Friday, August 21, 2009

Team Alpine Shop Wins St. Louis Urban Assault Ride

August 16th 2009

David Frei and I (Jeff Sona) – members of Team Alpine Shop - signed up for the New Belgium Brewing Urban Assault Ride a week before the race. This is a scavenger hunt bike race starting in Forest Park in St. Louis to checkpoints across the city with various challenges at each one.

Five checkpoints were given to us via the web prior to the event with one mystery checkpoint revealed via a word scramble clue 2 days before the race. That clue was:antarctic granola limbo dens”. That turns out to be “Botanical Gardens Climatron”.

A trivia quiz promoting race sponsors and cycling was e-mailed out on the Wednesday before the race and based on the score on the quiz, teams started in three heats, two and a half minutes apart. Our trusty team secretary, aka my wife Carrie – also a member of Team Alpine Shop, scored a second wave start for our team, two and a half minutes back at the start.

After the word scramble, the known checkpoints going into the race were the Botanical Gardens Climatron, Tower Grove Park (Gus Fogt Picnic Area), BicycleWORKS, City Museum, Big Shark and Mesa Cycles. We would collect a bead to put on a chain at each checkpoint. Our route had us going to the Botanical Gardens first and then continuing on to the others with the plan to go to a second mystery checkpoint whenever it made the most sense with our planned route.

175 teams lined up at the start for a 200 yard run to the bikes. 150 seconds after the first heat took off, we ran to our bikes. We were pushing hard to make up the time and starting passing teams; so much so in fact, that we arrived at the Botanical Gardens in first place. Unfortunately, no one at the Gardens had any clue what to do with this until a lady finally came out and had us go around to the side just as other teams were getting there. Once directed, we ran around the side to the Climatron. There we were shown the picture below as Mystery Checkpoint 2:

David said “I know exactly where that is. “ Back on the bikes for a quick trip to Tower Grove. We were the first team to Tower Grove Park in South St. Louis where we faced our first challenge. We both put one foot in a pair of shoes with left and right reversed with a Frisbee attaching them at the top holding 3 tennis balls. We had to walk about 50 feet to a series of cones while balancing the balls. We dropped them a couple times.

As we were heading out other teams showed up. Off to BicycleWORKS for the best challenge of the day: adult Big Wheels on a serpentine course. We probably lost a little time spinning out around the tight corners but what a hoot! Instead of putting the beads on the necklace, David was putting them in a pack and kept saying, “I hope this doesn’t have a hole in it!”

A long ride to City Museum followed with us pushing hard with a little tailwind, mostly green lights and light traffic. At the City Museum, other teams were already in the midst of the challenge: climb 10 flights of stairs to the roof, up three more flights to a tower with a ramp encircling it to the tip top of the tower. The view from the top was absolutely beautiful. Another bead and a slide ride down to the rooftop and then 10 flights back down. From David’s Wild Onion Adventure Racing days he can fly down the steps and beat me down. He ran out, got his bike and had my bike up and ready to go.

From there on to Big Shark. Because teams had their choice of route it was hard to know where we were in the pack. At Big Shark the challenge was for both of us to get on a skateboard together with a plunger and use the plunger as an oar while picking up cans of 3 different colors from buckets at the end of the parking lot. There were five buckets set up and you could only get a single can from each bucket. David was in the front with the plunger and I was getting cans. Got a red one first and rolled past the second bucket and grabbed a blue one; but I overturned the bucket and had to stop on a downhill and pick everything up. We then had to go back uphill and I took the plunger to the back and pushed us up. Another bead and on to Mesa.

At Mesa we did the wet sponge toss to a laundry basket on David’s head. We had to catch three. We got three in a row but they didn’t see the “swoosh” laid down on shot number 2 so we did one more. One more bead and to the last checkpoint which was Roxy Paine's 56-foot-tall stainless steel tree outside the St. Louis Art Museum. When we got there we were the first team there and we realized it looked like we would win because it was our last checkpoint. We picked up our seventh and final bead, placed it with the rest that were luckily all in the pack, strung them and had a short trip back to the finish.

We came in to the parking lot where Carrie was cheering and happy to see us in first place. We pulled our bikes into the field, took off our bike shoes and went through the blow up obstacle course. Taking the the kids to Bounce U had me done before David and we handed them our beads with a winning time of 1:23 and went to check out our new cruiser bikes!

Excellent after party. Many teams had great costumes and there was a bike limbo and other games and frivolity. Do this race next year! You won’t regret it.

Link to results and photos

Other photos:

Riverfront Times

STL today

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Missouri's North Fork of the White River

Missouri and Illinois are home to some of the nicest float streams in the country. Most people from the St. Louis and the Columbia metro areas head south-southwest to the Gasconade, Meramec, Big Piney, Current and Jacks Fork rivers for a day or a weekend of leisurely paddling. There is little doubt that the Current an Jacks Fork are very special streams, and nationally recognized as "scenic".

If you have not tried it, add a trip to the North Fork of the White River, in far southern Missouri to your future plans. Sections of this river, in my opinion, rank near the top of all Missouri or Arkansas streams for recreational value and for scenery.

The North Fork arises just south of Cabool, Missouri (near Highway 63) and is fed by Indian Creek and numerous springs to make it a beautiful float stream. It enter Norfork lake just north of the Arkansas border. In the springtime, it is floatable from above Missouri Highway 76 downstream; as the spring wears on the highest put-in point is Topaz (an old ghost town with a water mill, 6 miles downstream. Finally by late summer, unless you are interested in wade fishing, Twin Bridges becomes the highest practical put-in point. Even in near drought years the river is even floatable from Rainbow Springs downstream to Dawt Mill, a long one day float.

This river has many Class 2 stretches at the spring water levels; but is fun even in late summer. The bedrock along this stream creates ledges which produce large standing waves (they will enter the canoe or kayak) all summer long. The volume of flow is high and constant due to the large springs. The water is crystal to blueish in color and very cold (due to the influence of the large springs along the way).

Because of the water temperature below Rainbow Springs (aka. Double Springs), the Missouri Department manages a fantastic "Blue Ribbon" trout fishery. Rainbows reproduce naturally in this stream and in great numbers, and frequently reach a length of 22" or more. In addition, Brown trout are stocked several times per year, and reach weights of up to 15 pounds. If you are planning to fish below the springs, check the regulations.

The upper section of the river is a very good smallmouth bass fishery; with plenty of 20+ inches in length.

The scenery is magnificent to near wilderness from Hammond Camp to Kelly Ford. Black bears are becoming more common in that section. the bird life along this river is phenomenal; with a hundred species of wood warblers, vireos, shorebirds, swallows, and a nice population of nesting Bald eagles.

Spanish Moss hangs from many old cedars on the top of bluffs. Maidenhair ferns cling to the rocks at water level on the same bluff.

If you are planning to camp along the way, gravel bars are nard to find, so begin looking for a suitable location early in the evening. Because of the spring-fed nature of this stream, it is also ideal for wintertime float trips. Call the Alpine Shop for detailed particulars on put-in, take-out points. outfitters, fishing regulations, etc.

You will not be sorry you made the 3 1/2 hour trip to the North Fork.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Team Alpine Shop Takes Dusk to Dawn Adventure Racing Title

On the evening of July 25 into the morning of July 26, Team Alpine Shop was hard at work in the Bonk Hard Racing Dusk To Dawn Adventure Race. Nine hours after their start, our team consisting of Carrie and Jeff Sona, David Frei and Doug Nishimura, have another win in the books.

Here's Carrie's account:
Doug, Jeff, David and myself headed to Lake Perry for D2D. We have done this race all 4 years and love the format. Race mantra- “Start at dusk and finish at dawn- racin’ in the cool of the night”.

The pre-race meeting was at 7:30 pm and we got the maps. With all of us relegated to reading glasses except our youngster Doug, at 40, we were happy to see that all the controls were marked and we didn’t have to plot. The race start was moved up to 8:30. We went back to the TA and got busy route planning. We would start on foot and then we would come back to the TA once early and then not til the finish. The start was moved to 8:45 and we lined up. Jason held up the flag, played the national anthem and then shouted go. Fast and furious start as usual. About a mile road run to 3 controls in the woods that could be obtained in any order. Mass crowd to CP 1 and 2 and then on the way to 3 some teams cut off at a pond that didn’t seem far enough to David so we kept going. We were in and out of 3 at the front and headed back to the TA. We were happy that the 3rd control was a little challenging to separate the field. Total mileage of the first O section was at 4 miles. A couple of solo racers got back ahead of us by a couple of minutes. Next up was heading out on bike and then to a bike drop. Exciting event for 1st section- Doug lost his shoe in thick mud twice.

A few miles ride to get out of the park to a bikewhack to the road. We saw Phil (soloist) taking the hill to the left of where we went up. We got up the road farther and saw a 2 guy team ahead and passed them. Then we saw Eric (soloist) and were feeling good as we were in the lead with them. Phil and Eric stuck with us until we got to the paddle. Few uneventful controls on the bike before the bike drop. 22.5 miles to the bike drop followed by the second trek section that looked like straight forward follow the trail type stuff to the paddle put in. We were disappointed that the nav was easy but it turned out to be more challenging than we thought. Staying on the trail was difficult. David didn’t want to give up on it and just head south as finding it again when it petered out could prove tough. He was right so we pace-counted and stayed focused to keep track of where we were on the map closely. With his careful nav we went right to everything and got to the canoe. Second trek ~ 4 miles. Gear check with some nice identical twin sisters at the canoe and then we started paddling. Exciting event for section 2- I went down hard on my left hip on the gravel skidding to a stop at one of the controls. I have a big bruise there now as a result.

At the paddle, Eric and Phil got to paddle their kayaks while we had lovely aluminum canoes. We chose to take only 1 kayak paddle (for me) but the paddle was twice as long as we thought as we didn’t realize we were going to paddle to our bikes and then put them in the canoes with us and take them to the paddle take out. The paddle was beautiful with a crescent moon and perfect temperature. We paddled to the bike drop to load up our 50 + pounds of expensive weight and secured them in the boats and headed out. The soloists had their bikes moved for them as they were in kayaks so they got to keep moving and we got behind them and never could catch them again. Bushwackers was the closest team to us and we knew they took kayak paddles so were worried. We saw the Bushwackers glow sticks as we headed out of the CP. Jeff was bumming he didn’t have a kayak paddle and was moving his little canoe paddle like crazy. We paddled to the take out and kept looking back but we never saw Bushwackers. Paddle 9.2 miles. Exciting event- lake so shallow in the middle of the lake that Jeff got out and pushed at one point.

At the boat take out we unloaded our bikes and had a 3 point O section. As we headed out we saw Eric finishing the O. We had a little problem with one on the shoreline that took a few minutes but no major deal. When we got back to head out for the last bike section we saw Bushwackers coming in from the paddle. O section 3 miles.

Last bike was ~ 20 miles with 6-7 of it a rocky, single track section. First section of single track was fun but by the end I was losing my sense of humor with the rocks and ready to get to the finish! There was a night trail run on the same trail that night and there were pink ribbons and glow sticks adorning our route but the prettiest sight were the jugs and igloo coolers full of water at the CP in the middle of the single track. We were all at the end of our water so we guzzled, filled up some bottles and headed for the finish. Crossed the line just before 6 am. Exciting event- 1st place finish!

Results/splits Good race all the way around. Well organized, fun format, CP’s spot on. Sadly, Jason says this is the last year for D2D at Lake Perry but we’re hoping he finds another spot for this great race. Thanks to Jason, Laura, Kelly Sumner (course designer) and all the volunteers.