For those of you who are only here to look at the pictures (I know, you try to tell people that you're reading the articles.....), I have bad news. While loading up to head to Petit Jean Mountain for the MS150, I apparently dropped my camera under my truck, ran over it and left it to be found by my friend Darwin. It is an Olympus 1050SW, a tough little camera, and I actually think it would have survived were it not for the two extra batteries stacked in the case. At first glance, it looked fine but first glance didn't tell the tale. Waterproof, freeze proof, drop proof, shock proof, but nowhere did the warranty say "GMC Z-71 Drive Over Proof". Sneaky Olympians. Not my best moment, but stuff happens and a new camera awaits. I'm now in the process of convincing myself that it was time for an upgrade. More pixels. More zoom. Mo' better. Technology is improving rapidly. I don't want to fall behind.
MS150: Petit Jean State Park
I participated in last weekend's MS150 at Petit Jean State Park. It has been my favorite of the local charity rides, in large part due to the venue, and this will be its last year at Petit Jean. A move to Little Rock is coming next year, with the current plans calling for the ride start to be from Two Rivers Park and the routes to cover the Lake Maumelle Loop and to the Paron area. I don't know any of the specifics, but it will have some climbing. I heard a couple of folks express disappointment in the hilly routes, but at least as many folks were relieved that it was not going to turn into another flat cruise out east.
I had a cabin for the weekend at Mather Lodge, and on Saturday I hooked up with friends Sam, Chuck and Tom. It was raining, so the start was moved to Opello so riders wouldn't have to make the descent off of Petit Jean on wet asphalt in the rain, a wise move. Sam and I were ready to let the rain pass, but we were outvoted 2-2 and rolled out in a steady shower. Chuck has been in the sure-enough structured, dedicated training mode and, ya' know, that stuff seems to work! One of these days I'll try it, but in the meantime, I'm happy with Chuck's long time-trail like pulls. After passing through the finish area on top of Petit Jean, Sam and I rode back to my truck so we got make the fun, fast descent on dry roads.
Sunday, only Sam showed up from Saturday's pack, and we planned to hook up with some more friends, but that was not to be. We leapfrogged each other a couple of times, at the start and at a rest area, but finally got together and were getting settled in with our group when Sam veered off of the road asking, "do you have a tool?". I thought, "Hmm.., pretty general question......" "Yes, I have a tool." Our recently assembled pack rolled on without us. Sam's seat post was slipping and he soon realized the clamp was broken. Herman, from Outskirts Bike Shop, was running SAG and was right there. He tried to secure it with hose clamps, but by the time we'd gone the few miles to Atkins, Sam was having to stand to ride. We were looking for the other SAG, Bill from Chainwheel, and he was right there, but had no clamp. Sam resolved to SAG with Bill and I rode on by myself. By then, the faster groups had all passed us and I was pretty much resigned to ride the next 48 miles by myself unless I managed to catch somebody. At Pottsville School, a group was pulling out as I pulled in and Sam was there. I filled my bottles and jumped on my bike to catch the group, which took a mile or two, but it was a good bunch and I rode to the Dardanelle lunch spot with them. While there Sam called and said he was on the road, so I waited. It seems that Bill had been unwilling to be defeated by the lack of a clamp and had rooted around somewhere and found some kind of clamp that would go over the broken clamp on the Cervelo and hold it tight. It worked, though I hope nobody is hurt when the monkey bars or the jungle gym comes apart due to a missing clamp.
The Sunday route is relatively flat, but has a little stinger right before you have to climb back up Petit Jean. Cove Mountain has a stretch of 18-20% grade that is just damn hard, though the steepest section is mercifully short. Many riders end up walking it and a great many more give the idea serious consideration, but if you go in forewarned and geared down, you know that the pain won't last long so you just get it done.The climb up Petit Jean is fairly long, but not more than 4-5% gradient, light work after having climbed Cove.
Thanks to Herman and to Bill. Both of them were relentless in their efforts to get the bike ridable, but Herman's hose clamps just weren't stout enough to do the job. I don't know exactly what Bill scrounged up for the repair, but Sam was impressed. Both Chainwheel and Outskirts likely earned the loyalty of some new customers, as these guys fixed flats, replaced chains and tweeked bikes for folks all weekend.
The four MS150 rides in which I've participated at Petit Jean have all been very well run, well supported and just plain laid back fun. I hope that the same atmosphere carries over to next year's Little Rock location.