Badlands and Black Hills trip

We drove through  South Dakota after my brothers wedding in Colorado this year. It had been awhile since I had been to South Dakota and it was really cool to see something that I remembered as a child.

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Nashbar Cargo Trailer for Bicycles

I make a lot of trips to the grocery store on my bicycle and can only fit so much in my messenger bag or a backpack.  I wanted to be able to carry more groceries without having all the weight on my back. Also, I wanted to start getting into doing more multi-day rides and haul my own camping gear, supplies and food. So last summer I decided I’d get a trailer. You can spend anywhere between $1,000 to $100 for a trailer. If  you have the right equipment you can even weld one yourself. I didn’t want to go the homemade route but I wanted something as cheap as possible.  I found one at Nashbar for just over $100.  It is made out of chromoly steel and looks pretty sturdy.

trailer02

The assembly of the Trailer was fairly simple. There wasn’t too much to it. All I really had to do was put the wheel, fender, and reflectors on. There’s also a flag that comes up. At first I didn’t think the flag was necessary but After I took it out on the street and realized how much length was added onto my bike with the trailer attached, I figured the flag would probably help cars see me. I also added a blinky to the back of the fender just as a precaution. Most cars aren’t used to seeing a bicycle pulling a trailer so anything you can do do be seen will help.

After several rides with the trailer you’ll notice a few things that differ from regular riding.

  1. It’s harder to make sharp turns. You need to account for the extra 5 feet or so in length that the trailer adds
  2. It requires more braking power to stop. You have the momentum of the trailer from behind pushing at you when you hit the brakes.
  3. When you are stopped and off the bike, standing the bike up against something can be difficult.

The trailer has a 50 pound weight limit and of course I had to push the weight limit to the max on my first trip to the grocery store. If you throw a storage bin in the back of the trailer you can carry quite a bit of groceries in the back. Essentially I was able to pull the size of approximately 4 standard grocery paper bags. The only issue was that the 4 bags I loaded up were a bit on the heavy side if not over the 5 pound max. Probably not a good idea to stock up on pop, canned foods and liquids. Save the heavier stuff for lighter trips. I think I had too much because the bike felt really unstable like my rear axle was going to snap or like if I leaned too far to one side the bike would topple over. I noticed it is also quite difficult to accelerate with a full load.

Last summer I took the trailer on a short bikepacking trip to test it out for carrying camping gear. I was able to pack a sleeping bag and pad, medium sized tent, tools, a small stove, food and water, and extra clothes and raingear no problem. Pulling the trailer for 30 miles didn’t even seem to be a problem. There’s a 80 miles one-way trail that I am going to try and tackle next.

trailer01

Illinois State Parks Stand a Chance.

Now with Rod Blagojevich out of office, Our state parks which were closed stand a chance of being re-opened. Newly appointed governor Pat Quinn who led petitions to keep the parks open will look at the possibility of reopening these parks. Now Quinn will have the opportunity to prove whether his concern for the parks was genuine or simply a means to gain public approval. Blagojevich said the closures were due to budgetary issues but local officials claimed it was for political reasons. From the looks of Blagojevich’s time in office and the way he handled money, I wonder what he actually meant by “budgetary issues”?

…Read More at WQAD.com, quad cities news channel 8.

Apex Park – Golden Colorado

This was the first Trail I hit on my September trip to Colorado. Finished Driving in from an overnight in Nebraska and headed straight to the trail after checking in to the Hotel in Golden which happened to be less than 5 miles from Apex Park, Red Rocks, Dakota Ridge, Falcon Mountain, and Green Mountain Trails. I could have spent a week in that area exploring the Front Range Trails and Denver Mountain Parks. Unfortunatly I only had 2 days so I decided there was no time to waste.

After about a half mile of the climb on the Apex Trail, I was winded. The elevation hit me. I got off my bike and felt like I was going to vomit. I was discouraged and wondered how long it was going to take for my body to get used to the elevation again. I got back on my bike, jumped into granny gear and slowly paced myself up the trail stopping every half a mile to catch my breath. After a few stops and reminding myself to take it slow on the climbs, I was feeling much better.

Apex Park Mountain Biking

Apex Park is pretty rocky and technical. Although this is only a 6 mile trail, it definitely wore me out. There were plenty of sections I had to walk my bike through. It would have been nice to have a little more travel on my bike to blast through some of the rough sections but I managed. Here’s some photos. I didn’t manage to get any photos through the “Enchanted Forest”, a forested fast singletrack that traverses the side of a ridge across from the Apex Trail not to miss.

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Red Rocks // Dakota Ridge Mountain Biking

On the second day of my September Trip to Colorado I was more adjusted to the altitude and I had a ride in the mountains under my belt so I was feeling more confident. Unfortunatly it was cold and rainy and didn’t look like it was going to get nice. By around 2:00 I figured I’d head out to the Red Rocks & Dakota Ridge Trails. I’d seen photos of these trails and they looked pretty sweet. I’d planned on riding these trails last year but never got around to it. I was pretty excited.

The weather managed to stay pretty tame. Although it was pretty cloudy it stopped raining and the trails were pretty tacky and not too slick. I started out from the Mathew Winters Parking lot and headed south on the trail towards Red Rocks Park. I took a short Detour on a trail that heads to higher elevation off the Red Rocks trail. After a little while I met up with two locals who I rode with and showed me around the area.

The next day we headed out to the actual Red Rocks amphitheater which was impressive as well.

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Illinois State Park and Landmark Closures

As some of you know, our governor has made a $14 million dollar cut to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources funding. This funding cut has caused the DNR to layoff 39 employees and close 11 state parks and 14 historical landmarks(4 of which are national landmarks). The parks and landmarks are scheduled to close on November 1st.

Many communities have spoken out against this and shown their disapproval of the governor’s decision. The disapproval caused an emergency meeting of The Illinois House of Representatives resulting in a vote to restore DNR funding.

In order for the funding to be restored, both the House and Senate must agree. The Senate will not be in session until after November 1st and after the park closures have been made. If enough people speak out it may cause the Senate to have an emergency meeting on this issue as the House of Representatives did. I’d imagine that some of you may know more about law that I do but there are several ways we can help keep these parks open.

If you agree with the governor’s cuts than God bless. If you disagree and are interested in helping keep these parks open, you can go to the following website and sign the petition against closing these parks:

http://www.gopetition.com/online/21603.html

It should only take a minute of your time.

If people don’t express their opinion then our state government wont think that state parks, history, and culture are important to the people of Illinois and will be more likely to close more parks. Possibly some of the parks most of us frequent. If you really want to help, feel free to forward this message to family and friends that respect and support the use of these parks and landmarks.

Here’s a listing of the state parks and landmarks that are currently scheduled to close due to the cut.

  • Castle Rock State Park, Oregon
  • Lowden State Park, Oregon
  • Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park, Sheffield
  • Illini State Park, Marseilles
  • Channahon Parkway State Park, Channahon
  • Gebhard Woods State Park, Morris
  • Hidden Springs State Forrest, Strasburg
  • Kickapoo State Park, Oakwood
  • Moraine View State Park, Leroy
  • Weldon Springs State Park, Clinton
  • Wolf Creek State Park, Windsor
  • Dana-Thomas House, in Springfield
  • David Davis Mansion, in Bloomington, Illinois
  • Fort de Chartres, in Randolph County
  • Pierre Menard Home, in Randolph County
  • Apple River Fort, in Elizabeth
  • Bishop Hill, Henry County
  • Bryant Cottage, in Bement
  • Fort Kaskaskia, Randolph County
  • Hauberg Indian Museum at Blackhawk State Historic Site in Rock Island
  • Jubilee College, in Peoria County
  • Lincoln Log Cabin, in Charleston.
  • Old Cahokia Courthouse, in Cahokia
  • Carl Sandburg State Historic Site, in Galesburg
  • Vandalia Statehouse, in Vandalia

Kettle Moraine South Mountain Biking


This weekend I took a trip up north to La Grange Wisconsin. The southern unit of Kettle Morine consists of two groups of trails: the John Muir Trails and the Emma Carlin Trails. Along with these two sets of trails, there’s a 5 mile connector trail which joins the two sets. One great feature of these trails is that each trail is designated one way so you don’t have to worry about any oncoming traffic, even on the connector trail (which is actually 2 one way trails). Since this is a state forest, you will need to pay for a trail pass and parking in the lot. The way I see it is that this is a great trail system and If I have to spend a little to keep it protected and in great shape, it’s not that bad.

The John Muir Trails offer 5 loops. The longest of the John Muir loops is the 10 mile outer blue loop which has some pretty steep climbs, rocky descents, and really narrow switchbacks.

The Emma Carlin Trails are much shorter than the John Muir Trails, however, they seem more technical. The 4 mile green loop of the Emma Carlin section is probably the most technical of all trails I’ve ridden in southern Wisconsin. Although it’s only 4 miles, it’s some of the steepest, rootiest, and rockiest terrain of this area.

My favorite section of Kettle Moriane is the 5 mile Connector trail which leads from the John Muir Trails to the Emma Carlin Trails. On a weekend, the 2 sets of trails can get pretty crowded. Most of the crowds just stick to one trail group and never make it out to the connector trail so it’s not used as frequently as the 2 trail groups. I think the connector trail offers some of the most diverse terrain of the area. From open fields, to pine forests, to rocky ledges, and open straight aways.

Hit by another car.

This morning while riding my bike home from my girlfriend’s house I was hit by an automobile. I was riding along a bicycle path and crossing the street at a red light when a car making a right turn decided it was his time to make the turn. When I proceeded to cross the street he was stopped so I figured it was safe to go. Luckily most of me had cleared his car when he hit me. He knocked my rear wheel about 4 feet into oncoming traffic. I didn’t go down on the ground. I was able to get up and move out of the intersection. as I approached his car to tell him I would split the difference and accept $100.00 for replacing my rear, he drove off and was gone. (Probably didn’t help that I yelled “@$$ hole” at him. You tend to lose any credibility when you yell obscenities at anyone)

As I stood there in awe that he could just drive off after hitting me, a giant 4-miles-to-the-gallon, off-road pickup/nature destroyer that was behind him pulled up and the redneck driving leaned out of the rig and told me I should keep off the road. Keep off the road? I was merely crossing the street. I didn’t know that if you buy a bicycle you are limited to only riding it in any areas where you don’t have to cross the street. Let’s see, that would limit me to a 500foot loop of sidewalk surrounding my townhouse. Sounds like fun.

As gas prices rise more and more people are supposedly supporting the bicycle cause. I don’t see it. I am getting the same response from cars that I get when I was commuting by bike from work to school in the city of Chicago 8 years ago which is that the roads meant only for cars I have people say to me “You ride your bike everywhere. That’s good more people should do it, especially with gas prices and the environment”, but the drivers on the road seem to have another attitude.

When it comes down to what the law is versus what will keep me alive, I will go with the safer route. Maybe at some point cyclist/driver laws will be more common knowledge but until then I’d rather not rely on the laws for safety. Unfortunately rules of the road don’t mean anything if others don’t follow them. But for all intents and purposes, at the beginning of 2008, the state of Illinois passed a law requiring all motor vehicles to allow a minimum of 3 feet between them and a cyclist when passing. Although this law doesn’t really apply to my predicament, I only mention it because although Illinois has this law. I don’t know of anyone who isn’t a cyclist that’s heard of it.

Bike Messengers get a bad rap from everyone for having attitudes, especially towards automobiles and pedestrians. Anyone who commutes by bicycle can probably see why. I’m always getting frustrated by cars. I’ve spit on cars, purposely scratched them, screamed into car windows at drivers, among other things and the one thing I can tell you is that it doesn’t do either me or the other person any good. All it does is ruin the rest of my ride and I am more apt to be agitated and run red lights, block traffic and put myself in harms way just because I am pissed off. It’s not worth it. Some people are just idiots.

So what can we do? When I was hit today, I can only hope other cars saw it. The more the better. Maybe it will remind people that there are more and more cyclists on the road and cars need to allow room for them to. There are safe ways to ride. I am always skeptical about riding on bike paths vs. riding on the road because although roads have more car traffic, a car can usually see you better if you are directly in their line of vision. Since I was riding on the path it is my responsibility to make sure drivers see me vs who has the right of way. I probably could should have waited till he acknowledged that I was crossing the street. When it comes down to a well protected car vs and out in the open cyclist, it doesn’t matter who has the right of way. If there is a collision I am likely to be greatly injured and the driver of the automobile is likely to not be touched.

Ardastra Gardens Zoo // Nassau, Bahamas

While we were vacationing in the Bahamas this summer, we experienced quite a bit of rain and weather that was not ideal for going to the beach. We decided that rather than sit on the boat all day or go to resorts and lose money to the slot machines, we’d go for a walk in the rain. The rain actually slowed down quite a bit and once outside of the port, our walk became quite interesting. The Bahamas isn’t as nice as you see in commercials, most of it is pretty run down, the public beaches have more trash on them than the Lake Michigan beaches in Chicago.

After walking for sometime we saw a sign for the Ardastra Gardens Zoo. We decided to check it out. It was actually the best zoo experience I’ve ever had. There were no crowds. Several of the animals including a pot-bellied pig and lots of flamingos were not even caged and free to walk throughout the zoo. Here are some pictures I shot on my Canon G7.

an angry parrot

tiger behind bars

curious george

sheep

a pink flamingo

meerkat

midget goat

Here is a brief Description of the zoo from their website:

Ardastra Gardens was first opened to the public in 1937. It was the brain child of Hedley Vivian Edwards, a Jamaican horticulturalist, who wanted to create a luscious garden here in the heart of Nassau. This was not an easy task as the area in those days was more of a marshland than a lush garden. He named it the Ardastra Gardens after the Jamaican defense force motto, Ardastra, which came from the latin, Ardua astrum, literally meaning “Striving for the stars”.

In the 1950’s flamingos in the Bahamas were nearly hunted to the point of extinction. The Government at that time brought flamingos to Ardastra Gardens as an experiment to try breeding them in captivity. The breeding was not very successful but the flamingos certainly became quite an attraction in the gardens. Mr. Edwards then decided to begin training the flamingos to do a march for his guests and they have been marching ever since. The flamingos were featured in the National Geographic magazine in the October 1957 issue as nobody had trained flamingos to be comfortable around people before and so people could come closer to the flamingos in Ardastra compared to anywhere else in the world.

Oro Grande to Tenderfoot

satelite view courtesy of Google Earth

This is a good intermediate ride. I’d say intermediate because of the elevation changes. If you are from the Midwest like me some of the climbs may be a bit more difficult to tackle. Start by heading up Landfill Road right across from Keystone Resort. Be watch out for big trucks heading up and down this road. Once at the top, go through the gates on the left and take the singletrack switchback that heads further up the mountain. This trail will eventually lead into the Oro Grande Trail.

The Oro Grande is a double track wide trail, smooth in some parts and rocky and jagged in others, with not much of an elevation change. From the Oro Grande you can get some great views of Lake Dillon. I believe if you stay on The Oro Grande Trail, it will join up with a few other trails and you can go as far as the Eisenhower Tunnel. It will also Branch off towards Silverthorne if you want to take the paved path back to Keystone.

After awhile on the Oro Grande, You’ll see a trailhead for the Tenderfoot Trail on the right side which switchbacks all the way up tenderfoot mountain. I am not sure if this trail is open to bikes or not. There are no signs posted which prohibit bikes and after doing some research I haven’t been able to find a definitive answer. But when I was there I headed up the trail. My Map image of the Tenderfoot Trail May not be very accurate but it gives a general idea of the trail. This trail weaves in and out of the woods as it switchbacks up Tenderfoot Mountain. It’s a pretty steep trail and can be difficult. I heard some loud thunder and didn’t want to get stuck out there in the rain so I headed back. The Downhill part was really sweet. Next time I’m out there I am going to try and make it further up Tenderfoot Mountain, as well as explore some of the trails that branch off Oro Grande.

Keystone to Breck

satelite view courtesy of Google Earth

This summer my brother and I found a good bike route from Keystone to Breckenridge. What was planned as a quick warm up ended up being a pretty exhausting long ride. Us Midwesterners are not used to the Colorado climbs.

Our ride started up Keystone Gulch road right outside the condo. After about 3.5 miles of a slow but steady incline, somewhere right around the base of the Outback, we switched over to the West Ridge. The West Ridge is an uphill battle on an old logging road. It switches back and forth and the elevation change is pretty rapid…

We had intended on taking the West Ridge Loop back around into Keystone Gulch Road and taking that back down to the base of the mountain but somehow we ended up on the Colorado Trail…

It was a great ride down but once we got to the bottom…

We realized we’d ended up in Breckenridge. We were to tired to backtrack uphill and head back that way so we decided to head out towards Frisco. By the time we reached Frisco it started raining so we took the Summit Stage back to the Condo at Keystone. Next year I am bringing a GPS for sure.

Keystone Bike Park

Images courtesy of keystone resort

This summer me and my brother had the opportunity to ride the lifts at Keystone Mountain and experience some of their trails. It’s great to be able to take the chair up to the top of the mountain. Most of the trails cut across the mountain and run a decent length. On average it took us about a half hour to get down to the bottom. by the end of the day our arms and the palms of our hands were sore from the vibration of absorbing the terrain while going downhill, even with suspension and gloves. It is a bit intimidating riding at keystone because everyone is dressed in full-face helmets, body armor and their bikes look more like motorcycles without the motor. We avoided most of the freeride terrain and stuck to riding the xc trails which were crazy enough.

Here’s a few pics of from the lift and a few of us riding.