The Dragon's Back(a racing tale from year's past)

Back in early 2008 I attempted to slay the Dragon of Roanoke, Va on a singlespeed. This is that story

Like an epic quest of a Paladin, so is the tale of the Dragon. After an all day tour of Roanoke on Saturday we drove out to the race site Saturday afternoon. The race start was some 6 miles off the main road on a curvy, hilly wildlife forest road. It was supposed to be a field that, at least I thought, we could park our cars in and after a few miles we spotted a horse trailer and some port a potties on the left but no wide open field. I thought nothing of it but when we came to a stream crossing that was at least 15 inches deep and 10 feet across, I drew a blank.

NO way was the race going to start on the far side and if it is, I’m having my wife drop me off here in the morning and I’ll ride in. I started to back up but like a good trooper my wife said, “If the race start is on the far side we need to see where it is.” Ok, that settled it for me. Nissan’s were built to be rally cars, right? I told the girls to hang on and gunned it through the stream, water flying over the hood and a look of paralyzed fear on my wife’s face as I could hear river rocks grating the floor boards of the car. With a mighty spin of tires we broke from the water’s grip and clawed our way up softball sized rock that I guess the Forest service in Virginia calls gravel.

My wife asked me the mileage we had traveled and I honestly had no clue. I had figured the start, being the day before the race would be well marked and again I was looking for a field that could support the number of people that would be coming. We came upon a second crossing and I made the executive decision to turn around. I was already worried I had gotten us trapped between two streams on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere and I didn’t even have a bike with me to ride for help as I had left it at our hotel. So with my heart beating rapidly we made our second ford of the first stream crossing and made it through with success. On our way back we found some riders setting up camp at the port a potties and turns out this was the start after all. One of the guys had done the race a few years back and as a racer you just parked on the side of the road and lined the road for however many car lengths it took to fit everyone in. Well, I’ll be damned.

That evening we met Chris Davis for dinner and after figuring a bit of logistics, decided I would ride with him in the morning so the girls could sleep in a little. I was looking forward to a good night’s rest but turns out the hotel we had decided to stay in, had rented out their conference room for a birthday party that started at 10pm and lasted till around 2am. We were only 100 yards or so from the party room and after complaining they said it was rented till two am. “We could move you”. People, do you not understand we have a 3 year old and an 8 month old? Later my wife told me we got a 15 percent discount. Their lucky they had to deal with her, as my kindness would have asked for the night for free. I didn’t rent an all night bar and dance club, I rented a quiet room and that’s what I expected.

Sunday morning after a night’s fitful sleep I woke to grey skies and wet pavement. It had rained all night long but the storm had passed and left temps in the low 50’s and a perpetual gloom that hung low in the sky. I met with Chris and drove to the start. The beginning section of wildlife road had recently been redone and it was crunchy peanut butter slop. We arrived to find a group of 30 or so guys hadn’t pre-registered, signing up. Maxing our class out at close to 50 people. Cool thing was there were about 8-10 other single speeders ready to face the boys with gears. We checked in with the lady whooped up on speed.

Finally lining up for the start and a quick pre-race discussion about the course, we were off to slay the Dragon or at least, ride its spine. Settling in pace on the fire road I let the lead geared boys take off on the attack. I was keeping pace with most of the lead single speeders and had Chris right behind me on his geared 1x9. The peanut butter slop was throwing everyone around a bit but it really wasn’t too bad. After about three miles or so I was alone. The lead group was way ahead, within sight but out of earshot and the remaining group was about 150 yards behind me as I hit the 1st Singletrack of the day. I was able to climb about 300 yards or so of Deer trail and then I was forced to walk. At this point the steepness of the trail wasn’t that bad but you add in the loose rock, wet roots, and thick piles of wet leaves and my Nano Raptor and 32x21 gearing were no match.

A few geared guys settled into granny gearing passed me and then Chris passed. We established a slinky run of passing then being passed until the trail got so steep it forced everyone to walk. I advanced into hike a bike mode behind two geared racers with Chris about four guys behind me, and it would be the last I saw of him for the day. As we ascended the slope of the mountain the air thickened with fog, the temperature dropped, and a fine mist crept upon us. After several switchbacks we finally crested the ridge of the beast. Craggy rock laid all about and the air was so thick with stewed fog that I could barley make out a rider 10 yards in front of me. Occasionally I’d hear a whoop or a piece of shale rock clack against another rock as a rider rode over but other then that I was in my own world of the beast’s spine.

In several places the spine narrowed to just a few feet wide with rocks jutting out of the ground like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude and the slopes fell off in 70 degree drifts below. In other places I would temporarily lose the trail as it descended shortly down into one of the slopes and be filled in with leaves of the previous year’s fall. More then a few times, I had to back track to find the trail again as it would round a tree and disappear in drifts of leaves almost as deep as my thighs. Several of the climbs would of been climbable but the leaves being so thick and the rocks that they hid being so loose I would just get off the bike and walk.

Finally I caught another rider. A guy, who I would play slinky with all the way across the ridge, Mr. Trek/ Volkswagen. Where he could walk away from me on the climbs, I would make up for on the descents. Finally after one long descent and another climb I heard, “Hey, bro. I’ve got your jacket. Do you want it or do you want me to carry it for you? I’ve got room in my pack”. My trusty Wingnut pack, which I’ve had for almost 3 years, had ripped one of its mesh pockets and dumped my precious jacket. I thanked Mr. Trek/Volkswagen for picking it up and the offer to carry it but I took it and let him go ahead as I deposited it in the center pack pocket of my pack.

For the Dragon’s tail I searched. The thick soup of miasma surrounded me and finally I started hearing voices behind me. For 5 minutes I heard the cackles and coos like Jackals playing to the shadows while the echo of the mountain shifting beneath their wheels approached me from behind. Finally three singlespeeders burst from the primordial cloud like Jesters coming to entertain, they were merry making and dancing along the trail with smiles on their faces as they passed by. This helped lighten my mood and quicken my pace and soon we had picked up Mr. Trek/Volkswagen’s trail again and we were five.

Finally after miles of craggy rock outcroppings, hike a bike, ride a bike repeats every 100 yards, or so we hit the final descent off the Spine of the Dragon. His tail was curvy, narrow, and fast as a whip. We hit it with our big wheels spinning as fast as we could turn them, hoping to hop off the beast before he could turn on us and breathe his fire down our backs.

The tail had broken our small brigade with two in front and two behind I was alone when I hit the dirt road. Taking chase after the two in front of me I quickly came upon three deep stream crossings that were close to thigh deep, swelling, and surging with the force of what appeared to be, class 2 river rapids. Unfortunately I let Dora take rescue pack for the day and Diego was nowhere in sight so I sucked in a deep breath and plunged through the cold water feeling the current threaten to rip my steel steed from beneath me.

My legs immediately wanted to seize from the cold water sapping any heat and energy they had in them. I instantly went from high energy to struggling to turn my legs over. Just as I was about to catch the two breakaways from the spine, the short steep rises in the road soon became too much and I had to get off and walk my bike for about a eighth of a mile to relieve cramps in my hamstrings and calves. I backed my pace off and was able to remount my bike and make my way back to the start/finish where I had a bag of muffins and more of my Perpetulum/Heed mixed in another bottle. I downed the muffins, switched bottles and jumped off for my second loop starting with another two miles of road and then a steep climb up Grouse Trail.

Grouse for me was climbable for the first half mile or so then it became a hike a bike/ ride a bike ascent of the mountain on a trail that hugged the 70 degree slope in a series of narrow switch backs all the way to the spine of the Dragon’s Back with views for twenty miles to the northwest. At the spine of the Dragon I was met by the Forest Leprechaun. The little man skipped about the ridge as acting guardian of the single track bestowed upon the local townsfolk. I immediately called him out and he was so shocked and awed that I knew his name that he let me pass without a question of my intentions for the narrow ribbon of dirt and rock that lay before me.

A quick bound of the ridge and I was back to Deer Trail. The trail had hindered me at the start of the race with its steep pitches and narrow switchbacks had come back to revisit me now as a friend. I took off down Deer like a flash and imbued the spirit of the trail’s namesake as I sped down the mountain side with reckless abandon.

A quick left upon the wildlife road and a quick right down the Circle of Fire, more aptly named the Circle of Mud and a mile later I was back at the wildlife road cruising towards the start/finish. Just about a mile from the start/finish I passed a double XC racer going the other way who exclaimed, “You’ve got to be shitting me”. The only thing I could figure and almost two hours later learned was this racer was just starting his loop of Grouse and Deer that I had just finished. A half mile from the start finish I spotted my car but no family and with the peanut butter slop of a road being just the right percentage of grade loss I just cruised into the finish area like I was completing a Sunday afternoon ride, my single gear all but spun out. Whew!!! What a race. 36 miles, 8,000 feet of accumulated climbing, 5 hours and 20 minutes out and racing, 18th place out of 50 starters, geared and singlepeed alike.. Chris ended up finishing 24th, 17 minutes behind me, awesome job brother!

My family had just beaten me to the finish line from the car. I learned that my wife had trekked the kids; my 32 lb 3 year old on her back and my 8 month old strapped to her front through a half mile of slime sucking peanut butter slop mud just to see me finish. You go girl!

Brought to the Attention of the Empire

I think I may have hurt the Emperor’s feelings with my last blog post. His latest mental rant includes a rambling of derogatory words and a video of my origins, not to be confused with Wolverine’s.

Though at times there can be a resemblance

The Chops baby!

Who knew the Empire was so sensitive. Before it would have been demise by Deathstar but now it seems they just want to play gossip girls sipping tea while playing with dollies. Pink has saturated into deeper realms of their subconscious then previously known and there has been rumor that they even invited the Care Bears over for Brunch. Well, at least my very mention of Pink has increased their interweb traffic by .02 percent therefore increasing their likelihood of more Pink dominating the market and bringing us that much closer to the reality of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The Emperor?

On a deeper note I believe the Big Ring is right. I've been nursing this "boo boo" too long and need to get back on the bike. So regardless of how I'm feeling this weekend I'll be doing some splorin somewhere in the mountains of Colorado.

The Inevitable Fall of the Empire

So I told the Emperor I’d let it go. Look at him all dressed in pink and no one to blow. Here is where we face the inevitable fall of the Empire. Some poor color choices and some poor sap willing to go make a mockery of himself on the web.

Please Note: If you click the aforementioned link you eyes will possibly burn. I've just had retina reattachment surgery, hence the delay of this post , due to this reason. Seeing the Big Ring in nothing but his skivvies, a blond wig, and a Misfit Sticker bra did not appeal to my inner manliness.

Ever since the meeting of the Dicky at Breckenridge the Emperor has been seeing nothing but pink. Dicky grabbed him and performed some voodoo magic I believe making him a victim to Dickyism.

Now can you imagine the resulting implications. The reign of Destruction and Mayhem wrought by the mighty Empire that cast itself in greys and blacks brought to its knees by flouncing pink tutu's, tea parties, and dollies.

Seems the emperor has even gone as far as polluting his troopers uniforms with the awfulness of Pink. Here we see the local Denver, Colorado police unit even standing down to that which is Pink that we should all hide our eyes from...Beware...Pink is coming for you....

The Goat Vs The Ram

Down and out this weekend recovering from a pulled muscle. Just an old funny from years past to start your Monday off.

Back to Work


For the past 11 months I’ve been playing a desk jockey being a technical consultant with Whirlpool. As the months passed I found it harder and harder to be sitting behind a desk, playing the numbers game, feeling like the lone man out working from a home office.

After long talks with the family I’ve decided to do what’s best for me and go back into the field as an Appliance Technician. I’ve found an awesome Local Denver Company to work for who has been in business for over 40 years. Seems they know how to treat their employees as most have been with the company for 10+ years and there are a few who have been with them for over 30 years.

It’s a scary and exciting transition for me but I'm looking forward to working for a small local business with the right attitude towards customer service and family friendliness that I've been looking for in a company. The downside is I’ll be losing my awesome benefits and retirement package along with having to buy tools again as most of mine were sold in the move from North Carolina to Colorado. But on the upside I’ll have the potential to make twice what I was making as a technician in North Carolina as well as almost one and a half times what I am making now as a consultant. The hours are still a reasonable 8 and half hours a day and Tabetha has been researching some awesome insurance plans and IRA’s.

If I can’t be riding my bike or researching maps to earn a living I might as well as give into my 3rd love of working with my hands; playing with electronics, wire schematics, torches, and wrenches.

Ice Climbing

ice climbing
Me climbing up the final ascent of the Cornice on Jones Pass, 12,495 ft photo by: JJonas

Fun fact about me: I'm scared of heights

But I've worked as Quality Control for a 120 ft high bridge over the Neuse River in Eastern North Carolina that required me hanging from outriggers and crawling on 4x4 slats spaced 18 inches apart under said bridge.

I've also dived off of a Platform called Green Springs that stands over 60 ft tall into the same river.

I've always fought hard to keep it under control. It never really seems to bother me on the bike though. We'll except for a few instances like the shot above. I looked behind twice and both times suffered instances of vertigo. I was just at just about 12,500 ft and looking back into the valley below which sat around 10,000 ft while climbing a 40 + degree angle slope of snow seriously messed with my head.


So on this climb we used a form of ice climbing that I believe JJonas developed. If I hadn't known he had done it successfully a few times or watched the other two fellas do it before me I would've probably tucked my tail between my legs and went to hang out on the porch with Northstar.


The basic premise...throw your bike down hard into the snowpack so that your handlebar and hopefully peddle dig in and provide a bite. Then, just as if your using crampons, kick your shoes hard into the snowpack a few times to provide a pocketed wedge for your feet and pull against your bike to pull you up and repeat the process.


I don't think I'll ever be up for any sort of real ice climbing but this got me close enough.

The West Empire Death March

Bad Andy and Lubes

Death in a beautiful basin of wild flowers at 12,000 ft. Only 29 miles, 8000 ft + of climbing and 10 hours into my ride and my GPS died, my body wanting to follow. I felt that black specter of fetid flesh and cloth wrapping his bony claws upon my heart and I screamed at my body to keep going..a feral predator had been loosed inside my mind with one thought ...survival.... but my body was shutting down on me. Tremors quaked through me and no matter how many grams of carbs or protein I threw into my gullet it was never enough. My body pleaded to lay down...just a few moments sleep...I knew if I gave into that desire...I may never wake up...

Lubes on Jones Pass Rd

I watched the guys in my small platoon widen the gap as we mounted each crest...I silently cursed my retched body for giving up...I screamed when I thought they could not hear me...I mentally abused myself all in the attempt to make it to that next rise...all in the hope for that last one point I even thought of dropping my into that last bit of despair...I met my nightmare...the West Empire Death March.

Lubes headed up to Jones Pass

Earlier in the day, Bad Andy called it the "Rocky Mountain High." Years ago when John Denver penned the words that would go onto become a controversial piece of Colorado history, I doubt he spoke of what I was experiencing at 13,300 ft on the Continental Divide. We had just finished a 13 mile paved and gravel cruiser from Empire to the top of Jones Pass where we scaled a 25 foot tall wall of snow using our bikes as ice picks, our shoes as crampons; trying to find purchase in the cliff of snow and finally we made our way south on the sinew of dirt that parts the waters flowing to the Atlantic and the Pacific. We came upon a steep boulder field where we shouldered our bikes and started to hike and this is where I started to feel light headed and dizzy, my steps became unsure ... setting up the rest of my day to fall behind, to become the anchor upon my team. Every descent would bring slight rejuvenation, every ascent a destruction of my fortitude, my will.

Lubes ice climbing

The descent down the bottom of the CDT was so much fun. JJonas had a flat and Bad Andy, Lubes, and myself took that que to do some beer chasers while soaking in the views. We had another rider, our own hungryhead from the MTBR forums catch us. Turns out he was doing a shuttle of the route from the base of Jones Pass down to the bottom of Herman Gulch, a popular trail due to its proximity to I-70 . We kept it a tight knit group down Herman Gulch with the hikers parting like the Red Sea, none out of contempt that I heard, All with OOOO's and AHHHHHH's and WOWS as we heard the wondering of their minds aloud of where we had been and where we were headed.

Me and Lubes dropping the CDT

At the Junction of Waltrous Gulch we parted ways with hungryhead. Just as we were about to begin our climb again Lubes discovered a torn sidewall and all his special tubeless spooge was leaving florescent tracers in the forest around us. We still had water to filter at the top of Waltrous and lacking any meaningful granny gear on my internal gear, my easiest being a 32x36 which sounds easy enough, I could not muster any thing but short bursts on the climb so I walked. I have no excuse though, Lubes was banging this ride out on a 33x20 29er rigid singlespeed and keeping it towards the front of the pack.

Bad Andy on the CDT

Bad Andy and JJonas caught me and, as I rested again, Lubes caught me. We made our way together up to the junction of Waltrous Gulch and Bard Creek where we all filtered water (thanks to JJonas for being of mind to bring a filter). I had gone through 4 liters of water and go-go juice by this point, only 23 miles and 8 hours into our deathmarch.

Bad Andy hiking up a steep portion of the CDT

I ended up leaving the group again, pushing ahead only to be caught and passed within the 1st quarter mile where Lubes and myself played the slinky across the traverse. Bard Creek at this point was a mix of ridable trail and hiking trail...a true 10 inch wide singletrack that traversed across a slope that had to be close to 45 percent. It was here that I bounced a rock off my front wheel pitching me to the right and I went tumbling down for 30-40 ft. Lubes stumbled upon me, asking me if I was ok and I think all I could give him was a silent nod of the head. I went down two more times across this traverse where the trail disappeared and reappeared through the tundra...a scattering of random cairns marked the route that was there but wasn't. Thankfully we had JJonas with us who had done Bard Creek before. His knowledge of the trail became invaluable as my navigating abilities were shot. All my mind could do was send signal for one foot to be placed in front of the other (if on foot) a slow churn of circles when on the bike.

Lubes on the CDT

Finally, we crested the last rise of 12,000 ft and looked down into the Bard Creek Basin. The route became steadily more definable as we neared the creek and finally a rip roaring downhill to an old 4x4 road. JJonas left us behind and I finally caught up to him at Empire Pass where we waited and last, a phone call from Bad Andy and Lubes telling us of a flat of Andy's...5 minutes later the platoon was together again and just after 8 pm, 13 hrs , 37 miles, and over 10,000 ft + of climbing later, we were back at Lube's car.

JJonas on the CDT

I have no doubt in my mind that I'll ride Jones Pass from Empire again, I'll ride the Continental Divide Trail down Herman Gulch even suffering my Rocky Mountain High at 13,300 ft, I might even ride Waltrous Gulch as an out and back. I have ideas for a route that could include all of that and maybe even some of the Georgetown loop. I swear though, Bard Creek will never see my tires roll across it again. I may one day do it as backpacking trip where I can spend the night in one of the Basins, but me and the bike together are done with that unholy trail.

Me on the CDT

A moment for a beer with some Jack Daniels to chase it down

Lubes on the CDT

Hungryhead on the CDT

Lubes on the CDT

Lubes on Herman Gulch

Bard Creek Trail

One of the crest of Bard's Creek...Bad Andy and Jonas in the middle

Bad Andy dropping into the final basin

making our way across the final Basin of Bard's Creek

Scaring the Eastern Boys off

I'm a monster ....GRRRRRR!

Seems Ol Northstar got scared off my my talk of above treeline riding with route finding, exposed trail hanging onto the edges of 13,000 ft tall mountains, and needing Canned O2 along my 50 some mile route.

Poor sap tried to come with some excuse about needing to be the cheerleading squad for his boys racing in the Nationals ......

cheer Pictures, Images and Photos

But we all know what they say about the dog who needs to stay on the porch.

This is a route I've been eying since moving to Colorado...Its big in the terms that its mostly 10,000 ft above sea level and even bigger that it goes up over 13,000 ft. There will be some snow fields to hike, some wicked descents off the mountain sides and some route finding along Bard's Creek where the trail is said to disappear beneath the tundra and cairns mark the route.

Just a tease of what's coming up for the weekend.

Apex Sunrise Ride

I got out this morning with Bad Andy and his buddy Rad. We hit a short loop up on Apex before the Hill becomes its usual bustling self of user conflicts.


Tons of wildlife out, seeing a fox, a herd of at least 30 Elk and a few birds.


Andy coming up Apex


Rad on Apex


Down Enchanted Forest




Back down Apex

Not a bad way to welcome the sun to a new day.

Breckenridge Brewery


Monday afternoon Eddie got in touch with me after riding Monarch Crest with a buddy from Colorado Springs. We met up at the Breckenridge Brewery in downtown Denver, caught up on old times and BS'd a bit while eating some of Breckenridge's Carolina BBQ and chasing it down with some of the Brewery's best liquids. Being a Carolina boy myself and a coastal Carolina Boy at that, where real BBQ is made, I give the Brewery's BBQ a good solid thumb's up! Their brew is pretty sweet as well and as usual I was partial to the Stout.


Eddie is a part time beer slinger at Sweetwater Brewery out of Atlanta, Ga and happened to be wearing his hat which caught the general manager's attention. It ended up getting us small private tour of the brewery's Vats and myself a free bottle of the good stuff.



Good Times Eddie! Next time we're hitting some Colorado Back Country for sure!

Summiting a 14er


Well, I cheated. Yesterday I took Ayla and Sophie and drove the highest road in America, the Mt Evans Scenic Tollway. Mrs. Goat was out of town for a Yoga retreat and I had my little ones. I considered taking the singlespeed, putting the girls in the trailer and try dragging and yanking them up the mountain. Thing is though Ayla has just about outgrown our trailer, the girls squabble alot in the trailer, and I just felt like being a lazy goat this weekend so I left the bike alone.


My Sweet Sophie at Lube's Bar-B-Q the day before.


Ayla playing in one of the few snow patches remaining on Mt Evans. Funny thing while only a few patches remain here at 14,000 ft...there are still plenty of mountains below 12,000 ft that have snow cornices over 10 ft tall.


From the tippity top. The top of Mt Evans is somewhere around 130 feet higher then the parking area and 1/4 mile up. I strapped Sophie to my back and Ayla refused to budge saying she'd rather ride my shoulders. I don't think either one enjoyed this as much as I did.


That is until the mountain goats started showing themselves.




Looking West towards Guanella Pass

Just as we were getting ready to leave I saw a familar face, Eddie Odea ride up on his bike being led by his teammate, Yuki Saito. Eddie is an old friend from the east coast and he still lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, Namrita. Both of us were blown away by the chance encouter and quickly made plans to meet at a local Microbrew near Denver to catch up.


After leaving Mt Evans I made the drive over to the base of Jones Pass to do some scouting for the big ride next weekend. The view of the top of the pass did not look very promising with what appeared to be 10 ft snow cornices hanging from the ridge but seems JJonas was up there the day before doing a scouting mission of his own and says it should be good to go.

JJonas on the CDT at Jones Pass
Photo by Jim Jonas...Top of Jones Pass. Jim rode to the top of Jones Pass, Made his way down Herman Gulch and tried to Summit Grey's Peak only to be turned around by a no bikes sign...Good thing my route takes us away from Grey's onto the legal Bard's Creek.