Friday, May 22, 2015

Fun in the Mud

Skunk River Greenbelt Trail
(interactive map)
I found a cool off-road biking/hiking route that's really close by.  At first I was thinking of doing it as part of a bigger loop starting and ending from my home but then I got the opportunity of taking the kids along for a one way trip along the Skink River Greenbelt Trail.  It's a mix of single track and gravel road path that I haven't explored before.

The one thing we found out quite soon is that the path was still on the too muddy side.  While it added a lot of experiences to our trip, I do agree with the sign about not biking along the trail in muddy conditions.  The mud clogged up our bikes pretty badly in the first part.  Front wheel blockage of my daughter's bicycle caused her to fall. After that we had to push (and drag a little) our bikes through the rest of the muddy parts.  Unfortunately my hands were full so I didn't get much chance to capture that with the camera.

Later on the path got more solid and the riding got better.  Although my daughter isn't a fan of single track riding, especially because of the hills.  Maybe with more and better experience she's getting a bit more excited to do so.  Keeping in mind it's her first time.

The gravel road was also a welcome change as there wasn't much traffic, no washboard, and all together easy to ride.  A few highlights of the trip were the suspension bridge hidden in the forest, a tree trunk crossing that was home to a toad, and the river crossing.

I'm looking forward to another ride on the trail when it's not as muddy and hopefully still without mosquitoes.

PDF map of the Skunk River Greenbelt Trail:

Trail head

Muddy forest path

This is Iowa, too

Riding into the meadow

Are we lost yet

No time to pose for a photo

Mud taking its toll on us and the bikes

One of a few logs across the path

Daughter and dad

4th Try Bridge, what a weird name for a bridge

Mud blockage

Nice non-muddy path

Zooming on the gravel road

Hydration time

Rare photo of the boy

Found a hidden suspension bridge

and had to enjoy it a bit

Riding along Skunk River

Play time - river crossing break

Another hill

Path north of McFarland Park along the interstate

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Android Skiing App Review

We are lucky to have a great skiing hill near by.  It's nothing in comparison to the Alps or Rockies but it's still great because it allows us to go skiing every weekend.  The owners of Seven Oaks Recreation are also very passionate about slope preparation, snow making and providing the best skiing opportunities possible.  Personally I think their skiing is so great because they use PistenBullys to do their snow grooming. LOL The cool part this year is the newly created ski race club that our kids are enjoying a lot.

Seven Oaks Ski Race Club

I've been tracking my skiing just for fun on Trace Snow, formerly known as Alpine Replay.  Other alternatives for Android phones are Ski Tracks and Snocru.  However, it pretty quickly becomes obvious that Trace is by far superior to the other two.  Running all three apps simultaneously today only Trace recognized my 32 runs. The app as no issue identifying the lift segments and analyzing the data.  Only on the rope tow lift, which runs too slow, does the app have trouble to correctly detect that you're on a lift and not skiing up the very gentle slope.  Ski Tracks and Snocru record the whole day as a single run.  Basically you could have just run any GPS tracking app like My Tracks from Google.

Trace Snow:

Trace Snow - Overview

Trace Snow - Run details

Ski Tracks:

Ski Tracks - Overview

Ski Tracks - Map

Ski Tracks - Split data by vertical decent, distance, or hour


Snocru - Speed

Snocru - Distance

Snocru - Altitude

Snocru - Vertical decent

Snocru - Runs
Besides tracking, Trace and Snocru advertise their social features of the app.  Here Ski Tracks stands out by not requiring an account.  All data of Ski Tracks are stored on your phone so privacy can be guaranteed. 

Snocru is purely an mobile app platform.  Only the top stats of the leader board is published on their website, every other interaction is done through the mobile app.  You can befriend other Snocru members and chat with them apparently.  But at least for my region, the app doesn't show any Snowcru users.  Even the Near Me features that should identify business such as restaurants doesn't show anything.  So while Seven Oaks is listed as a Resort, it doesn't appear with the Near Me feature either.  From what I see Snocru is pretty much a let down in the social aspect of the app as well.

Trace also has a decent web interface where you can review your skiing tracks, follow friends and other skiers at your resort.  Even Seven Oaks has already 18 different Trace members on their leader board.  It's no Facebook though.  While you can easily reach out to other skiers, the social interaction doesn't seem to be a main activity by its member.  Which is totally fine with me, it's much more fun to ski than to sit in the lodge over your phone checking messages.

Monday, January 12, 2015

I should have known something was wrong

Having gotten a barely used set of studded winter tires my argument of never riding when there's snow or ice on the ground changed. These tires do such a great job in packed snow that its a lot of fun riding them. On dry asphalt/concrete ther work but you'll wish the packed snow back. The ride will sound like riding on a crushed limestone path. I also have the feeling that turns need to be taken with care when on dry road.

Bicycle commute on a warmer day

Today was the first commute with these tires, and the first bike ride of the year because of the snow. I loved it. It was really fun. Strangely on the ride home I got the chills and for the first time my fingers got cold with the Outdoor Research Alti Mitts. It wasn't any colder that evening compared to the morning. -3 (-9 wind chill) versus -1 (-11 wind chill) fahenheit. Recalling it now I remember the cold being a chill, totally different than the freezing your limbs off.

Yes, tonight I got miserably sick. Probably the stomach flu that everybody but me got over the holidays. I guess even with sickness I'm slow to catch on ;) Hopefully I can go to bed, rest and get well soon.