Grand Rapids Michigan – Hot Laps in the Yaris

So, Tye and I rolled out to Michigan this weekend for the Melinn family reunion. We fly into Chicago on Thursday and rented a bad ass Yaris. We got up Friday morning and drove out to Grand Rapids on Friday to meet up with the fam at Aunt Marges house. We had pizza and beer with long lost cousins and aunts at Aunt Marges house Friday evening. Tye and I played some bags with our uncle Tedday and our Dad…the old dudes slayed us two games to one…good times.

Today…Saturday we got up early and shredded some golf with the Melinn clan. Tons of people showed up for the annual E.I. E.I. E.I. O Duke Melinn charity golf event. On the way back to the hotel we decided to stretch the legs of the Yaris…WOW…what a performer.

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We made the Dana Point Times

Check it out, Tim, Scott, John, and I made the Dana Point times.  Special thanks to John Keppler and Tim Abshire for making the article happen as well as our team for helping us get through the race.  We couldn’t have done the race without the help and support of Christine Zuber, Tye Melinn, Steven Walker, Brian Holland from Holland for Loans, Brad Holland from Project Medium, LT Holland, Sage Carli from Carli Suspension, My Mom, Russ Boley, and of course Tim Abshire, Scott Clemens from Traditional Plumbing, and John Zuber from Construction FX for making this race happen.
 

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The 2009 Tecate SCORE Baja 500

Shredding the Red Bull Jump in the Wash-2009 Baja 500
Shredding the Red Bull Jump in the Wash-2009 Baja 500

So, we got it together and finished the Baja 500.  Tim, John, Scott, and I arrived in Baja Tuesday of last week and began our Baja adventure with a bit of prerunning.  Our plan worked out as follows.  I would get on the bike first and run the start, John would be on the bike second and run the summit to Laguna Salada, Tim was the third person on the bike and would ride the bike to the west coast, and Scott would be the anchor man and bring the bike through Santo Thomas back to the finish in Ensenada.  Each of us would end up riding about 100 miles each.

A small tidbit of information – neither Scott nor I had ever raced a dirt bike.  We were going for it-racing the 500 as our first race.

The first day Tim, Scott, and I preran my section from Ojos Negros to RM 100.  My section was pretty fun and had quite a bit of variety…high speed rollers out of Ojos, a sand wash, a bit of silt, several rocky hill climbs, woops, rocky downhills, tons of corners, a super twisty sand wash, a pavement section, more sand wash, more woops, etc.  I was unable to prerun the start as that would not be open for prerunning until Thursday.  The first day of prerunning was full of wrong turns, a couple of crashes, and quite a few minor mistakes.  I ran out of gas about 2 miles from the gas station…oops.  I made a mental note, “tomorrow I’ll bring extra fuel in a water bottle and stick it in my camel back.”  Luckily, I was riding with Scott and Tim.  Scott brought back fuel so that I could make it back to the Pemex station.

Wednesday, John and I ended up prerunning my section together as he was beat up after prerunning the summit on Tuesday.  Tim and Scott preran Tim’s section and part of Scott’s before bailing out at Santo Thomas due to fatigue.  Thursday was a rest day…although Scott ended up riding the last portion of his pre-runable section back to highway 3.  Scott was completely spent after that run…  On Friday, I knew I needed to prerun the start out of Ensenada. Our friend Brian had arrived Thursday night and, he was willing to prerun the start with me.  So, Thursday afternoon Brian and I rode to the wash and preran the start.  Wow, what a technical twisty turny slippery section…I ended up blowing one of the corners and almost drove straight into a barbed wire fence.  I made a mental note to myself…”make sure to slow down for all the corners.”

The day of the race finally arrived.  I woke up early, 4:30am and put on my gear.  I needed to be at the start by 5:30 as my start time was at 6:18am.  So many thoughts went through my mind as I made coffee, fed my dogs, and put on my gear.  I said good-bye to my dogs and told them that I loved them.  Secretly, I wondered if this would be the last time that I would be able to see my dogs.  The Baja 500 is a serious race…as serious as it gets…people die in this race.  People build booby traps, drive the wrong way on the race couse, and mistakes happen…plus this would be my first race on a dirt bike, I really didn’t know what to expect.  At 5:20am I got on the race bike, started it, and drove to the start.

At the start, I saw all the heavies.  I wondered if they were having the same thoughts as I.  I was pretty nervous, my first race, the Baja 500, would I choke, would I crash (uh yeah), would I be able to pull it together and deliver the bike to John in working order?  So many questions ran through my mind.  I was directed into my starting position by a SCORE official.  No turning back now…I’ll be shaking Sal’s hand in a couple of minutes.  I just don’t want to stall the bike.  I’m next…I ride up to Sal…”Have a good race,” he says, “and be safe.”  “Thanks Sal,” I say.  The rider ahead of me takes off, I ride down the ramp, 30 seconds now…the starter waves the flag…GO!

Oh wow, I’m shredding down the Malicon in Ensenada to the first corner, clicking gears, don’t forget to slow down.  Whew…I made the first corner…no worries.  I’m hauling ass now towards the second corner…too fast.  Oh crap, I’m going to blow the second corner on the street…I’m going too fast…SLOW DOWN!  Ah shit I’m skidding now!  The front tire just lost traction…I just laid the bike down on the second corner.  I haven’t even made it to the wash.  I’m completely retarded.  I look around.  Not too many spectators…it’s early.  Hopefully, no one was shooting photos or video (I’m sure my move would make a Baja 500 highlights real).  I pick up the bike…It still looks good…no damage.  I get back on and head to the wash.  Ah, I’m finally on the dirt.  This feels familiar, this feels good, I pin it and I’m on my way through the Red Bull jump.

At the end of the day our team John Zuber, Tim Abshire, Scott Clemens, and I finished the race.  In fact we finished the race ahead of the Trophy Trucks, which for a first time team with first time racers is unheard of.  No one was seriously hurt and we had the time of our lives.  Each of us experienced a lifetime of mistakes, highlights, and narrow misses that day on the bike.  We came away with a lifetime of stories and a common bond that we will have for the rest of our lives…we raced and finished the Baja 500.  Here’s a link to the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 race results.

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Devil’s Backbone Hike from Guffy Campground to Baldy

Max, Zoey, and I on top of Mount San Antonio
Max, Zoey, and I on top of Mount San Antonio

I woke up early last Saturday morning with one goal in mind.  I would drive up to Guffy Campground on Blue Ridge, the mountain range above Wrightwood, and hike from there to the top of Mount San Antonio also know as Mount Baldy.  I had done a bit of research on the internet and had asked a couple of friends about the hike.  My good friend Ryan had done the hike a while ago with Nathan and he explained that it was a pretty steep hike.  I also explained that I had planned on taking the dogs along as well.  Ryan recommended that I leave the dogs behind as the trail is pretty rugged and steep.  I, however, I pretty good confidence in Max and Zoey and knew that they could make it.

Part of the trail heading towards Pine Mountain
Part of the trail heading towards Pine Mountain

We, the dogs and I, set off from Guffy between 7:30 and 8:00am Saturday morning.  We had plenty of water and food for our upcoming journey on the Devil’s Backbone Trail.  We hiked past the slide on the Pacific Crest Trail and soon saw the “Sheeps Wilderness” sign at the Devil’s Backbone Trail Head.

On top of Pine Mountain with Max and Zoey - Mount Baldy in the backgound.
On top of Pine Mountain with Max and Zoey - Mount Baldy in the backgound.

For those who are not familiar with the Devil’s Backbone Trail near Wrightwood, the trail starts at one of the bends in Blue Ridge Road.  The notable landmarks are the obvious ridge leading to the top of Pine Mountain and the “Sheeps Wilderness” sign at the trail head.  The Devil’s Backbone Trail traverses two summits on the way to the final summit on Mount San Antonio, the highest peak in the San Gabriel range.  The two additional summits are Pine Mountain and Mount Dawson, although the trail does not actually pass over the top of Dawson.

Wind blown trees on top of Dawson
Wind blown trees on top of Dawson

The Devil’s Backbone Trail is a very strenuous trail and hikers are literally led straight up the ridge and then straight down depending on the direction of travel.  Keep in mind that Pine Mountain and Dawson must be summited twice on the way to and on the way back from Mount Baldy.

The ridge leading down from Dawson with Mount San Antonio aka Baldy in the Background
The ridge leading down from Dawson with Mount San Antonio aka Baldy in the Background

Pine Mountain at 9,648 feet is the second tallest peak in the San Gabriel range and is the first peak to traversed on the way to Mount Baldy via the Devil’s Backbone Trail.  Next Dawson is traversed to the southwest as the ridge falls away into a “saddle” on the way to Mount Baldy.  At 10064 feet Mount San Antonio is the highest peak in the San Gabriel range.  The final push to the top of Mount San Antonio aka Baldy is quite steep and strenuous, however, once at the top hikers are rewarded with amazing views of the northern San Gabriel range, views of the Inland Empire, and the Mojave Desert.  However, don’t expect the summit of Mount San Antonio to be a private affair as most hikers reach the summit via the Mount Baldy Ski area ski lift.  My summit experience was no different and there were nearly 30 individuals on the summit there to great Max, Zoey, and I.

Max and Zoey cooling off in the snow
Max and Zoey cooling off in the snow

The hike back was just as strenous as the hike in although there is a bit more downhill on the hike back.  Both Dawson and Pine Mountain must be summitted once again…and unfortunately, they’re still the same height as they were on the hike in.

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The Slide Hike

Todd Near the Top of The Slide
Todd Near the Top of The Slide

On April 25th Ryan, Max, Zoey, and I hiked the Acorn Trail to the top of the slide near Wrightwood for a bit of exercise and to check out the Devil’s Backbone trail.  Ryan and I wanted to check out the condition of the trail to see if it would be possible to hike it without any snow gear.  I took a couple of photos and as of the 25th of April 2009 it would still be a bit difficult without snow gear.  However, as of this writing Blue Ridge road is open and I plan on hiking from Guffy campground to the summit of Baldy via the Devil’s backbone trail this Saturday May 9th.

Ryan on a rock as we hike towards the slide
Ryan on a rock as we hike towards the slide

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Mount Baden-Powell Hike

Max, Zoey and I at the top of Mount Baden Powell
Max, Zoey and I at the top of Mount Baden Powell

Last week I decided to hike Mount Baden Powell with my snowboard and my dogs.  Mount Baden Powell is located near Wrightwood and, at 9,407 feet, it is the 4th tallest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains.  I woke up Saturday morning – April 18 – grabbed my snowboard and my dogs and headed up to the base of Baden Powell.  As usual, Max and Zoey, were super excited as we reached the parking lot and the bothjumped out of the truck and ran around like the crazed maniac labs that they are.  Earlier in the week I had purchased dog packs for them both and I figured this hike would be a good time to try them out.  I put the first pack on Zoey and she seemed to take to it quite well.  Max, on the other hand, appeared to have issues with the pack that I put on him.  He kept trying to jump backward out of the pack…it was pretty comical.  In the end I ended up taking the pack off of Max for this hike.  It was up to Zoey to carry the water up for all of us in her pack.

We left the base at about 9:30 am and passed several groups of hikers on the trail.  Many seemed to struggle with the snow still covering the trail just a couple of switchbacks up.  The early going was quite easy and I was making good time.  About 1/4 of the way up the trail snow completely covered the trail and I started to feel a bit fatigued as I didn’t eat any breakfast that moring…big mistake.  Next time I need to make sure I fuel up before heading out.  I ended up meeting up with some telemark skiers for a bit and I hiked with them for as long as I could keep up.  However, they ended up slaying me as my fatigue continued to rear it’s ugly head.  Non the less, I kept putting one foot in front of the other and eventually reached the summit.

Once at the summit I had a good rest and had the one of the tele guys shoot a few photos.  I was going to get some photos of them as well except the battery on my camera died within a couple of shots.  All that extra weight nearly wasted because of a dead battery…  However, I got one shot with the dogs at the summit.

Eventually, it was time to strap on the snowboard and begin the descent down the north face gully of Baden Powell.  This gully typically fills with snow and can be ridden well into late May on good snow years.  The snow was still pretty firm, however, the temperature was warm enough to provide a soft top layer for some shredable turns.  The dogs did great until I traversed over onto a ridge and decided to drop one of the steeper sections.  I dropped in, made a couple of turns and stopped about midway down the chute to check on the dogs.  Zoey slid right into me – she was charging it.  Max on the other hand got freaked out and stopped in a tree island.  He wouldn’t drop in and slide down.  He just stayed there and kept barking at me.  He then hiked up to the top of the ridge sat down and stared at me.  He wasn’t going to come down the chute.  At this point I had only one choice.  Hike back up the chute, strap in, grab Max by the collar and assist him with his glisading down the chute…if Zoey can do it on her own…Max should have no trouble with a bit of assistance.

So, I unstrapped, hiked back up the chute, which was a little sketchy as the chute was steep and the snow was pretty firm on the face, and gained purchase on the ridge.  There was Max, chilling on the ridge, and he still wanted nothing to do with the chute.  I strapped in, grabbed Max by the collar and off we went down the chute…Max with his paw breaks on the whole time.  In the end he made it down without issue.  Although, when I attempted to call him over for a congratulations he just looked at me with a look of…dude I’m not coming near you…you just drug me down that steep ass chute.

At this point we were in the gully which is much less steep and the dogs were able to follow me down to where the snow ends without issue.  In the end the dogs did super well…better than I had expected.  Zoey did way better than expected…she carried the water and dropped the super steep chute without any complaints.  It was a great hike.

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