Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Blue Sky Trail - Fort Collins, CO

The ground has thawed, spring is creeping up through the mulch and that wonderful sleeping “willow” on the break is about to bloom – this can only mean one thing: Mountain Bike season is here!

It’s been a mild winter by Colorado standards and today I look out my office window and nothing but bright sun and blue skies.  I often tinker on my toys and in between wheel swaps and my Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny squabble with my rear derailleur I managed to get a ride in.  It’s been a couple of months since my last post so some may be wondering “What’s Up Doc?”  Well, Dirt Life is expanding northward and waypoints are pointing towards the Fort.  No, not that special place made up of cardboard, scrap wood and trash can lids, but Fort Collins, Colorado. 

Earlier this month on a cloudy, sunny, cloudy afternoon I got my first taste of northern Colorado single-track.  The Blue Sky Trail trailhead is just west of the south end of Horsetooth Reservoir and for a daily fee of $6 you’ll be thoroughly entertained.  

This low impact trail is hard pack single-track and very well maintained.  There is a split right around the 3.50 mile mark and this day I chose to go right and descend down the slope.  There is a section of service road about 4 miles in which is great for groups to catch up or maybe a chance just to look around and soak in the Rocky Mountain flavor.  The climbs and descents make for a perfect early season warm up and the mild terrain is ideal for all skill levels.  Exposure is full so don’t forget your favorite SPF.  Obstacles are few but often enough to keep your eyes on the trail.  Over my route I only encountered one challenging descent/climb at 3.50/7.55 miles.  The good news is that it is short and completely smooth but at an 11% grade it could prove to be quite a challenge for the beginner.

The first miles of Fort Collins have been mapped and I’m excited about exploring this new terrain.  Click here for mileage and elevation info and check back often for more raves and routes.  The Blue Sky Trail extends all the way down to the Devil's Backbone in Loveland and with good weather, this trail should keep you rolling all day.

Thanks for clicking in and I hope to see you on the trail.

Dirt Life

Friday, November 27, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Traditions are a link to the past but more importantly they represent a love of the moment and hope for the future - at no other point during the year are the reflections of time so common as during the months of November and December.

As a child I used to look forward to A Charlie Brown Christmas this time of year and the tradition continues except I'm now 47 and it takes a little more than the Peanuts gang to ring in the holidays, although there is nothing like sipping on a glass of wine or cocoa by the fireplace with your favorite someone, snow flakes drifting outside the window as the sounds of Vince Guaraldi fill the air.

For the past three years I have managed another tradition of my own on Thanksgiving - snowshoeing among the towering pines and champagne powder of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  This year I traveled, thankfully, a short distance to the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Ward Colorado for a little spark and sparkle.

Snow flurries and partly cloudy skies illuminated the trails with a twinkle of silver and gold as the dry powder crunched beneath my feet, only the tender footsteps of the Sea could complete this scene.

Click here for the trail profile and for a little taste of the Colorado winter, click here for a short video on the trail.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Dirt Life

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Straunge Strondes

Sagrada Familia
"Of the gladdest moments in human life, me thinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands.  Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Civilization, man feels once more happy." - Sir Richard Francis Burton

Dirt Life implies adventure and Sir Richard Francis Burton said it best.  Unearthing the time to travel becomes increasingly difficult with every passing sun so when the wind blows the dust off that world map, often hidden under an itinerary of daily routines, it's best to ride that sweet breath of Zephyrus.

Last week my sister and I embarked on a one-week adventure of two countries and three cities; Barcelona, Florence and Rome.  Our journey began from two different parts of the country with a rendezvous in Newark NJ before departing for Spain.  We passed the night 30,000 feet above sea level jetting towards the rising sun at 600 miles an hour. Filled with anticipation it was tough to get a wink of sleep, minds racing as our internal clocks had us arriving in the middle of the night.

Neither one of us had been to Spain but we did share one common characteristic to this unknown land; its language, which made our time here somewhat familiar.  Like two adventurers setting out on their next journey we shared the duties of navigation however it soon became clear who possessed a command for direction, thanks to that familiar Newtonian gadget.

Barcelona is a city rich in culture with the perfect balance between modern style and classic design and La Rambla is the perfect example with an abundance of riches.  Walk these narrow city streets at night and you're taken away on an incredible journey of sights, sounds and tastes.  The lighting, bouncing off the walls with nowhere to go, creates an ambiance one can only dream of.  With the subtle tones of Spanish guitar emanating through the corridors, imagine your hands around a chilled glass of Sangria, silently gazing into the eyes of your bella Simonetta and you will have found the most romantic place on earth.

El Raval Neighborhood

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia
No conversation about Barcelona is complete without mentioning the extraordinary talents of Antoni Gaudi.  Inspired by nature, the Sagrada Familia is a sight to behold.  At first glance at the Nativity facade you could swear you're witnessing a mudslide in pause.  Step closer and you'll see that the Nativity facade includes many sculptures depicting scenes of Christ's birth.  Step inside and you're treated to a sensation of light, you simply won't believe your eyes.  Stained glass strategically placed illuminates the cavernous space with a kaleidoscope of light and columns as if growing from the marble floor into a canopy of tree branches are quite spectacular.  His genius is further exemplified in the Casa Mila and Casa Batllo located in the heart of Barcelona with highlights too numerous to mention.

Piazza del Duomo
After 2 days in Spain we hopped a plane to Rome where we boarded a train for Florence.  We arrived under a cloudy moon which cast an enchanting light over the Piazza del Duomo.  After checking into the Hotel Botticelli we set out for a brief stroll around the city, walking the same streets as Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael had done over 500 years before.  Florence, known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, is a beautiful city which carries with it the spirit of the artists of the time.  An absolute jewel of Italy, you'll lose yourself in the art and architecture that defined the early modern age.

It's impossible to visit Florence without a trip to the Galleria dell'Accademia to view a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture.  You're greeted to the plaster cast model of The Rape of the Sabines by Jean de Boulogne.  Continue on to the main attraction; Michelangelo's David, placed exquisitely at the end of the Hall of the Prisoners, the unfinished project of Michelangelo for the tomb of Pope Julius II della Rovere.

The Colosseum
We capped our tour with a stop to the eternal city for 2 nights in a charming hotel; Hotel Caravaggio.  Rome, unlike Florence, is extremely busy.  Ancient relics such as the Colosseum, the Forum and the Pantheon seem dwarfed by the activity of daily living but enter these attractions and you're taken back to the days of Julius Caesar and Imperial Rome.

Our last full day in Rome was spent wandering the halls of the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica.  The audio tour was a bit hard to follow so if your knowledge of art is lacking you could find yourself staring at a fresco by Michelangelo by Raphael, if that makes any sense.  Of course no one can mistake the artist responsible for the spectacular display in the Sistine Chapel.  Recently restored, the colors are as brilliant as the day they were painted.  It's remarkable to see how little attention is paid to The Last Judgment on the altar wall.  Painted 25 years after the ceiling, The Last Judgment represents a much older and more thoughtful Michelangelo, much to the chagrin of critics within the Catholic Church at the time.

It's impossible to absorb fully the beauty and significance of Barcelona, Florence and Rome in a couple of days and even more difficult in our busy lives to carve out the time to such an endeavor but with a little preparation and a positive attitude, you too will find straunge strondes.

Dirt Life

Monday, September 7, 2015

Good Sam Bike Jam

My first road bike ride went about as well as expected.  Having ridden nearly 20 of the toughest miles on a mountain bike the day before, I was just worried about finishing.

The day was a huge success!  Colorado sure knows how to run a bike ride; the Bike Jam was well supported with 9 aid stations all along the route offering snacks, water, bike pumps and first aid kits for all the riders.  The sag support and motorcycle marshals gave the ride a tour-like feel and the Jam area was a welcome sight after a long ride. 

I signed up for the 62 mile route which began innocent enough out of the parking lot of the Good Samaritan Hospital in Lafayette Colorado.  The ride was far less taxing than the abusive route of the previous day up until the climb up Lee Hill Road.  I'm a mountain biker and I was desperately missing that third ring up front but I managed to reach the top without interruption.  The ride down was exhilarating as I pounded on the pedals down Left Hand Canyon Road.  The last few miles were up and down on gentle grades but felt long under a scorching sun.

As part of the 62 mile group, I received a timing chip and to my astonishment came in 78 out of 139 riders. It was a great day and take a peek at the route profile, will make a great training ride in the off season.

Click here for the route profile and thanks to all those volunteers who made this all possible.  If you've ever felt like giving back to your community and enjoy riding your bike, you absolutely need to sign up for the Good Sam Bike Jam.  As the good folks at Good Sam say; Take A Ride, Change A Life...see you next year!  (Good Sam Bike Jam)

Dirt Life

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sourdough | Beast Mode

"Will cannot be quenched against its will." - Dante Alighieri

His spectacular ability for devouring up extra yardage when it seems all but impossible, Marshawn Lynch digs deep and blasts through the line taking anyone who dares to bring him down along for the ride.  With sheer determination, the star running back for the Seattle Seahawks knows only one gear; non-stop!  Sourdough by most accounts is not for the weary, the abundance of rocks and roots will certainly quell the enthusiasm of any fat tire pilot, add to that loose gravel and an unrelenting climb and you will come to know what it means to go Beast Mode.

The climbs alone aren't difficult but the loose tread, abundance of rock and roots make these climbs torturous for the novice and intermediate rider.  There's no real relief until the 3.8 mile mark but hang on because the rocks and roots gain strength along this section. The Caribou Classic coming up later this month includes Little Raven via Lefthand Reservoir Road which is a brutal climb up a very loose and dusty rocky road to the Little Raven trailhead; 2 miles of agony after Sourdough.

Sourdough Trailhead

Little Raven
Little Raven is like Sourdough except for one huge distinction; tons-o-traction!  Most of this trail is over 9900 feet in elevation, and nestled within an intimate pine forest the ground is slow to dry which allows for an unbridled indulgence of passions.  The roots and rocks seem larger and some parts are simply unrideable but add the sweetness of pine and moist Dirt and there can be only one word to describe it; intoxicating.  You eventually spill out onto Brainard Lake Road to complete the lollipop loop.  Click here for the route and profile to this classic Rocky Mountain ride.

If you do not possess the skill, strength and endurance for high altitude riding, Sourdough-Little Raven will beat you up.  But don't despair, drive up to Brainard Lake and if you can make it up Lefthand Reservoir Road, catch Little Raven down to Brainard Lake Road, you will absolutely love it!

Thanks for clicking in and I hope to see you on the trail.

Dirt Life