SoBoCoMo Gravel Grinder Recon, starring le Professeur


Greetings Team Seagal Loyalistas! If this winter could be described in one word, it would probably be something like "hate" or "bleak" or "stupid" or "murderdeathkill." One of those. But if the Team Seagal Winter War Plan could be described in one word, it would be "pain" or "manly" or "nut-chillingly-cold" (still counts as one word.)

Having been kicked off at CXmas, the Gravel Grinder series is in full swing, having taken place last weeked in and around Hermann, Rolla before that, and this coming weekend it will be in Columbia. With that in mind, two brave (and manly) Seagal Soldiers, myself (Casey F. Ryback) and Nico Toscani, were given our orders to deploy to Columbia to rendezvous with Professor Robert Burns - our mission to do some recon on the Sunday's route, and also to snap as many wrists as possible on the way. (Very easy to do while riding the MKT Trail.)

While en route to our first destination, Professor Burns' headquarters, we were sidetracked by a few things. The first was delicious Supersonic Burritos at Sonic. Holy shit, that is the best breakfast burrito at any place with a drive-thru. Our bellies full and nearing our destination, we were also able to take in the local sights without leaving the car:

Arriving, we suited up and embarked. First thing Professor told us was how to find our way back, should he fall in battle and can't direct us back. He said to look for the picture of the guy wearing short-shorts and tube socks stretching his thighs:

Columbia is such a badass town, as we were able to take trails all through town to get to where we needed to go - first to Klunk Bicycles, and then to outer-lying roads. Karl, of Klunk Bicycles and Repair, (our new and totally awesome sponsor) is the major organizing force for the Columbia edition of this weekend's Gravel Grinder series. Professor is our highly trained liaison with Karl, and with his help, new bonds were made between Nico, myself and Karl. I had hoped to get a photo of the 4 of us so everyone out there better knows who Karl is, and so people can put a face with the name that we will surely be using quite often in teh future. However, due to the me having had parts of the movie Rocky IV in my head, I forgot to snap the photo. Fortunately however, once I got back home, I contacted a *really good* police sketch artist who was able to render an image of what Karl probably looks like, according to the description I provided:

So back on our bikes, we did find the roads around Columbia to offer an awesome mix of thick gravel, some pavement, and some super-buff hardpack. Don't forget the hills. Oh yes, the hills. Well, they were downright dangerous:

They were plentiful and soul-cleansing, both going up and down. We got chased by a few dogs, but none of them were the threatening kind, but rather they all seemed to want to come out and meet us and lick us. Almost no traffic once we got out of town.

And the sun - it was out most of the day! However, that did end up having a funny side effect. So the temperature never got above 23 or 24, which is pretty cold. But the sun did shine directly on a lot of stuff, and on some lower spots, that meant for some super soft surfaces, as seen here on the last several miles of soft, wet, and gross Katy Trail (note how Professor is leaving a rut, which is impressive considering that he is so light, that he's actually still at his birthweight:)

At least the Katy was super scenic. But not only was it soft and wet, but that notorious Katy Trail dust was turned to cement, which sprayed all over ourselves and our bikes. It wasn't a problem for Norkward and myself, being on Major One singlespeed CX bikes. Unfortunately for Professor, he decided to take out his Powertap Hub-equipped Major Jake, which *is* geared, and all that spray resulted in a cemented downtube which then in turn rendered his shift cables useless, and giving him what he should have been on in the first place - a singlespeed CX bike:(that's what a middle finger looks like with lobster-style gloves on)
I think this is just another example of the CX gods, probably with some influence from Energor, trying to coax the Professor into riding the SS CX bike exclusively.

We soldiered on, seeing wildlife of all sorts from fat squirrels to deer to a flock of turkeys sitting patiently:
As Nic-ward shows us, the only thing better than riding bikes is riding bikes through a flock of birds!:

We were headed back to home base at this point, passing the "Big Tree" and heading up some long, punishing hills to finish out the route. Despite Professor having more health problems than a Tiny Tim, he has been logging more hours of saddle time than anyone I know, and finished up super strong today. This year will be even moar impressive, for sure.

Upon finishing up, Jerky and myself found our bikes to be splattered with that terrible Katy cement as well. So much so that it created little bottom-bracket-mounted stalactites:

That cement could not even be chiseled off without risk of damaging the frame tubes. Turns out that it has to melt off. Yes, it has to melt off, much like the pepper cheese melted off the sides of each side of Shakespeares Pizza slice which we shoved down our throat-holes after the ride:

When going to Shakespeares Pizza, your best option (bearing in mind that there are no bad options) is to get the Team Seagal Approved "JOBS" pizza:
-Breakfast Bacon

...and with four toppings you get a 5th free, so you must then have pepper cheese. Make sure to round out this work of art by ordering it with wheat crust and in the 16" size. Then wash that mother fucker down with a very reasonably-priced PBR in the 16oz can. Holy shit. This is the kind of meal that ends wars. The kind of meal that can get you pregnant.

Do this ride on Sunday, starting at Klunk Bicycles. Karl will be there, but will Balboa show? We ended up with a little over 47 miles in less than 4 hours (having started elsewhere in town) with a little over 3400' of climbing. This is the kind of ride that makes you stronger! Garmin link

Speaking of making you stronger with hills, it won't be long now before we do our second annual calf-cramping, thigh-smashing Death By Hills ride. It will most likely be the same, or only slightly-modified, route as last year, and will start from Lone Wolf Coffee again. Just gotta figure out a date now.

Oh yeah, next Thursday (Feb 4th) we may be heading down to ride Middlefork (weather/trail conditions permitting) but starting from Council Bluff. Anyone interested?

2010 is feeling good so far... Are you riding... outside?



Some Motivation for your Head

Greetings, Jerks. This winter reminds me of a dead Ron Jeremy - cold, long, and gross. It can be hard to find motivation. STLPAF Dave seems to have found some with new bling for the season, but when you're that pro you had better have some phat blang.

For the rest of us, I have something for you to keep in mind and get you in the proper frame of mind for the upcoming season which will surely be the best yet. A little poem that Le Professeur turned me onto, entitled "Invictus" by William Ernst Henley:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

It's no Regulator, but then again, what is? I think I'll have this passage in my head each time I think about pussing out or taking a trip to the beach - the beach of sandy vag's. Kind of like a literary VDS-12.

I'm off work on monday, let's get a ride going! Anyone up for some hills?

-Casey F. Ryback


Night + Snow + Friends = Moar Fun

Greetings Members of the Royal Order of Team Seagal Fans! Riding off-road in the snow, while snow is falling, after dark, with lots of people, is a rare occurrence. And when that opportunity presents itself, you must answor teh call of teh wild. There is just as much prep that goes on in order to make it happen, what with all them fancy lights, tons of thermal clothing, tube/pump, tools, trying to keep your water from freezing, driving an hour in 4 wheel drive to get there while avoiding other poor bastards on the side of the road... it's a miracle we made it.

I embarked on one such adventure Wednesday night, with the promise of white stuff coming down during the ride. I met with Mashor at his lair, from which we embarked in the direction of Lost Valley. We met several jerks out there, and there were less than 10 in our party who were going to be using the Lost Valley land. Those who were able to peel themselves away from watching Girlfriends on the CW that night were treated to a white blanket covering the Mound lot. Mashor, myself, D-wayne, Vandeevan, B-squared (Brian Busken), 1/2 of The Holtmans, Mr. Bock, and of course, our very own Lawman.

While man-training through the fantastically-expanded singletrack, we did pass a surprising number of other like-minded individuals. We also discussed how the new singletrack that has been added (and rutted, thanks to the owner of $80K Z06 'Vette, gold chain, and a combover) will very much change the dynamics of the Lost Valley Luau. We also wondered just why old trails have to be completely closed-off when new trails are built. Oh well. We also rode some supersecret downhills.

We watched, with great anticipation, Lawman come down a section of bench-cut singletrack in Lost Valley, (the descent that drops you to the rock-armored creek) and then laughed as he hit the deck on an invisible patch of off-camber, glossy-smooth ice. We had all paused across the creek and watched him, only his headlight was visible, and when he went down, it was as if a prophecy was fulfilled. This is because there was absolutely no way we could do anything about it - we had all hit the ice, and we were trying to warn him. Bam!

Halfway through the ride, responsibility kicked in for some, and a desire for more wrist-snapping kicked in for the rest, as myself, Mashor, D-wayne, Jim and Jeremy headed out once more for a grand total of a little over 24 miles and 4 hours. Bam! Over 2400' of powdery, track-laying climbing.

Definitely worth skipping Lawman for (thank god for DVRs, though!)

4 hours of snow coming through the helmet vents, while only wearing an earband:

Thanks to Masson for lending me his lights, they lasted the whole time!

-Casey F. Ryback