PPR Day One: A Boring Title

If you’ve been following along here, you’ve gotten more Plateau Passage Route Posts than you were bargaining for, as if you were bargaining for any to begin with. This past Thursday I finally set out to conquer Segment 1 from Las Vegas to St. George, UT. I wrote a little post about it, wanna hear it here it goes…

Thursday morning started off much like any other Thursday morning: wake up early, coffee, breakfast, nice talk with LT, watch grumpy teens be grumpy about their morning. There was one glaring deviation from the norm this time, though. I was leaving on a much planned and dreamt about journey towards St. George, UT shortly after the house emptied out its other human contents. My nerves were also pretty standard for a long solo ride departure: a little jitter, a little quitter. If you have done anything “big” by your own standards, you probably get what that means. It’s easy to think about quitting before you even start. It’s called convenience, I’m sure you have heard of it.

When the house was finally down to just me and the fur kids, it was on. There were a few last minute things to tend to such as changing the pedals on my bike (always a great idea to wait until the last possible minute on that task) and making sure all the things were tightened, strapped down, or otherwise secured to the bike. Everything checked out, tires were inflated to pressure, water full, and it was time to lift off.

The beginning of the ride is an easy roll down Hollywood Blvd’s brand new protected bike lanes to the entrance to the Wetlands, my official start to the route (which isn’t the official start to the route). I made the gradual left arc towards Lava Butte and prepared for what was to come, which ended up being a little easier than doing the LB run from the Lake Mead side. There are a few nasty descents, but for the most part it’s a beautiful off road way to exit the city. At mile 17 I passed through the Lake Mead Recreational Area toll booth and on to 50 miles of paved (yuck) glory to Valley of Fire State Park.

The goal for the day was to make it to the VOF entrance sign before sundown, and considering I was a little late out of the gate it was going to be a challenge. I’d love to sit here and write some incredible story of what transpired, but as there were no flat tires it was pretty standard. Here’s some highlights as I’m still feeling lazy and am only writing this because someone wants to read it. Wink.

  • The Park Ranger at the toll Lake Mead gate was astonished at what I was about to do. I appreciated his seemingly feigned awe.
  • I found a pack of Marlboro Reds strewn about the middle of Lava Butte trail, whomever dropped those is going to miss them a lot more than I miss smoking them. Not gonna lie, I did consider picking a few up for the trip. I didn’t
  • I was, of course, passed by the usual super kitted up roadies. Happens every time I ride this road, this time is was a pair of dudes in Castelli full kits buzzing by on their cool carbon road bike with the accompanying sound of aero carbon wheels whooshing by. I said “hey, look at you two” and laughed a little. They seemed unimpressed as to be expected. There was also a follow up solo dude a ways off the back. I suspect these guys ride out to Redstone, which is kind of the unofficial “summit” for this road, allowing them to ride a billion miles back to the entrance. Anyway, I didn’t miss my roadie sighting or their return zip past my slow ass climbing yet another hill.
  • I stopped at mile 31 for a lunch of madras lentils, a little chocolate, and of course water. Super exciting
  • The scenery was as breathtaking as usual as was the trash in order: License Plate, Cooler Top, Pool Noodle, Orange Squirt Gun. Every time I pass these I wonder if everyone who passes by these odd pieces of trash make the same mental inventory. Picking them up seems a disservice to the cycling community of the greater Lake Mead area, one part of me wants to properly dispose of these items, the other part of me doesn’t want to throw someone else into a state of mental chaos trying to figure out if they are lost, on the wrong road, or if someone was responsible enough after all these years to finally do some trash removal. I’m not going to be the one to cause such madness, and I fret that some other potential do-gooder may incite the same wild paranoia in me. Feels awfully Lovecraftian.
  • My rear brake was being a real butthole and at one point had to pull of the road and do a hard reset on the caliper. I even screamed “DO NOT MAKE ME TURN THIS CAR AROUND” at thing. This helped a bit, but the goddamn thing was noisy for the entire ride. It’s on the maintenance list, as well as the shit list.
  • I stopped at Redstone picnic area, which is a dune off the side of the road that has a little hint of Valley Of Fire to it, and I still suspect that this is where the mysterious roadies do their turnaround. Yes, still, like from a few bullet points ago. Upon arriving I was greeted by the same crow that is always perched atop the highest rock, doing his job giving everyone the “ka-kaw” and probably practicing a little bird judgement. It’s a really fantastic spot to have a picnic, and has restrooms and a small hiking loop to walk off your picnic foods.
  • After Redstone I started thinking about an old friend whom had passed away this week. I dedicated my ride this day to him, as he would have really loved to be a part of it. Had a good cry about him for a few miles, Rubber Side Down even in the afterlife, Dan. Thank you for the opportunities and friendship.
  • I rolled past Blue Spring, where LT had rescued me from a pretty brutal storm a few weeks ago, and took stock of the sun position. I had just enough time to make it to the Valley Of Fire sign. It’s on!
  • I went, for all I could muster, full on sprint for the next few miles until reaching the turnoff. They put the sign back a few miles off the road. Dirty trixters, but I made it and got the picture. Yay.
  • As the sun set I FaceTimed LT and shared a bit of the day’s shenanigans, then set out to find a camping spot. It was super dark.
  • Ended up “camping” at the Visitor Center right around the corner from the water bottle filling station. It was incredibly windy, but a south wind, so I was well sheltered by both the building and the knowledge that in a few hours I would wake to the south wind and let it carry me through the park and on to Overton.
  • I apologize for this being in bullet points. Maybe next time it will be a slide show.

And with that, day one was over. 69 miles, 4900ft of climb, zero energy left. I laid my head down on my seat pack/pillow and tried to get some sleep before starting off on day two.

Have Fun, Don’t Die

Were the final words from Super LaLa this morning as she left for school, and if I follow her advice they will not be her actual final words to me. Why was I receiving such a seemingly morbid farewell from such a super Lala?

Open your mind… Wiz…

I am leaving for 4 days on the Plateau Passage Route this morning, the culmination of a few weeks of planning and route recon. It’s going to be a little dangerous out there, and this is by proper definition my first real bikepacking trip. My experience up until now has been more “gravel packing” or long distance “road packing” as this was the the reality of bikepacking in my native midwest. Riding the outback trails of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah is a totally new world and basically like riding on the surface of Mars. Honestly, a lot of what I’ll be riding does resemble the surface of the Red Planet. Maybe I’ll meet Kuato? I wouldn’t mind a battle to the death with Michael Ironsides, though. Been waiting to fight him for decades.

We gathered around the kitchen table for a nice family breakfast of omelets, hash browns, and cinnamon rolls thanks to the tag team of LT and yours truly, and traded the usual jabs about the usual things like who’s always late in the morning or who did or didn’t do their chores the night before. It was a great scene that made me very thankful for where the glacier of life has dropped me. This incredible farewell breakfast was fit for any tour depart, and almost overkill from what I’m akin to for a little a four day excursion into the mountains.

This morning truly made me want to have fun and not die, and return in one piece to share the tales of my travels with the family over our planned taco dinner Monday night. You can’t beat bookending a bike ride with two great meals.

I just realized depart time has passed, so it’s time to GTFO. Have a great weekend, and I will try post some pictures during my ride sometime between having fun and not dying.

Wampak The Zwift Killer

No, this is not some Sci-fi fantasy short story about a fictional hero answering to the name Wampak who uses its powers of extreme hydration to defeat the giant ugly bib-shorts-only clad beast named Zwift…

Or is it?

This morning LT and I were discussing the difference in the meaning of cold between the Southwest and the Midwest and how back in my Midwesterner days I would have to ride with my hydration pack under my jacket because it’s around -40f wind chill this time of year. Frozen water bottles aren’t a lot of help on long distance rides. We had a chuckle about how 34f this morning felt “cold,” then moved on.

Moments later I get an email from none other than Revelate Designs out of Alaska (real cold). Their Wampak hydration bladder carrying system is back in stock AND GUESS WHAT? It’s designed specifically to be worn beneath your outer layers and uses your body heat to keep that precious water from freezing when it’s -40f. What a concept.

This is a product that will hopefully never be of use to yours truly, as I intend on skipping Actual Winter for as many years as I can. You, on the other hand, may possibly need something like this to ease the planning of your cold winter rides. Hydration is a big issue in freezing temperatures. Get ahead of that game and STOP RELYING ON SMART TRAINERS AND APPS TO “RIDE” DURING THE WINTER.

The Wampak could be your Zwift killer.

Get the actual facts from Revelate here:

ACCESSORIES | Wampak™: Winter Hydration Pack
— Read on www.revelatedesigns.com/

PNW Components Releases The Coast Stem and Bar

What a day to be alive on gravel! PNWC has come a ways since they were mainly known for a mud fender and a cool handlebar mounted basket, recent times have found them also developing more gravel-centric gear such as this new The Coast Stem and Ultra-Wide drop bar.

The bar is essentially a super-wide take on the Salsa Cowchipper dirt drop, and the stem is meant to be used in place of your current stem to bring the bars in and up a bit to accommodate for the extra arm stretch akin to such width. I’m not completely sold on this new “bars so wide they don’t fit down a hallway” movement, but maybe I’ll end up with a set of stupid-wide bars to test at some point. Hint hint.

The REAL star of this show, for me at least, is the The Coast stem and its optional (but included) light/GoPro mount. As manufacturers of off road rigid forks continue to forget that many of us Adventure Cyclists would like a crown-mount for our dyno lights, we need a hero like PNWC putting out stems like this. Sure, there are offerings from big manufacturers out there, but this particular stem seems to be the jam for gravel grinders and bike packers who are looking to get their light up and over their handlebar, but also off their bars, AND not have to use some sort of gangly contraption to do so.

Kudos, PNWC, I will be adding a The Coast stem to my bikepacking rig for a test run, and to bring my Luxy bars in a bit. They are also ultra wide and you’ve made a stem that will move them exactly to the position I’ve been thinking of.

From the PNW Components site:

From PNWC:

The Coast Drop Bar and Stem are the latest introductions to the PNW Components gravel and road product line. Coupled with the Coast Stem, the extra width, exaggerated flare, shallower drop and shorter reach of the Coast Drop Bar creates a smooth ride that allows you to cruise and sprint in an ergonomic position. 
— Read on www.pnwcomponents.com/blogs/news/introducing-the-coast-dro-bar-and-stem

Behold the New Warbird: Salsa Cycles Probably Nails it Again

I’m a Salsa person. If you know me, you know this. My collection of Salsa cycles was at one point on par with any out there, and one of my favorites was the first year of the Carbon Warbird (I had the Rasta Bird, which is pretty funny if you know me) This was the year they REALLY started firing on all gravel cylinders. I had very few complaints aside from the unfortunate-for-me colourway, I suppose the lack of fork bosses or dyno light mounting/internal wiring was there (easily remedied by using a Rodeo Spork fork or something similar). No biggie.

The Warbird Aluminum was one of the first bikes marketed as a “gravel bike” and seemingly opened the floodgates to other manufacturers’ many attempts to copy or best the Salsa design. Now, over a decade (I think) later this 2020 iteration of the stalwart Salsa Gravel Bike looks to be The One. Take a look at the sweet colors, tweaks, and sick robotic shifting parts that could possibly be another way for SkyNet to destroy the human race. Think about it, an artificial intelligence that would know when to cause fatal mechanicals on a bike clearly meant to be ridden by only the strongest of body, mind, and wallet that the human race has to offer.

DAMN YOU SKYNET!

Introducing the Salsa Warbird gravel bike lineup for 2020.

— Read on salsacycles.com/culture/warbird_gravel_since_the_beginning

It Is PPR Time!

This week I will be packing up my bike for some good ole fashioned DIRTBAGGING! All of the Plateau Passage Route Recon (which you can read about HERE, HERE, and HERE) will culminate in an attempt to complete the 500km first leg from Las Vegas to Cedar City, UT. This will be a straight out attempt with a sag back, unless I’m feeling real frisky and want to ride the trail in reverse to Mesquite then highway home, and will take place from early Thursday morning, January 16 to Sunday, January 19.

Segment 1

The Stoke Level is off the charts , and it’s a little difficult to focus on the fact that there is still prep that needs to be done and there are a few key pieces of equipment missing. My seat pack, handlebar pack, Anything Cages, and a few other things I would need for this trip are safely locked away in storage a thousand miles away, and the person who has access to this is out of town. I am working out a way to solve this little issue as cheaply as possible, but I will most likely end up purchasing a set of Blackburn Outpost fork racks and using a backpack for all of my light gear. As much as I’d like to throw down on a Terrapin 14L in Crush and a new Sweetroll, it’s just not in the cards and honestly it’s way too late in the game for such nonsense. RUN WHAT YOU BRUNG is the old saying, and since I didn’t have the foresight to put all of my bikepacking gear with my Fargo to all be shipped together when needed, this is my life now. Wearing a backpack on a bike. lol. Pre-historic bike packing, before the land of specialty seat packs lol.

Well, it’s time to get my happy self back to planning and packing. The weather looks to be pretty brisk but sunny, so that’s good. Going to be a lot of cold desert nights, and hopefully one morning I’ll wake up with one of those cute lizards cuddled up to my sleeping bag. I’ve been wanting a good wilderness travel companion. One can only hope.

WTH, WTB

I’m currently testing the user based claim that the WTB 700x45c Riddler tire is a bikepacking tire. During the course of that test (but not while actually bikepacking, just riding a bikepacking route) I had a hilariously timed flat coming down a large decent en route to my partner in crime, LT, who was going to get some action photos of me on the road. That story will be written and shared later.

As I bombed down this decent, the familiar feel of a slightly squishy rear end overtook my senses and much to my lack of surprise it was a flat. Fair enough, a quick pit stop to patch a tube and the ride would continue…OR WOULD IT?

Spoiler alert: It didn’t. After I got stopped safely to survey the situation, it was discovered that the bead had separated from the tire sidewall and there is no good way to remedy a flat of such magnitude roadside without a spare tire (which I didn’t have). This was also conveniently an area with no cell service, so I got to hike a ways. That story, again, will be written and shared later.

After that weekend jaunt, I wrote to WTB about my experience with their not-very-used tire. After a few email relays they agreed to replace the tire under warrantee. This was between Christmas and New Years, and to be honest the response was much quicker than expected given the holiday timing. In my last email I quipped about how they should also send me a new tube, as the brand new tube installed before that doomed ride was shredded by the sidewall separation. My budget is pretty scant right now, so it was more of a request than a humor joke.

Today, about 3 weeks after the flat, I have finally received the replacement Riddler via UPS. Much to my surprise the box contained a brand spanking new WTB tube! SAY WHAT? Twas a very thoughtful fulfilling of my request. They first killed my ride with a flat, then they killed my heart with kindness. It remains to be seen whether or not the Riddler 45 will hold up to the rigors of actual bikepacking (I honestly believe the people who reviewed this tire were mistaking it for the Riddler 2.? MTB tire, which is probably of better use for this…uh use.), but it is certain that the WTB customer service folk(s) have what it takes to hold up to the rigors of really wordy emails from yours truly.

Thank you, WTB. Hopefully we never have to meet like that again.

Dirtier Than A Kanza

Well, folks, registration for Dirty Kanza is live and already in “lottery” mode, and the internet bashing of this stalwart Gravel Race is live as well. In fact, it was through Consummate Hater Hero/Graphic Design Guru BicyclePubes‘ (or is it Pubes’s?) Instagram that I personally found out about Dirty Kanz….ahhhhhh wait a minute. It’s the Garmin Dirty Kanza now. Oof, don’t want to botch up the sponsorship mentions.

used without pubemission

With an undeniable air of artistry, BicyclePubes once again blows the lid off of a giant in the cycling world, an event that attracts about a million riders to desolate yet welcoming Emporia, Kansas. While I get the humor joke in the post, it’s worth noting that Jim Cummins is a pretty rad dude, that the town of Emporia probably gets a nice financial boost from all the folks filtering in to race, spectate, support, or do whatever else is going on in town that isn’t DK related. I’m sure there’s probably something…

I lost track of what I was going to say in this post, please excuse me I just started a new training regimen/diet and it’s so far netted me some even shorter attention and a very fuzzy brain.

I guess go check out bicyclepubes on Instagram. Some funny stuff, and some shitty comments from followers. Also, go race DirtyKanza if you’d like. Don’t let the internet shame you into avoiding a perfectly good bike thing.

By the way, my bike blog is DEFINITELY not popular enough to get me a favor with the Gods Of DK. Just sayin #GrassestOfRoots

What’s The Point?

Along your journey to accomplish whatever cycling goal your puny human brain has convinced you to tackle, said puny human brain has probably paused a moment and asked you/itself

“Why are we doing this?”

What is your why? What drives you? When will you be satisfied with your achievements and move on with your life, if ever? Why would you ever stop?

Insert Inspirational Quote Here

My Why is that no matter what size weight the Universe decides to drop on my head, I can provably think of an even worse torture to visit upon myself, and that usually involves a bicycle.

Today think about this, discover your true inspiration and run with (or away from) it.

PPR Recon Day 3

It’s pretty rad being partnered with someone who digs what you’re doing with your free time, aka overwhelming cycling habit, but EVEN RADDER to have someone in your life who will wake up at 5am and say “Hey, you want to road trip to Utah this morning?” Such is how PPR Recon Day 3 began. The lovely LT was particularly motivated on this day, and I am not one to let such motivation slip by. This is one of the myriad reasons we work together.

So far I’ve ridden the paved portion through Lake Mead Recreational Area to Valley Of Fire a few times, driven the Rainbow Gardens road which runs sort of parallel to the actual route through the mountains from downtown Las Vegas to Lake Mead Boulevard, and ridden to the beginning of the course at McCarran International Airport. Today we were driving up I15 to Mesquite, NV and on to the end of this first leg at St George, UT.

The ride from Valley of Fire to Mesquite is mountain and desert trail and access roads until just short of Bunkerville, where you pick up some pavement into the south side of Mesquite. I highly recommend popping into town to refuel and re-up on any supplies you might need. There are very few opportunities for this between Vegas and Mesquite, and looking like even fewer from Mesquite to St George. We ventured out to the course with the trusty Tahoe to get a few pictures and see what the gravel roads have in store.

The portion we could drive was incredible, with chunky as hell gravel, a few boondocking camps, and of course the amazing views. LT and I have been intrigued by the boondocking life, working that into future travels. We happened upon a family of free range cattle right along side the gravel. In my hundreds of free range riding in northern Nevada I never once saw more than a random lizard or bird, it was cool to finally see these guys and gals. Check out the picture of the calves trying to “hide” from us, they were adorable. We drove to the Arizona border on this gravel road where we encountered a number of warning signs, actual warning signage, stating that further road vehicle travel would be ill advised and potentially dangerous. I decided to walk a few hundred feet past the warning signs to confirm and yes, once you get into Arizona the “road” gets a little weird. I’m on one hand really looking forward to riding this, and on the other realize that my current tire of choice (I am testing WTB Riddler 700×45 tires for review) may not be optimal. I suppose there is only one way to find out. Wink.

On to Utah!

We moved on from Mesquite towards St George, UT. Once you pass into Arizona on the trail, then into Utah, the real climbing begins. When looking from the interstate out towards the area the route runs there is a lot of “where in the hell do you think it goes?” moments. There is a lot of unfriendly looking terrain and a 4000+ ft climb hidden out there. Can’t wait for that, one thing I’ve learned from all the mountain pass summit climbs in 2019 is that however long it takes you to get up, that’s how long you get to see that beautiful view. You get to go down the other side too, which isn’t too bad. Gravity and I get along much better on the downside.

In keeping with the theme of my previous post on a proposed course start re-route to Taqueria El Tizon, we decided to call the most popular taco place in St George the end to our day of recon. Where is this? Only the Northernmost Taco Bell in the City.

Finito Burrito

I’m really excited to get out on the Fargo and ride this first segment as soon as possible. The first attempt is slated to be a 4 day ride to St George with most likely a return ride in the Tahoe. I’m also looking at a possible loop back to Las Vegas from the PPR for future week long excursions with no sag-back. After that it will be on to segment 2 and beyond that to Durango, CO. The stoke level is high, and I kneel at the Altar Of Radness awaiting my time to depart.