This year was the first time in my life that I was excited for winter. Last winter set the hook when I experienced the magic of powder, and realized what I’d been missing out on all these years of cursing the darkest, and coldest of seasons. With a second-hand snowboard, boots of like origin, and clearance rack down coat, I was cheering on every flake of snow with all the zeal of the newly converted.
Doing a little exploring around Rifle, I found a sweet spot up the Beaver Creek drainage, on the northeastern flank of Grand Mesa where I could stomp up in my snowshoes for a few turns before dropping into the trees, and realizing I really didn’t remember how to turn on a snowboard that well at all. But it was good times all the same, being out and exploring in what felt like a whole new world.
In order to maximize my snow sliding fun, I took advantage of Powderhorn’s awesome deal for first timers: Three days of lessons & rentals, and a season pass for $320. Just as ski lessons were wrapping up, the people I have been working for in Rifle during the off season asked me to help them with their move to Fallbrook, CA. Two weeks was the estimated time.
Two weeks has turned into over a month. The house on 5 acres of fruit trees, and flowers they purchased had not seen much maintenance in the last 5 years, and there was a lot of catching up to do. In the meantime, I’ve built about 1500′ of trail in the decomposed granite hillside orchard & flower farm.
It is a rich & tremendous source of irony for me to consider all the years I have dreamed of escaping winter to a sunny & mild climate with my bikes in tow, and when it finally comes to pass, I am jealous of the snow Colorado has been getting… C’est la vie.
Riding my bike instead of my snowboard isn’t the most difficult adjustment I’ve had to make in life. Adjusting to riding the loose marbles over hardpack granite SoCal trails wasn’t quite so easy though. My first few rides were sketchy, skaty affairs, and to be true, much of them still are. I’ve just gotten a little more used to the notion of pinballing down between chapparral thickets and granite chunk. The downhill trails here are steep, rich with braking bumps, chunky rocks, and switchback turns. Maynard, my beer-guzzling, straight line pinning, Wisconsite riding buddy, would love it here.
Victor at Spank turned me on to the Gravity Pirates, a SoCal-based DH/FR group. Gravity Pirates has given network and structure to the otherwise underground community of gravity-focused riders through their online forum, skills clinics, and bike park project at Mt. Waterman. Gravity Pirates upholds the no-dig, no-ride ethos by requiring that anyone who wants to become a member dig on a trail project before being eligible as a full-fledged Gravity Pirate. This helps ensure that folks follow the other cardinal GP rule: Dead men tell no trails. The intense regulatory environment of Southern California shoves the vast majority of gravity trails into a grey area of access, vulnerable to loose lips disease. The Gravity Pirates forum provides a secure place to share information about these trails, organize shuttle rides & dig days.
One of things I was most stoked about as being a GP member was the chance to attend their skills and setup clinic at the trails off Ted Williams Parkway in Poway, CA. The clinics covered jumping, cornering, line selection, taught by members of the Gravity Pirates race team, and suspension setup, courtesy of Steve Delacruz, and Carol Gibbs of Garageworks Suspension. While I didn’t feel I gained much from the riding clinics, the knowledge Steve, and Carol were dishing out in the suspension clinic was well worth the $50 cost of the day.
Greg Lambert came out to snap pics, including this one of me thinking, “Oh God, I’m about to case really hard…”
My favorite day with the Gravity Pirates was going to see the San Diego Supercross, something long on my bucket list. To make the day even better, we kicked it off with a ride session at the Ellsworth factory facility, home to some of the most beautifully sculpted jump trails I have seen outside of certain private Ranch above Grand Junction, CO.
One of the fun things about going to the Supercross race with the GP guys was that it was the first time I’ve ever been to a sporting event with a group, and actually been able to talk about what was going on. I was almost as fascinated by the building as the racing. But the racing was exciting enough that I didn’t get pictures.
I always build in curves….
Southern California has more of these Toyota mini dualies rolling around than I’ve seen anywhere else. I want one of these platforms to put on extended cab, and flatbed, then add 4×4, and dual t-cases. Ultimate mini farm truck!
On my way up the coast to see my sister in San Francisco, I saw the exit for Aptos. Since I had a bit of time to kill, I rolled off the freeway into downtown Aptos to check out the dirt jumps. Practically every third mountain bike movie made in the past five years has a scene from the Post Office dirt jumps. As a builder, and a rider, it was something I had to see, even though these jumps are over my head (literally, and figuratively).
Dirt jumping is something I suck at. The sight of steep lips with unforgiving gaps between take off and landing generally make for a heavy, leaden feeling in the pit of my stomach. Yet the feeling of flying on a bike is one of the sweetest I know; one of the other great ones is overcoming one’s fears, and becoming able to do something you once deemed impossible for yourself.
Through the sort of word-of-mouth connections that happen after spending some time in a community, I found out about a set of dirt jumps in Fallbrook that had been adopted by a BMX dude. Since the 500 lb spring on my Cove is quite stiff for my weight, and I have my Totem Solo Air pumped up the match, the STD doesn’t do half bad at dirt jumping, and I’m grateful for the squish when I come up short.
The dirt was spectacular when I got back from SF, and I worked with Devin at the Fallbrook dirt jumps on a bowl to step down line we’ve been scoping for awhile. Dirt boner nugs meant the building went with aplomb, and we were able to get a project cranked out in one good day of digging v. the several we thought it was going to take us.