7/29/15

Salsa Dos Niner with big meat!!!

The Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.35 tires grew overnight after mounting them yesterday. Today's measurement registered a casing width of 61.4mm even with the psi down to the 20-22 range. They are BIG!

I moved an 11-34 cassette and my 160mm front/140mm rear Alligator rotors from an older wheelset over to the new wheels. The first test on tap of these new wheels will be on my Salsa Dos Niner. At the width they are displaying, that is about as wide of a rear tire that the Dos can handle without rubbing.

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I raced the Dos with Ardent 2.4's before, but the rear tire tread would rub on the inside of the chainstay under hard pedal efforts as the wheel flexed. However, these carbon rims are stiff. So we will see if I get rub or not. As I said, this is the initial test. There is plenty of room on my JET 9 and RIP 9 if the Dos Niner proves to be too flexible and tight spaced for these new big meats.

These are certainly big tires for XC racing and riding, but talk about some nice cushion for a hardtail or softail!

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I've got the big Ralphs on my Karate Monkey SS as well. In fact, I have been enjoying them so much on that bike that it led me to trying the same RR tires on the new wheels.

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Unfortunately, Indianola had nearly 6" of rain last night and 2" the day before for a grand total of around 8" which has caused major flooding and turned all of our Central Iowa dirt into soup. Including today's beautiful sunny weather, we have about 4 days of sunshine, dry and cooler temps along with wind to start working magic to get trails in condition for bikes again. This means I will have to wait to test these new wheels and tires on dirt. I did, however, ride around the neighborhood hopping curbs, piles of rocks and any bumps I could bash into to get an idea of the big cushion tires on the wide rims. I have to say they feel pretty damn good.

One issue is that the casing is wider than the tread with these wider rims which alters the intended transition of the knobs engaging for leaning over in corners. Time will tell on dirt how that works out, but with the advent of wider rims, I must say it seems to beckon for the alteration of tire tread in relationship to the overall casing design in an effort to account for the wider internal rim widths. At the very least, some sort of design that places the tread for enough "out" to still engage on the dirt where it was intended to on narrower rims. On all of my other Racing Ralphs, the tread (knobs) measurement is slightly wider than the casings. However, with this wide rim, that relationship is in reverse.

On another note, I went for a road ride with Tara after work. As expected and after studying the data available, we hit flooding down at Summerset State Park. By my eyes it is the worst flooding received this year as the Middle River was really high, over the banks, and raging as it filled the park. According to a rider who had crossed the flooded sections, if we had gone across the flood waters it would have put water up to our hubs. That was enough to cause us to turn around. On the way back, I ran over a pile of big rocks and gravel on the paved trail from the flooing. I caught one rock pretty hard which subsequently shot out sideways with a very loud PING! A must have had a pinch flat as a few moments later my rear tire was deflated. Since the mosquitoes are the size of 747's at the moment, rather than spend the 5 or 6 minutes in the woods changing the tube, I had Tara ride home to get the car and come get me as I kept walking at a good clip for about 1.5 miles to avoid all the skeeters. I made it home and immediately started up the fire to grill chops, veggies and peaches for dinner.

Here's to dry weather and no flooding for the next couple of weeks. Our basement is fine this time around, but hundreds of residents in Indianola had flooded basements last night with all of that rain. Our two sump pumps are working non-stop to clear the drainage making me happy we had all that basement work done a few years ago. Before that work, our basement would have flooded as well.

7/28/15

Light Bicycle carbon rims and Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.35's!!

First things first, yes it has been difficult to move forward since July 2nd with the loss of a loved one. I haven't posted on the blog for that reason, but I'm starting to peak out from behind the dark shadows now...

New Hand Built MTB Wheels

The new wheels that I had built by Mike Curiak at LaceMine29.com arrived this month. My choice of new tires to mount on these wide rims from Light Bicycle (35mm external/30mm internal width) arrived yesterday in the form of Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.35's tubeless easy tires. Both tires weigh in exactly at 660g's on my digital scale.

I had ordered the new rims during the Spring while I was in Germany as replacement rims for my original AM rims from Light Bicyle that had served me well. My original Light Bicycle rims had a broken spoke/nipple that I had taken to the bike shop where they had been built a few years ago to see if the rear could be fixed. The rear wheel was diagnosed by two people at the shop as having a pull through the rim and I was told the rim was shot. So I went with that and believed the diagnosis. Thus my order for the replacement rims. I figured why not go wider and try out a pair with the new non-bead groove technology while I was at it? Hookless rim wall I believe is the proper terminology for the newer style of bike rims being built in carbon.

When I got back from Germany, I looked really closely at the broken spoke/nipple and the drilled rim hole on the old Light Bicycle wheels. Before I started to take the wheels apart to reuse the hubs, I wanted to be sure the rear wheel was toast. So I took them up for a second opinion to fellow BikeIowa.com team member Steve Fry at Bike World in West Des Moines. Steve said the hole was fine, popped on a new spoke and nipple and presto - the wheels are fine. OK, sometimes second opinions are worth getting. Not the result I was expecting and here I was with two new beautiful rims. What to do? Build them up which would require an additional set of hubs, or try and sell the rims? I decided to go with the former knowing the age of all my other wheels and anticipate a replacement set if and when another set gives up the ghost. So, I now have plenty of wheels, 3 sets with carbon rims. One set on the RIP 9, one set on the JET 9, and now this new set which will spend time on those two bikes as well as my Dos Niner.

These new wheels are laced with SuperComp DT Swiss spokes to DT Swiss 350 hubs. I chose those hubs after Mike showed them to me in his shop in Grand Junction. I had stopped at his shop to drop off the rims on vacation as it was on our route of I-70 to begin with and it saved on shipping. I was amazed how easy the front hub converts between 15mm TA and QR. It is a bit different conversion than my Specialized hubs which convert by changing the end caps, but the DT Swiss 350 is just as quick and easy with an axle that pops in and out in a second or two. I need this option because of the bikes I own use both standards and I swap wheels from rig to rig quite often. The DT 240 hub also converts, but requires tools and time to swap (much like the American Classic and Chris King hubs I now have and use that also require tools and time to swap).  So the 350 hubs were chosen (not to mention price is a bit less). I have to say, they are sharp looking!

Rims out of the box...

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The wheels out of the box...

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The new Racing Ralph 2.35's mounted up without any issue. I expected things to be wide on these new rims, but I didn't want to go too wide due to clearance issues on all of my bikes. I debated between all kinds of tires, but know what works well in the soil conditions where I ride. I was also pleased with how well the Ralphs did out west in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, and California to know that if I wanted to head out to the mountains the Ralphs would be fine for my needs there as well as XC racing and riding here in the Midwest. The tires measured up at 60.37mm and 60.40mm right out of the gate (2.37") and look great on the wheels.

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Casing width measures out at 2.35" and change right out of the box...

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Now it is time to move over a pair of rotors and a cassette from an older set of wheels so I can ride these new gems and see how they do out on the trail!

Keeping busy...

I did a lot of trail work at Banner Pits and Center Trails trying to trim back the jungle that is growing this year from an El NiƱo weather pattern. The purchase of a new tool to help speed up the side trimming of trail takes a lot of pressure off of the hands and arms from using one of the hand held/strap over the shoulder gas powered string trimmers. It also prevents me from taking our Toro lawnmower out into the bush to possibly ruin it!!!  The idea being I can use it on Banner, Center, Lake Ahquabi and get some trimming/maintenance work done without my hands going numb. Then I can reach for the hedge clippers and the over the shoulder strap, hand held string trimmer to get to spots that the push behind string trimmer cannot reach.

One of the banes of doing trail work is all of those tools really cause carpal tunnel syndrome which doesn't help with sleep at night when you keep waking up with numb hands. And it makes riding a bike painful as your hands fall asleep a lot while riding. I usually get that syndrome leading up to the race at Ahquabi during the month of September as I trim the canopy and trails, but it appears I have reached that point quite a bit earlier in the season with the hours I have been devoting to trail maintenance. Hand held non-motorized trail work is nice, green, and what not - but it is hell on one's wrists, forearms, and hands.

The Earthquake Viper 173cc engine, 22" cutting path does good work - but I fear this model is going to be high maintenance for me. On the second outing, the tire peeled off of the cheap plastic rim and the rim's plastic spoke bent making it non-fixable (the wheel). Also, one of the trimmer height bolts was stripped out of the box. Adding 2 and 2 together, I exchanged it for another one. Out of the box, the replacement was outfitted with sturdier wheels! I guess Earthquake identified an OEM wheel problem and figured it out. Glad to have a better wheeled model. The trimmer line and the way it attaches is excellent. Other models I have used seem to all be a constant pain to always have to replace the trimmer line as it breaks or flies off. Not with this Viper! The trimmer line stays put and only wears out after hours of trimming. That's a plus. A huge plus. I have also rigged up my hand held string trimmer using an odd stringing method and zip ties with overlap to keep the strings in place so I can get a few hours of trimming time in before having to replace. If I don't do that, the string flies off every 10 or 20 seconds leading to nothing but frustration.

The second Viper out of the box also encountered issues during its maiden voyage. The drive pulley was not engaging very well - or at all - by the end of a 3 hour session. Dang! These are supposed to be high use, heavy weed cutting machines which is why I purchased it! I need to take it apart and see if I can fix that, but was waiting on an email response from the company first to make sure that it is adjustable before I take it all apart and monkey around with it. Hopefully, I can get that up and going so when this current bout of rains moves through I can get out and trim more trail.

First model that lost a wheel...

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Second model with the better wheels...

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The above picture was following a 3 1/2 hour stint at opening up a section of singletrack called J-11 at Center Trails in Des Moines. The area had been flooded, so there was a lot of debris to clear from the trails, and the grass/weeds along the side of the trail was all very tall. The belt started slipping about 5 minutes into the job, but I managed to get done what I needed to before coming out of the woods and leaving the mosquitoes to devour someone else besides me.

I hate things that don't work or break down on such short and proper use. So this story may not yet be finished unfolding as if I cannot get it fixed, I plan on taking full advantage of the warranty and the extended warranty that I purchased.

Hopefully I can get it up and running today with a simple adjustment (or a new belt).

Edit: I took it apart to see how it all functioned and tightened up the cable. Cleaned everything up while I was at it. After a few adjustments and playing with the cable pull, it seems to engage properly. The real test will be out in the woods taking on the growth along the side of the trail.

7/13/15

Moving forward...

Last week was certainly filled with plenty of emotions as we remembered and celebrated my father's life. Family gathered to share memories and were able to have several meals together where we all sat down and talked about Dad, his parents, the entire family and really connected with each other in a very therapeutic way. The famous quote seemed quite a propos In the end, all you have is family. So it was really nice for the family to get together and be there. I think everyone in the family except two had recently spent time with Dad, so we all felt glad we were able to spend time with him in the last weeks, months, and year of his life.

We had decided to have a visitation at the funeral home on Monday evening, the funeral and luncheon at the church on Tuesday, and a private family burial on Wednesday due to my father's body being cremated after the visitation. The undertaker was able to get that done in time for the family to have the burial on Wednesday afternoon as Thursday would have been too late since all the family was traveling back home. The three day spread tended to draw the tears out of the family for all three days, rather than it all being confined to one day. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it was draining.

My sister Becky and I eulogized my Dad at the funeral and Zack sang two songs. Not an easy task for Zack as emotions and tears can wreak havoc with one's singing voice, but he did great.

Tuesday after the funeral and luncheon, the family changed our clothes and agreed to meet at Mt. Rushmore at 5 pm. Tara and I went for a hike at Storm Mountain where we were staying (at the United Methodist Church Camp) to unwind a bit from the funeral.

Tara photographed the kids with Storm Mountain in the background...

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Then we headed up to Mt. Rushmore to blow off some more steam, eat some ice cream, and to take part in a routine exercise my Dad would always do - meet several strangers by just visiting with them. He did this his entire life, so our goal was for every family member to meet at least one couple or family, find out where they were from, where they were going and just share small chit chat. So we all did that in honor of Dad.

Here we are posing as a family. The photograph was taken by a couple from Texas who we met and agreed to take the photo for us. Missing from the photo is my nephew and his spouse as they remained in Rapid City and then met us for dinner.

Browns and Nadens at Mt. Rushmore

Of course, we continued to blow off steam. My cousins inspired us to pose like this after we had walked the Presidential Trail and visited the Borglum sculptor's museum...

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After our time at Mount Rushmore, we all headed back to Rapid City and sat down to eat a meal and share more stories at the Firehouse Brewery. Blowing off steam certainly helped us all as the day came to an end.

The process of packing up his apartment, meeting with the lawyer to start the process for probate, signing documents, going through all of the memorial cards, and what not all seemed secondary and surreal to the memories and grief we were going through. We drove home and arrived back in Iowa late Thursday evening.

Moving forward...

The transition certainly feels odd to not have a living parent. My cousin Marilyn is now the official matriarch of the Brown side of the family. I'm still in a bit of a numbed state which included driving off from a gas station without having removed the nozzle/hose from the gas tank (I've never done that before in my life!!!), forgetting my sunglasses somewhere, aimlessly walking around the house and I suppose all the usual stages of grief.

One of the main reasons I began this blog was to journal things for my Dad after my Mom had passed away. I figured that way he would be able to read as well as check in on some pictures to have a visual of what I was up to in my life. In other words, it was simply an addition to our regular phone calls. Now that he has passed, I am going to have to consider how to proceed in terms of this space. Most likely it will just continue to be a journal for the family, but moving forward is obviously underway one way or the other.

7/5/15

RIP Dr. Reverend Preston C. Brown...

Preacher Dad

My father, United Methodist Minister, VFW of the Korean War, mentor to many who pursued a career in the ministry, a tireless servant who ministered to thousands and thousands throughout his career, was instrumental in his work during the Wounded Knee crisis, the Rapid City Flood, and served churches in Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota has finally reached the stage of being called "home". 

My family was fortunate to have him visit us in Iowa at the end of April for my son's college graduation from Simpson College. I feel fortunate to have spent 4 days with him last week in Rapid City after he was admitted to the hospital. During those 4 days, we solved all the political problems in the US, addressed world issues, talked about the weather, shared memories, and pretty much talked a lot about nothing to bide the time. He was completely at peace. When I kissed him good-bye to return to my own family in Iowa with promises of coming out later in the summer, I wasn't expecting not seeing him again as the ailments he was in the hospital for were under control and plans were to transfer him back to his retirement home this week. 

However, he experienced a massive stroke on Monday and passed July 2nd in the early evening. My daughter arrives from Vienna this evening and then we will drive out to the Black Hills to celebrate his long 88 1/2 year life of service to the Lord, 56 years as a parent, nearly 30 years as a grandparent, and probably about 70+ years of being an automobile nut fixated on products from Ford. 

Although sadness, loss, and grief fills me personally, I really have to say this man was blessed and happy for his entire life. He never stopped giving and learning. That's something worth celebrating and a goal I look forward to following...

Dad and the girls

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Grandpa Brown on Graduation Day with Zack

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6/29/15

Vacation Weeks 2 and 3 Recap...

Vacation 2015 photo dump of weeks #2 and #3!

Week two found us in Walnut Creek staying with my father-in-law. In spite of the intense summer heat during the day in the East Bay, one is always guaranteed a nice cool down at night into the 50's and 60's which makes for comfortable sleeping and late evening/early morning walks.

There are always lots of turkeys parading around my father-in-laws place, but they are not easy to get on camera unless you have a nice telephoto lens as they scurry away the moment you make a step in their direction. I did manage to get close to this one to get a shot on my iPhone after a nice morning walk...

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We rode our bikes while there to take in some of the local riding. The climb up Pinehurst road is scenic and rewarding as you crest it - not to mention the 4 mile descent on the winding roads being fun!

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Cresting the climb...

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Following that ride, I couldn't resist a little artery clogging refuel via the day's special - hot pastrami and parmesan garlic fries!!!

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Then a surprising thing happened the next day. It rained! Yes, right in the middle of a drought, we had a day of rain which kept us off the bikes. We had nice visits with friends and family during week 2 of our vacation. We rode the Iron Horse Trail a couple of times to work in some recovery riding and coffee to keep the legs fresh for our more intense efforts.

One of the things we did included a trip into San Francisco on BART to meet up with Tara's cousin, Elaine. She took us to Lands End in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for a nice walk before we headed to dinner at her favorite Indian Restaurant in the city. The fog was rolling in for the evening, but we enjoyed the walk and views.

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Our last day in the Bay Area was Saturday, June 13th and we had planned on a dual ride in Marin County. One mountain bike, the other road bike. We headed to China Camp State Park to ride the mountain bike trails as my memory of the trail was that it would be favorable for Tara to ride. Somehow we ended up in the parking lot at the south end which was not my intention. That, and my memory not being so keen to remember the last time I rode there in 2005, we ended up riding the route sort of backwards from the preferred direction that everyone rides it. This meant we were riding the most technical stuff going uphill all the way making it a grueling climb. Tara all smiles before the climb began...

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Our return was on the easier Shoreline Trail which has been revamped since I was there in 2005 and is now a machine cut, IMBA inspired sustainable multi-use trail for bikers, hikers, and joggers. We should have gone north on this trail first, and then ridden back on the upper trail singletrack that is much more technical - or at least at the intermediate level in sections. Tara thought I was trying to kill her on purpose because so much of that trail is lined with steep drop offs, switchbacks, steep climbs next to steep dropoffs, etc... . I was frustrated because my memory of the trail was that it was easy and within her capabilities, but I was wrong. We made it, but not before some discussion

Post ride back at the parking lot - all was well, or at least forgiven.

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I noticed I had a screw lodged in my front driver side tire which set us off in San Rafael to locate a tire shop to get the screw removed and a patch. $30 later we were on our way over to Sausalito for the road biking portion of this dual ride day. We had planned on riding from Sausalito over the Golden Gate Bridge and to Fisherman's Wharf and back. However, the fog had not lifted, it was a howling wind and the temperature was 55 degrees. We got out of the car, looked at each other, and said - scratch that. So, we decided to head back to my father-in-law's for some nice Mexican food at a restaurant in Lafayette (the town where we got married 25 years earlier) and to do a load of laundry for our departure on Sunday.

Sunday's planned drive was from Walnut Creek to Provo, Utah. Beautiful scenery as we took the familiar I-80 through the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Back in Nevada about a week after we were last passing through it...

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I-80 passes Reno, and eventually heads across the salt flats and into Salt Lake City as you cross back into Utah. We had a great meal at a local restaurant while we watched the NBA Finals, then headed off to our motel for a night's rest. Monday morning had us with another beautiful drive that took us to Moab, Utah for our next stop and vacation playground.

Moab is a recreational playground. Mountain biking, hiking, off road 4 wheeling, desert beauty, National Parks, river rafting, local flavor and plenty to see and do. I think one needs at least a good week there to enjoy it all (just like most of the areas we had visited on this trip). The original plan for this vacation was to stay in Walnut Creek a couple more days, but when we passed through Utah earlier in the vacation on our way to the Grand Canyon, Tara told me we had a blank day between that and our stay at Snowmass Village to fill. So I quickly got to work and booked us at Moab and talked her into leaving a day earlier so we could have two days of fun at Moab which was not far from our final stop on the vacation - Snowmass/Aspen - at all. Moab had crossed into the dangerous hot time of year, so most things needed to be done in the morning, or at least one needed to be careful planning what altitude you would be spending the day outside at to keep temperatures down.

First up on Monday was to hit Arches National Park. This is a park that needs about 2 days to stop at all the famous geological and erosion formations to get in all of the hikes. So Monday's plan was to hit 1/2 of them. We set out with our Camelbaks full of water, good clothing that breathed well was worn, and suntan lotion was applied so we could have at it.

First up was the famous Balanced Rock.

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Or course, I forced Tara to take a goofy shot of me...

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Then it was on to the 2+ hour round trip hike to the Delicate Arch. This is not a hike for the out of shape, or family with small children - at least in this heat above 100 degrees. Part of the hike there is a big section of slickrock to cross. Our running shoes were perfect for good grip...

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Tara had me sit down on the slickrock for a photo. The rock was so hot, I think I toasted my backside for the few seconds I sat down.

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All I can say is the hike is totally worth it. Great views and the Delicate Arch is pretty immense in size compared to the pictures I have seen of it...

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Lots of beautiful slickrock in this park...

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We met a nice couple from Austria (Salzburg) up on the hike, and a nice young local couple who gave us some good tips about where to mountain bike the next day to avoid the heat.

Then we saw the Three Gossips which is this rock formation that the title explains quite well...

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That ended up being enough of the heat and had has retreat back to the motel where we sat out by the pool in the shade for some chips and beer to relax.

Day 2 at Moab was a plan to drive 28 miles to Dead Horse Point State Park because the trails were at a level that Tara could ride and the predicted temperature was to be about 15 degrees cooler than down in Moab. On top of that, we were informed that two of the trails were brand new and getting rave reviews from the locals. That sounded good to me. Temperature wise, it is much different riding with temperatures in the 80's than 100+, so that's where we headed. Look at the great list of trails that are all right around Moab...HERE.

Again, what a beautiful park. We were almost shocked at how much cooler it was up at this altitude than it was down in Moab. The desert was alive and well and in full bloom.

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We started out on some easy desert trail to warm up (as if one needs to warm up in this heat)...

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Tara loved these trails...

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What surprised me was that she actually liked the most technical trails we were riding on the best. Lots of ledges, rocks, shelfs, slickrock and what not. She loved the slickrock...

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And was all smiles about it too...

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We did the same loop two times so it would afford her a chance to practice and gain confidence at her developing skills. I was having a blast too as riding the singlespeed provided plenty of skill building opportunity and a work out for me to enjoy as well.

After 3 hours of desert mountain biking, it was time for lunch so we headed back downtown to Moab to split a burger and blue corn chips. Then we got changed to head out for some afternoon hiking again at Arches National Park to see the other half of it.

Views and eye candy everywhere...

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The Garden of Eden - well you see why it is called that....

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And another long hike up to an arch called Landscape Arch is very worthy of seeing...

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Finally, the Windows Arch is a must see as well...

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Very beautiful to visit here...

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Okay, enough Arch fascination. We finished the water in our Camelbaks and that ended our hike. So we drove back into town for our final evening's meal in Moab. I think we both agree it would be nice to return here and spend more time to hike, bike and see more things. Although very hot, with proper water, electrolytes, and clothing we felt pretty good. Peak season for this area is before mid-June, and in the Fall September/October time frame to avoid the intense heat. Neither are ideal for our work schedule based around the academic calendar.

Wednesday, June 24th had us driving from Moab to Snowmass Village where Tara had reserved a condo for us to stay three nights. It was a pretty short drive to get there from Moab. In fact, it was our shortest drive of the vacation in terms of crossing state lines with only about 3 - 3 1/2 hours of driving on tap for the day. Again, the beautiful drive on I-70 up into the Rockies and over to Aspen/Snowmass is full of eye candy. 

We arrived and checked into our condo (very nice!!!), then headed into Aspen for ride number one. On tap was to ride on the Rio Grande Trail which is a rails to trails famous ride that stretches 40 miles from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. I guess I have failed to mention that weather was nothing short of spectacular for our entire vacation. Wednesday in Aspen was no different...

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There are sections of the Rio Grande Trail that are gravel, and this is on one of those sections...

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Coming into Aspen on the return trip after riding towards Glenwood Springs...

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Next to the Roaring Fork River as we approach Aspen...

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That pretty much did it for Wednesday with 1/2 day of driving and a 1/2 day of riding. We decided to stop by a grocery store and stock up on food to cook for ourselves in the condo. I grilled some steak and Tara made veggies and salad. We got a phone call that my father had been admitted to the Emergency Room in Rapid City. So we spent a lot of time trying to figure out if we should leave, what his condition was, and logistics of our next move.

After speaking with my nephew at the hospital on Thursday morning, he assured me that driving right up at that moment was not needed as my father was going through a bunch of tests to determine the cause of his weakness (turns out he had a strep infection in his blood and would require 6 weeks of antibiotics). So we delayed a decision of packing up and leaving to think things through, and make arrangements.

While we thought about it all, Thursday morning was Papa's day to pick the ride, so we headed up what is called the Rim Trail in Snowmass. It starts out with one heck of a climb up the mountain that is tempered with switchbacks, but my heart rate was maxed out at that altitude and Tara had to walk several sections. We were told this was an easy intermediate trail, but keep in mind what is intermediate in areas like Moab, and Colorado is a lot tougher than what we see here in the Midwest. Sweating and cursing at my tall gear on the singlespeed for such climbing, we got to the top of the rim to enjoy a beautiful scenic ride (mostly downhill)...

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The flowers were in full bloom...

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The trail was visually too challenging for Tara with the cliffs and steep drop offs on the side, so after we finished it was decided not to ride any more singletrack in the area. The joint decision was to focus on pavement instead. We got to ride the paved trail all the way back up to Snowmass Village and to our condo which was an uphill serious battle and workout! Lunch was well deserved at one of the local ski deli's on the mountain before heading back over to the condo for a shower. I spoke with my nephew again and was keeping up to date on what few test results were coming in to help make a decision. I spoke with my sister as well. I determined I had to go during the days of Thursday and Friday's discussion and updates. It was also decided we would stick with our vacation plans to finish it out, but we booked a flight from Denver to Des Moines for Tara so she could fly home on Saturday and I would drive up to Rapid City.

Friday was our planned ride on the most famous ride in Aspen - from Aspen to the Maroon Bells. They close the road from 9 am to 5 pm and only allow the local bus and residents to travel on the road. This makes it very safe for cyclists to ride. It is a good hour climb from Aspen proper to the Maroon Bells which was a nice workout for both of us.

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The view, once there, is quite spectacular. We had packed a lunch, so sat down overlooking the lake and ate our wraps before descending. The view is again - well worthy of seeing.

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The descent was about 30-35 mph using brakes to control one's speed, and I was grinning all the way. I would have gone faster, but there was a car in front of me driving the posted speed limit for the 9 mile descent (35 mph).

Once we got back down into Aspen, we rode around town a bit and stopped for some pictures. Tara in front of a church spire on the outskirts of town...

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Me outside the main tent at the Aspen Music Festival...

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We had a coffee and cake downtown Aspen to relax, and then rode our bikes back to where we had parked to begin the day's ride. We had purchased tickets to attend an event on Friday evening called Heritage Fire. 3000 pounds of meat was to be smoked and served with all kinds of vegetables, cheeses, wines, drinks, snacks, cigars, to the VIP Crowd, and the General Public Crowd. We were part of the GP Crowd as tickets were $105 less per person. We were to arrive at 5 pm, an hour after the VIP Crowd had arrived.

Since I love to smoke meat, I called this event "Heaven on the Hill" as I got to see some master chefs and BBQ gurus work their magic and talk to me about how they prepared it.

Here's Hog Heaven...

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A Flounder being smoked...

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Goats...

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Lamb...

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And of course there was beef, salmon, more fish, poultry - you name it - they had it. I sampled most, but never got to try the Flounder as it wasn't finished until long after we retired. The ticket said the event was over at 7 pm, but it went on well past 10 pm with live music and a lively party atmosphere as part of the overall Aspen Wine Festival that was taking place.

The blue Jose Cuervo truck was there serving up Margaritas and other drinks...

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Everyone was enjoying the perfect weather, food, and drink...

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Who knows what Tara was laughing at by this point?

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After we got our fill (around 7 pm), we took the gondola up part of the mountain, went for a small walk, then headed back to our condo. A nice end to a beautiful vacation!

Saturday, we drove into the Denver airport where I dropped Tara off at the curb to catch her flight to Des Moines, and I drove the 7 hours up to Rapid City to see my father. 

Vacation 2015 - three weeks on the road with 4 bikes in the car is one we will not forget for a long time! We both had so much fun with each other, and got to see gobs of beautiful scenery in parts of America we haven't had the pleasure of visiting before. 

One for the books, but one well savored.