Monday, February 27, 2006


My first cycling column ran in the paper this past weekend. It's nothing special, but feel free to check 'er out... I pasted it at the bottom of this post because logging onto the paper's website sucks. You have to waste all this time registering. If you want to see how it looked on the website, feel free to go there and search for "North Rim Trail."
I should be cranking out another column soon!

I'm a bit off the back with my blog because my home computer crapped out and spent some time being futzed with by the kind folks at the Mac Shack, who have a shop cat, of all cool things. Just about every local business in Boulder has some dog lying around, but leave it to the Mac folks to break the mold.

I'll be back in business here shortly.

Cindy Vanover of Longmont rides the North Rim Trail.
North Rim Trail can ease those Arizona blues
By Marty Caivano, Camera Staff Writer
February 25, 2006

This time of year, I get the itch. I ogle magazine spreads, troll Web sites and get lost in lurid fantasies. If I don't get my fix soon, I will do something unsavory to satisfy myself ... like spend a lot of money traveling to Arizona.

If you, too, are yearning for a taste of singletrack this winter, you can stave off the itch by riding a new-to-you bit of dirt in your own backyard.

The good, old Boulder Reservoir provides a place to start. Now, before you roll your eyes and tell me you've ridden that area more times than you've watched Simpsons reruns, I must encourage you to check out the North Rim Trail. Affectionately known among mountain bikers as The Trophy Home Singletrack, it sneaks behind a row of prairie mansions near the Lake Valley golf course and adds a fresh section of slender fun to the dirt highways of the reservoir. It connects the Sage Trail to Niwot Road, allowing you to ride west on Niwot Road for about a mile and catch the Lefthand Trail, where it terminates near the trailhead of the same name, creating a killer loop that is frequently free of other users.

If you think the trails at the Rez are boring on your mountain bike, try a cyclocross bike, or you can even ride your road bike with some heavy-duty tires if you feel like it. Just be sure to bring extra supplies in case you get a flat.

To find the trail, turn north off the Sage Trail on a gravelly connector that looks as if it merely dead-ends into some large homes. Go through the gate and follow the trail as it winds northeast; soon you'll find yourself on the North Rim.

Judging by the condition of the trail, it doesn't see a lot of riding. When I rode it last fall, I had to bushwhack through an overgrowth of weeds, grasses and thistles, emerging with legs that looked like they'd been attacked by territorial prairie dogs. I'm happy to report that last weekend the situation was much more pleasant. A few more knobbies had come through to clear the trail, and Mother Nature's herbal bounty has hunkered down for the winter. The February sun slanted between the golden thistles, and the gradual upslope revealed, upon looking back, a wide-open view of the reservoir, the mountains and Boulder, domed by a cobalt sky. As a friend and I cruised along the narrow strip of dirt, there was not another person in sight.

I won't lie to you, though. Riding around the reservoir does expose cyclists to the elements. And you all know what element I mean — the one that's been challenging your sanity on a regular basis this winter. We listed sideways in the howling wind, like drunks angling toward the doorway to the bathroom.
"Wow, this is some wind," my cohort yelled.

"WHAT?" I shouted.

As we approached the section of trail directly behind the homes — and I do mean directly, so be prepared for dogs charging their fences — we got out of the wind with an abruptness that made us catch our breath. That's the kind of wind that pulls the saliva out of your mouth if you're breathing hard. God, I hate that. Note to self: Start saving money for trip to Sedona.

The trail goes up the slope, turns a corner around a house, marches over a wooden bridge, and pops you out onto Golf Club Drive for a brief stretch before hitting Niwot Road. While we were tempted to turn around and haul the mail back down, we decided to expose ourselves to more wind in exchange for the swoopy bliss of the Lefthand Trail, where I have twice seen bald eagles gliding overhead. This section is frequently devoid of people as well, with a few fun climbs, descents, bridges and carve-ready turns to keep things interesting.

If you're really looking for a long ride, turn off the Lefthand Trail just north of the picnic shelter on a gravel road that will put you out onto Neva Road. Take it up to U.S. 36 to Lefthand Canyon and ride Heil Valley Ranch. Don't freak out about the asphalt — it's only two measly miles to the dirt road of Geer Canyon. This epic ride will only get more gonzo and fabulous when the Heil-to-Hall Ranch connector is built. Think of the possibilities! Note to self: scrap Sedona. Save money for new bike.

Contact Camera photographer Marty Caivano at

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The New Team

After much redesign, discussion and rumor, my new team, Blue Sky Velo, has finally completed our new kits.

I'm really happy with the final design. I think it looks clean and stylish, with good colors. No raging orange or aerodynamic, flying boobs.

The additional bonus is that my bike is blue. I've never had a kit match my bike before... that will be cool! Too bad we have to wait another month for the actual clothing. We're going to have matching socks this year, too, so I can look even more professional while going slower than a tortoise on quaaludes.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Chomping at the Bit

There's a free publication here called Rocky Mountain Sports, and every year at this time they put out an issue called "The Keeper," which is basically an enormous calendar of every event happening in every sport. I started reading the mountain bike section and totally got my knickers in a twist over all the fun stuff happening this summer. Races, clinics, festivals, presentations -- it fairly boggles the mind. I can't wait! I'm really hoping to stay injury free and have my best-ever fitness this year, which should make this stuff even more fun. And as always, there's my yearly trip to Crested Butte. It's truly the highlight of my season.

And then there are trips to Fruita:

And skills sessions with Akira:

And hanging out with my team:

This year I really want to travel to a few more races that are farther away. I'm envisioning some great road trips with my teammates and other pals, laughing our asses off, hollering for each other at finish lines, and embellishing/exaggerating our race stories at the end of the day. ("Dude, I just KILLED everybody on that steep downhill," etc.)

And hopefully ripping a few legs off at the Winter Park races! Booyah!!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Spartacus the Specialized

"One bike's epic story of overnight weight loss!"

Last night I watched (and helped a tiny bit) while Cindy's bike got some major upgrades. You can see a new fork, Avid mechanical disk brakes, cassette, XTR rear derailleur and chain, and (not shown) Mavic CrossMax wheels. This bike is going be super sweet.

The work happened at Blue Sky Cycles, the fabulous new shop that is sponsoring our race team. Here is Commander In Chief Rob Love, with Cindy looking on, as Spartacus' starting weight is recorded as 29.7 lbs. Definitely heavy by race standards. Rob estimates the bike will lose about a pound a half. (Equivalent, perhaps, of me losing 15 pounds?)

Cindy meets our good friend Stan. Bye bye, flats!

And the makeover is almost complete....

This ride has most certainly been pimped. As Rob would say, "Word."

Unfortunately, the night ran long, so the bike has not yet been fully completed, nor it's weight re-checked. I will update this post when the bike is ready for its closeup.

Now Cindy will become invinceable on the race circuit, ripping legs off in all directions. Look out!!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Here's What I See Most Mornings

Every weekday, like a lot of other schmucks, I have to get up in the dark. But after a few minutes, if I look out the window, I see something like this, and it makes it more worthwhile:

And I thought I'd throw in another photo from my ride with Cindy:

I need a helmet cam!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Note to Self: Don't Paraglide Into the Wind

Some poor soul had a paragliding accident on Monday. I've never seen this before, and felt really, really bad for the guy. He was screaming and hollering obscenities the whole way down the hillside while being carried by rescuers. He apparently had a pretty bad head injury, but it certainly didn't affect his ability to remember foul language. But he was in a lot of pain, obviously, so I won't pass any judgement.

Members of the city of Boulder fire department, Rocky Mountain Rescue, and Pridemark Paramedics carry Matthew Hecker, 21, whose paraglider collapsed on Monday morning, down the hillside near Wonderland Lake. Hecker is in critical condition with head injuries at Denver Health Medical Center.

I thought I was going to break my own leg and need rescuing from RUNNING down this rocky-ass slope while photographing. I was very impressed with how fast these people could hustle while carrying the injured guy. They didn't waste a single second getting him down to the ambulance.

Another interesting thing was that some friend of his chased me and the television guy up the slope, begging us not to shoot the injured guy's picture. As kindly as I could, I replied that he really didn't get a choice. Someone doing something to require this kind of response is going to get in the newspaper and on TV. End of story. I added, "You know, paragliding here is perfectly legal. He's not going to get in trouble or anything." The kid responded, "Yeah, but it looks bad for the sport." HUH?? Here this guy's friend is battling some serious injuries, and THAT's what this dude is worried about?? I responded, "Every sport has accidents. It's not the end of the world," and ignored him thereafter. Sheesh.

Yeah, Now I'm a "Writer"

I've started writing a cycling column for the paper again. I don't get paid any extra to do it, of course, but it will be fun, because the guy newly in charge of the outdoor section wants to make the stories more whimsical, or edgy, or whatever you want to call it. Plus then I'll have some writing samples, however weird they may be, for future use.

The first column will be not that exciting; just a Bike of the Week, but the following one should be more interesting. I won't give away my topic just yet, but I'll keep you all posted when it runs.

The Bike of the Week will feature my friend Cindy:

I'll post a link when it runs in the paper.

The Other Side of Erie

Yes, the town I wanted to call Eerie has an older, less yuppie side, and weirdly enough, it's the neighborhood next to the airport. I know, that sounds like the start of a comedy skit, but there really is a substantial group of homes around the airport, and some of them have been there a long time.

And don't worry, Beth -- I remember your place in Erie, and it's nowhere near the section that's practically in Nebraska. :-)

Anyhow, we did a story on dome homes, and this couple in Erie loves flying, so they bought this double-dome home --which everyone calls the Dolly Parton House -- right off the runway. And you guessed it: one of the domes holds their plane.

The house side:

The hangar:

It will come as no surprise to you that the house was built in 1978 (gee, what gave it away?) by another fly-happy pilot who wanted to taxi right out of his house and take off. I wonder if you just radio the air traffic controller from your driveway?

I thought the house was pretty ugly, to be honest, but I loved the concept. I want a house with a garage that leads right onto a zillion miles of singletrack. And it should have a power-wash chamber that you step into after riding that washes you AND the bike with zero effort. Sweet! Frank Lloyd Wright, eat your heart out.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Living In Paradise

So this is funny. The whole concept is warped, in my humble opinion. Sunset Magazine named Erie, Colorado as one of the West's best suburbs. Ha ha ha!! Now, if you've ever been to Erie, it's one of those creepy Stepford-Wives kind of nasty-ass subdivisions just sitting in a big pile of mud out on the prairie. If what's important to you is a grossly oversized yet sadly unoriginal tract home painted one of three approved shades of taupe, slapped up as quickly as possible with 300 others, because you don't want to spend an equal amount of money on a smaller, maybe older home in an established town -- you'll love it! I bet you'll also love your 45-minute commute each way to work that robs you of not only hard-earned money in gasoline, but valuable time you could be spending sleeping, with your children, learning something new, or any number of other more useful things. I'm always amazed at the way people choose to live that seems so ass-backwards to me. I mean, not that I think everyone has to think like me... thank god they don't! But I just can't relate to some folks' priorities. When I'm on my death bed, am I really going to be happy that I spent 85% of my adult life working and driving to work because I felt the shallow compunction to own a cardboard box out in the boonies -- and to basically destroy a beautiful piece of prairie or farmland -- rather than a more modest house in a town close to my job? What the hell.

Anyway, what good is a blog if you can't rant like a pretentious know-it-all? :-)

But the flip side of this assignment is that I actually made a couple of nice photos of an Erie family:

Tyler Hahn, 8, left, runs ahead of his brother, Nathan, 6, his sister Trinity, 3, and mother Kim as the family walks to a nearby park in Erie's Vista Ridge subdivision, where they moved two years ago. Sunset Magazine recently named Erie one of the West's best suburbs for quality of life.

Nathan Hahn, 6, center, laughs as his mother, Kim, spins him around in a swing at a park in Erie's Vista Ridge subdivision.

I especially liked the top photo because it showed good reaction skills on my part. I didn't even look through the camera. As soon as I saw the boy start to run, I just whipped up my hand and shot from the hip.
Aspiring photographers always freak out when I advise them to do a whole series of photos without looking through the viewfinder, because they're so attached to the idea that their "lofty thought process" is what makes them photographers. While this may be true in other photographic disciplines, photojounalism is all about reacting to what's actually happening in the world, and trying to communicate the feeling of a place or event. I feel like I got that across here, at least on some level.

Okay, I'll shut my pie hole now!! :-)