Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summertime Doldrums

(image from inter web)
Dictionaries define doldrums as "a period of inactivity or stagnation".  That seems to sum up our last few weeks. Not much has been going on.  Oregon weather turned hot and dry early this year.  Monday was the first full day of summer and we've officially had the driest June on record.  We've had more than a few days with temperatures in the 90's (32˚C).  This coming weekend our weather is forecast to be 100˚F (37.7˚C).  20 of our 36 counties on Oregon have now declared drought emergencies.  Read about it at this LINK. And now they have issued an "excessive heat warning" for this weekend.  Highs in Medford (Southern Oregon) set to reach 108˚ (42.2˚C).  Read about it HERE.

It has been three weeks since I've posted and for that I apologize.  
(Image from interweb)
Not much moto-related to report.  Hubby was nice and changed the oil in Max last weekend and cleaned/lubed the chain.  I am so lucky spoiled.  Now I just need to give the bike a bath.  We've managed one or two bicycle rides but no fun trails or pictures.  It is allergy season here in the Willamette Valley. While Troubadour does not suffer from seasonal allergies they are a trial for me this time of year.  Sneezing in my full face helmet is not fun.  Another few weeks and they will be over when they cut down the grass fields.  The very high/extreme level for grass pollen in the air is 200.  Last week we were over three times that amount.  What is higher than extreme?  Here is a LINK to a local news channel with a story on how Oregon is the worst state in the USA for allergies. At least it has dropped to the high level now.

One thing that has kept us amused, yet frustrated us at the same time, is the family of gray foxes that have decided to live under our back deck.  Momma fox, daddy fox and three little pups.  

They are pretty bold and have even approached the patio door.  While we'd been leaving the patio door open for basil to come in and out, we now have to make sure to leave it closed or else one of the rambunctious pups would come inside exploring.  Here are a few pictures.

(Momma Fox)

(Momma fox and two pups)

(The whole fox family)

(Fox pups on the deck)

(They are so cute)
We have a shrub/flower bed beside our deck and the pups have made it their playground.  They've managed to flatten my pansy flowers, broken the new goats beard shrub that was still in the pot, and broken a hydrangea.  They are venturing further into the yard now as well, climbing the Red Bud Forest Pansy and flattening the Gaura flowers below.  Ahhh, so cute, yet so destructive.  We are hoping at some point they will move on.  We thought the momma fox had the pups weaned as they were bringing them squirrels and mice to eat, but she was nursing them again yesterday morning.

(Pups at play)

(They have adopted Basil's outside water bowl)

(Notice the pups destroying the hydrangea in the shrub bed)

(They are into everything)

(And yes, they can climb trees)

(Did I mention they were into everything?)
And when we say they moved in, here is a picture of the Momma fox all comfy on the "wipe your paws" mat right outside the patio door relaxing on the step like a dog.

(Momma fox relaxing in the shade)
Basil is not amused.  He spends most of him time inside now or sneaking out the front to avoid the foxes out back. This look will tell you exactly what he thinks of them.

(Basil cat is not amused)
At one point a week or so ago Basil was outside patrolling the perimeter when he saw the Daddy fox on a woodpile out back behind the yard.  They faced off for quite a while before the fox moved on for a bit.  The camera was on full zoom so picture quality suffered.

(Basil and the fox)
Oh and in answer to Dar's question on Facebook "what does the fox say?"  She sounds like a cross between a seal and a dog.  It is an odd hoarse bark.

Troubadour was teaching Team Oregon last weekend and teaches again this weekend.  He'll be sure to drink lots of water standing on hot asphalt all day in 100 degree temps.  At least he won't be on a bike with a helmet on like the students.  The following weekend is our July 4th Independence Day long weekend.  While we'd love to be out on the bikes, we try to avoid highways during holidays since it seems to be a big weekend for drinking and driving and a lot of yahoos are on the roads too.  Hopefully we can get in a short gravel ride as long as we are back to protect Basil from the big bad fireworks on the 4th.  We usually have to turn a movie up pretty loud to drown them out while he hides in the closet or under the bed.  Poor kitty.

Hope everyone else is getting out and riding lots.

 - Au Revoir

"One's life must seem extremely flat, with nothing whatsoever to grumble at." - Anthony J. d'Angelo, The College Blue Book

Thursday, June 4, 2015

I Did it to Myself.......

Last Friday I scored the day off because my boss was playing hooky and taking his boat out halibut fishing.  It is always nice when he lets me have a Friday off since he knows Troubadour does not work on Fridays.

What to do, what to do.  

Thursday night we decided that we wanted to go for a mountain bike ride on Friday since it was going to be warm in the valley and getting above the grass seed pollen might help my allergies. Troubadour left it up to me to decide where we'd ride.  So many choices.

I opted for Silver Falls State Park just outside of Silverton. It is about 55 miles (88 km) northeast and not too bad of a drive if we take the back roads and avoid I-5.

(Our route in blue except we avoided the short I-5 section)
While we'd hiked in Silver Falls to view the waterfalls, we'd never actually parked at the north trail head and hiked the Perimeter Trail where the bicycles are allowed.  Silver Falls State Park is quite popular and reports indicate over 1,000,000 visitors per year.  Yes, over a million people.  Luckily most of them stay on the waterfall trails and the Perimeter Trail does not have a single waterfall.

We arrived at noon and found that our Northwest Forest Pass does not cover the State Park. Thank you State of Oregon. So, we proceeded to fill-out an envelope at the self-pay station and donate $5 then placed the receipt on the dashboard of the Subaru to avoid a ticket.  If only they would use that money for signs that actually show you all the trails.  All the signs at the parking lot indicated no bicycles on the trails, but we knew from the paper pamphlet they provided that bikes are allowed on a few of them.  

We had to walk the bikes 150 feet or so to where the Perimeter Trail began.  The trail started out gently then steadily increased in grade.  

We stopped for Troubadour to drop a pin on his Garmin e Trex so we'd know where we were and how to get back if necessary.  This would also track our elevation changes and distance travelled. It was a good opportunity to take a picture of the trail.

(Perimeter Trail - Silver Falls State Park)

Soon we were on a set of switchbacks leading up the side of the mountain.  There would be a short set of switchbacks, then it would level off a bit, then more switchbacks.  I got hung up on a tree root or something and lost my momentum. I thought it was another good spot for a picture. Troubadour was pedaling on and was already out of sight.  There was a large tree trunk up ahead that looked like the tree had been hit by lightning years ago.

(Tree hit by lightning)

(Looking behind me at the hill we'd climbed, trail drops off to the right)
At one point as I was pushing my bike up a particularly steep section trying to hold off an exercise induced asthma attack (I have been reluctant to get an inhaler, but I may have to change that) I mentioned to Troubadour that I had no one to blame for being on that trail but myself.  I picked the damn thing.  Huff, puff, wheeze.  Okay, I can breathe. Time to carry on.

We eventually arrived at an intersection.  I believe it was just over 1,000 feet (304 meters) of elevation gain over the 3.12 miles (5.02 km) to the intersection with a gravel fire road and the rest of the Perimeter Trail that horses are allowed on.  Troubadour can consult to his Garmin and verify the elevation gain. Time for a wee break and to look at the trail signs and evaluate our wounds.  The blackberry bushes were encroaching on the trail and our legs were getting a little scraped on the way by.  Stings a little but you soon forget.

(Trail head on top right hand corner, we were mid-way down on the right at the intersection)

(The wild irises were still in full bloom)

(Troubadour enjoying the quiet)
We looked at the trail sign and compared it to the paper map we were carrying and decided to try the next section of trail that was shared with horses.  It was heading downhill so worse-case scenario was we'd have to hike/bike back up it.  Our intention was a 15 mile loop I saw described on the internet.  Perimeter Trail to Buck Mountain Loop, etc so we'd make a loop instead of doing an out and back on the same trail.  We started downhill where the trail looked like the photo below.

(Trail getting narrow - watch out for blackberry bushes)
The tail started to really get churned up.  Big clods of mud from the horses hooves.  People hadn't been riding their horses at a walking pace, they must have either been galloping or at a really good trot to dig up the trail.  Not so easy to ride over for a mountain biker.  And then we came to this.......

(Churned up muddy bridge)

(Troubadour WTF - "what is this crap" look)

(And up the hill we go)

(A close up of the mud bog bridge)
Shortly after this the trail was so bad we turned around.  F*ck it, it wasn't fun any more.  Damn horses, and they say bikes tear up a trail.  I took the pictures above on the return trip.  I held my bike on the left side squeezing it between the log and the tree and walked on the log to avoid most of the mud.  Made for slick shoes on the pedals after.  We back-tracked the 1/2 mile to the intersection and our favorite sign of the day.  

(No horses on that first 3.12 mile stretch of the Perimeter Trail)
Don't get me wrong, I don't hate horses.  I used to ride them in high school.  I just don't like them on the bike trails.  

We stopped for a another quick break and split a Cliff Bar.  It had been a long time since breakfast and we'd only had a quick Cliff Bar at the car before setting out.  Energy renewed we pointed our wheels towards the car.

(Photo from interweb)
I had one "face palm" moment on return trip.  At one point on the way back, I was heading downhill on a particularly tight/steep right hand switchback and slowed so that I could put my right foot up on the embankment for stability and to assist me around the corner (drop off on other side of trail and I am not a fan of steep switchbacks).  Somehow I managed to lean a bit towards the right, my front tire turned to the right, and I gave my left knee road rash all while keeping forward momentum and the bike upright. I don't think I could do it again, but wish I had it on video it must have looked like I was having a seizure epic.  Troubadour was ahead of me and missed it.  I don't know many people that can give themselves road rash from their front tire while being on the bike.  That takes a special kind of stoopid talent.  It was a 2 inch round spot on my knee - black from the tire and red from taking the skin off a bit.  Not the smartest thing I've done, but I laughed out loud. Troubadour couldn't figure out how the hell I'd done it and even tried to do duplicate after we'd gotten home.  I had to remind him my inseam is also 2 inches longer than his so my knees stick out further, lol.  That is my excuse.

We didn't stop too many times on the way back.  But this caught Troubadours eye.  I've never seen an anthill so large.  Hard to see in the photos but all those black dots are thousands of little ants.  The hill is several feet tall and wide and they actually started crawling up our shoes as we were standing there.  Troubadour took the pics, hard to do while you are stomping your feet to keep the ants away.

(Large ant hill)

(Close up of ant hill)

Those were the last pictures of the day.  We managed to make it to the car mostly unscathed. Some scratches on the arms and legs from the blackberries and of course my knee.  We were happy to be off the mountain.  It was an interesting trail, but not necessarily worth the drive again.  We think there are better ones closer to home.

We loaded the bikes onto the car. And, while munching on apples, headed off the mountain.  We stopped in Stayton at Starbucks for a Frappuccino treat, figured we'd earned it.  We made it back to Corvallis at 6 pm and stopped at our favorite Vietnamese Baguette restaurant for a Soya Banh Mi.  Asking for no mayo makes it vegan and we always add fresh jalapenos even though it comes with spicy red sauce.  Delicious.

It was a long day but morale was still high.  I am still laughing at my knee, but I have no one to blame but myself.

- Au Revoir

"It's not the mountain that we conquer but ourselves." - Sir Edmund Hillary