Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ride Party

Last Saturday was a pretty special event.  Our local club here, the Tarheel Trailblazers, said goodbye to one of our own.  Most of you here locally know Big Bike Mike, and no doubt have seen him working hard on our trails.  He’s decided to retire and move on to Snowshoe where he’ll be doing more trail work and riding some downhill.  Definitely not your typical retirement.

Anyway, he’s done most of his work up at Lake Norman State Park, keeping that place in pristine condition.  He worked as hard as a crew of ten (or more) men, and gave up a ton of riding time so others can enjoy their rides.  That's commendable, so we gathered up there for one final ride with him.

We had two groups scheduled, and I somehow ended up in the one without Big Bike Mike.  I rode with the “fun bunch”, a crew of folks that are know for flying through the air instead of racing through the woods (not to say that the other group was a bunch of racers, mind you.) 

We did “race” through the woods a little though:

But we also stopped to session little jump line and it was rad.

Rocky sez, “RAMFB”

Eventually, both groups made it back safe and sound.  Much fun was had.  We gathered around one of the shelters for a big cookout and some socializing.

TomTom and Good Guy Greg “handled the meats.”

When our bellies were full, we gathered around to present an award to the man of the hour.  For some reason I was designated as the public speaker and I presented the first time award to Big Bike Mike:

Mike on the left, and some dude standing next to him.

In case you can't see it well enough, the text on the award reads:

The Tarheel Trailblazers would like to award

Mike Hamm / “Big Bike Mike”

The inaugural
“Big Bike Mike Trail
Stewardship Award”
for his tireless efforts and
outstanding Volunteer service
to the mountain bike community
of the greater Charlotte Metro area.

This Day March 26th, 2016

No one is more deserving of such an award for sure.  Being the “inaugural” award though, it’s gonna be hard for anyone else to win it in the future.  He definitely set a high standard as far as trail work goes, and it will be extremely difficult to match his accomplishments.  He is a helluva good rider too, and a great all around guy.  If you had a chance to work or ride with him, count yourself lucky.  

We’ll definitely miss him around here for sure.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Day Off Payoff

I'm just now catching up...

Friday was a free day for me, so I wanted to get the hell away.  I had an evening appointment in town though, so The Pisgah was a no go (I always “waste” a lot of time there.)  I didn’t want to ride local and still wanted mountains, so off to the Brushy Mountains in Wilkesboro I went.  Not too far away, but far enough to get away.

There are three trail systems at the Kerr Scott Reservoir, and I know them all pretty well.  I race every year at Warrior Creek and Dark Mountain, but I hadn’t been on the Overmountain Victory Trail (OVT) in a good long while.  So, that was my plan.  Instead of parking at the trailhead though, I parked at the local shop owned by one of my friends.

Brushy Mountain Bicycles:

From there, you can access all the trails in the area, which is pretty damn convenient if you ask me (no one asked.)  After shooting the shit for a while at the shop, I got dressed and rolled out.  A short jaunt up a paved hill and I was right on OVT.

Shannon (the proprietor of the bike shop and all around good dude) gave me a good route that had me riding the loops on OVT in a fun order.  I got in quite a few miles for sure, but most importantly I had a blast.  I didn’t stop too often for photos (odd for me, I know.)  However, I spotted a new feature that got me curious.

The trail didn’t connect to this new bridge just yet.  However, the current trail went right underneath it.

I’m not sure of its exact purpose, but I like shiny new shit just the same.
The ride was good, and I chatted here and there with people that were out enjoying another perfect NC day.  Once I popped back out on the road, I coasted back down to the shop.

The Eagle was waiting for me.

I talked about this shop before and I know I mentioned this eagle.  It’s pretty damn rad, and made out of stone so it will always be there.

Oh, and the shop?  Still awesome.  I shot the shit, played guitar with Shannon for a bit, and talked about how great of a location this is for anyone coming up here to ride.  It’s an awesome place to hang out and drink beer, buy stuff, and have prime access to some of the best trails in the state.  Sure, I spent more time hanging out than I did riding, but this place is all about the mountain biking lifestyle.  That gives this place character for sure, which is something that most bike shops are lacking.

And yeah, they haz dog. 

A much needed ride in the hills, coupled with some much needed real people (i.e. mountain bike peeps) made for an awesome day off.  I said it before and I’ll say it again:

When you go up there to ride, make sure you stop in and say hi.  Support this rad shop that supports the local scene up there in the Brushy Mountains.

And (shameless plug here), pick up some DeFeet socks while you’re there. 

Seriously though.  Don’t just drive by this shop this weekend on your way to (and from) the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek.  Stop in and check it out.  You’ll be glad you did.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Fun Friday

Finally, we've reached Friday again.  I dig it.  And even better, it's a holiday weekend.  You know, Easter if you're into that sort of thing.  Most people just use this day to pig out on those little marshmallow Peeps that are all the rage.

You know what the hell I'm talking about...

Maybe that's just me.  I dunno.  I think people just use any holiday as an excuse to pig out on anything, and they don't care what it is.  This is when they break out the weird cookbooks that are only used on such occasions.

Yeah.  Get your food on.

As for me, I'm actually off today.  I'm getting ready to head for the hills to ride shortly, and I am excite.

Not as excite as this guy though:

It's a long weekend for me and lots of folks, so I'll take it.  I know I just came back from a long vacation, but I still enjoy every second of time when I don't have to follow a schedule.

Or rules.  Screw your rules.

I'm out.  Have a great weekend (especially if you get an extra day here or there.)

See y'all Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Industry Insider

All the aimless wandering we did around the swamps of Florida actually had a destination.  The whole trip really started because of the Santos Fat Tire Festival.  I’d always heard that it was a good time, but I’ve never been able to go for one reason or another.  That changed this year when Little Miss Sunshine and her friend Alice (who needs a nickname by the way) decided to setup a booth down there.  They both do crafty bike art stuff, so those two teaming up for the festival seemed like a great idea.  Another great idea was the fact that I would get to ride the trails at Santos for three days straight while they worked.

Plans changed though.

Something came up, and my friends at DeFeet asked if I could help them out.  They had a booth down there, but no one to run it.  Of course, I said yes (after talking it over with the little lady.)  I’ve helped with the booth before at several events (including Interbike), but this would be the first time I’d get to do it all by myself.  I was honored that they asked, but a little nervous.  We got to the Santos trailhead bright and early Friday morning so I could set up.

The atmosphere felt sorta like a race to me, mostly because I had the jitters.  I knew the product, had plenty of it, and most importantly, I am pretty comfortable talking to strangers about the awesome stuff that DeFeet makes.  Plus, I had a pretty cool neighbor.

We had a prime spot up front, and the event was pretty big.  My camera could only capture half of it.

Day one only lasted from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and the time really flew by.  I was selling socks left and right (no pun intended.)  In fact, I didn’t realize how much business I’d been doing in that five hour span.  I was busy talking to everyone and explaining the differences for each sock, and selling became automatic.  I was relieved that it was so easy (probably because I sorta know what I’m doing.) 

Once the expo closed for the day, we packed up and headed to the bike shop across the street for the afterparty.

It was full of good people, great beer, and even awesome food.  What a day. 

The next morning we had an earlier start, so we grabbed breakfast at the hotel before we left.  That’s when I spotted some socks that I’d sold the day before.

I knew it was gonna be a good day.  Because Pizza.

Day two was on a Saturday, so I knew it would be a busy day.  People came rolling in, but they left quickly to go on a fifty mile (organized) ride.  I was a little sad that I couldn’t go ride with them (even the Dirty Party Cycle came down from NC to ride), but I took my sock-selling duties seriously.  I didn't need to ride. 

The day started out slow due to the ride, so we kept busy between customers.  Someone took a photo of the little lady and Alice during their down time, and you can see me “working” hard in the background.

Once the riders started rolling in, business picked up.  I barely had enough time to do anything but talk about (and sell) socks.  Some folks couldn’t wait to try them out…

And then there’s my favorite story from the weekend.  I talked to a guy for a while about how comfortable the Trail Levitator socks were, how they are engineered specifically for mountain biking, and why he should have some.  He bought a pair, put them on, and took off on a twenty five mile ride.  I saw him a short while later…

He couldn’t stop talking about how good his feet felt and how much he loved his new socks.  Then he bought two more pairs.  Awesome.

I also got to meet some really cool people throughout the weekend.  One in particular that stands out it a guy named Falco, who was a pretty rad dude.  He lost his legs in a work accident a while back, but that didn’t stop him from riding.  He now rides a custom hand cycle and on the trails.  He’s from South Florida, and from what I hear tears up the trails down there better than most guys on two wheels. 

It was an honor to make such a cool new friend.   Check out his story here:

It was a long weekend (after a long week.)  When Sunday rolled around, I tore everything down and reflected on it all.

I worked hard for DeFeet, and made lots of new friends (for me and the folks out there in the hills.)  It was such a pleasure to get to represent a top notch cycling company at an awesome event.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do this again.  It was a small taste of being in the bike industry, but I really enjoyed it.  It’s a lot of work no doubt, but the reward was great because I came away feeling like I actually had a purpose. 

It’s enough to make me want to give up what I do for a living now, that’s for sure.

For real.

Monday, March 21, 2016

More Swampy Vacation

I'm not on vacation anymore.  I'm still writing about it.  Sure, there are other things going on.  Other people can tell some of those stories right now.  At least until I get the rest of my vacation stuff out of the way.

So, here we go.

Day two of our South Florida adventure started with another drive across the Everglades.  And again, it was peaceful.  Perfect weather, beautiful scenery, and my favorite part...

Very few people.

Our journey eventually landed us on the Big Cypress Reservation.

The last time I'd been there was probably about 11 or 12 years.  Lunchbox and I used to visit there on the regular, spending the night, enjoying the swamp, and soaking up some culture.  It was nice to be back.

Since it was Little Miss Sunshine's first time there, I took her on a swamp buggy ride so she could get a closer look.  Those swamp buggies can go where most other vehicles can't.

After the ride through wetlands and hardwood hammocks, we set out to find some more gators.  We weren't tired of them, and they seemed happy to see us too.

The fella on the bottom there was selected for the gator wrestling show.  We walked over to the pit to see the show, and I recognized a few familiar faces.

Manny (left) from the TV show Swamp Men and Tre from Gator Boys.

Although I didn't know them personally (only from television), the little lady and I struck up a conversation.  Once they found out that I was from Florida and we had a mutual friend (who taught them both how to wrestle gators), they let us help a little bit.

Instant swamp cred.  That was cool.  We spent a little more time on the reservation, then hit some back roads towards my home town a few hours away.  One of my childhood friends put us up for the night, we had some beer, then hit the road the next morning to see my brother.  He gave us the behind the scenes tour at Gatorland.

You know, with moar critters.

Another fun day, but unfortunately that was the end of our time with swamp critters.  We hit the road again and headed for Ocala.  An hour later we checked into our hotel for the weekend so we could work the Santos Fat Tire Festival.  We dropped our shit off and met some of our friends for dinner and beer at this really cool local joint.

It had a musical vibe that I was digging.

Finally, we were gonna stay in one place for a while.  And finally, this blog might get back to bicycle stuff.

See y'all tomorrow.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Deep In The Swamp

In lieu of Fun Friday (my usual lazy way out), I’m gonna keep going on about my vacation.  Yeah, you may not care so much, but this blog thingy is sorta like a diary…

It helps me remember what I’ve done.

Anyway, when I last left off the little lady and I were deep in the Everglades.  We had a list of things to do and a bunch of miles to drive to do it.  We started at the southwest tip of the state, looking out towards the 10,000 Islands region.

It was really beautiful down there.  And more importantly, peaceful.

Our next stop was to head a little north, then east on the Tamiami Trail.  We had some things to see in the tiny little swamp town of Ochopee, which included the smallest post office in the United States.

 I’m in that photo merely for size comparison.  As you can see, the post office is not obese. 

We continued along the trail, through what is essentially prime habitat for the Florida Panther.  We were made aware quite often.

That’s my favorite animal by the way, and it has nothing to do with that sportsball team here in Charlotte (real panthers aren’t black.)  With less than two hundred in the wild, it’s rare that you’ll see one in the wild (I’ve seen exactly one.)  Pretty slim chances I guess, but the odds are better than seeing the Skunk Ape.

Oh, did you say Skunk Ape?  Well, let me tell you about our next stop…

It’s sorta official, and one guy there is more than certain that they exist (I have also seen exactly one.)  We chatted with the kooky fella for a bit, but soon realized that they had other swamp critters in the back to play with.  We donated a few bucks, walked through a door to another kooky fella, and within minutes he handed Little Miss Sunshine a baby alligator.

Then she played with a King Snake…

Not albino.  Just bred to be white for some reason.

And then we found this big ol’ Python.

It was as big around as my thigh, and about 22 feet long.  The photo does not do it justice.

We spent a lot of time in that little shit hole, I mean roadside attraction.  It was cool though, and being right in the middle of the swamp made it all pretty real.  We had to leave though, because we had some native people to visit.

Keep following along.  I haz moar pictures.  Okay?

I can trace one side of my family back to the native tribes that settled down there, so I am very familiar with what’s happening (and they are much different than what you probably know about Native Americans.)  I’ve been there a bunch, but this was all brand new for Little Miss Sunshine. Our first stop (after crazy Skunk Ape people) was the Miccosukee reservation.  Of course we started with some traditional alligator wrestling.

But the best part was getting to hand feed some big ones…

(And not feeding them my hand.)

We spent quite a bit of time there to take it all in, but eventually I had to get the little lady out on a boat.  And not just any boat.

An airboat.

This was her first time, even though she lived in Florida for quite a few years before we moved here (we moved not long after we got together.)  She had a blast, and riding one through the “River of Grass” (The Everglades) is the best way to experience it.

Well yeah, of course we saw moar swamp critters.

It was a nice, relaxing day that kept us away from most people and immersed in nature.  We did take a slight detour through Miami (moar people, less nature), but that was to go see the lighthouse on Key Biscayne.

That was the only good thing about being near Miami.  You know, because we were trying to avoid people.  I still got a good photo though.

Far away, which is where we went after I took that photo.

Even though I know they have some awesome mountain bike trails around there, we didn’t bring bikes.  Our day was about relaxing, nature, and a little history.  We retreated back to our temporary home base in Everglades City to prepare for another day with native people in the swamp.

I’ll pick up where I left off on Monday.