Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Big Rock Candy Mountain 2011 Edition

Ever been at the point your fridge looks like your conscience and your wallet at the same time?  The following tips are approved by the Big Rock Candy Mountain 2011 Committee.

Step 1) Dig out that stuff sack with all your unused bike travel food from the past year.  Pick out an awesome one you were saving for magical occasions like this. Cook water on hot.

Step 2)  Add one freezer burned chukar breast. 

Step 3) Substitute water for beer, ketchup (catsup) and rooster power for veggies.

Step 4) Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Don't take this too seriously.

Short sleeve shirts, January, and chukar don't seem to fit together.  It seems like one of those dreams you have that even deep in slumber you know it's not quite right.  Azure sky, mud and snow at about 50/50, good friends, better dogs, and the dose of reality:  Next to no birds. 

Perfect conditions for the average human activity usually mean the opposite to the game we pursue.  You don't see birds sunning themselves midday on top of cliffs, strutting their stuff for the ladies and saying "Goddam Roy!  What a beee-u-ti-ful day, eh?"  At least not during scattergun season.  Fishing on sunny days in the winter can provide some bent rods, but that's because fish in ice choked waters have a bit more appreciation for the sun than even we do.  But you don't take these things to mind when you slap those boots on and take to the field.  Optimism is a cheap, sexy whore.  Realism is about the chase, climbing the mountain with an open mind and a light heart, because it's worth it.  Don't take this seriously.  We're running around with shotguns on steep and rocky mountain slopes where we don't belong, looking for a fucking bird that's only gifts are surviving here because it is exactly where it belongs.

Sometimes you get lucky, dumb lucky.  And sometimes meeting everyone back at the trucks with the only pair of stiff legs poking out of your game bag with the best poker face you can pull is worth every muddy, sliding step.

Excuse the poor camera jerk shadow.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Muddy Buddy

I get that itch sometimes to go on a long, tortuous bike ride for no damn reason other than I need to kick the shit out of myself.  To wake from the cloudy sleep and comforts that afford my very few luxuries any weight.  On Thursday I was at work for about two hours, and two things happened. 1) There really wasn't a whole lot to keep me busy.  2) I had a wild hair up there and burning the demons out with a ride into a warmish winter storm front seemed like the best plan of action.  I hate getting restless and I'm lucky to have a "temp" job that allows me to bail when my ADHD hits 5th gear.  I may have just bought Top Ramen for the rest of the month, but it's well worth it.  I don't only get to exercise those demons I don't want around, I get to revive the ones that only bike tours, death rides and brutal races can birth.  There's a solitude in the saddle, a mental state that snaps on once you've settled in for 5 or more hours of steady cranking.  Masochism is a theme here.  There's a level of consciousness you can't explain to those who haven't pushed themselves to the breaking point.  We don't talk about it, but we see it in others.  It's definitely one of those things.
Sunbeams between the snow fronts.

I rode about 75 miles from Sparks to my parents home in California.  Some in the dirt, most on the pavement, a little in the snow.  I spent the last hour in the dark with out food or water in the tank, legs shaking as I pictured the cold beer my dad would hand me in a few minutes.  In the gloaming I could make out the landmarks dear to me as a kid, the sun's last lights dropping like a night light from the high clouds and fog.  My head was clear, my ass was handed to me.  I smiled with the dirt in my teeth and laughed and coughed all at once.  This is what it's all about.  That and riding up the lowest pass in the Sierra's with a Lucha Libre mask on.
Headwinds, I still damn thee.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Summer Mountain Quail Recon; or A Mid-Winter's Singletrack Pining

Best mountain quail scouting combo known to man, minus the rube playing with the spoke nipples and zip ties.  

In late August the high country singletrack comes into its own.  Most of the places we ride don't have guide book confirmation, so they aren't perma-muddied by 10,000 tires or the boots of le gapers.  The snow and mud have subsided so it's not a slog fest, and it's not so dusty you look like a character from Dune.  The beautiful blooms are just past their peak in the meadows and even if it's 90 degrees in the valley below, it's almost 70 way up here and it's gonna stay that way all day.  We play on the crest because it's like another planet, and a damn good one until deer season opens.  Oh yeah, and the trails we like to ride happen to be frequented by the most frustrating of upland birds - the mounty.  They love the head high manzanita, the raspy altitudes, and the thick trees that we wind through.  I see their tracks darting out of the springs during the midday water breaks, I see them run through the clear-cuts in the late evenings, and I count them in the mornings when Rosie busts them at the first ravine.  Rosie runs full speed, dangerously close to my front wheel, which has resulted in both of us cursing and bloodied in the past.  But with a smart dog it only takes once or twice to get with the program.  I consider these rides as multi-sport multi-tasking: 1- We are mountain biking, and it's fucking awesome. 2- We're getting in better shape for chukar season. 3- We're scouting for the second Saturday in September, when the scattergun season for mountys returns, as well as getting the dog's head back in the game.

We'll ride for miles and if we cross a covey, I stop and try to snap Rosie into hunting mode.  It doesn't take much as she's always in it, but her being young she doesn't always remember how to do things properly.  If we cross paths with the quail early on in the ride, she may break commands and go straight for them.  All I can do is watch them fly through the thick massive old growth with my lungs too empty to scream more than once or twice. 

I get the upper hand at the end of long rides.  She's a bit more wore down and tends to listen to the guy with the treats and water a little more intently. 

I know it's the peak of chukar and all right now, but the reason I digress to pre-season masturbation is because, like anything with a prime season, I miss riding balls out on high country singletrack.  I got the itch, and I can't scratch it for 6 more months.  At least I can still shoot the birds right now instead of just flushing 'em.  I guess the grass is always greener.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Prep Time

Cleaning out the barrels with a tin of gun oil that's older than I am sitting on my coffee table.  How many missions has this handed down tin relic helped in prepping?  How many tiny drops have secured the confidence and actions of my brother, father, and our friends?  It doesn't take much, it's the good stuff.  Boxing up the empties from last time, still lingering in the pockets of thick canvas along with puffs of down and a top knot.  The dog likes the top knot.  It goes on her nose while she's sleeping.
Maps spread, the Google Machine doing the satellite checking.  New grounds.  Unproven, but in those rendered images lay the hope of this old friend crew.  The promising signs of good chukar sticking out to each of us: cheat grass, rocky ridges, and some sage.
Filling the water jugs at the last minute so they don't freeze so quickly.  Grabbing wood from the neighbor's oak he dropped in the fall.  He may or may not be pleased about this, depends on if he's got a wood stove and knows how to use it.  Booze money thrown into the pot.  Dogs loaded up, attempts are made to feed them well but they're too excited to eat.  One stop at the last supermarket before the desert melts from Reno.  Sturdy smiles hidden on the inside, we're damn lucky for this.