A Day in Davis

These days I often just simply get on my bike and go. Sometimes just a vague idea in mind as a destination, but usually I am more interested in the journey, rather than the destination. It’s true that the simple act of being on a bicycle is a healing and rejuvenating experience; one that can straighten your path so to speak. It’s also a splendid location to get some thinking done, if that is what is needed. Or, it can be a place to simply not think and to merely enjoy the wind on your face.

Today, I decided on heading out across the Yolo causeway in search of more of the same dirt trails I had discovered earlier in the fall. As I entered the dedicated bicycle path that connects Sacramento with Davis, the Causeway appeared. The dirt trails and open meadows were completely underwater. Of course, I had forgotten that this time of year that is the case. I decide to pedal on to Davis via the bike path, and have a relaxing pedal. Davis, which about 20 miles from Sacramento, is the home of the University of California, Davis. It had been a long time since I had been to a small college town and had forgotten how quaint they can be. Davis is full of book stores, small markets, a farmers market, cafe’s and coffee shops. The UC campus is also quite nice to pedal around through, partly due to the many foot and bicycle trails adjacent to the creeks, arboretums, and, gardens. It’s quite nice really.

Davis is truly a bicycle town. Dedicated bike lanes, bike parking, paths, and bike shops seem to be every where. There are people riding bicycles everywhere, and herein lies the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.

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Escape From Sacramento

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Dirt trails, Rail trails, cat’s tail’s, 2 tracks, single tracks, train trax, dirt roads, access roads, forest paths and game trails.

Study maps, ask around, look around town, think like a weirdo, and keep yer ears open and yer eyes peeled. Since I am held captive by the urban sprawl, this is what I do. I seek out places where most do not; I look for the paths and trails that, for the most part, at least in these parts, follow the waterways of the Sacramento region and it’s rivers and Delta area’s. There are horse trails and fishing paths leading to rivers, sloughs, ponds, creeks, tributaries, and ship channels galore.

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A usual start and off to Old Soul coffee house and Edible Pedal bicycle shop. Eat tasty quiche and croissants and Java for breaky. Catch up at the shop to find out about more trails up between Auburn and Folsom for another day perhaps. It is in my registry now. Today however, I am drawn back to the west side of the city and into it’s key river’s upper Delta area’s.

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Meandering through urban alley’s and backstreets; a side route through the ghetto; across said river and through a minor forest to find muddy fishing trails. Finally hitting open pavement if you will, and bolt for the wild west beyond the combatant city, where most there are fighting for supreme survival in automobiles. Paying a pretty price to do so in fact; lining up at filling pumps, all the while spewing their poison for all to become intoxicated with in this metropolis of bliss…

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I head out West Jefferson Blvd, a known, fast route out of said Madness, and planning an escape route on the Clarksburg Rail Trail, but instead, spy an alternate: The Sacramento deep water Barge Canal has a levee on it’s side with a gravel surface that begs to be ridden fast; which I do.

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There are many fisherman here; many on bicycle, who have ridden in from adjacent neighborhoods, accessing the canal via trails, paths, and streets as I do. They fish, seemingly for 3-headed Sturgeon, and perhaps Catfish with feathers and legs. I do not know for sure.

I do know this:  Snake Pliskin did not have a bike, but I do. Henry David Thoreau did not have an ipod, but I do.  Bike + ipod + dirt paths = a whole shit load of urban fun. I am quite certain of this.

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Looking back upon the Madness, beyond it’s factories, and skyscraper temples of commerce, I begin to see a rare and hopeful sight unfold before me:  some 50 miles to the east, the clouds are parting along the edge of the massive Central Valley, to reveal the greatest asset California has to offer.. The Sierra Nevada Mountains, covered in snow, and standing as a monument to a time before the Madness was constructed. I spy an electrical cabling tower perhaps 150 feet high. This tower, I presume is to carry mind control signals to the workers in the Madness, to keep them artificially subdued (sub dudes), so as they will not wish to escape, as I have.  I decide to climb up the said tower a bit in order to catch a better view of these monuments of a time forgotten. Nearly 30 feet up, I realize that the ladder pegs, and my shoes are quite wet, and decide to descend, Before I do, however, I see the Mountains, far beyond the city, and dream of them.

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 The levee continues, but between said levee and Barge canal, an area opens up with some light forestation and a nice singletrack splitting it in two. Meandering in and out of Oaks and thickets, it finally ends, and I am forced back upon the levee, where mud becomes thick like gooey cake batter.  This is practice for the Dalton and Dempster highways, I think.

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Eventually, the levee too, ends, and I am forced back onto West Jefferson, and ultimately, the City. As I near the State Capitol, I spot a protest ensuing. I cannot make out what most are saying, but judging from the signage they carry, these are Native American Indians, protesting for their Native Brothers in Canada, against Canada’s recent opening up of it’s river’s and lake’s to massive demolition by way of methane/coal extraction. This practice will destroy rivers, destroy the Salmon, destroy the Bears, and destroy the native peoples there who rely on said natural resources.

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I feel for you all, and all of us,  Brothers and Sisters…

Gear – Part I: Powering Up

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Being the sort person that thrives on being out on extended adventures in remote places as wells  having the utmost desire to be as completely self contained as possible, and also being of the the sort who needs to utilize a certain degree of technology in order to accomplish my mission as a photographer, I thought I’d share some of that technology here.

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I tend to, on long road-worthy bike trips, carry what I need. In other words, on extended trips that are not intended on “light and fast”, I don’t go light, generally speaking.  That said, I carry a heavy Canon 60D DSLR, a 24-105mm lens, a 10mm super wide/fisheye lens, an intervalmometer, 3 camera batteries, a tripod, a 12 volt Canon charger, 2 hard drives, a laptop, an ipod, and a basic cell phone.  Holy shit that’s a lot of junk to be hauling into the woods!   Word.

Keeping things charged and protected can be a real pain in the arse on long trips into remote areas. Especially when you may be encountering a certain degree of discomfort or hardship; day after day of rain, grueling hill climbs, lack of food or water, mechanical breakdowns, or the threat of predatory animals in the area you might be in. These types of circumstances make it difficult to be motivated enough to put the effort in that may be needed to keep those DSLR batteries charged or the Laptop fired up to offload photos and back things up.

I have put a bit of thought into how to make this as easy as possible, while maintaining my own set of rules regarding self reliance.

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The Apple MacBook Air 11″ is the smallest, lightest, most powerful unit in it’s class on the market. Being a non PC user, this is simply the ticket. The model I have is an older one; intentionally sought out in order to run Mac OSX Snow Leopard (my top choice in order to run Final Cut Pro 7 properly for video editing). It has a1.6ghz processor and 1g of RAM.. not much, but just enough to get the job done in the field. As a bonus, it has no optical drive and has a solid state HD, which means NO MOVING PARTS!

To offload photos, I have choices:  I carry a Nexto Extreme 500G HD that requires NO COMPUTER to operate. It has a button menu, it’s own battery, SD and CF card slots, and will offload your cards to it’s HD, and then give you a confirmation!  Then, depending on how much spare time I’ve had recently and how much the sun has been shining for photovoltaics, I can then choose to use the Laptop to back up this drive to another external drive. The one I have is a Toshiba USB model with 1TB storage.

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Now, the solar panel I have is a beast… The one I used to carry was a Brunton 26 watt unit that was small and light, but it was always a problem keeping ipods and camera batts charged. This was back when I didn’t carry a laptop to back photos up. It was risky business in regards to my photos to say the least.

I now have a PowerFIlm 50 watt monster… It connects to a Voltaic 60 watt multi voltage battery. The entire package is certainly heavy; no one ever said that doing this stuff on yer own, way, way out for extended periods of time was going to be easy, did they?

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The battery can connect to the panel with a long cord, so as to be in the tent at camp, while the panel is out there doing it’s job.  There is a switch on the Voltaic to select voltages as 12v, 16v, or 19v, depending on your laptop needs. A full sized MacBook Pro would use the 19v setting, but the MacBook Air uses the 14v setting. I use the 12v setting to plug in my Canon LP-E6 car charger for the 60D batteries. Voltaic will even, for just a couple of more bucks, supply you with an in house-made adapter for the mag-safe on apple laptops, which will, in turn, connect to the Voltaic battery. Sweet!  The voltaic unit also has a USB port to run your phone, ipod, etc. I use tent stakes to lay out the panel in camp, run the long cord to the tent, and all gets charged, assuming there is sun.

For the majority of my USB charging needs (Nexto unit, ipod, basic cell phone)  I have devised a system that was not too easy to set up, but now that it is up and running, it works like a charm.

I begins with an IRD, disc only, 36 hole, 3 watt, 6 volt front generator hub, that I have laced to a Veloicity Chukker rim. The hub also features a clutch that can be turned to switch the unit off when it is not needed, extending it’s life, I hope.  In order to get 5 volt, 4.5 watt power from this unit, I purchased a german product called “The Plug II”. This adapter is designed to be installed in your head tube and the unit sits on top of your stem. To me, this is a piece of over engineered, overpriced, gadgetry. But I need one to do this, so I bought one and modified it to suit my needs. I didn’t want the unit permanently installed on my bike as it makes the whole front end of my ride even more complex than it already is, so I built an enclosure for the electronics and mounted the Plug unit to the end. I accomplished this utilizing copper and PVC parts from the local hardware store and mounted to my front rack with velcro straps, for a portable, bombproof USB charging unit. The unit then plugs into the IRD hub.

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For my ipod, I have a Pelican case that, again has been modified to suit.  I mounted an aluminum plate to the back, drilled a small USB cable hole in the appropriate spot, and hose clamped it to the fake stem mount that I also made in order to accommodate the mounting of an Ortlieb handlebar bag to a Jeff Jone Loop Bar.

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The Ortlieb requires utilizing the bar AND the stem for it’s rock solid, proprietary, mounting scheme. But, one cannot do this with a Jeff Jone Loop Bar, because it has 2 crossbars.  By cutting a stem in half, and using shims for the diameter, I was able to mount the bag to the most excellent Jones Bar. I have utilized other scenarios in the past, such as a second stem below they main stem, but this is sleeker, cleaner, and tricker, for sure!

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Now, my ipod, etc, are always plugged in and as long as I am in motion, they are charging. The solar panel is still the only way to charge everything else however.

I have some other thoughts on how to possibly rectify this, but that’s for another story.

A Life of Bikes

Other than Trikes and kiddie cycles, my first bike was a Redline BMX bike that I built myself.  It was 1977, I was 10 years old, and BMX was big.  I spent months gathering parts for this machine by any means necessary.  Ultimately, I honestly don’t remember what happened to this apparatus.  My next bike, if memory serves me, was a 70’s Peugeot road bike in the classic red color that seemed so popular back then. It sported Simplex derailleurs, Maillard hubs, and Mafac brakes. Honestly, I never really liked the bike all that much, but still, it was a bike, and A bike is better than NO bike.

Sometime later, there was a Schwinn Le Tour..  This machine was really something I revered. I loved that bike. It was a heavy tank of a vehicle, as all sub 500 dollar units were, but I had big ideas about riding this thing very far.  Eventually it was stolen.

Le Tour
Again, this one wasn’t mine, but it looked just like this puppy…

Then there were a couple of Sears and Montomery Wards “bicycles”; These babies were cheap transportation to high school, but that’s about it.  Luckily, they too were stolen.

During High School, I had a circuit of lawn mowing customers throughout the neighborhood. One summer, I mowed and mowed and mowed. I had recently ridden a friends Miyata MTB and fell in love with this new kind of bicycle. This was 1982 or 83.  I decided that I wanted the game changing 1984 Specialized Stumpjumper.  By the time school started again in the fall, I had half of what I needed. My mother, bless her heart, covered the rest.

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This one’s not mine, but it was just like…

To me, the Stumpjumper was the ultimate; it had some of shimano’s best ever offerings in the original Deore line up, plus those great looking Specialized cranks and hubs that really were a testament to how great these parts were during that time period.  Alas, that bike too was stolen, and though I did not I give up on bicycles, I  focused my energy all the way on rock climbing and mountaineering, which, in turn, pretty much consumed me for the next 25 years.

A couple years out of high school, I moved to Washington D.C. to pursue a romantic relationship with Judy Paddon.  I became a bicycle courier in the D.C. metro, and my weapon of choice was a GT Karakoram. The GT was a good bike, and it became even better as I wore the thing out pedaling it  300 miles a week, and upgrading parts as they went.

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The GT Karakoram, Slickrock, 1990

After moving to Moab in February 1990, it was all mountain bikes, everything from The fantastic Bianchi Grizzly (AKA The Green Bastard) to the more advanced, fully suspended, long travel, All Mountain, Freeride, and Downhill bikes of modern times..

..But that is another story all together.

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The Green Bastard stops for lunch
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The Griz in action

Desperately Seeking Wildness

IMG_7120Riding through urban chaos can be fun at times; even challenging perhaps.  Eventually though, I must leave these streets filled with insane people driving around like the world does not need to change, and find some solitude.  Sacramento, to me is an urban mess like any other, but it has a wonderful redeeming quality insofar as it is blessed with 2 major rivers: The Sacramento River and The American River.  At the confluence of said cricks’, lies the madness.  Beginning at said madness, and extending for more than 30 miles east, is the Jedediah Smith bike path.  It follows the American River all the way to the dam damn, where, above, lies Folsom Lake.

I pedal by the bike shop to say howdy and coffee-up, then hit the trail..

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This river is full of Salmon in the spring and fall, and Steelhead in the early winter.  The Jedidah Smith trail is a paved path, full of cyclists mounted to plastic machines, and sporting outrageous spiderman-like costumes.  I’m not sure if these alien-like creatures can communicate or not, as when I wave, none seem to flinch an eyelash.  I think perhaps they might be robotic droids from said madness, perhaps on a mission from a higher power that is most important.  I even witnessed said droids dismounting said plastic cycles and getting into strange, four-tired vehicles that lightly rumbled as they moved away.  Strange indeed.

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Luckily, the paved path leads way to MANY dirt single track trails; braiding in and out of the adjacent forest.  These trails, for the most part, are technically off limits to cycles, and are intended for horse traffic only.  It seems to me that at this juncture in time, there are far more cyclists in North America than there are Horsemen and women.  I have mixed feelings on this matter.  Rarely have I come across said cavaliers.  When I do, I am polite and get out of their way; it never seems to be a problem.

Back to the trails…  These tracks are marvelous, and even fully loaded for an overnight bike camping trip into the wildness of the river, The Ogre excelled at navigating the Oak laden singletrack.

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Between Watt Ave and Sunrise Ave, on the Rancho Cordova side of the River, lies an area I believe is known as American Bar.  It is festooned with Oak trees, river rock piles, Coyotes, Buzzards, open fields, and more of the same fantastic trails weaving all over. There are even a few sweet, secret and hidden places to pitch a tent and do a bit of undetected camping.  Across from this area and slightly downstream is a place of zillion dollar homes; perched steadfast on the banks of 200 foot escarpments.  This is also where the governor’s mansion is located.These castles are built on ancient native burial grounds, as is the Governor’s Mansion itself.  I know this because this river corridor was the former stomping grounds of my father, who, as a teenager, spent nearly all of his time down here and found many a human skull popping from the river banks.

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I find a nice spot to camp amongst the Oaks, and write and shoot time-lapses of the forest.  Later, in my sleeping bag, I listen to the cries and howls of many a coyote…  I try to imagine what this fantastic river corridor looked like 500 years ago… Before the madness.

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“You’ve got to ride like Hell, face into the wind.  One day you’re everything, and then you’re nothing again.”

-Gov’t Mule

The Surly Ogre

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Ogre

In preparing for a 4700 mile journey from Utah to Alaska to California, I pondered the possibilities of a bicycle for long distance travel that was different than what I was accustomed to seeing. At first tho, I was in fact leaning toward the traditional, because that is what I knew. At the time my first choice was the Raleigh Sojourn.

It had disk brakes, but other than that, was a traditional touring bike in every sense. Alas, the shop I worked at in the time was not able to acquire one. That was a good thing.

Eventually, through many questions and research, I had settled on the fact that the Salsa Fargo was what I was looking for. I had the geometry I wanted, it was made from steel, had disc brake tabs, and was intended for stout componentry. I laced up some 36 hole Halo 29er wheels and bolted on all MTB gear. Even though I was accustomed to riding a heavy Freeride bike, I, for some reason, bolted on traditional drop bars for my trip. I just figured this was what one was supposed to do on a touring bicycle.

4700 miles later, I realized that this was, ultimately, the wrong choice for my riding style and for where I wanted the machine to go.

After arriving in California, I got to working on my various projects, that included woking as a carpenter, and on some film and video projects. I was also preparing for another trip to Alaska in 2012. A month before leaving on said trip, the Fargo got lifted at a local Safeway while purchasing Avocados.

My heart was broken and my trip was destroyed. The money I had saved for the trip would now have to go to a rebuild…

Enter the Ogre…

After unsuccessfully attempting to locate another Fargo frame, a friend suggested I look at the new Surly Ogre. The Ogre seemed to have everything the Fargo had and more. Disk tabs, rack, fender, and cage mounts galore. It was designed to be run single speed, multi speed, Rollhoff compatable, any way you want. It seemed to be the adventure bike that the Fargo wanted to be, but with a stout stature that couldn’t be matched.

Ogre City Scape Tilt

For wheels, I chose a rear Phil Wood tandem cassette 48 hole with 12/13 double butted spokes laced to Velocity Chukker rims. Short of the wheels on my downhill bike, these are the strongest wheels I have owned. For the front, I chose the IRD 36 hole disc only, generator hub.

Phil disc/cassette rear
Phil disc/cassette rear
IRD genny hub
IRD genny hub

Brakes went way of the of the venerable Avid BB7. These babies have proven many thousands of trouble free miles.

I decided to shy away from my past Shimano fixation and bolted on a Sram drivetrain with the durable X9 rear derailleur.

I went 8 speed with IRD friction shifters for the utmost in reliability.

Cranks fell to the simple, inexpensive, and bombproof, Race Face Evolve triple.

Inexpensive and bombproof
Inexpensive and bombproof

The new Schwalbe Mondial tire in 52c are an expedition tire to be reckoned with.

Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 29"X 2.00 (52cm)

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a set of the awesome Jeff Jones Loop Bar. This bar offer a 45 degree sweep, and according to my preferred riding style and body position, is the correct sweep. These bars make the ride.

The Awesome Jones Bar arrangement
The Awesome Jones Bar arrangement

I like Thompson’s stems and this one is a 70cm. The Ogre’s top tube length is exceptionally long, and the somewhat short stem makes the ride just right for me.

Workaround for the Ortlieb Mount

A Kane Creek Thud Buster post mated to a green Brookes B-17 saddle makes for a very sweet ride.

The Army Green paint mated with the  Brookes give the machine a Russian Military look that pleases me.

Venerablke Brookes B17
Venerablke Brookes B17

Ultimately, there is nothing traditional, touring wise, about this bike. It is setup to be at home on pavement and on trails. From bike packing to expedition touring, this one does it all…

…except roadless Alaskan swamps and remote beaches..  I’m pretty sure a Pugsley is up next.

The Ogre
The Ogre

The Tale of Biastardo de Verde

I really like bikes. I like all bikes. Well, nearly all bikes. I like simple bikes and complicated bikes. I like downhill bikes and I like touring bikes. These days, I am partial to steel framed touring bikes. I use the term touring bike very loosely, because a touring bike can be anything you want it to be. It can be heavy or light. It can be steel, aluminum, or carbon (plastic). It can be bamboo. The first touring bike I had was a Bianchi Grizzly mountain bike that I bought new in 1992, in Salt Lake City. It was outfitted with the outstanding Suntour XC Pro group, and served me well on the early trails of my then home of Moab, Utah.

The Griz in Oregon, '93
The Griz in Oregon, ’93

Then I got the bug. I wanted to utilize the bicycle for more than just simple pleasures. I wanted it to be a vehicle. In ’93 I rode the Griz from Moab to California by way of Idaho and Oregon and it suited me just fine…

Oregon Grizzly
Oregon Grizzly

Fast forward to 2009… The Griz had been traded some years back to an old friend for the hell if I can remember what, but in 2005, it came ’round my way again!

By 2009, I had stripped the frame and rattled can’d it a nice light forest green, and it affectionately became known as the Green Bastard. Over the years, the Bastard went through several changes, components, and owners. It now belongs to Angela, and I am desiring to rebuild the Bastard once again! The bike shop I work at, Edible Pedal, in Sacramento, has a powder coating service, and I do believe that the Bastard wishes to be painted once again. I doubt that it will be green this time around, but rest assured, no matter what color it recieved, it will always be known as The Green Bastard.

Green Bastard
The Green Bastard