A 12-Mile Mountain Bike Loop Failure

It started as a short 12-mile mountain bike ride. Most of it on trails or narrow dirt roads. There was one section of paved road that I suspected would put me on a loop back home. If it worked I’d have a nice 12-mile loop.

When I started racing bicycles in 1972 our team, The Savannah Wheelmen, had permission to train on Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia. There was a road, Perimeter Road, which as named, encircled the perimeter creating a 10-mile loop of the base. Our team would ride around Hunter two to twelve times per day. Since it was a 10-mile loop it wasn’t tedious. The major factor was that it was nearly void of traffic. It remains one of the safest training routes in memory.

Finding a 12-mile loop, mostly off road, here near Athens, Georgia seemed like a great idea. I’d been searching and felt I was close. Heading out to find the last few miles needed to create the course I was optimistic.

Miles of this on a mountain bike is fun. This is a long uphill grade, steep in sections.

For seven miles I was primarily on trails, dirt roads and a very isolated paved road. Then, things got dicey.

I knew a section of the yet discovered loop would be on a more traveled road. It wasn’t a bad road and there were signs to encourage motorists to “Share the Road” with cyclists. This would last only a mile or so before I turned left and took my Cannondale back into the woods to close the loop.

This old shack is next to a single track

The surprise came from a road closure with only four miles of my estimated ride remaining. Riding right wouldn’t work since that would send me in the wrong direction. Left was out because that landed me on a road with heavy traffic. I took road number three a total guess; Monty Hall would have been proud. He’d also have been saddened by my choice –it was the wrong road.

Not exactly certain where this is, but there were cattle everywhere.

After too long and being a bit lost, I needed help. I had my phone in my pocket and decided to consult Google Maps. Naturally, there was no cellular service. I did spot a few folks skinning a deer so I rode over on my bike to ask for help.

This is a familar crossing.

One nice thing about living near Athens, cyclists are a common sight. So are people skinning deer. In fact, many cyclists here skin deer. When I asked how to get back to Good Hope, Georgia, I learned I was way the hell off course. So far so that the fastest way home was to do a 100% back track.

When I passed this, I knew I was at a minimum in the correct county

I’ll try this again with the road is open. I know there is a way to come up with a 12 to 15 mile loop that is almost as safe as those days circling Hunter.

Back From a Short Adventure

We just returned from a four-day adventure. During that time there was Bluegrass music, eating, camping, ATV riding and hunting. It was a quick trip but with all the activity it seemed longer.

Our youngest daughter has moved back to Georgia. For her it is the beginning of a great adventure. She, her husband, and their three children are planning to take the next five years, travel the country and station themselves periodically near work projects. Jason, my daughter’s husband, has a job where he works with a team to repair historic sights. This will take them to exciting locations across America. For the next six months are so they’ll be in Georgia as they prepare for their journey.

Li’Roy and Lizzy

Our four-day mini-adventure began by a visit with them. Before the visit began we stopped at Tabor Baptist Church in Tignall, Georgia. The church was established on 1827 and a friend of ours is the “Preacher”. The Preacher is also the Sheriff. No one acts out in church.

Preacher and Sheriff Paul Revere

It was homecoming for the local Baptist member and to celebrate Li’Roy and Lizzie’s Bluegrass Band played. This is an award-winning group that recently won the Bluegrass/Country/Roots Song of the Year, “Dinner on the Ground.” Lizzy was also recently inducted into the “America’s Old Time Fiddler’s Country Hall of Fame”. During the service, the band succeeded in playing long enough in the packed church to avoid a sermon.

Tabor Baptist Church, est. 1827

After church, we drove into Lincolnton for lunch at the Home Café, owned by Richard. I don’t know his last name, but I know most of his staff by their first names. Ray (Papa) eats there several times a week. I eat there when we’re in town. You will not get fancy food. Richard will, however, serve you good Southern food and your plate will be filled.

Not fancy, but real good

Because our daughter is, for the moment, staying with her Grandfather, Ray (Papa to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren) Brenda and I camped at Hester’s’ Ferry campground. There is currently no room to lay our heads at “Papa’s.”

Having the campground to ourselves

Hester’s Ferry is one of our favorite campgrounds and this time of the year we had the place to ourselves.

Quiet mornings
A little fog over the lake

This is also hunting season. Last year, with our move from North Carolina home to Georgia, I didn’t get to hunt. I did get out into the woods a lot. Just not for hunting. I’ll hunt with either a rifle or bow. Right not I am still using my bow. I may stick with it all year. There are areas where I hunt I know I’ll not see a deer within 50 yards. When I am there I’ll go to a rifle.

This squirrel had no concerns at all with me sitting in a tree stand a few yards away
This is where I expected to see something

I did get to hunt on this trip and I did see one buck. In fact, that deer, a young buck with a medium sized four-point rack, showed up about 40 minutes after I’d settled into the stand. Despite a perfect opening for an arrow this buck stayed behind branches for about 30 minutes avoiding the opening. He meandered around and snacked until he moseyed out of range.

Close to where I thought a deer would pass. Those limbs prevented a clean shot to I didn’t try.

After calling it a day of hunting I headed back to “Papa’s” to ride grandkids though woods on ATVs. Even though these children have lived in Pittsburgh their entire lives, my daughter (a true Georgia Girl) has had them outdoors pretty much non-stop. During the ATV trips my oldest granddaughter, seven years old, was able to pick out animal tracks and name the animal that had left it behind. In this instance she pointed out: deer, turkey, raccoon, rabbit and squirrel without assistance. She, as are all our grandkids, is extremely comfortable outdoors.

It was a nice four days. Camping, hunting, riding ATVs, and good Southern food make for a successful adventure. With hunting, I don’t need to shot something to call the trip a success.  It is more about being outdoors, enjoying family and friends. Live Bluegrass Music from one of the top groups in the business is a bonus.

A Short Bit About Fitness

Coaching Tip

Frequently, I’ll post about sports activities other than archery. Those are primarily cardio workouts. If you look over a USA Archery Training plan you’ll find blocks of time set aside for cardio fitness.

An early run in the woods – River has sprinted ahead
Riding a bike off road you come across neat stuff.

I enjoy running and cycling. Archery is my primary sport, but running and cycling where with me long before a bow. Lately, I’ve been running and riding on trails. Trail running is much more appealing that running on a road. Mountain bike riding isn’t more appealing that road riding. I just like being in the woods.

This mountain bike trail is just right
One of the locals in the woods is giving me the eye

Either way, off road or on road, cardio-fitness is a benefit to health and can keep you, as an archer, in better shape prolonging your enjoyment of archery. If you happen to be a 3D competitor you know some ranges can leave you huffing and puffing when you reach a stake. Should you be a hunter, you will know that hauling a kill out of the woods can be a major physical effort.

An ER Physician friend of mine says, “You’re not having fun until someone is bleeding.” I suppose I was having fun

I write about fitness often. That’s because I cross paths with too many folks, in all walks of life, that are not fit. It isn’t hard to be in shape. It is also better for you in the long term.

Finishing this day with 3D practice

The Week that Began and Ended in Social Circle, Georgia

It was a long week. Starting with an archery tournament and ending with another both in Social Circle. In the middle there was a big family gathering and one huge birthday party.

The start was a competition I nearly didn’t shoot. It wasn’t the difficulty of the shooting that created some pause, it was the hour. It tournament didn’t start until 7:30 PM. But, it was shooting near home, about 25 minutes away in Social Circle. Being so close it is hard to pass up archery contests such a short drive down the road. Heck, if it got too long I could always just go home.

Going home was a drive for others that came to the tournament. Archers from Atlanta, Decatur and Kennesaw were on the line. The line was at 50 meters and the lines were full.

Yes sir, it was a long tournament, but I didn’t leave even though this event went well past my bedtime. The crew from ACE Apache, led by USA Archery Level 4 Coach Big John Chandler, did a great job of organizing and running the show.

I did leave before the awards were presented. I’ll go out on a limb and say I won my age group (over 50). The chance projection is based on the semi-final Olympic Round where when I was finally eliminated – the other few remaining archers seemed no older than 30 years. I made it home at midnight. I was so keyed up that there was no sleeping until after 2:00 AM.

We camped for the “Party”

Even though I didn’t fall asleep until around 2:00 AM, our dogs insisted that I was up by 6:00 AM. Dogs have no mercy when it comes to human sleep requirements. It took three days to get over the break in my sleep pattern.

Little Roy and Lizzie playing

With that to endure there was no time to ease up. There was a birthday bash to follow. By birthday bash, I mean catering, a live blue grass band and a good percentage of the Town of Lincolnton, Georgia attending. This shindig was put together in part by his friends in Lincolnton and his family. It was Ray’s, my father-in-law, 90th birthday.

View from our campsite

Aside from lawn maintance my role was to smoke a ham, two large Boston Butts for pulled pork, and grill about 12 pounds of sausage.

After long days at Ray’s it was nice to get to a piece of quiet

At the end of a long week I got to pick up a bow and shoot another tournament, this time a 3D competition. What I can say about the crew at ACE Apache in Social Circle, the put together a 3D range that was perfect. I won that on as well.

Yes, this was nice

It was a long week. It was fun. I am tired.

3D in Shady Dale

There were only two shots out of twenty under 30 yards. One target at 22 yards and the other at 26 yards. They were my worst two shots of the day. Aside from those two shots, ones I wanted back immediately, it was a long day. By long I don’t mean time spent shooting.

In a recent post I noted that in the bowhunter class 3D targets seem to be stretched. My comments didn’t sit well with some folks that seemed to feel affronted by my review of that particular range. Of course, no offense was intended. Like mama taught me,”It is not what you say, it is how you said it.” Perhaps I wrote the prior summary without the correct finesse. In that post I’d noted that faux animals in the bowhunter class seem to be getting further away from the stakes.

I’ve competed in the Pro Bowhunter Division at an IBO World Championship. The equipment in that class was limited to pins, short stabilizer, and no magnification on the sight. The maximum distance was 50 yards. Essentially, what I’m saying is that I am not afraid of long shots. The absence of fear doesn’t equate to accuracy of an arrow.

To be fair I’ve shot 3D using a target bow rig with all the fancy thingamajigs allowed on a bow. But, last year I switched back to pins and a hunting rig to shoot 3D. Why? Because that’s how I hunt with a bow. I thought it might be fun to shoot 3D with a hunting bow set up for hunting. And it is. I got to test the rig again on Saturday in Shady Dale, Georgia at an ASA State Qualifier.

Met a new friend on the range

I got lucky and was able to hitch a range ride in a group where I knew everyone. There were three excellent shooters using target bows from known distances, Steve, Butch, and Austin. Butch’s son Luke was in the group and he was using a bowhunter rig.

Easy prey at 37 yards

Luke may be all of eight years old. He was tearing it up on the range. His bow doesn’t have a whole lot of speed or power but he was smacking mostly tens with a few twelves and a few eights. For a little guy he did have a quick wit.

On one shot his arrow hit high and bounced off the target. We all saw the shot and knew his score for that target. However, when one of the scorekeepers, Steve, asked, “What was it” referring to the score, it was Luke who spoke up first. As straight-faced and serious sounding as he’d been all day, he replied, “Oh, that was a twelve.” He knew as we all did it wasn’t a twelve. The entire group caught the intended humor. “Yep, “ someone replied, “he’s an archer.”

The most impressive shooting of the day was by a 15 year old in our group, Austin. With one target to go he was 20 up shooting from known 45. On the last target he scored a 10 and it was the highest score on that 26-yard target.

This was 38 yards for the fellows shooting known 45. For me is was a very reachable 32 yards. (Steve here at the stake)

That target was a hyena sitting in a completely dark hole and simply could not be seen. Of the adults we scored a 10, an 8 and two 5s (including Austin as an adult – he had the 10). It was a difficult shot simply because it was too dark to see the target and one I’d have never taken hunting. I was uncomfortable shooting it on the range.

There’s an old rule that for me is hard to ignore, “Never shoot at anything you can’t see.”

There’s a hyena in that bamboo thicket

Aside from that one target all others were well placed even if no real estate remained left behind. I think I’ll finish the year with a bowhunter rig and change back to a target bow and shoot some known yardage for 2019.  Seems that’s where everyone is shooting.

Travel, Travel and Archery Practice

The last competitive 3D tournament I shot was last years Virginia IBO State Championship. I won. Then, I put down my 3D rig and concentrated on 18 meters. Since then, we’ve moved and I’ve shot in a number of tournaments all of which were not 3D. Last week I shot on a 3D course other than mine for fun. I shot a 198. Not spectacular.

Flooding near the house we rented in Woodstock, VA. By near I mean about 300 feet away
On the beach at Watch Hill, RI

The past two weeks we’ve traveled as far north as Watch Hill, RI. During that trip we drove through pasts of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginal, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. It was a long trip. This week we spent 3 days at Brenda’s dad’s lake house in Tignal, Georgia.

We heard this is the home of a big time country singer.

Needless to say, archery has taken a hit. Practice while we were on the road ‘up north’ didn’t happen. Once we returned to Good Hope and before heading to Tignal I got practice in at home. At Ray’s house, Brenda’s dad (my-father-in-law), I got plenty of practice on his range.

Practice range at Ray’s

His range is simple, one set of targets he uses for practicing with his crossbow. I used it to work on yardage. When we left Ray’s and returned home I went to my 3D range to take a practice run at a 20-target ASA style tournament.

Last year I went back to a hunter class rig. That means pins and a short stabilizer like I’d use when actually hunting. While top 3D shooters all seem to prefer field target style rigs I like a hunting arrangement for 3D. At some point I may switch back to long stabilizers and a scope for now I am happy with my Elite 35 set up for hunting.

Mt Elite 35 hunting set-up

What I wanted to measure today is how I am fairing at unknown distances. Prior practices have included a range finder. Today I estimated yardage that ranged from 14 yards (mosquito target) to 42 yards (a standing deer). The average yardage was 27, which included several small targets shot from 14 to 18 yards (mosquito, bobcat sizes). If I removed the small target short shots the average distance was 33 yards.

At most ASA style tournaments I don’t expect to see a lot of backyard type targets. Oh, there will be a javelina at 35 to 40 yards and I have a javelina that I practice shooting at that distance. There’s also a badger that I shoot from 20 to 40 yards because it is likely to appear during competition. What I don’t have are the newer spotted cats or very large targets. Hopefully, my target sponsor will send me a few of those soon. (Wait, I don’t have a target sponsor. Guess those free targets aren’t heading my way after all.)

When I finished practice and tallied my points I’d failed to maintain a 10-point per target average. I shot an average of 9.5. I botched a coyote landing a 5 at 30 yards. It happens.

The short shots helped with my average. If I removed them my average dropped to 9.01 points per arrow. There is work to do before next weekends ASA State Qualifier.

Snakes on the Range

Dealing with snakes is constant activity for me. Last year, in North Carolina it was moccasins and copperheads. In Georgia it is rattlesnakes and copperheads.

My 3D range is also where I trail run. Whether I am running or shooting I carry a small pistol in case I cross paths with an ill-tempered viper. I don’t mess with snakes that don’t mess with me.

I’ve seen lots of snakes running and shooting. I even see them when I riding a bike.

When I’m in the woods I keep a close watch on the ground. River, my lab that runs with me and tags along during archery practice has pointed out a few snakes I missed. She’s also missed a few that I found first.

I carry this little Ruger while running on my trails and practicing archery.

This is the time of year to keep a close look out for snakes if you’re in the woods.

Georgia Cup

The Winnebago is connected to my King Ranch F-150. Reservations are secured at Parkland RV campground in Statesboro, Georgia. In the morning I’ll finish packing my gear and hit the road. I’m packing to head to Georgia State University to compete in the Georgia Cup, an outdoor 50-meter archery tournament.

The campground is only 3 miles away from the Georgia Southern University range where the Georgia Cup is being held. Talk about convenient!

Brenda and the dogs are staying home. Archery is yet to find its place as a spectator sport. However, a friend that lives in Statesboro is going to come and watch for a while.

Saturday, during the qualification round the weather is going to be nice. On Sunday, during the Olympic Round there is a 50% chance of rain and wind at 13 mph. Nothing can be done about that and we all have to compete under the same conditions.

Working Hard and Looking Like a Model

We’re fix’in to move. Nearly everything I own is boxed packed and disassembled. Where are the movers? They’re not late; I’d hoped they’d be early. So, here I sit, bored with nothing to do other than waste brain cells scanning the Internet of anything at all of interest.

During that scan I uncovered a common theme among a select group of individuals. The more apparent it become the more comical is seemed. Collectively, I’ll judge and label them as Posers.

In cycling we have a similar group. In cycling we refer to them as “Freds”. A Fred is that cyclist that has all the gear; wears expensive Pro-team replica uniforms, has watched every Tour de France, and is eager to toss out self-worth at a moments notice. The only flaw with Fred is Fred can’t ride.

Sure, Fred can peddle a bicycle without crashing. That is unless Fred happens to be in a group of other riders and has not yet been dropped off the back of the pack. Fred in a bunch of riders is a serious hazard. Not that other riders worry for long, Fred is gone soon after the pace begins to climb.

In archery there is a counterpart to Fred. These are the individuals I refer to here as Posers.

As is scanned and scrolled over the Internet these Posers began to pop. Common threads began to catch my eye. The first suspicion was how often  these Posers had so many absolutely pristine photographs of themselves.

Admittedly, I am jealous. Online, in my case, the photographs are awful. Those I discovered of me reek from nerd or geek to sweaty, snotty nosed, and disheveled. How is it that any image of me seems totally without the composed grace of a Poser?

Taking a deeper dive into the Poser, I sought remedy to my shamed ego. Then, another clue surfaced. The Poser images seemed to have been professionally captured.

I confuss that professional photographers, mostly lining some race course, have taken a number of pictures of me. I have shamelessly posted them here and on social media. I am not without sin.

The difference is that, unlike the Poser, I was mostly unaware of the shot being taken. Occasionally, I’d see a photographer on a racecourse and I knew she was snapping pictures. Sadly, my awareness was often too late to “fix” myself up. I’d round a turn in a race and there’d sit someone with a fancy camera and ‘Press’ name tag. There I’d be with a grimace, snotty nose, and glazed eyes.

The Poser photographs are of people composed, clear-eyed, sporting perfect skin, and wide smiles with sprinkling teeth. Occasionally, they’re emitting a stern look almost philosophical in nature. It is as if the Poser is somehow trying to portray a spiritual appearance before or after something meaningful that is about to or has just occurred. Seeing such sincere expressions on other athletes made me glad I’ve only once been digitally frozen in time while taking a “natural break” on the side of a road. (Lake Placid Ironman, 2011 – urinating next to a bush. Posterior view only. Professional Photographer, Larry Ten Ecyk. Thanks, Larry.)

The final clue of the Poser that pushed me over the top of this ridiculous barrage of posing is make-up. Upon close inspection it was obvious many of the Posers are wearing make-up!

Wearing make-up to compete. Wearing make-up to shoot. Wearing make-up to hunt! (Women and men) Yes, we’ve seen those Olympic sprinters lining up for a 100-meter sprint wearing make-up. We’ve noticed their beauty and grace. We are aware they are wearing make-up. They are also being paid millions of dollars to run great and if they look good while doing so, fine. Pay me millions (even thousands) to shoot a bow, run or ride a bike, and someone can slap make-up on my face. (It won’t help; I’ll still sweat it off, grimace, blow snot and look bad in general.)

These Internet Posers aren’t Olympians. They seem to be individuals with more money and ego than necessary. They engage professional photographers and make-up artists to capture them posing as make believe athletes. Certainly, there are Posers that look good doing whatever it is they are trying to look good at while doing it. I remain apart from that group.

Two years ago a photographer was accompanying a newspaper reporter at an archery tournament where I was competing.  The reporter wanted a picture of me to use with his article and asked permission before setting his photographer loose upon me.  I agreed and the photographer followed me around doing gyrations with her camera while clicking away pictures.

That day the news duo showed me the picture they’d selected to run with the newspaper article.  The article ran, the paper’s editor had chosen to exclude the picture of me. Again, my fifteen minutes denied.

Perhaps, Posers think the image of them looking good doing something athletic will encourage Nike to send them a contract. It won’t. If you’re good enough Nike will find you. Should that happen you won’t need to worry about make-up or looking good. You’ll just need to be great at your sport.

Archery manufacturers don’t seem quite as discriminating as Nike. Hunting apparel companies, well… a nice face and body can lead to an income as a model. Heck, is many cases, when it comes to archery or hunting a beer belly is not a disadvantage.

In fact, Posers seem to be play-acting as models in hope of becoming an outdoor adventure model. Certainly for some it has worked. To them I say, “Good on you!” From what I’ve scanned online today, among Posers many aren’t seeing what I’ve seen. All of them, however, are better looking than me. At least, they are more photogenic. And overall, no sweat, dirt, grimace, or run away boogers.

Clearing the 3D Range

We’re hours away from the packers arriving to begin the process of moving to Georgia. There is still snow on the ground. Luckily, it is beginning to warm up. Despite the snow, 18-meter practice continued. And it was time to bring in my 3D targets off the old range for their relocation further south.

Back and forth and back and forth

Some of the 3D targets are a little on the heavy side. Over the years as I hauled them out to their spots on the range I toted them in a wheel barrel. None are so heavy they can’t be hefted and hauled by hand. But, if there is an easier way to get work done that is the path for me. A wheel barrel is easier. All this snow on the ground meant no wheel barrel.

Back and forth and back and forth – only now hauling some 3D target.
River seemed a little nostalgic

Over the past few years I have spent a lot of time in the woods around here practicing 3D. The “Park”, as it is called, seemed empty without the patiently waiting foam critters. River, my dog, appeared puzzled by the lack of the forest menagerie.

When we get to Georgia, in 5 days (the movers bring our possessions in 19 days) I’ll begin planning how I’ll arrange the section of our land reserved for a new 3D range. It will take several months to get the new range completed. The woods we own in Georgia are dense with under brush. I don’t want to clear it all, I want to leave enough of the woods to make shots difficult and interesting. Each target will take some placement planning.

“Where is everything?”

In the meantime, there are all those spring and early summer USA Archery tournaments. 3D focus may become a 2019 project. That’s not to suggest there will be no 3D in 2018. Just less 3D than previous years.

Starting a pile of foam for the trip to Georgia