I would submit to you that there’s no greater form of cycling than Monstercross. Riding a quilted frankenbike across gravel, singletrack, grassy fields and (insert surface type here) is, in my opinion, as good as it gets.
On Black Friday of 2014, Dan Fuhrmann put together just such a ride. Links were posted, tape was hung and the party was in full swing. I think it’s worth mentioning that Dan accepted no money for his work, insisting that all he wanted was to “share this slice of heaven with as many people as possible.” What follows is a very brief description of the ride in hopes that you’ll be there next year.
Pulling into the parking area, I was surprised and pleased to see Travis had made it, along with Jim Phillips and a whole slew of strong, fast cyclists.
The ride started out on a bit of dirt road along the Piney River, which was incredible. The pace was brisk, but I did manage to chat with Travis for a few minutes before my first mechanical of the day.
A dropped chain early in the ride had me off the back quicker than usual, but I did eventually end up riding with Ron Chinn and Shawn Bleiler. Ron was obviously the strongest in our group, but he didn’t rub it in too bad.
The gravel eventually gave way to some double track/atv paths and was an absolute blast. There were plenty of mud/water holes and a lot of sandy spots. I will confess I did some walking, but that’s only because I’m a raging fatass. All of the roads/trails were rideable and very fun.
At one of the gravel/pavement intersections I saw a bit of animal bone that could not have been from a deer:
…and a few feet from there I spotted what I presumed to be a poached black bear’s hide.I would later learn from Shawn this was actually a legally-killed feral hog. If I’d only had racks on my bike I could’ve gathered the pelts and made a pair of ass-less chaps for Casey.
^^Look at the fat layer on that thing! –(TWSS)
The ride was full of kickass scenery and jeep-trails. I couldn’t help but wonder how Dan found all of this stuff and laced it together into such a great ride.
Not having ridden much leading into this weekend, I was a little bit smoked when I finally rolled into the Elbow Inn Bar and BBQ Pit, but a fried pork tenderloin sandwich and Stag beer had me refueled in no time. As always, greasy bar food after a hard day on the bike is pretty amazing. I have to say this was a fantastic ride and I would have been a fool to miss out on it.
But the real fun hadn’t even started, because as soon as this ride was over I was in the truck on the way To Sutton’s Bluff for a bikepacking weekend with Luke and Dave. More on that later.
Sunday’s scouting ride was supposed to be 40-ish miles long…more on that later. Adam and I rolled out from Dos Primos at around 9am, and it wasn’t long before we were riding North on County Road 363.
The weather was absolutely magnificent. Seriously, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the high-temp was only going to be around 80 degrees. Perfect weather for anything, except working or cleaning the house. Laundry be damned, we had more important things to do.
For those unfamiliar with the Cedar Creek trail system, do yourself a favor and print this map. (It’s a friggin’ nightmare to find online.) A combination of singletrack and gravel roads, the trail system is largely unused. When you’re out there you almost never run into another person. The trails are pretty nice, save for a few sections that have been horse-trampled. From 363, we turned left onto 364 and followed it all the way to the National Forest entrance. Once you’re through the gate, you get ride through stuff like this:
Follow those tracks for a while and you’ll eventually come to this opening:
From that hill, it’s only a short ride until a steep piece of downhill singletrack drops you onto the gravel of Burnett School road. Burnett School road becomes Shelton road as it snakes Northward. This section is almost all uphill, but the view on either side of the road is a welcome distraction from the effort you’re putting forth to get up the climb.
About 100 yards before you get to Hwy Y, theres’ an area on the right that has been mown down. This is actually a part of Cedar Creek trail, which was put there to keep people from having to ride on Hwy Y. Very thoughtful, in my opinion.
That connector will put you straight across the street from Bob Veach road. Bob Veach Road is a relatively flat piece of gravel with a few rolling hills. It goes almost straight North for several miles.
There are a few nice houses and a couple of families who are really into horses. It’s not uncommon to see people out here just riding around on horseback.
Eventually you’ll see a sign for Clinkenbeard rd. This is where you wanna hang a left.
Clinkenbeard has a few more climbs, but nothing too earth-shattering. Eventually, you intersect Engelwood road, where you turn right and immediately turn left onto Johnson Cemetry rd. At this time you will be promptly attacked by two asshole dogs. Bring your dog spray or a pistol, I know I will next time.
Johnson Cemetery rd runs into Ginn Lane, where you take a left. Ginn Lane has got some nasty climbs and a twisty downhill that’ll streak your chamois if you don’t tap the brakes. This is a fun road.
Barnes Chapel road leads you to the Moon Loop Trailhead, and this is where Monstercross truly begins.
***A little bit of history on the Moon Loop: When the US Forest Service took ownership of this area in the 1930’s, the area was so eroded that it looked like the surface of the Moon. Hence the name “Moon Loop” . ****
Anyhow, Adam and I made our way into the woods and commenced the taint-bashing experience that is riding a cross bike on singletrack. The first 100 yards or so is pretty bumpy, but then it opens up.
The “open-air” type of trail soon ends and you find yourself riding through a very nice piece of our National Forest.
Every good cyclocross course has barriers, and this one will be no exception. There are a number of “barriers” out there, and when this race finally happens you will come to love each and every one of them.
A run-up is a staple item for any decent cross course, so it’s only natural that a Monstercross course has one or two of them. We crossed a dry creek, and on the other side is a steep “run-up” past the old Mill Site.
Towards the end of the trail, Adam smacked a hidden log and went for a little trip over the handlebars. It was awesome, and I made him stay in the thorns until I got this picture.
Truly great race-courses don’t happen on accident. It takes a lot of careful planning and scouting….and getting lost. Somehow, we wound up back at the trailhead, having done the entire loop instead of only the first 3 miles like we’d planned. To say I was frustrated would be a serious understatement.
We were both running pretty short on water at this point, but we got lucky when we found the water spigot in front of Barnes Chapel Church.
By now we were both feeling a bit drained, so we opted to alter the route. There would be no more scouting of virgin trail today, the smart thing to do was take our candy asses back to the gravel and head for Highway J. Along the way, we stopped to take a leak, (read: I had to walk the hill) and Adam found a McDonald’s cup with 2 Monopoly stickers still on it. He was rewarded with a coupon for a free 1/4 pounder with cheese.
After crossing Rutherford Bridge, we took a left and headed up county rd 354. This is a super-shitty piece of road that we will not likely include on raceday. The one highlight to this piece of road is when you get to ride past the home of a very “Shrek-like” guy who REALLY doesn’t want you trespassing on his land. Check out the sign in his front yard.
I’d really like to get a closer shot of that sign, but I’m pretty sure this asshole is just dying for an excuse to shoot someone. Just in case you’re curious, this is how it reads:
Property owner will shoot to kill any man woman or child dispensing weaponry toward this property
Said owner will engage and subdue anyone dispensing weaponry within 150 yards of said property
Unwelcome domestic animals are killed
No aid now available to distressed National Forest visitors
Someone must have really pissed that guy off. The funny thing is that I’m pretty sure he spent more time working on the sign than he did on his house. One whole side of his house doesn’t even have siding on it, just plastic-wrap.
Once we hit Highway J, we rode pavement all the way back to New Bloomfield. I dont know about Adam, but my ass was dragging pretty bad at this point. I must’ve eaten a bad snack or something, because my stomach was all kinds of messed up. When we finally made it t0 a gas station, I got some beef jerky and Coca Cola. I thought the sugar would calm my stomach down…I was wrong. I walked out of the gas station and promptly vomited 2 cans of coke and a bag of beef jerky. And while that was disgusting, it was even more disgusting that Adam took no pictures. I think you know what that means.
After I got all the puking handled, we were back on the road…headed for that glorious plate of shrimp nachos at the end of the rainbow. At the end of the day the cyclometer showed 56 miles, but that doesn’t account for any of the hike-a-biking or tree-hurdling we did out there.
It was a day full of triumph and failure, but the greatest shock didn’t happen for me until we got to Dos Primos. I ordered a pitcher of beer and my beloved shrimp nachos….then couldn’t eat or drink any of it. After barfing jerky and coke, the prospect of a followup performance with shrimp and beer was too much, even for me. Luckily, Adam fell short on the photo-taking once again..thus saving me years of embarrassment.
The next day, I went out there and figured out where we went wrong. We missed the connector, but if the trail were better marked, we wouldn’t have had any problems. I have since “re-marked” the connector, and am looking forward to scouting/pre-riding this course again very soon. When this race-course finally comes to fruition, you better be there and you better pack a lunch.