The sulphur shelf mushroom: chicken of the woods

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While mountain biking at Lebanon Hills last week, I came upon a log right along the trail that was host to a large number of very fresh sulphur shelf mushrooms (AKA the ‘chicken of the woods’). I stuffed my hydration pack with about 10 pounds of them and brought them home.

Robbie cleaned and soaked them in salt water, dried a big batch with our food dryer, and sautéed the rest to accompany yet another delicious meal on our deck. Heaven:

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‘Reveal the Path’ world premiere: adventure by bike

Reveal the Path at the Riverview Theater  Reveal the Path at the Riverview Theater  Reveal the Path at the Riverview Theater  Reveal the Path at the Riverview Theater
Robbie and I attended the world premiere of Reveal the Path at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis last night, along with a few hundred other bike nuts:

Reveal the Path, Presented by SalsaA visually stunning adventure by bike: Reveal the Path explores the world’s playgrounds in Europe’s snow capped mountains, Scotland’s lush valleys, Alaska’s rugged coastal beaches and Morocco’s high desert landscapes…

Filmed across four continents and featuring Tour Divide race legends, Matthew Lee & Kurt Refsnider, this immersive film is sure to ignite the dream in you.

Andy Palmer (background) and John Gaddo Andy Palmer John Gaddo, Jason Boucher
Luminaries from QBP and its Salsa Cycles division, the main sponsor of the movie and the event, were on hand. They were marginally adequate as movie theater attendants:

Left: John Gaddo, QBP Outside Sales Rep
Center: Andy Palmer, Salsa Customer Service
Right: John Gaddo and Jason Boucher, Salsa General Manager. See Jason’s ImagineGnat blog ("Bicycles – Photography – People – Exploration")

Curtis Ness, Ben Witt, Mike “Kid” Riemer Ben Witt; Myrna Mibus Mike Dion, producer and director of Reveal the Path
Some other bike nuts at the schmooze fest in the theater lobby:

Left: Curtis Ness and Ben Witt, Milltown Cycles, with Mike “Kid” Riemer, Salsa Marketing Manager.
Center: Ben Witt with Mryna Mibus, blogger, freelance writer, and future mountain biker who was there with her husband Owen and kids.
Right: Mike Dion, producer and director of Reveal the Path and its predecessor Ride the Divide.

See the large slideshow of 17 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

The Freewheel Frolic at Afton Alps: my first MN Mountain Bike Series race

MN Mountain Bike Series 2012 Freewheel Bike 
The Freewheel Frolic was last Sunday, the first race of the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, held at Afton Alps near Hastings, MN. (Apparently, Freewheel Bike in Mpls is a sponsor.)

Having finished 50th of 59 riders in the Rec Class at the Thursday Night Mountain Bike Races at Buck Hill a few days earlier, I was eager to see how I could do in the 60 and Over age group.

Freewheel Frolic, Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, Afton Alps Freewheel Frolic, Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, Afton Alps Freewheel Frolic, Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, Afton Alps
I was a little apprehensive about it, as I’d heard a few comments about how Afton is the toughest venue of the entire series because of the climbing required.  And on Saturday, the day before the race, temps were in the 90s. Turns out, race day temps were in the upper 50s with a drizzly sky.  Perfect.

As I lined up at 9:30 for the Citizens Class, I looked around for other fellow 60+ geezers and found two: Gary Schildgen from Dellwood and Brad Beisel from Plymouth. "Guaranteed podium," we laughed.

The climbing was indeed tough.  In three places on the course, I got off to walk my bike, not because of the sheer difficulty but because my legs were crying out for a different set of muscles to take over.  I also discovered I could walk the bike up these sections faster than I could ride. Most other riders I saw did likewise.

Some of the downhills had bumpy washboard sections so you couldn’t really relax on those. And there were a few downhill turns that were flat with loose gravel. I wiped out hard on one and threw my chain, but got up without a scratch as I had my knee/shin protectors on and was wearing my new padded gloves, courtesy of a Penn Cycle swag drawing at Buck.

I was thrilled to pass a few riders since I’d only passed one rider the whole race at Buck.  My 29’er flies on any kind of downhill so on Loop 2, I tried to position myself to make some passes just prior to a downhill. That’s the extent of my first attempt to think strategically. I have no idea if it’s sound.

Podium, 60 and Over group, Citizen Class, Freewheel Frolic 2012 Minnesota Mountain Bike Series podium medal Kryptonite Modulus lock 
I finished 35th of 59 and won my age group, earning me the right to stand on the podium, a classy medal, and a Kryptonite Modulus lock

I’ve learned that a cross-country mountain bike race is a very different experience than just riding a single-track as fast as I can. The pure pleasure of a rolling, berm-and-obstacle filled trail isn’t there, at least not yet with the two race venues I’ve experienced. But the overall physical challenge is much greater and therefore the end result is quite satisfying.  And the social environment before and after a race is definitely fun.  I think I’ll keep doing it.

See the large slideshow of 46 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Riding the skinnies at Dan Funke’s back yard MTB playground

Dan Funke's back yard MTB playground Dan Funke's back yard MTB playground
Back in late March in a MORC forum discussion titled How to ride a skinny raised platform/bridge, Dan Funke posted a comment with photos (above) of the obstacles he built in his back yard in Cannon Falls, inviting me to come play some time.

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Earlier this week, after Dan gave me a tour of the fabulous trails at Red Wing’s Memorial Park, I got to play in his back yard.  What a hoot. Like having a bit of Ray’s MTB Indoor Park right out your back door. A double teeter-totter even.

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I had no trouble riding this narrow round log (left photo, above) when using the little cheater ramp. But going the other direction (center) was a quite a bit tougher because of the abrupt edge to the log. It’s definitely a plus to have soft green grass to land on when crashing (right).

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After more than a few tries, I finally nailed it and Dan happened to capture it in this photo sequence.  A small manual is required to get the front wheel up on the log, then a little unweighting of the rear wheel to help it gently roll up the face of the log. If the rear wheel hits the log too hard, it makes more difficult to keep your balance once you get up on the log.  Then it’s a matter of pedaling the rest of the way with a singular focus on leaning the bike to stay straight, keeping your eyes way ahead. If you succumb to steering instead of leaning, you’re hosed.

Dan’s already scheming on more obstacles to build. I’m looking forward to it. In the meantime, though, next time I’m there, I plan to practice wheelie drops off the side of the stacked logs and the high planks. Why? Because of this great advice by “guest_s” posted to the forum discussion here:

If a skinny is any higher than 1 foot or so off the ground, don’t try it if you can’t bunny hop or wheelie drop. Learn those two things first so when you do feel you will slip or fall off the side, just bunnyhop or wheelie drop and ride away. If you can’t do this, you will endo (go over the bars) if your front wheel comes off…..and endoing is about the most unsafe thing to do.

Once I learn that, I’ll feel more confident riding the 3-4 ft high skinny at Murphy-Hanrehan.

High skinny at Murphy-Hanrehan MTB. Photo by Ryan Lieske

And now I can say I’m a mountain bike racer

Eric Guse with his son, RyanI raced again this week at Penn Cycles’ Thursday Night at the Races at Buck Hill.  But it felt like my first-ever mtb race since last week’s race in the Beginner Class was, um, special. Why? I showed up at the 7:30 pm starting line, only to see about a dozen kids, most if not all under 13.  I spotted a dad nearby, Eric Guse, who appeared to be lining up to race, too. But he’d already raced and was there to accompany his son, Ryan.

I felt more than a little foolish but at the advanced age of 62, I’m starting to get used to age-related embarrassments so I shrugged it off and started out leisurely aside Eric. But after a few minutes, I decided to go as hard as I could until I approached the end, at which point, I’d stop short of the finish line.  I really didn’t want to be on a podium, denying one of the kids their chance in the limelight.  

Sydney Carlson (2nd from left) and familySo I passed one kid after another until I could only see one more, about two minutes from the finish line. As I got closer, I could tell it was a young girl, her blond pony tail flying.  She was fast, though, and my only realistic opportunity to pass her was on the long, gravelly downhill right before the finish. It was not to be. Her family was there cheering for her and that seemed to motivate her to go faster. I just kept right behind her to the finish where I pulled aside before crossing the line.  I learned later that she was Sydney Carlson, and she finished third. Two boys finished 2-3 minutes ahead of her so I probably would’ve lost to those guys even if I’d gone out hard from the beginning. Dang kids.

I asked one of the women workers at the finish line why nobody told me that the Beginner Class was really a kids class and she explained that normally, they do have a dozen or so adults in the class so they split the awards by age: 17 and under and 18+. Ahhhhh.

The Penn Cycle folks rubbed salt into my wounds by awarding me first place in the 18+ Beginner Class.  At least no one laughed loud enough for me to hear when I went up to accept my $10 gift card.

Penn Cycles' Thursday Night at the Races at Buck Hill Penn Cycle owner Pat Sorenson (right) and staff, Thursday Night at the Races at Buck Hill Penn Cycles' Thursday Night at the Races at Buck Hill
As you can see from these three photos and others in my album of 180+ (large slideshow) it’s quite a festive atmosphere. Props to Penn Cycle owner Pat Sorenson (on the right in the center photo) and staff for a great venue.

swag: Thursday Night at the RacesSo last night I raced again at Buck Hill, only this time in the Recreation Men Class.  Two laps, a slightly more difficult course than last week, 59 riders. I finished 50th.  Complete results here.  I passed one rider, right at the end, which, I must say, was quite satisfying.

And I lucked out: my name was drawn for some swag. I got good pair ($25) of mountain bike gloves (which I really needed) and a "Thursday Night at the Races" t-shirt.

Photo album: Penn Cycle Thursday night MTB race at Buck Hill

Penn Cycle Thursday night MTB race at Buck Hill Penn Cycle Thursday night MTB race at Buck Hill Penn Cycle Thursday night MTB race at Buck Hill
I’ve got a blog post coming about my first ever mountain bike race in the dirt: the first 2012 event in a series of Thursday Night Mountain Bike Races at Buck Hill in Burnsville.

But it’ll take me a few days before I get it written up and I wanted to get the photo album posted quickly.

See the large slideshow (recommended) of 182 photos or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

MTB skills, instruction, & advocacy