Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ovando Montana... Friendliest Bike Town in the West.

For our 12th anniversary I had planned a romantic getaway of riding our bikes through the carnivore infested back woods of the Flathead River Valley in Canada.  However with our usual impeccable timing we arrived in Sparwood the day the huge rainstorm of 2013 began and the next day the flooding started.  Josh and I were merely inconvenienced and had to change our plans but this was devastating for the residents of the area.  Our best wishes are with the people up there.

Michel Creek outside of Sparwood, BC on the Great Divide Route

Anyway we had to head south for drier riding.  We ended up in Ovando, Montana, and we were glad we did.  The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route goes right through town as does the Lewis and Clark Bicycle Trail. So this was the perfect jumping off point to start our tour.
Ovando Welcomes Cyclists

We rolled into town and fortunately the friendly owners of the Blackfoot Inn rented us a very nice comfortable room and let us park the truck out back while we were away on the tour.  We chose to stay at the Inn in order to dry out, but if you are a cyclist on a budget or just want to camp out you can stay in the historic Hoosegow or the Sheepherder trailer for $5 donation or just camp on the museum lawn for free.  Outdoor portapotty and solar shower are available.
Blackfoot Inn and Store.. Stock up on goodies and stay here

Historic town jail, converted to cyclist lodging.

Sheepherder Trailer, outdoor toilet and solar shower in background.

The next day we headed out on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route to Helena, after a delicious breakfast at the Stray Bullet Cafe.  Highly recommended, but somehow we did not photograph it.  

The ride made for a long day over the great divide three separate times with lots of climbing and descending in just over 100 miles.  We travelled through Lincoln and then no more towns until Helena.  The scenery was interesting, sometimes marred by clear cuts and old mines, but overall quite beautiful.  We did hit some thick mud at the top of one of the divide crossings and of course I crashed in it, but no serious damage other than a beautiful bloody wound so on we went.  

Headed out toward the mountains

The bottom of S.Fork Poorman Creek

Beautiful riding, but clouds mean rain.


Wide open country closer to Helena

We ended up in Helena and were longing to get back to Ovando.  We stayed on the outskirts of town and so did not explore much.   Bright and early we headed back making a loop partially on pavement and partially on the GDMBR to Ovando.   Still 100 miles but less climbing so we had more time for photos and picnicking.  

We took it easy on the way back,  Picnic time at the top of Poorman Creek

Once there the Inn was closed and two other groups were in town so we pitched our tent on the lawn.

We were hungry once we arrived and so headed to Trixie's.  Just the place to refuel and relax after a day's riding.  The restaurant and bar is at the west end of town on a hill near the highway.  A short walk or ride from camp.  Again no photos, I guess it is hard to remember to snap a photo when you are hungry.

Our third day was a loop up to Seeley Lake and back on the GDMBR.  More beautiful riding. 

 We also saw many tracks of the racers who had come through a few days earlier.  

We had a great time in Ovando and found it had all we needed to start and end a tour.  The local fly shop also carries a few basic cycling supplies.  Overall highly recommended as a cycling destination or a stop off on a tour.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Red Devil Challenge Run

Well,  I have not been blogging much as it is summer and I have been out riding, running and gardening, not to mention work and all the other business of life.  I did want to do a post on the Red Devil Trail Run, even though it was back in June.

Anyone who is also a runner out there might really enjoy the Red Devil, just outside of Cashmere.  This year they added the option of a 10K or a 1.5K kids run to the 25K.
Map of the race... A great trail run just for fun too!

My sister and I did the 25K again, but we were most proud of the fact that we talked my mom into starting running.  I can't ever remember her going out for a run and prior to this year she had never entered a race.  We did a lot of fast talking and got her signed up and trained up.  She completed the 10K run in 1:36:10.  In addition to meeting her goals of finishing in less than 2 hours and not coming in last place she managed to lose 15 lbs and counting by running it off.  Over all she feels better and has more energy, and all of this at the age of 65!  She just proved that it is never too late to start!

Charlene and Mom discussing last minute strategy before the race.

I competed in the 25K again this year.  I was a bit disappointed at being slower than last year, but I learned a bit about race strategy and will be better prepared next time.  My first excuse or failure was in training.  I have been focused on biking this year and have not been running enough.   I did go out and run the course and did some long runs but I hate speed work and so did not do much (well any speed work really).  In addition I made some mistakes on race day.  I think I did not eat enough prior to the race, breakfast was a good 2 hours before and I skipped the free snacks at the start.

Charlene at MilePost 111 the meet up place for the race.  Note the goodies that I did not eat. 

I then started out way too fast chasing some people uphill.  I was trying to keep up and just burned out all of my energy too early.   I missed the first aid station and so was running out of water and calories by the time I made it to the 2nd.  Too late!! I felt nauseated and bonkish on the last section of the race.  I did learn how to push through and was quite proud of my 8th place (for women) finish, and hope to move up next time.    All in all it was a great race and we had fun and a well deserved post race beer at Milepost 111 in our Red Devil pint glasses.


I confess that the photos are not up to the usual standard but that is because Josh was not there.  He is the family photographer, and I was gasping for air and so did not take any photos of the trail.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Knitting in the Woods

So as I watch everyone line up for the Tour Divide race I am starting to feel a bit nervous.  I am still in the planning stages and who knows what will happen in a year, but right now I am planning to race the divide myself.  I have no delusions that I will win or beat Eszter Horanyi's amazing time, but I still want to do it.  I am fighting for the Lanterne Rouge.  I think I have a pretty good shot at it.

I am overwhelmed by all the planning and prepping.  I am attempting to become a bike mechanic, fast bike rider, to improve my endurance, learn to use a Garmin (arrgh, another topic all together)  and so on and so forth.  Still I have been neglecting one bit of the planning, what to knit on the divide?

Polebridge Knitting
So for all you fast racer types,  you may wonder what knitting has to do with anything, but it is important.  I mean for one's mental health.

I have been on many a backpacking, skiing and more lately bikepacking trips.  The same thing always happens.  You get to camp, get it set up and then what...  Too tired to explore around, need to go to sleep and yet....  There are things that go bump in the night, or worse they snuffle through your camp and then decide to chomp on you!  In the dark of the backcountry a little mouse becomes a bear sneaking up on you.... his jaw opening... sharp pointy teeth!!

Enter knitting.   Light weight, portable, and keeps your mind occupied.  Who can worry about bears and cougars when you have to get to the end of the round and keep the pattern straight on the lace socks you are knitting?  And if you need to fall asleep just knit a few rows in straight stockinette stitch and you will soon be in dreamland

Knitting can also be useful in the day light hours.  When boredom of riding that I have read so much about sets in you can dream up a new pattern.  Or solve that tricky problem of turning the heel, or how to make the cable on the hat look better and so on and so forth.

I have knitted in some beautiful spots, and when I get home I have a great souvenir of where I have been.  Wearing the item, or in some cases just looking at it and wondering why I made such a strange garment will bring back trip memories.

I plan to squeeze in some knitting on the divide.  I imagine that I will not have much time and will be too exhausted to worry about the bears etc.  However a few stitches here and there will be a much needed respite I am sure.   I am working out a pattern for some Divide Socks or maybe a Divide Hat, and when I get home a Lanterne Rouge sweater.. we will see.
Hat inspired by Cascade Mountains

I highly recommend knitting to all outdoorspersons with overactive imaginations.  Soothing, complicated enough to make you forget about predators and tedious enough to help you fall asleep.  Best of all when you get home you have a lovely new garment to wear on your next adventure.

Hand Knit Hats are Handy
"Knit on with confidence and hope through all crisis"   Elizabeth Zimmerman.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Jones H Bar Review

I have been riding the Jones H bar for about 3 months now and I think I will give an initial review.  I have to say that I think it is fantabulous.    I have logged several hundred miles with the handlebar.  No tours as of yet, so I will have to update once I have taken it out fully loaded.  I have ridden it for a long ride of over 7 hours, and in a variety of conditions including paved road, gravel and dirt roads and single track.

I have a personal mechanic (Josh), who put it on my Salsa Fargo small frame.  The bike is actually designed for a drop bar and has shorter top tube than a standard MTB.  I had to go with a 90 mm stem.  I am pretty short at only 5'4".  The backsweep of the bar makes it important to take your time fitting a proper stem length depending on your frame design.  On a standard mountain bike with a longer top tube I do not think this would be an issue at all.  To complete the set up I added Grip Shift Attack 9 speed shifters and Paul Love Lever 2.5 brake levers.  I also put on  Ergon GP1 short grips.  I wrapped the bar in some beautiful green Salsa cork tape.

Once set up it was time to ride.  Being a smaller rider I was a bit concerned about riding a 29er.   The H bar is nice and wide, 660 mm wide at the widest.  I find the wide bar gives me lots of control and leverage to crank up hills and descend in tight corners on technical single track.  The bar has lots of hand positions but I noticed that on more technical types of terrain I spend most of the time with my hands in the widest position on the Ergon grips at the ends of the bar.  This position gives the most control.    On smoother or flatter sections I like to take advantage of all the other positions.  I can stretch out my hands and fingers in the loop or ride in an almost aero position on the front of the loop.  The front position is also great for stretching out your back.

The super snazzy loop shape also is great for attaching all your bike gizmos to the bar.  So far I have only my computer on the bike but even with my front bedroll attached I still have plenty of space for aero bars, gps, lights and what have you.

The drawbacks of the bars are that they are a little bit on the portly side at 502 gm according to the Jones website.  I think the weight reflects the durability of the bar.  It seems to be extremely well made with nice smooth welds and feels like it will never break.  I don't notice the extra weight while riding.  The other potential drawback is the sweep of the bar leaves your brake levers a bit exposed during a crash.  I purposely left the levers a bit loose so they move rather than bend in a fall.  So far have only fallen on soft mud (knock wood), but the arrangement worked well and the lever moved but no damage done.

All in all I would highly recommend this bar to anyone looking for a mountain bike bar with lots of hand positions and space to hang all your doodads and gear.   In fact it is the only bar so far that has actually tempted Josh to consider changing out his beloved Salsa Woodchipper drop bar.   I am excited to take it on a tour in a couple of weeks and see how it fares in the long haul.  Will keep you posted.


I have now gone on a tour with this bar and I love it!   We rode from Ovando, Mt to Helena and back, then up to Seeley Lake on the Great Divide route and other roads.   I did put on aerobars, but really I think they are overkill unless you are doing a whole bunch of riding on flat roads.  I hardly used them.

I attached my front roll with the Revelate Sling.  I won't be using the sling again as I found that it works just as well to use the Revelate pocket and straps around the Jones Bar.  The bike handled well with the load on the bar and it did not get in my way.

I didn't have any numb hands, cramps or back pain.  I stretched my fingers, my electronics were all attached and stayed that way.  I crashed in the mud and rocks on the top of the Great Divide and my brake levers stayed intact.  Overall I am super happy with the bar and plan to keep using it.

Update 7/30/2014:

Valerie Completed the 2014 Tour Divide race with her Jones Loop H-bar in a finishing time of 27 days and several hours.  The 3rd place female finisher of the Grand Depart.  Bravo Valerie!  The Jones bar continues to be a perfect match for her Salsa Fargo.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Bear Song

So I have developed a bear song to repel bears while I ride my bicycle through the woods.  I am not sure that the song in itself is repellant but my voice certainly is.  The song is also good for passing time on the bike as I can't usually remember all the words and have to make up new ones as I go.

Here is the basic song.  You should adjust it to fit your own bike and situation.  I yell the lines in capitals.   Make up your own tune.  I usually sing out of tune

You are a very big bear ...BIG BEAR!
I think its not very fair ...NOT FAIR!  (Continue repeating the last two words of each line by yelling them through the rest of the song)

I am real small and real tough
I think you'll find me quite rough

My bike is made out of steel..
I know you'll not like the feel

Of biting down on the frame
You'll only have you to blame

When you break all of your teeth
It will cause you so much grief.

I have some pepper bear spray
You'd better just stay far away

So thanks for letting me through
And I won't be bothering you.

I have seen about four bears while riding my bike; all been black bears.  No grizzlies yet,  I think it will work, however as I have seen grizzly tracks, but no bears while singing.  During our Tour Divide Tour I sang this song very loudly while going up and down Richmond Peak.

I know there were bears in the area as we saw the tracks and also the trigger safety from someone's bear spray.  Josh swears he smelled pepper and he was sneezing a lot.

I am also afraid of cows on my bike.  We had a mean heifer when I was a kid.  She liked to kick and butt people.  I am working on a cow song.  Will consider posting it when finished.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Training Ride: Swakane Canyon to Nahahum Canyon

So I thought I would post some photos of a fun training ride that we do on occasion.  We ride from our home town of Cashmere down to Monitor, then over to Wenatchee.  From there it is a short jaunt on the highway to Rocky Reach Dam.  Just after that you hang a left and head uphill on a lovely gravel/dirt road.

I did not take any photos of the boring paved sections, but they are quite pretty zipping up and down some gently rolling hills through the orchards.  I do recommend stopping at the Stutzman Ranch in the summer for a fresh nectarine when they are in season.  I would not recommend getting any fresh eggs as they will probably be scrambled before you make it up the Swakane.

The Swakane canyon is approximately 8.5 miles of uphill with 2200 feet of climbing.  Late spring and early summer are ideal times to ride this canyon.  Later it is likely to be pretty hot and the road will be more loose and dusty.  You might encounter a rattlesnake or two.  Right now they are mostly dormant.

The road opens up at the top late March through early April.  You might want to be prepared for a bit of snow in March.

If you are adventurous you can hang a right approximately 3.3 miles from the highway and ride up the closed to car traffic NFD 5215 road and make a nice alternate ride to the top.  Here is a link to a website with a description of that ride.

I stayed on the main road and headed up.  The canyon starts out with a plowed field on the left and on the right flowers and sage brush on the high hills climbing to the ridges. This weekend the arrow leaf balsam root were in full bloom and the lupines are coming out. Eventually you get to the public lands and a wildlife area, with no farming on either side of the road.

If you are lucky and do the ride midweek you may encounter deer, and possibly bighorn sheep that live in the area.  Of course there are cougars etc. as well,  I have never seen them but I am sure they have seen me.

Arrow Leaf Balsam Root
The wildlife viewing opportunities are a bit limited on the weekends due to various and assorted 2nd amendment enthusiasts and the like who enjoy shooting their high-powered rifles at targets.   Most are very friendly and responsible shooting at targets well off the roadway.  I did run across a family of morons this afternoon who were shooting their paintball rifle across the road.  They stopped when they saw me.  I thought of some choice words but refrained as I saw they had consumed a quantity of fermented beverages and did not think it wise to upset them.  I rather like the color of my bike and don't want a new paint job.  Not mention paintballs sting when they hit.

The farther up the canyon you travel the fewer people you will see.  Toward the top are a series of beaver ponds and marshy areas that are quite pretty and I saw several mating pairs of ducks.

The top of the canyon is more treed.  You can continue on the road, or as I did head up on a short single track section through a meadow.  At the top of the single track you can zip along another forest service road and come out at the top of Nahahum Canyon.
View of Nahahum 

Nahahum is a beautiful ride in itself.  The top affords views of Cashmere and beyond.  From here many opportunities for extending the ride exist by heading northwestward.  You can ride the ridges and drop down in to Leavenworth or Entiat.  Keep going and eventually you will end up at the SugarLoaf lookout.  A great all day ride for later in the summer.
SugarLoaf Lookout

I coasted down Nahahum back to Cashmere,  The top mile or two of the canyon are dirt and can be muddy or washed out in early spring, and loose later on.   The bottom of the canyon is an easy coast down a smooth paved road with lots of fun curves through some ranches and rural homes.  Even on fat tires I averaged about 30 mph.

Once you get to the bottom of the canyon take a right and ride to the 2nd exit to Cashmere at Aplets way.  Just across the bridge are two great choices for post ride recovery food and drink.  Milepost 111 Brewery and Country Boys BBQ
Entiat Ridge Views

Here is a link to a map of the ride.  Have fun!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Orchard Bar Review

Here in the great metropolis of Cashmere, Wa, the geographic center of Washington state,we are surrounded by fantastic biking country.  From the Devil's Gulch single track trail

to the lovely climb up Chumstick Mountain.

Endless miles of gravel grinding and single track can make you hungry!  Fortunately we have a solution.  Liberty Orchards is located here in Cashmere.  They make many tasty delights such as the famous Aplets and Cotlets, but their newest (and best, in my opinion) product is their Orchard Bar.

Orchard Bars are (according to the label) Vegan, Dairy Free, Non GMO, Contain Natural Ingredients,  Low Sodium, Rich in Antioxidants (Vit C&E) and have Heart Healthy Nuts and are A Good Source of Protein.

Some of these claims are a bit thin.  Especially the protein.   Only 5 gm per bar.  I find that to be an advantage when riding or running as high protein bars seem to sit like a lump in my stomach.  The vitamins C&E are added as preservatives, but they are there 20% of the RDA per bar.

I do not think the bars are designed to be for super serious athletes in the way that a lot of the gels etc are, they don't really have much in the way of electrolytes or make any claims about improving your recovery etc.

In terms of actual composition the bars are a pectin candy base, a bit like Clif Shot Blocks, with some add ins including the following:  nuts (varies by flavor), seeds (flax and sunflower), and soy protein nuggets (I think these are the same as those in Luna Bars).  The gel is a bit softer than shot blocks and so easier to chew and less sticking to the teeth.

 Orchard Bars come in a variety of flavors.  I think my favorite flavor is Pineapple Macadamia Nut, but as you can see from the photo there are quite a few so you will probably be able to find one that suits your taste.  Although I would recommend steering clear of the Peanut Butter and Grape Jelly.  Yuk.  Tastes like a nasty gooey sandwich from your lunch box in elementary school.  If you had some slightly warm milk in a thermos you could re-live that wonderful afternoon nausea of 2nd grade.   As you can tell I am not nostalgic for PB&J.  If you are, go for it.

Around here the bars cost $1.79 apiece, on Amazon they are a bit more at $2.30 per bar.  That is a bit steep I think.   Pricing is in line with bars like Clif or Luna, but my main biking food is the Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Nut bars.   I am hoping that by eating these I will get faster... Mathew Lee ate the cashew flavor in the TD movie.  I am still eating only the peanut ones, but someday hope to be cashew worthy. But that is a whole other story.   The Nature Valley Bars are much less expensive, about 45 cents per bar on Amazon.  However, one does need variety and sometimes I like to splurge on an Orchard Bar. You can pick Orchard Bars up on here

The bottom line is that Orchard Bars are really delicious.  They seem to be easy to digest and eat on the bike or run.  I don't think that they contain all the balanced electrolytes etc, that products designed for athletes contain, and are a bit pricy, but they will keep you from bonking, and you will be supporting a small business here in Cashmere.  They fueled us up to make it to this beautiful vista outside of town.