For my 67th year I … Uh, WHAT was I thinking?

Saturday, Feb 12, 2011 and it is a cold, clear day. Couple of weeks until the 67th anniversary of my day of birth. Dang, it’s colder than forecast, hoping it warms soon. The ride that Don laid out yesterday will be a good one. Now I am wondering about that life goal I set — the one about riding my years in miles each birthday. Since I usually won’t be able to do that on the exact date this can be the day for this year. We are both confident we can do the 67, 68 should be just fine, 69, 70 … I’m a bit worried about 80! Continue reading “For my 67th year I … Uh, WHAT was I thinking?”

Using SportTracks program for exercise analysis

SportTracks by Zonefive software is a very interesting program. I use it with my Garmin Forerunner 305 (FR) sport watch and my Garmin Oregon 400t handheld GPS (as a backup). The FR comes with a nice program for downloading exercise/training logs (Garmin Training Center) but SportTracks (ST) is far more detailed and flexible. Does it help you in your exercise regimen? I think so. Whether you are exercising to lose weight, to just tone up a bit, or to get ready to run competitive races it gives you useful data. Continue reading “Using SportTracks program for exercise analysis”

I do love October

As long as you can sneak in between the little cold fronts that start whipping down this way, October in Central Texas is a month during which you can do just about anything outdoors you think you’re big enough to do.  Well, maybe not a lot of swimming. Like yard work (yuk!), motorcycling, fishing, running, and today it was perfect for a bike ride on a new route. Continue reading “I do love October”

Bikes, hikes and fishing

After the “full body workout” from the mountain-biking on Saturday, bro-in-law Bill and I decided a stroll in the woods would be a nice outing. We strategically picked the Little Missouri Trail because it had been one of the candidates for mountain-biking that had been passed up in favor of the Lake Ouachita Vistas Trail.

The Little Missouri River at the Albert Pike Recreation Area
Example of flood damage at Albert Pike

We had gone the previous day to the Albert Pike Recreation Area, the site of the devastatng flood on June 11, 2010. Our hike would be on the trail from the Little Missouri Falls to Albert Pike. That trek gave us a good understanding of how devastating the flood damage was, and why so many people were unable to escape the torrent of water that washed down the canyon in the wee hours of that morning.

High water mark
High water on the bulletin board

The photograph on the left is of a U.S. Geologic Survey high water mark on a sign post in the parking lot. The photo on the right is a high water placard on the bulletin board in the same lot.

Just 50 yards away is another parking lot overlooking the river in a way

River view

that allowed getting a perspective of how high the rise of the water really was. In this photo, the camera is being held level, even with the high-water placard, looking straight across the river.

I’m guessing it’s at least a 25 foot rise. The area across the river in this shot is typical of where people were camped and you can see how they would have been under many feet of water.

On Sunday we drove to the Little Missouri Falls to hike a small portion of a trail that is over 20 miles in total length. The trail in this section goes 6.3 miles to Albert Pike. Interestingly, by road it is eight miles. This section of the trail begins at the overlook at the Falls. It follows the river through the pine and hardwood forest that populates the river canyon.

That's Bill at the start of the Little Missouri Trail -- this view is typical of the trail environment.
Typical view of the river in this section.

We had a round trip planned because we had not dropped a car at the other end. So it would be about a three mile hike, or 12.6 if we did the full length and back. Hiking with a day pack (with 2 liters of water) a 3 mph average is the best pace likely for us old geezers. We decided to strike out and see how it went. We were in no hurry and wanted time to take pictures and soak up the delicious ambiance of the forest.

The trail occasionally opens up to allow a peek at the adjacent mountains that tower over the river canyon. In spite of the appearance of lush green, the area is actually as dry as we’ve been in Central Texas. Along the way we talked to a group of three young guys who were on their third day of hiking and who would finish that afternoon by completing the entire trail combined with two other trails for a total of about 26 miles. One of them had hiked in Colorado, Idaho and Alaska and said the upper section had 70 degree climbs and was harder than anything he had encountered before.

A gulley to the river
Boulders at one of the crossings

The photo at left doesn’t adequately demonstrate it, but it’s a steep drop to the river and indicative of some of the ups and downs of the trail. It also crosses the river at several places such as what you see at the right with giant boulders enabling a dry crossing. Dry if you don’t stumble, that is! Here is another example of the trail rising well above the river.

Gil on the trail well above the river

We stopped at about 3 miles, had lunch, and started back. Of course, it was generally uphill at that point since we were then traveling upstream. Back at the Falls parking area, we were treated with one of the more interesting ATVers. They come to the Little Missouri Falls parking area to rendezvous and recuperate.

We’ve challenged ourselves to do the full trail one day. That’s going to require a lot of additional conditioning and equipping. We’ll see.

And what does all of this have to do with fishing?  On Monday afternoon cousin Larry and I headed down to the Caddo River to see about finding some bass. We were determined to use plastic worms which I’ve used in Central Texas lakes a lot, but which we had not used in the Caddo. On about my 5th cast, which was just a little wrist flick near a downed tree which lay on top of a pile of limbs in about two feet of water, my green Wave worm was viciously attacked by a really (really!) nice “Brownie” bass that I’m guessing would weigh four pounds and was about 22 inches long. That’s a bass that’s built like a largemouth black bass but without the black stripe.  And would you know?  Me, the consummate photographer, without a camera. We were wading and I had been afraid of slipping and drowning my camera!  But Larry was there so at least I have a witness.  Larry has fished that river all his life and declared that to be the biggest fish he had ever seen taken from that river. That big dude is back in the river to be caught another day.

Breaking news: I found where God lives!

What? Rain? Darn sure is. Can’t find my watch to check the time but it must be 3am or so — so this is September 3. Now it’s almost 6 and I’m so glad I turned off the alarm before I snuggled into bed in the Jayco 19H camper. It’s cool here in the Ouichita Mountains of Arkansas, especially down here in the valley. Must be 64 degrees or so.

A few rays of light are peeking through the pine and hickory forest. In the cool, still air I hear the creek flowing over the swimming hole dam. I’m here alone, me and the animals … and God. He definitely is here and that makes sense because only God could make a place like this. Now there is just enough light to make the birds tune up in full song. I have no idea what kind of bird that is, but the low-high warble wafts easily on the cool breeze and fills the valley with song. It’s a beautiful morning in the Arkansas Ouichita Mountains.

Driving now into Norman, AR (hey, it’s an easy choice: 6 miles East to Glenwood or 6 miles West to Norman — 50/50 chance of getting it right!) to see if Melba’s Diner is open. Passing through Caddo Gap — doesn’t take long — and along the Caddo River valley the road gently winds and dips.  Is there enough shoulder for a road bike here? Looks decent.  Around the last bend, partially obscured by towering forest, Melba’s is in sight. Open? Yep, sure is. I’ll just pull my “pickup” in here next to the “real” pickups. I’m pretty sure this crowd would not consider the Chevy Avalanche to be a”real” pickup. Not a sedan in sight.

Inside Melba’s, two tables are fully occupied — plus a few, kinda like Atwood’s at home — with groups that are obviously regulars. Interesting, the two tables don’t seem to be talking back and forth much. Now why is that old dude staring at me? Oh, must be that I’m the only one not in over”hauls” here. Here comes that cute waitress with about 4 days worth of way too much dark eye shadow … but the order is taken proficiently and the hot coffee is here promptly. Didn’t make any at the camper this morning, so this is the pump-priming slurpage.  Breakfast is here with the egg fried in real grease, wonderful patty sausage that, surprisingly, is not grease-laden and hash brown potatoes (Dan Quayle:  correct spelling?) that were hand-hashed and definitely browned. None of that compressed stick of a potato you get in so many places.

More locals filter into Melba’s, only a few leave. Pulling out onto the highway now the house across the street has a couple of guys on the porch — looking.  100 yards later the abandoned gas station is not abandoned but has several guys obviously just hanging out — looking. Well, it’s a nice day just to be outside looking, I guess.

Now for some biking. The newly-refurbished (thanks, Mike McKenna of Mike’s Bikes in Marble Falls) Trek 850 Antelope

Trek 850 Antelope Mountain Bike, probably built around 1986-87

is ready to go. As I approach her, she asks “are you ready?” I neglected her terribly for 12 years or more and I don’t think the miles I’ve put on the road bike have quite prepared me to resume mountain-biking. Never did do it seriously, but we will this weekend! Brother-in-law Bill is to arrive in a couple of hours and we have plans for the Albert Pike Recreation Area and the Little Missouri Trail, as well as the Lake Ouichita Vista Trail. (shhh, he doesn’t know all of that yet!)

Full sun is now trying to warm the valley but the air is brisk as I crank the Antelope up to 7-8 mph, “flying” down the gravel road. Dang, feels really fast sitting lower to the ground and feeling every pebble. Down a hill, weight shifted back, she kisses a stone now and again but tracks true. Turning up Bean Rd now there is a bit of an easy climb and I’m trying to make the shifting a smooth and automatic evolution. Clumsy at first, I started getting it right — and in time for the downshifts — after about a mile. There are cabins for rent up this part of our valley with yet another all-weather creek flowing through it. Crud! BIG river rock now for the roadway, obviously a measure to prevent washouts from the torrents of water that occasionally ravage this area. Then there is the Bean Creek & Southern RR! (not your eyes, bad focus)

Back down to our main road now and up by the family cemetery where cousin Claude was buried only a few weeks ago. He has a nice view from the top of the hillside, overlooking so many of our ancestors buried there. He was a kind and gentle man.

Back on the main road. Let’s duck off to the side and catch the logging road that runs up the mountainside. Gears, watch the gears. Only a couple of steep (but blessedly short) climbs lie in wait but I still need to be prepared. The grass between the wheel ruts is already a foot high, having grown since July 4. Old man Sun is trying to penetrate, with little success, the dense forest canopy that guards the road. The air is warming nevertheless … wait … that’s the warmth now emanating from me as I pump up the second of the steep dips.  Over some small fallen branches and occasionally careening off of fist-sized rocks lurking beneath the forest debris, I’m beginning to feel confident about my trusty Antelope.

Back down the logging road, popping back into the valley behind Hillbilly cabin, the Garmin Oregon GPS shows 3.01 miles. The cyclometer shows less so I need to adjust the pickup lead. I think I may be ready for the trails now.

And if the biking proves too strenuous, there’s always the MantaRay12 kayak and the Caddo River teeming with smallmouth bass!

Forrest Gump on two wheels

Call me crazy if you wish, but first answer this.  When does 3 or 4 become 21? Easy. When via email several groups of bicyclists get cross-pollinated and the word spreads, then by 7am on a Saturday morning, 21 riders show up. What a herd that was with riders all the way from me on a bike barely a month up to triathletes who just blew us away. My partner in pedaling Don has already blogged the details so I’ll be more brief than usual (yes, I CAN be brief!).

The route was Marble Falls to the Burnet area via Mormon Mill Road a/k/a CR340, then back on CR330 and CR335 into Mormon Mill Road again and return to beginning. The highest single day I had done previously was 18 miles so the 32.3 miles was scary to think about but turned out to be quite enjoyable. The return was really a downhill run for the most part as shown on this profile:

Click for larger image

The elevation peaks where CR330 branches westward on CR335 and while there are some gentle climbs along the way, it’s mostly downhill until … The Hill. If you’ve ever driven out Mormon Mill Road you know exactly where it is!

On the return trip only a couple of miles before The Hill, we were making nice progress up a modest hill at, I thought, a decent pace when a group blew by us on the climb. Hmmm, odd, it was Keith, Mario, Denise, and I’m not sure who else and why are they just now catching up to us?  Keith came around me, reached out with one hand while climbing, slapped me on the shoulder and shouted “way to go judge” and pedaled onward.

We all wound up at the starting point and discovered why they were just then “catching up” to us … they were finishing 47 miles (to our 32) and in a sense had “lapped” us. Fine riders they are.

The stats, always the stats:

  • Mileage:  32.3
  • Avg. speed:  12.5 mph moving (overall 10.9)
  • Heart rate avg/max:  125/173
  • Total time: 2:58
  • Calories burned:  1946

OK, call me crazy, but I’m hooked on this cycling.  Gotta keep going.

Marble Falls Tri-Athlon

We had two of my groups supporting the Tri-Athlon today. We had several motorcyclists from my so-called m/c “gang” (we have an email list named Psycle, derived from the fact that for me motorcycling is a psychiatric event), and ham radio operators from our local Highland Lakes Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) group (sponsored in part by the Highland Lakes Amateur Radio Club). ARES, the Amateur Radio Emergency Services® is a function of the Amateur Radio Relay League. Also joining our local hams were a number of folks from the far East:  Georgetown and Hutto, from the Sun City Amateur Radio Society!  A full list of the participants is below.

ARES units participate in events of this nature in order to practice and sharpen our skills in the event of an actual communications emergency where the normal modes — telephones, cell phones, public service and law enforcement — of communication may fail. Amateur Radio is not simply another hobby, but is an avenue to life-saving public service.  Emergency communications is a large part of our public service fulfilling the motto “When all else fails … Amateur Radio works.”

The MF Tri-A consists of a 1k swim, 23 mile bike ride out Hwy 71 inclusive of some killer hills, and a 4.4 mile run down Pecan Valley and thereabouts. The motorcyclists and mobile hams serve to buffer the bicyclists against traffic since the route takes them on some busy highways, including US 281 between Marble Falls and the TX71 interchange. The mobile hams can also pick up a rider who has broken down or is injured. One of the motorcyclists is also a ham and had communications on his bike while the other motorcyclists had cell phone access back to me as the Net Control Station where I could then dispatch a ham in a vehicle to assist. I think there were seven transports, one of which was for a crash resulting in some serious road rash.

Here’s a great shot by Jim Wreyford of the swim course.

Swim at the Tri-Athlon (click for bigger)

For me the highlight of the day was the courage and sheer “guts” shown by one female who finished way last, but finished. When she made the biking 1/2 point turnaround, the lead runner had already finished! His time must have been around 1-1/2 hours total, and the gal’s was around four hours. She was walking at the last as I followed her in but by golly she finished! Another runner (seemingly not in the competition) had hooked up with her and no doubt was a lot of encouragement. I followed them in to be sure the runner was ok, and could see her buddy talking, gesturing a lot, obviously very animated. I think the distraction and encouragement probably helped. Like Marc Bittner say: 90% of it is half mental!

The hams and motorcyclists participating were:

Thanks to all of  these guys for giving up their Sunday. Some came from a long way off, and had a very early start to boot.

I’m working on detailed stats, but my guess is that a total (not including to/from the event) of 45 human hours was involved using radio equipment worth a total of  $1500-3000 (plus vehicles) and motorcycles worth a total of at least $75,000.  PLUS, Jim Wreyford, K5JSW, checked in as Air Mobile and overflew the swim but did not spot anyone who needed to be rescued! I have no idea how to value his airplane   🙂
Here’s another perspective of support for the Tri-Athlon, and actually demos something that amateur EmComm operations can include. Jim’s GPS track in the air. You can see where he covered the course.

Jim's track

An amazing radio controlled B-29 with X-1 launch

An RC airplane powered by four chainsaw motors!  It’s a B-29 which will launch an X-1. Watch it all the way through. As a former RC flyer (and pilot) I find this to be fascinating, and guarantee you’ll be thrilled as well as you contemplate the fact that this plane had to be built from scratch.