Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sedona, Arizona

In early April my travels took me to Scottsdale, Arizona to attend the wedding of a good buddy (who is also a former co-worker) and spend a long weekend in the Valley of the Sun.  I've had several people suggest that I need to hit up the Sedona area as it's a paradise for mountain biking.  I've seen pictures of the area and it looks awesome but I was slightly (ok, a lot) concerned about the technical aspects of the trails.  With the welcome party for all the guests on Friday night and the wedding on Saturday it afforded me the opportunity to catch an early flight to Phoenix on Thursday, rent a car and be in Sedona by 10:00 a.m. Pacific time as it's only an hour and forty-five minutes from the airport.  Prior to the trip I rented a bike from Absolute Bikes in Sedona and researched some routes on the MTB Project website.  I picked a route that was "intermediate" thinking (given the fact I ride a lot of singletrack around here) I wouldn't have much of a problem riding it.  I put together a couple loop routes totaling around 20 miles, loaded it into my Garmin eTrex 30x and was ready to go.

The bike I rented was great but very different than what I'm used to.  I ride a Surly Krampus mountain bike which has wide tires but no suspension so there's a certain way to ride over obstacles.  The bike I had was a full suspension bike with a dropper post.  It only cost $65 to rent and as I signed the rental agreement felt like I should have read it a little more closely since it was a $3,500 bike!

I rode a combination of the West Sedona Loop and the Chuckwagon - Mescal - Long Canyon Loop.  These incorporate about twelve trails in the Sedona area.  I would have gotten completely lost had it not been for the eTrex since all I had to do was follow a line on the GPS.  The trails criss-cross each other a lot but are still marked well.  For a one day excursion I was ok with relying on the GPS versus studying the maps and area a little more.

The trails were incredibly rocky, technical, beautiful, etc., etc.  I walked a decent amount since there was no way I was dropping straight down over jagged rocks.  Or in some of the slick rock sections if I had fallen I would have tumbled several hundred feet and the last time I checked that would hurt.

Red dirt everywhere!

The picture doesn't do it justice but that was straight down and rocks everywhere throwing the bike around.  I walked down that section.

Deadman Pass...not a sign I was excited to see.

I only got stuck a few times by all the cactus plants!

Chimney Rock...kinda.

When my only two options were "difficult" and "extreme" I figured I would do a lot of walking, which I did.

Some people were out hiking and taking pictures and they took a picture for me.  This was the main slick rock section of the ride and at times the trail as right on the ledge.  I didn't risk it since the margin of error was pretty small.  But incredibly beautiful.

After a while this picture pretty much described how I felt.  Thinking the "intermediate" route would be in my ability level was pretty foolish.  It was one of the hardest rides I ever did and I had to cut the route early and did 15 miles but it took nearly five hours!  As I learned, that's not too uncommon.  It's not easy riding but the views and challenge was extremely worth it.

 My handy eTrex and cycling computer!

I wore my GoPro again this time and while it doesn't include all the time I walked and pushed my bike it shows a lot of the easier parts!  Until next time...

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Fjord Cycling Route in Norway

Norway is a pretty amazing place and obviously there are so many things different about it than back home.  A few questions people have asked me:

What is the food like? Pretty delicious.  Traditional Norwegian cuisine is meat (mostly beef or fish), potatoes and vegetables.  The fish is a lot of different types but mostly salmon, halibut and mackerel.  Vegetables are primarily carrots and cauliflower or at least that's what was given to me most of the time.  Another slightly odd thing at many of the meals was mashed peas.  Didn't taste bad but the texture and visual appeal of it weren't the best.

How are drivers? Really great.  I was on backroads almost the entire trip and every single driver slowed down and got over when I met them or when they came up from behind.

Does it normally rain all the time? It does rain quite a bit being this close to the ocean.  But from talking with people I was here in a rainy stretch and it doesn't rain like this all the time.  It didn't detract from my enjoyment of the trip but obviously if it was sunny the entire time that would have been better.  The one thing I thought was crazy is how long it stays light here.  For example, today the sun rose at 4:30 a.m.  Sunset is around 11:00 p.m.  But first light and last light are at 2:45 a.m. and 12:30 a.m.  18 1/2 hours of daylight and about 22 hours of light.  Bring a sleeping mask.

How was the bike and other equipment? It was good.  The bike was a little more upright than what I'm used to which made climbing more of a challenge but that's nit picking.  Unless you're the type that rides all the time and has multiple bikes (guilty) you're probably not going to notice anything different.  The panniers were waterproof and held up really well.

Would you recommend it? Absolutely!  Having everything set up for me (bike, reservations, food, etc.) made it really simple and getting from Bergen to Matre was also easy.  I stayed in downtown Bergen which is a short walk to the transit station.  All in all, a stress-free way to have a cycling trip.  While the climbs were steep at times the amount of mileage each day allows you to take your time without feeling like you need to go as fast as possible.

Thanks for reading!  I brought a GoPro along on the trip and put together a video of some highlights so enjoy.  Next stop - home!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Fjord Cycling Route in Norway - Day 5 (Frøyset to Matre)

After 130 miles (which isn't a lot) of riding and nearly 11,000 feet of climb (that IS a lot for that type of mileage) I arrived back in Matre and finished the loop route around 12:30 p.m.  I was motivated to get moving this morning so I could catch the 1:50 p.m. bus back to Bergen otherwise I'd have to wait until 4:50 which I didn't care for.  Today was a really good day.  After a great breakfast I departed the farmhouse.  I had the entire house to myself last night and is the type of place where you don't get a key because there aren't even locks on the doors.  Pretty quiet out there.

I was riding back into the mountains and had the most total climb of any day - almost 3,000 feet.  I also came back around the Masfjorden and got to ride by that most of the day.  What was nice about today was I got some riding in the forest, along the water, saw some waterfalls and it didn't rain!  It drizzled a bit here and there but I didn't need to put on my rain jacket at all.  A great capstone to an incredible ride.

View from the farmhouse.

The twelve year old in me giggled at this sign.  It actually meant there were upcoming speed bumps.

These pictures don't do justice to how big that waterfall was.  Couldn't get very close to it.

So pro tip #2 from Arne was to not take the tunnel into Matre since it has heavy two-way traffic and there isn't anywhere on the side to ride.  Instead, I was to take the old historical road that was built in 1911.  Apparently you can still drive on this road but you'd better have something with good suspension.  He did mention the road isn't in great shape but honestly it was a blast.  I wish I had my mountain bike and could fly down it.  It was an awesome road to ride on and a stress-free way to finish.

Tomorrow I'll put up a video of the ride and a few random observations from being here that didn't quite fit in the daily posts.  Off to explore Bergen!

Fjord Cycling Route in Norway - Day 4 (Eivindvik to Frøyset)

Hello from the Frøyset Gardsmat.  I’m staying in an old farmhouse that I have to myself tonight.  The owner and his family live on the property too but in a different house.  It’s a cool place and definitely peaceful here as it’s a little off the beaten path and tucked into the woods and there is a lake right outside as well.  More on this place later.

The alarm was set a little earlier than normal today as I had to be on a ferry at 9:00 a.m. which meant being done with breakfast and all packed by 8:30-8:45. I stayed at the Gulating Hotel last night which was nice enough but the person at the front desk tried to charge me for my room and meal which were already paid for.  After explaining this to him (he spoke fluent English to me yesterday) he suddenly pretended he didn’t understand English.  I told him I was going to call the tour company to let them know I was getting overcharged and wouldn’t you know at that exact moment he remembered that everything had been paid for.

For once, it was sunny this morning and warm – for here anyway.  I boarded the ferry a little after 9:15 and was on my way to Mjønma.  I knew they would eventually get there but thankfully Google Maps and the offline map app I have showed the ferry route so I knew when to get off.  The scenery along the ferry ride was pretty incredible.  Leaving Eivindvik takes you into the archipelago and a few of the islands have houses on them.  A handful of the bigger ones have highways and bridges that connect to the mainland.  Really pretty area.

Once I got off the ferry it was time to get moving again.  20% chance of rain today.  Did it rain?  Of course!  It started sprinkling as soon as I got off the ferry and that turned into a downpour for almost an hour.  At about my halfway point to the day it started to let up and I stopped to have lunch and try to dry off.  It was a pretty uneventful ride after that.  The landscape today didn’t have the same “wow” factor of the first three days (other than on the ferry) but still really good.

Those two were waiting for the ferry outside of my hotel.  You can see the boat coming in on the second one.  There are some pretty nice boats people have which is a result of all the oil money in the area.  The next group of pictures were taken on the ferry.

Would be quite the place to live.  The next two were picking up and dropping off some people in Nåra, including four other cyclists that got on the ferry with me at Eivindvik.

After about an hour, I was off the ferry to my stop in Mjønma.  I then had to ride through the island until I eventually hit the bridge that takes you back into the mainland.  It was a cool way to do the loop.  There were other ways you could make the loop without having to take the ferry but this way was a lot better.

Surprise, was raining.

These picnic tables were all over the place.  Kind of like small rest stops.

The farmhouse where I’m staying tonight has been in their family for nearly 200 years.  Some things are still original but there’s been a lot of upkeep to it.  Things like the bathroom and kitchen are modern but they’ve tried to keep the antique look to it.  They probably have bed space for 15-20 people and are building more space in a loft that is dormitory style that will hold another 15 or so.  I found out from the owner the house was originally build in 1819.   

Last day of riding tomorrow!