Archive for September, 2010

Watch Out For Snakes

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Just a quick reminder that the snakes are coming out to fatten up for winter. This time of the year is really busy as the snakes are starting to prepare for their hibernation. I have already seen 4 rattle snakes this week, and we’re not even to the weekend yet. So if you are hiking or riding, keep your eyes open for the potential snake. Remember that they are cold blooded, and will be trying to stay warm through the cooler nights. So sometimes they’ll be coiled up on rocks or sunny bits of trails. They will also be hiding out in bushes and shrubs, so keep your hands and feet where you can see them. And if you happen to come across a snake, leave it alone! They won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.

Be safe.

My Next Ride

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

With the anticipated arrival of the 24 Hour Ride “in the old pueblo” hosted by Epic Rides, I’ve been starting to get back on the ol’ mountain bike. Although the race is still months away, I’ve already started preparing for it by cross training, riding, and saving my hard earned money for a new bike. If you ride a lot, then you know that feeling a new bike instills in you. For some reason, you just want to ride even more when the paint is fresh and the components new.  And seeing as this is an endurance race that will end up with more than 18 hours in the saddle over a 24 hour period, I’m going to need every bit of encouragement I can muster to stay on my bike, and I’m thinking a new ride will greatly help with this.

Since I’m trying to ride a lot of miles in one shot, I’m going to get a bike that is extremely efficient in transferring power from the pedals to the wheels, light weight, and relatively comfortable for the long long ride.  This is what I have come up with . . .

A 2011 Specialized Stumpjumper HT Expert EVO R 29er.  I know, quite a mouthful, but if you decipher the name it tells you a lot about the bike.  2011 obviously means it’s new; Specialized Stumpjumper (Which was one of the first production mountain bikes ever) is the model;  HT stands for Hard Tail, EVO R is an option that pairs down parts to save weight; and 29er means the wheels are the same size as a road bike wheel (700cm), or 29 in. with the tire on.  It’s basically a very light bike built to go very fast.

Some of the “stand out” features of the bike are it’s frame construction, fork, and drive train (gears, shifters etc. etc.).  The frame is made from Specialized’s FACT 8mm carbon fiber technology which makes it incredibly lightweight, and efficient since there is no rear shock.  The fork integrates Specialized’s Brain technology in a Rox Shox Reba 90mm fork.  The “Brain” technology I speak of is rather neat.  With an oil inertia valve inside the shock, the fork can sense which forces are from the rider and which are from the terrain, essentially eliminating the need to manually lock out the fork.  This is really nice when you climbing up a hill or pedaling out of the saddle.

Another slick item on this bike is it’s drive train.  It’s a 10 speed with a 10 speed cassette in the rear and a single chain ring in the front.  This eliminates two extra chain rings in the front, a front derailleur, cables and shifter and helps keep the bike lighter.  The rear derailleur is made from carbon fiber as are the crank arms.  Even the bottom bracket bearings are made from ceramic to reduce friction and weight. 

Built up with nice components, sweet Avid Elixir CR SL brakes, and DT Swiss wheels, this Stumpjumper is ready to rip around the trails at blistering speeds while looking rather unsuspecting.  The only problem with the bike is that it won’t be available until November.  So I still have a little more time to save save save.

New Bikes

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Hi everybody. It’s me again. Just wanted to drop a line and tell everyone about the new bikes we are getting in. Every couple of years John breaks down and gets us some new bikes for rentals. I don’t know all the details and specs of the bikes but I got a glimpse of them the other day. John and I took a couple of RCDM managers out on the trail and he brought out two of the new bikes. Very nice. Sleek black giants and the bikes he brought with had spicy red forks. The managers had a great time. We took them to the Tortolita Preserve mountain bike trail near the hotel. It’s funny, almost everyone I take mountain biking has the same reaction. “Wow, this is a lot harder than I thought.” A few simple tips for mountain biking, when coasting keep your pedals parallel to the ground to avoid being bucked off your bike by an ill placed rock. Focus on that part of the trail that you want your bike to go on. Not that portion of the trail that has the big rock or cactus in it. If you focus on that rock I guarantee you will run into it. When moving down a steep hill shift your weight toward the back of the bike. When riding up a steep hill try not to stand up. Standing up is a sure fire way to lose traction. Try instead to shift your weight forward and apply pressure to the front wheel to prevent wheel flop. Wheel flop is what happens when going up a steep hill and you hadn’t shifted your weight forward you front wheel starts to come off the ground making it very hard to stay on corse and in control. Those are the most basic tips. The more you ride and the more difficult the trail the better you will get and the more fun you will have. So get out there and ride your bike. Or better yet get out and ride one of our new bikes with one of our many talented guides.

Rick Gray

Live Strong 2005

Friday, September 24th, 2010

I wear on my wrist a yellow band that says “Live Strong.” It is the brainchild of Lance Armstrong and supports the foundation he founded for cancer research. In the past I have been accused of jumping on the band wagon when first seen wearing the band. However, I was fortunate enough to be living in Paris the first year that Armstrong won the Tour de France. Also I have been able to ride with him and other members of the team in early 2001. I look at this wristband everyday because I know what it means to live strong and to live sick.

I have had a chronic stomach condition for seven years. When it was first diagnosed, I struggled against it by cycling. Perhaps similar to Lance I rode the desert roads. I rode mostly alone. I entered races and got stronger and faster. On the wall in my room is a photo of me with Lance Armstrong. Those were the golden moments.

What my athleticism has to do with my stomach ailment is sometimes difficult to articulate. The pain and discomfort is similar to when I am riding my bike. After seven years of failed medications I am sick at any moment during the day, whether I have eaten or not. Recently after receiving my eighth endoscopy, I have learned that this chronic condition (although rare) can become cancerous if untreated. Sometimes I am angry my condition and at the world for doing this to me, but more often I deal with the pain by pushing through it.

I ran cross country and track for my high school. At the beginning of every meet, the officials ask me to take off my wristband because it is against the rules to wear anything extraneous during a race. I slide the wrist band off my hand, but its lessons remain firm; I have learned what it means to live strong.

Mr. Barker

JW Marriott Starr Pass

Riding in the Rain

Friday, September 24th, 2010

On Wednesday, we were treated with an unusual rain storm that hovered over the Tucson area. It’s rare to get these cooler rainy days, so it’s best not to waste them. The upper 2,000 ft. of  the Santa Catalina Mountains were socked in with clouds and rain, and thats where I wanted to be.

I drove up the mountain to Molino Basin, which is where I parked my car and got on my bike. I started pedaling up hill, and didn’t stop until I was at the Palisades Ranger station. So after that 13.5 mile climb that covered almost 3,000 vertical feet, I was ready for the trails. Starting with some extreemly sweet single track riding off of Bear Wallow Rd., I was able to hook up with the Upper Green Mountain Trail, which in combination with the Brush Corral Trail, adds almost 7 miles of extreemly intense downhill riding. This drops you out at the General Hitchcock Campground which is pretty much the top of Bug Springs Trail. So I hopped onto Bug Springs, rode that 5 miles of absolute joyous downhill right into the Molino Basin Trail. After another 4 miles of sweet downhill single track, I was back at my car. Not too bad for 30+ mile ride. And most of it was in the RAIN and CLOUDS!!!!

Another Section of The Arizona Trail

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

I think she is happy. I think.

Ashley, in the sun, on The AZ Trail
So, Ashley, a sales manager of The JW Marriott wanted to go for a ride.  And, who was I to say no.  We got together for an early, very early ride.  Like I am talking about 5:30AM.  It was so grand to have the day wake up with you.  And, and you are riding a mountain bike on single track trails, in the desert and mountains of The Southwest.  I strongly recommend it.  Oh yeah.
Come ride with us.
Southwest Trekking
Professional Guide Services
Arduous Journeys for Those Who Indulge In Extremes
We do fun and we do it good.
John Heiman

Our Edible Desert, Wolfberry

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

The wolfberry is a common shrub in the Sonoran Desert, however its berries are much better known as Goji Berries. these slightly bitter berries are most commonly sold dry. Berries of different wolfberries do taste different and all varieties growing native in Arizona are edible. So if the first ones you try aren’t sweet enough try another shrub. Also as with all our fruits they ripen at different times by elevation so if they’re not ripe in one are take a different hike. For example right now they are ripe in the Tucson’s but not the Tortolita’s. Here’s some more info I found online, also the nutritional data is readily available, search Goji Berry, and you’ll find lots of information and claims.

WOLFBERRY – Lycium sp. Bocksdorn, Box Thorn, Desert Thorn, Frutilla, Lyciet, Lycium, Matrimony Vine,  All Sonoran desert species have edible fruit, gathered in the weeks following the monsoons. They are edible raw or cooked in soup, stew, syrup, sauce, or beverages. Boil the berries to a thick consistency and dry them on rocks in the sun. They can be stored and eaten as is, or cooked. Dried berries can be made into mush or soup without cooking. Boil and mash the berries and drain the liquid as a beverage. Or grind them and mix with a little clay before eating. Not quite ripe berries were boiled and sweetened.
Randy Young , Southwest Trekking Guide


Worst Blog Ever

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Well, here we are again at the JW Marriott Starr Pass for the Friday afternoon hike. Like your average employee, I came to work unprepared, not wearing my name tag, and not performing my duties as a professional guide. But the show must go on. To begin the shift, I was pleasantly greeted by my fellow staff who have acknowledged the invasion of Iowa football team supports here for Saturdays game. Makes for some interesting conversation as to whether or not one bleeds Arizona red and blue (for the UA) or if one will capitulate to the onslaught of foreign forces. My own beliefs aside, why cant we all just be friends? And is it too early in the season for street riots? So if you’re in Tucson this weekend, be sure to catch the sold out football game. And if that isnt your cup of tea, come join me for a hike. We all know that I need the company.

Barker out.

My little friend

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Out  here at the Ritz Carlton Dove mountain the morning hikes have been spectacular. The weather has been cooling down enough at night that we have been seeing more critters in the morning. Of course we see the usual lizards and bunnies as we do all summer. But lately some other guys have been coming out. When ever we head off the trail we have been finding snakes. Mostly different varieties of whip snake but every couple of days I have been finding an occasional rattle snake. The most common type has been the western diamond back (crotalus atrox). Some guests have seen and photographed a few different types. I had a guest show me a photo of a tiger rattler ( crotalus tigris) and I have found a speckled rattler ( crotalus michelli).  But the friend I want to tell about is our little unofficial mascot. The hotel has a great loop trail that goes around the perimeter of the hotel property. On this trail about half way through on top of a small hill if you keep your eyes peeled you will see Franklin. Franklin is a male desert tortoise ( Gopherus agassizi). I call him Franklin after a cartoon turtle that my daughter loved when she was much younger. On most days he is one of the high lights of the hike. He usually just sits there and poses for the cameras. I’m sure with enough looking you your self could find pics of him on the Internet. He has become kind of a local celebrity. So if you’re hiking out here behind the hotel be sure to look for Franklin, cause he likes to pose for you.

Rick Gray

Channel 4 Action News

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Had something incredibly entertaining happen this morning; Southwest Trekking, in all of its glory, was interviewed by a local news station about mountain biking within the Tucson Region. Along with the interviews of the owner, Mr. John P. Heiman and select guides, we got to have video taken of the bunch riding the beginning of the Starr Pass Trail. This will most likely gain exposure not just for what Southwest Trekking does on a daily basis but also promote the cycling community in general. And I can only hope that the footage of the news anchor crashing on her bike will also be submitted. Fortunately, for yours truly, I was not interviewed because that would have gone something like this…

If you can recall, to speak like a Arizonan requires that every conversation begin with a comment about the heat, humidity, or a subtle breeze. For example, “Say Bob, some heat we’re having out here.” “Absolutely, and if wasn’t for this humidity, that slight breeze could actually be refreshing.” So, following up on these pleasantries, the second question of the interview would be something about how I define myself as a mountain biker. That could be answered by pontificating on the hard work and dedication by those select few. Or in my mind, be defined by how many cycling bumper stickers you have on your car. Therefore, what we have learned today is that the most dedicated riders are defined as such by how ornately ordained their vehicles are with free advertising of there favorite brands and races. And while most bumper stickers serve only as a warning, “Hey, lets not hang out,” I am sure to live by my golden rule;

“When in doubt, whip it out!”

Mr. Barker