in on the tops of the mountains. Everything looked surreal. These pictures don’t really do it justice.

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The previous rest day made me feel beast-like. I ripped around the red trail faster than I’ve probably ever gone, with the exception of stopping to climb down the mountain a little to look at a waterfall I could hear roaring from the trail.

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Once again, pictures don’t do it justice. It was a maybe 2ftx2ft hole in the side of the mountain with water gushing out like someone had blown up a water main. Springs like that were roaring all over the mountains’ sides. Other than that stop (and the one from trailside in the pics above), I hammered out a lap like nobody’s business. I had that “on top of the pedals” feeling that makes you feel like riding until you can’t pedal any more. However, I’d decided that I wanted to ride long the next day (also, my extra driving to switch trailheads had really eaten into my available daylight).

When I started prepping to ride the next day, I wanted to do my “Baby Epic” loop with some extra trail added. Since there are a couple of Livingston Creek creek crossings, and the temperature was well down into the 20’s, I figured I should check those out before I got started, and, knowing they were likely still going to be high, formulated a “plan B” that would utilize a couple of miles of Highway 5 to avoid the bad spots. I checked the usual crossings, and, sure enough, they were more than I wanted to deal with. Also more than I wanted to deal with? The drivers on Highway 5. In my short stint of driving on it, I was tailgated and aggressively passed for doing (gasp) the speed limit. It was enough to activate my internal panic attack warning and turn me off from riding on it at all that day.

So, with plans A and B somewhat foiled, I figured I’d just start riding from the first trailhead and just make it up as I went along. Unfortunately, everything was still soaked, and every spot where water could run across or down the trail was still flowing. Within 30 minutes of riding, the underside of my bike was covered in ice, and my hydration pack tube was frozen solid. With all of the inadvertent splashing, I was cold and wet, too.

Plan C?

The previous day, I’d crossed a couple of downed trees on the Red and short sections of Yellow trail. So, I decided I’d get my saw and ride around and cut those. The wind was absolutely blasting at that point. I was having a hard time not getting really cold until I reached a section of trail that was sunny and somewhat sheltered.

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It was a slightly disappointing end to my training camp, but I feel it was all-in-all successful. I forgot to mention in my previous post that I cleaned the last mile of the Orange trail two times in a row during my rides with Matt. If you know the Syllamo trails at all, you know where I’m talking about- there’s a “mandatory” hike-a bike up some narrow, steep stepped rocks, and then a hard right turn across a rocky draw followed by the infamous super-tech rock section that leads into a short, hard, loose climb before you reach the trailhead parking lot. In general, I feel like both my fitness and my technical riding skills saw an improvement during my time out there. So, I declare it a success.

2014(5) Training Camp #2

While I was out having a double-rainbow moment in the woods on Monday, Matt was on his way to the cabin. As I mentioned previously, it’s been really cold. So, Tuesday morning, we passed the 20-something morning hours by going to the Sylamore shooting range that’s just north of the trail system. Matt brought his .22 rifle, and I brought my 12 gauge shotgun (A.K.A. the “cabin security system” because it’s next to the bed any time I’m over here).

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We played with the .22 a while. I hit the targets pretty well, but then I got impatient with it and decided to knock the targets down all the way.

The weather generally fluctuated between cold and cloudy and “balmy” 40’s and sunny. We celebrated New Year’s eve with a long-ish ride on the Orange, Blue, and Green trails (highly recommended route if you’re looking for a 3-4 hour adventure). Everything is in fair-to-excellent shape right now with the exception of the long, technical part of the Yellow Trail. The long ride meant that we also celebrated New Year’s on Eastern time.

Matt got into the puzzle game

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There was bound to be rain starting in the afternoon on New Year’s Day, so we got up and on our bikes earlier than we had previously. It was a rare chance to take advantage of extremely light “everyone home in bed” traffic on Highway 9 and ride north from the cabin to explore down some of the gravel roads in that direction. The number of property owners who have gated off the roads that pass through/in front of their property is astounding. I’m relatively certain that about half of them aren’t legitimate owners of the roads, but since no one else really has a reason to use the roads, they get away with it. We also rode down the mountain to the “town” of Sylamore because I wanted to check out a creepy looking boarded up building that I’d noticed from an overlook across the river.

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The rain that came in Thursday afternoon kept going until just a little while ago (it’s Saturday morning).

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Matt left on Friday, and I decided to make it an off day (first one since the 25th). I kicked it off with a trip to WalMart for one more puzzle and a few necessities. The rain was light once I was back and had breakfast, so I decided to take Turbo out for a tree-clearing hike. We cut a couple of trees off the Blue Trail near Highway 5.

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That last one is how I drove home from the trailhead (with the addition of a couple of bungee straps). My dad makes walking sticks, and one of the trees I cut was a small-ish white birch with lots of “walking stick” sized branches. Old Turbo was pretty exhausted after that

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Back at the cabin, I decided I’d patch up the heel-rub holes in my shoe covers. I used a wader repair kit and lots of Aquaseal. I don’t really need waterproofing, but I’m hoping that it will prolong the life of them for the remainder of the winter

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The remainder of the day was reserved for writing a blog post, eating, doing laundry, watching football, and, of course…

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The rain is finally clearing out, so I should be able to get out and ride some forest roads and maybe the red trail this afternoon. The forecast for tomorrow is partly cloudy with a daytime high hovering around 30 degrees. I plan on bundling up and polishing off my training camp with somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-6 hours of riding.

Solo Syllamo Weekend

I made a mid-week decision to go for a solo trip to Syllamo over the weekend. Before I left town, I had some stuff to do…


That’s an DNA kit. The whole site makes me cringe a little with its subscription-ness, but the “spit in a cup and we’ll tell you about your ancestors” part is wholly fascinating to me. So, I’m anxiously waiting on that to process.

Thursday, I explored some horse trails. Along the way, I saw (literally) a ton of deer as well as a turkey and an owl. I also found large quantities of mud in a couple of spots.




Given the large quantity of mud I had to clean off/out of my bike on top of an already busy Friday, I didn’t get out of town until around 4pm. Apparently, there’s a never-ending Friday night congestion of U.S. Highway 64 between all the small towns across Arkansas. Who knew? There’s a more northern route that’s a few minutes shorter, but I’ve always felt a bit of an adventure connection to 64 since it’s been a part of many of my travels to races and whatnot in both directions across the country.

Anyway, Turbo and I made it in enough time to make dinner and start a new puzzle.



(OK, so the second photo is from the morning, as evidenced by my coffee, but that’s all I’d finished the night before)

This winter, I’m embracing the “just get out and ride” method of free-forming my base miles. I’m also embracing some interesting ride food, like rum-soaked fruitcake:


I came up with a route that I dubbed the “Baby Epic,” because in the future, I’ll add more singletrack to the eastern side of it. If you take a look at the map:, you’ll see that, following Branscum Rd. (which is actually a pretty rough/steep horse trail), I used a combination of Green Mountain Road, the last 4 miles of the Red Trail, and the last short/tech section of the Orange trail to return to where I started. Next time, the plan is to add the Blue trail from the 2nd trailhead to the Orange, and, as a final “Big Epic,” add the long/hard section of the Yellow on top of that. That’s bound to be an all-day ride for sure.

Along the way, I did some futzing with my suspension as well as making a stop to take photos from the little side trail to a waterfall at the bottom of Branscum “Road.”




That last one is from underneath the waterfall overhang. You can see the water coming down from the upper right side of the photo. It is gorgeous out there, and the trails are generally in great shape. After my journey, I arrived back to the parking lot and saw another Shelby County vehicle parked next to mine. The occupants (including Fullface Kenny) had left some dust art for me.


I unscrewed their gas cap.


Ginger Ale and recovery candy.

Back at the cabin, I snacked, cleaned up, and worked on my puzzle some more. After a trip to WalMart for provisions, I came back and made a kickass dinner and watched the ever-present A&E Criminal Minds procedural crime drama marathon.


Sunday was a day for survival and not photos. I rode from the 2nd Green Mountain Road trailhead without much of a plan other than “explore side roads.” Turns out, most side roads just lead you to logged-off meadows. My legs were thrashed from the day before, so it was a 2.5 hour exercise in keeping the pedals moving and trying to enjoy the scenery and little bit of excitement that comes with exploration… all the while, trying to ignore the fact that my legs were still back at the cabin drinking coffee and working on a puzzle.

Driving home from the cabin depresses me. Aside from the lack of multiple cute animals, it’s like my safe, cozy fortress of solitude where I can go and ride some of the most difficult terrain available then relax in the peace and quiet of the Ozarks. It’s one of those things where the whole way back, I’m already planning the next trip in my head.

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The Long Weekend

Since my family acquired a cabin near the Syllamo Trails, I’ve been going over there for Thanksgiving. The past two years, it’s been a family event, with one or more relatives coming to visit. I decided to take Turbo this year since she’s been fighting off pneumonia for the past two months and the extra exercise of being able to trot around and pretend to chase deer (there’s not much real “chase” when you’re a large 13-year-old dog) is good to help clear her lungs. On Wednesday, I took her to a small local bakery/grooming shop called Woof Gang Bakery where they offer self-service baths/blowdry. She loves the attention…


Speaking of dogs… look how cute these two are:


Also on Wednesday, I made the best green bean casserole, ever. I love it when I find a recipe like this one that’s been bastardized by pre-made/canned food and take it back to the basics to remind everyone that even a casserole can taste like actual food and not just salty mush.

Thursday morning, Ryan and I left early so we’d make it to the cabin for lunch festivities. Everything was pretty delicious, though I refrained from gorging too much because we planned on squeezing in a post-lunch ride that afternoon. Not long ago, a professional work crew cleared the entire 13-ish mile Red Trail, and, even though it’s not my favorite one in the system, I hadn’t ridden it in more than a couple of years because it’s continually been in bad condition. Other than a couple of branches and lots of leaves, it’s now super open and nice. We also checked out the Yellow trail on the non-trailhead side of Green Mountain Rd. between the Red trail Trailhead and the Yellow/Blue Trailhead. Half of it was clear and open like the Red Trail, and the other half is thorny with several trees down.

Thursday night brought about my newest Thanksgiving tradition- an obnoxiously large and difficult puzzle. This one was particularly terrible because the photo used for the puzzle is mostly out of focus.


Spoiler alert- we never finished it.

Friday, I wanted to ride a potential Enduro course. Details are mostly a secret, though I will say the transition climbing is going to kill the shuttle-runners off with a quickness. It’s very scenic, though.


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Sunday, we attempted to ride the “hard” part of the Yellow Trail from the middle Green Mountain Trailhead going clockwise (reverse race direction). It still has some overgrown spots- especially in the logged-off areas (of course) and a pretty steady amount of downed trees. However, the rock gardens are in prime condition. Ryan wasn’t enjoying the looseness of the leaves and marble-y gravel beneath them, so we ended up bailing off at a logging road just after the Overlook.


We extended our ride on the nearby gravel roads and checked out the scenery at the bottom of Sandy Flat before heading back to the cabin to eat and pack up for home. Conclusion? The trails are about 85% awesome right now. The more traffic they get, the more the leaves will be unfluffed, and the better they’ll ride. If you’re on the fence about going to Syllamo because of past conditions, I’d say it’s worth the trip.

Sunday, I wanted to get in another good ride back in Memphis. The weather was super nice, with highs somewhere up in the 60’s for much of the day. Since it hadn’t rained in a while, Matt and I decided to try checking out the “Epic” trails- a sort-of system of 4×4 trails that winds through the narrow strip of woods between the Wolf River and Interstate 40 across most of the length of Memphis. Because of the neighborhoods it crosses, it’s not a place to go alone, and there are mudholes there that could swallow a jeep, however, when it’s in good shape, it’s a lot of fun to explore as long as you know what you’re getting in to.

Along the way-




We found out very quickly that it was way too muddy. We probably should have taken a hint from this guy, who we found stuck in a hole near the beginning of the trail-

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My tires clogged with muck within a mile, and both wheels couldn’t turn. Our adventure thwarted, we turned around and hiked out. Lots of other people were out enjoying the mud and nice weather, so we had some entertainment along the way back.



I recorded a little video:

Our bikes were pretty trashed in a short period of time, so we rode back home and, following a little errand-running, drank just enough alcohol that playing “you be jab, I’ll be cross” with my boxing gloves and later “trade leg kicks” sounded like a good idea. Ryan didn’t participate, and, lo & behold, he was the only person in the house not walking with a slight limp on Monday morning.

Now, it’s back to the grind for the time being… mostly. There’s currently another Syllamo trip in the planning stages. I’m also about to have a bit of a change in my MMA training. Since my fight back in July, John and I have been training a little on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. However, since the building that Ingram’s Martial Arts was in is being taken over by another lessee, they’re moving their classes to UFK, and I’ll be starting in with them tonight. It’s slightly uncomfortable to be the “new kid,” but I’m pretty sure it’ll turn out just fine.

Arkansas-Induced Happy

Sorry (a little) for making bummer posts lately. My trip to the cabin/Syllamo Trails was gorgeous. I only got to ride on Saturday because of some crummy weather that came in Saturday night, but it was totally worth the trip (as always). We rode the Orange and Blue trails, and they’re in excellent shape right now.

Riding for any length of time on those trails will confirm that nearly every inch of them wishes for you to fail or break down. Matt flatted on a forest road, at which point, I decided that the Syllamo Trails are like the Australia of trail systems- there seems to be a disproportionate number of things there, both large and small, that will injure your equipment or your person. That probably only makes sense when you realize that Australia is home to lots of things that want to kill you.



Flats and falls aside, it is, and will always be, one of my most favorite places in the world. It’s quiet, remote, and beautiful.



I’m excited to go back this weekend, ride, and do some trail work on the less excellent areas. From what I’ve heard, the Red trail (which was definitely the worst as far as overgrowth and deadfall), is now clear, thanks to a crew brought in by the Walton Family Foundation (most people in Arkansas would agree that the trail systems in the state wouldn’t be what they are today if it weren’t for the generous donations from the Walton Family).

If you’re a follower of Mountain Bike Radio and listener of Just Riding Along, you’ve heard all that before. If you aren’t a listener, you should definitely start this weekend. You can go to the MBR website and listen directly, or click on whichever of the “download/listen here” buttons most suits your fancy. You’ll be entertained and/or informed during your hours of Thanksgiving travel. If you’re new to JRA, you should definitely go back in the archives and learn about the hazards of the trailside Armadillo. That way, you’ll be fully prepared to get a t-shirt once we have them printed: