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.
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.
I’m currently testing theuser 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
As a few of you know, my personal 2020 can probably not top the dumpsterfiredness of 2019. Although I don’t want to tempt the universe to have some otherworldly being hold its metaphysical beer whilst it takes another shot at killing me, it’s out there in the ether now. Of course 2019 in my 18″ ended the exact opposite of its start: good, and I’m absolutely certain that the trajectory will remain on the upward cycle, regardless of who holds the Beverage Of The Universe.
AS FOR YOU, my dearest reader, I genuinely hope that you have had a happy new year so far (we are on Day 2 as of this writing), and also the opportunity to make the next 363 days as good or better than the first two have been. Everyone deserves happiness to whatever extent they are willing to accept it, so live life with the intention of accepting a shit load of happiness. Trust me, it’s not the worst way to approach things.
Now, let’s talk about plans and resolutions… Certainly you have already sat down with the 2020 calendar and planned every single day of your life out? Yeah, I haven’t either, although quite a bit of it is tentatively set. What are your goals? What are the events that have you stoked to put some miles in? What gear do you hope to acquire? How may miles do you want to ride? Are you going to do some fun cross-training like hiking or running or even snowshoeing? Is this going to be your most incredible bike year ever, or are you taking a little time off the saddle? Where do you want to go camping? Want to start a blog? Think about it, write that shit down, and work towards those goals.
My personal goals are 12,000 miles in the saddle, 2020 miles on foot (preferably not walking my bike with an un-fixable flat), losing the weight I had lost in 2018 before depression binge eating stacked it back on, the Iowa Wind And Rock gravel race, Complete both the PPR (duh) and my original trek which landed me here, crossing the US. I’ll be spending as much quality time as I can with my people all over the country, and hopefully making more new friends in all these travels. My biggest goal, though, is to spread joy to all who accept it from my general direction. Yes, that means you, too.
Happy New Year to you all, let’s make the coming days some of the most adventurous and fun-filled of our lives.
C.O.G. 100 Iowa Single Speed Gravel Championships: March 28th, Grinnell, Iowa. Registration opens on January 2nd, at 8:00am
For those of you out there in Single Speed Land who have some free time at the end of March and feel like grinding your legs and minds into a smooth, pink ooze not unlike the the lovely ammonia-laden ground “beef” of recent US fast food fame, there is a newish event (2nd year) that is masterminded by Guitar Ted of Trans Iowa infamy.
The COG 100 is, as I see it, a return to real grass roots gravel racing, to a time before gravel ultras became as expensive as racing RAAM, and $12k “gravel” bikes adorned with buzzing robotic parts and equally buzzing buzz words in their descriptions were the norm. This is a SINGLE SPEED ONLY race over what promises to be 100 miles of classic Iowa sawtooth gravel hills. If you have ever ridden TI, you’ve had a taste of what is probably in store.
If this sounds like a good time to you, head on over to the COG 100 Site and check out the rules of engagement. Then get stoked for Jan 2, 2020, opening day of registration for this beautifully brutal event.
I have this maybe-a-little-obvious new-found obsession with the Plateau Passage bikepacking/dirtbagging route which was cooked to perfection by the route chefs over at BikepackingRoots.org. I’ll share more about the route in later posts, as this blog has kind of turned into a bit of a fan site (laughing emoji), but today I’d like to talk a bit about the very start of the PPR.
During our PPR recon trip through Rainbow Gardens with LT yesterday, she suggested that I spend today riding downtown to find the exact spot the GPX file says is the starting point. It looked like it might be somewhere in or around McCarran International Airport, but who would start a bikepacking route in such a place?
I hopped on the Vaya (currently in LobsterPacking mode), as the Fargo is still awaiting a tire replacement from WTB (very rad customer service, btw), and there was no real off-roading planned for today’s excursion (something else in parentheses). The two of us pointed southwest in search of the tail of the purple snake, which represents the track of Segment One of the PPR on my trusty Etrex. It’s a cold day in the desert, and yeah it’s a dry cold, which is worse in a lot of ways. I press on through the hardship of 40 degree weather to the intra-city bike paths which serve as a makeshift serpentine shanty town which shelters many of our un-homed here in Las Vegas.
After being the only butthole riding around McCarran International on a bicycle for about 15 minutes, I found it. It turns out that the start of the route is actually at entrance 54 of Terminal 3. Now, I do get the point of starting here. You fly in, grab your disassembled bike, put it together outside the entrance, put your box in recycling (please), and head east towards Frenchman’s Mountain. Simple enough. But what if you are already in town, or are staying here for a day or longer before traipsing off to parts unknown? On to the next mission…
I started following the route looking for a more inviting place to drop a start pin on the map for this 2000k trek. Leaving the airport you flow through mainly back roads for the first bit to Eastern, where they pick a really bad spot to cross the road. I headed north a block and saw a 7-11 convenience store. Honestly you could go any direction one block in this city and hit a 7-11. The place is rotten with them. Immediately upon entering the parking lot I spied north yet another block and recognized the shopping center which houses a bad ass taqueria at which I had just eaten lunch YESTERDAY. SCORE.
Taqueria El Tizon #2 should be the unofficial starting point for the Plateau Passage Route. I mean, there’s a Taco Bell there too and a Cici’s Pizza, but this place has Al Pastor on a rotisserie. It’s legit. Starting here is a great idea, get some good grub, slam some Agua Fresca, and be on your merry way. If you are riding in a group, even better. I’ve always found that sitting around a table and sharing food, laughs, and stories with your riding friends a great way to begin an adventure. I’m sure a few of you reading this would agree. I hope that the folks at Bikepacking Roots will accept my humbly submitted course start change suggestion, which is solidly based on these delicious facts.
From Tizon you can simply make a right turn onto the bike lane on Tropicana and follow that all the way to the Wetlands where you begin the off road section through Rainbow Garden/Lava Butte and on to Lake Mead Ave. It’s a much simpler way to the rocky stuff, in my opinion as a newly assimilated local.
That’s it from Day 2, which turned out to be an amazing day of riding a 10.2mph pace while wandering around Las Vegas. 36 miles to the airport and back with some shenanigans and a giant burrito thrown in for good measure. Next post is Day 3, aka “The Day That Interrupted Writing About Day 2” with an impromptu road trip to Utah to scope out the PPR from Mesquite, NV to St George, UT. Stay tuned for that next…
LT and I took the Tahoe out yesterday so we could do a little recon on the beginning of the Plateau Passage Route. Believe it or not, this is the least picturesque spot on this part of Segment 1. It’s also the nicest gravel to be found between here and Lake Mead Boulevard, where you pick up pavement for about 120km before entering the hiking trails on the north end of Valley Of Fire. I am really stoked to share this picture with you as a pre-emptive strike on your senses from what looks to become my main project for 2020, dirtbagging from Las Vegas to Durango.
Over the years I’ve done a lot of blogging, from food blogs to bike blogs to guest posts and contributions on business blogs to reviews, recipes, fiction, travel writing, etc. WizWords is meant to be a place to play host to all of my future personal writing, without the boundaries of genre specificity.
To this end, I will be wafting away the “new blog smell” which plagues every site fresh off the assembly line by NOT including whimsical bullshit like what I hope to achieve or what subjects will be covered here. I hate that shit, as guilty of it as I’ve been in the past. This is simply a blog. Things will be written. There might be a picture or two. It remains to be seen.
Think of WizWords as free form pseudo-art for people who get a satisfying jolt out of trying a different brand of peanut butter. If you are of the ilk who require effort to be entertained… this may be my last post you need to skate your eyeballs across. Everyone else, buckle up and prepare to go from creamy to chunky.