A wildfire recently ravaged Point Mugu State Park. Some estimates have put the burn area at close to 90% of the park. The wildfire didn’t claim any lives and while some homes were damaged and property was lost, there wasn’t any loss of human life. The state park service has closed the Sycamore Canyon campground until May 21st with a warning about falling rocks and weakened trees in the backcountry. I will miss the giant old sycamore and oak trees but I hope every last leaf of poison oak burned to ash. It’s been said that fires clean a forest and are sometimes a healthy necessity. All I know is I can’t wait to ride the charred moonscape that Sycamore has become.
Click here for Sycamore Canyon closure updates
Where’s the log seat?
At least we don’t have to worry about ticks catching a ride on our legs anymore!
Will Sycamore Canyon ever look like this again?
The Dirt Club in Los Olivos has been on my mind for over a month now. Every time I plan a trip up the coast, life jabs me in the kidneys. Stuff happens and there are far more important things in life than riding my bike down fun flowy singletrack snaking its way through the chaparral. Whatever. I stumbled upon this nice 5 minute video on the MTB Action website of the recent Enduro race held at the Dirt Club and now I really can’t wait to ride there. This is the best video I’ve seen that showcases what the place is all about. There’s a pump track on the property too. What was I saying about more important things in life?
VP/Kali Enduro at the Dirt Club
Keep riding everybody
Posted: 2nd May 2013 by Tommy in Ramblings, Ride stories
Sycamore Canyon might be a charred moonscape next week
A terrible brush fire raging through our usual Thursday riding spot didn’t stop me and the boys today. Intense heat and downright nasty winds embraced us as we started turning them over in Wildwood. We had the place to ourselves as most sane individuals heeded the valid warnings from government officials to stay indoors and not participate in strenuous outdoor activities. The warnings were warranted judging from my runny nose and tickling cough 5 minutes into the ride. As is usually the case when that much testosterone (absolute stupidity) is flowing, we didn’t go for an easy spin or a quick out and back. We explored new trails and for the first time in my limited cycling travels, I found it easier to hoist my rig on my shoulders as I hiked up a stupid steep rocky trail. Wildwood has never hurt me like it did today but the miles clicked off with me in the rare position of trail boss. I was packing some extra spice with me on this ride. Fun and easy weren’t on my agenda for today. My heart was heavy, my mind was spinning, and I looked to the trail for answers.
Mountain biking is an inherently dangerous activity. On some level we all recognize that but it takes a serious injury for that fact to hit home. A co-worker of mine recently purchased a capable hardtail to start riding with my Thursday crew. He’s in decent physical shape and raced BMX back in the day so he knows his way around a bike. He went on one ride and was immediately hooked. He was still beaming the next day at work when we discussed certain aspects of riding and why we all keep coming back for more. I knew from his words and the look on his face that he got it and I was excited to have another good guy in the fold. He was back in the saddle two days later on a ride through Sycamore Canyon when he took a spill at the worst possible time. My buddy went ass over tea kettle down a 10′ embankment and earned an ambulance ride out of Sycamore. He’s been in the hospital for 2 weeks now and while he will fully recover from his injuries, he has a family to support and a life that has been put on hold.
I work for a company that provides a valuable service to the community but can be a dangerous place to work. The company takes great care of its employees and goes to great lengths to prevent injuries but accidents still happen. Those facts do little to lessen the blow that the news of an employee fatality can deliver. A husband and father was recently killed while performing the duties required of his job. The whys and hows cease to matter immediately following something like this and all anybody can think about is the pain that his wife and kids are feeling right now.
I was seriously injured while on the job about 8 years ago and my family and close friends were by my side during my week stint in hell (any hospital). There were also a few people that showed up repeatedly to basically just be there for me. Going through something like that clarifies life’s priorities. It also reveals a person’s heart and motives. A co-worker of mine kept popping up in my hospital room and would sit down for a few minutes without saying a word. If I was in the mood to talk, we would talk. If I wasn’t then he would leave and say a few encouraging words as he left the room. I got along with this guy at work but we weren’t close. I won’t ever forget those times and how he cared enough to take time out of his life to be there for me. He recently had a massive stroke and the outlook, if he makes it, isn’t good.
I had all this on my mind as I weighed my options this afternoon. Should I ride? How can I not ride? Those were the questions in my head at the end of the work day as a fire potentially destroyed my favorite riding spot. I was selfishly pissed off that Sycamore was off limits today when I needed it the most. The Renaissance Man was my answer man today. The 63 year old recently retired and has since resigned himself to the cafe tour. He’s put on a few pounds and doesn’t have the spark that he used to bring. I can’t blame the guy. If I worked for 40+ years and could go to breakfast, lunch, and dinner with friends and family every day I can’t say that I would be any different. He showed up ready for action today and asked my group if we wanted to try something different. I spoke for the 4 of us and told him to lead the way and make it tough without soliciting opinions from the rest. The uphills were steep, the ride went far beyond our usual 2 hour duration, and I rode with a chip on my shoulder. Every hot corner, every previously impossible climb, every tight switchback I rode with power. I was riding an awesome bike and I was going home to a family I am in love with. Life’s full of risks and sometimes it isn’t fair at all but today I was on a bike while a fire torched Sycamore, 2 friends were in the hospital, and a guy I never met was lowered into the ground. All I could think about while I rode is how much of a gift life is. Don’t waste it.
Keep riding everybody
I’ve had apple fritter on the brain for a week. I’m not a donut guy but last Sunday, in the middle of a 2 hour road ride, some sweet, fried dough sounded really good. When the nice lady handed me a small white bag and I felt the warmth within I knew I made the right choice. Just like an ice cold beer after a hot and dusty trail ride, nothing beats a warm donut on a cold morning. I could taste the hefty calorie bomb before it hit my tongue. I placed it on top of its white bag and smirked as I took a pull from a styrofoam cup. I was alone with my donut and coffee sitting outside of a typical run down donut shop. I thought about the hard working couple that have owned the place since I was a kid and the grimy posters that have been on the walls at least as long. Brief, passing thoughts of the absolute warfare I was about to wage on my arteries were beat back by the euphoria my taste buds experienced when I started to eat the thing. I’ve heard donuts are just about the unhealthiest thing you can put in your body but damnit they taste good! I was back for more this morning on a ride with my aunt and while she doesn’t share my affection for mid-ride donuts, it didn’t stop me from indulging for the second Sunday in a row. The old donut shop didn’t disappoint.
The latest 2 wheeled addition to my garage has me jumping off curbs with my son, daydreaming about the BMX track, and searching out little pockets of dirt around the neighborhood. A bike has given me the gift of time travel. I’m looking at riding through the eyes of a 10 year old. My crew’s fast and furious trail rides are always fun and a great way to spend a few hours with buddies. Sunday morning spins on the roads of Ventura provide me time to get lost in my own head. Those types of rides are somewhat age appropriate and acceptable for a responsible 36 year old male. Cruising a dirt jumper at the track or repeatedly popping off curbs with my 6 year old son has garnered me a few different looks from individuals passing by. Maybe I’m supposed to get my exercise in at the gym or by jogging or something. I definitely don’t have the svelte build of the typical cyclist. Either way, Koala has been calling me ever since my Airborne Wingman arrived at my front door. I have two very wiling and adventurous riding buddies at home and today was the day to see how the Wingman would perform in its intended environment.
A mouthful of dirt after a violent trip over the bars was enough for me to realize I am too old and too fat to be jumping anything more than an anthill. Fortunately there are enough riding lines and anthills down there for an over the hill 10 year old to have some serious fun. The bike performed flawlessly but the same can’t be said of its pilot. Every time I venture down into Koala I am amazed at its constantly evolving state and the creativity of the jump lines. The whole area has been cleaned up and represents respect and commitment more than juvenile delinquency. Nice job guys.
A mild Koala jump line
Keep riding everybody
-It’s always cool when you pick up a magazine and recognize a photo’s location. Sedona has quite a few unmistakeable views and the latest Dirt Rag has a pretty decent write up on the trail scene in this sweet Arizona town. Check out some of their pics here. Really takes me back to the greatest riding trip ever… read more about that here.
-I’ve been privy to a few discussions regarding the City of Ventura building a pump track in the yet-to-be-built new city park on Ventura Avenue. There have already been discussions about officially opening the dirt trail that begins where Cedar St ends and curves into Kellogg St. The trail runs along the bottom of the hill for the entire length of the Avenue. Both of these ideas are no brainers if you ask me but the powers that be have to be convinced of the benefits and versed on the liabilities. My eyes glaze over and I stop listening as soon as the sentiment towards these ideas turn negative. If you build it they will come. “It” being a world class, progressive pump track and “they” being the fun-loving cycling masses. The Cedar St extension trail is basically already there and would only require minimal improvements. These ideas aren’t dead by any means but the glacial speed at which any government agency moves is disheartening. I promise to keep you up to date on these exciting ideas and to annoy the hell out of the city council.
-Recent multiple land acquisitions in Northern California bode well for the future of mountain biking in the Golden State. This article details which existing trails will be extended and the unreal future possibilities. There is now a vision to link Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Nevada City, and Downieville by trails. The land is now in the hands of the National Forest Service and recon work will commence this summer. There are no estimated completion dates for any of the proposed trails but the land has been purchased and will be preserved for public recreation. Exciting times to be a mountain biker…
-I finally convinced the minister of finance that I needed another purpose built bike to ride the BMX track and to launch off curbs in the cul-de-sac with my 6 year old son. The Enduro Rider picked up an Airborne Wingman for the same purpose and while I didn’t want to be bike twins, after seeing it in person and hearing his review I clicked the ole BUY NOW button. Am I the Enduro Rider’s wingman now? Is he mine? Do I have to change both of our rider names? I kicked around the Wicked Fast Wingman and the Airborne Appraiser but they don’t have the same ring to them or do his riding justice. He will remain the Enduro Rider and I shall stay the Wannabe Wordsmith. Enough about names. This bike kicks ass and puts a smile on my face with a few pedal strokes. It’s a single speed masher for sure and so far has handled all of my low altitude aerial escapades. Look for a full review soon.
It’s as fun as it looks.
Keep riding everybody
Posted: 3rd April 2013 by Tommy in Ramblings
As the years click off on my life’s odometer I find myself trying to cram in as much fun kid stuff as possible. I fear the day when my body won’t allow a proper downhill ride or even a steady assault up a fire road. I’ve heard too many advanced middle age guys tell of sore necks or backs or knees preventing them from throwing a leg over a trail bike and are reduced to the boredom of following a white line down the road. That’s not to say road riding is any less dangerous than its off-road cycling brethren but sharing a lane with cars isn’t the sort of death defying thrill that I seek.
The bike bug bit us all in a similar way. The training wheels came off and we experienced exhilarating freedom and speed with a few pedal strokes. You were the motor, a steel frame was the chassis, and the wheels were 20″ in diameter. Speed increased with age while curbs and driveways became launching pads. I watch my son ride around in front of our house jumping off the same curb over and over again. Each jump contains a little more speed, aggression, and confidence. I think back to my own childhood and remember how fun those sessions were and how I never wanted to park my bike and go inside. Nothing in the world mattered to me then nor him today.
My son rode the Ventura BMX track for the first time back in January. All it took was a few sessions watching him to know that I needed to be out there with him. Riding right beside him pointing out ways to get faster is the only reason I’m out there. Well that and it feels like a trail ride in a bottle! Coaching your kid in youth sports is rewarding but having huge fun together is the part of being a parent that I enjoy most. His first experience with racing went fairly well and a different bug bit him. He wants to race again and he wants to win. Making the main was a huge accomplishment for his first race but leaving the track without that cheap plastic first place trophy has been eating at him ever since. I was proud of him for his big effort and huge heart during each of his 4 races that day. I was also jealous of all the racers. There’s something about watching kids of all ages and grown men and women race bikes around a dusty track. The kids are exciting and fun to watch while the 45 year old men racing the cruiser class are inspiring. These guys are racing for nothing more than bragging rights but they are charging hard all the way to the finish line.
Who’s that kid racing in jeans?
When I decided to ride with my son during practice I knew my fully suspended trail bike wasn’t the right tool for the job but I figured I would scoot along the track just fine. I made it around the track ok but I found myself wanting less bike. I didn’t need or want all the gears, shifters, linkages, and other trail bike must-haves. I wanted a 2 wheel, single speed, hardtail masher! I wanted something I could ride hard for hours and not feel bad after leaving it in the backyard. I want to go back to the way riding felt when I was my son’s age. 2 wheels, one speed, a rear brake, dropped seat, and sturdy handlebars. I’m going backwards and I’m nowhere near ready to follow a painted white line on pavement. There’s too much fun to be had acting like a kid.
Keep riding everybody