Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Copper Breaks, TX: Bikes & Red Dirt & Wild Pigs, Oh My!

A last-minute decision had us in the car this past weeknd with our Salsa Cutthroats & camping equipmentm headed to Copper Breaks State Park in Quanah, Texas. I've had Copper Breaks on the North Texas wish list and it's a somewhat closer trip than Palo Duro and Caprock Canyons (also on the to-do list). Also, I've made it this far in life without ever actually seeing a canyon.

We pulled into Copper Breaks State Park in the early afternoon. Our campsite had a beautiful view of the gorge. We set up our tent and my hammock and went out for a 40 mile early-evening spin.

We chose to follow the RAT (Race Across Texas) gravel route from West to East for a bit. After 2 pavement miles out of the park, we hopped immediately onto some mostly hard-pack red dirt, intermixed with white sand softened by the recent rain.

Blue sunny skies and temps in the low 90s gave way after a few hours to a setting sun and a South wind that dropped the temp 10 degrees.

An old pump station.
General store from times past.

Small cactus farm?
We rolled back toward Copper Breaks as the sun was setting, and captured some great red dirt photos just down Star Valley Road.

I made quick work of a chocolate java Huppy Bar and some celiac-friendly Good-To-Go camp food. We had clear skies and an excellent view of the Milky Way for the evening. For a camera phone, this is a pretty impressive shot of the night sky (credit: Scott Drevicky).

The next morning we rolled out in the opposite direction along the RAT route, heading west. This segment takes you out of Copper Breaks State Park and up into the town of Quanah, before heading in the direction of the red roads and Caprock Canyons. Skies were overcast and the brief period of rain was a welcome relief from the heat.

As we looped back around to Quanah, we saw a large blob in the distance. As we approached, we realized it was a large wild pig. I was quite excited. The last (and only other) time I saw wild pigs, a tiny family of them ran in front of me during a race near Jacksboro, Texas. This piggy was flying solo and could probably cause some damage! It ran off before we got too close.

Back at Copper Breaks State Park, we packed up bikes and camp gear after taking advantage of the showers. Back to reality all too soon.

Photos: Scott Drevicky

Friday, September 7, 2018

Summer Huppy Bar Adventures!

I was first introduced to Huppy Bars through a free sample that arrived with my custom Rogue Panda frame bag (a fellow Arizona-based company). You can read about the story behind Huppy Bars here, but the short version is that founder Lindsay Hupp started making nutrient-dense bars for herself as a river guide on , and due to popular local demand, they're now the basis for the Huppybar company. That free sample did its job...as an endurance athlete with an endurance day job (14 hours in a busy ER is no joke) I'm all-too-frequently on the hunt for something portable that resembles real food, and is celiac-friendly. Bonus points if it involves chocolate. I invested in a variety dozen, and quickly munched through those. Luckily Huppy Bar put out an offer to fuel a few folks' summer adventures, and that's how the boy & I ended up with a few cases of AZT Wild Mesquite, Pecan Orange Spice, Chocolate Java, and Coconut Date Ginger for our summer bike travels.

Our Huppy bars first came on a bikepacking trip that meandered from Tulsa to Stillwater and Perkins, and back to Tulsa. We stopped at multiple convenience stores to resupply on the 210 mile round trip, but reached for the Pecan Orange Spice and Wild Mesquite bars way more often than gas station chips. They also made an excellent 2nd and 3rd breakfast.

I had some serious sweet-snack fatigue after a lot of hours in the saddle, and the slightly savory Mesquite hit the spot. Spud the weiner dog, who resides at Keith's Bike Fort - our stopover for the night - can be seen below trying to solicit Huppy bars from Scott. He was unsuccessful.

A dozen huppy bars made the trip up to Cumming, Iowa, for a 400k gravel enduro - appropriately named 24 Hours of Cumming. I wrote about all 24 hours (and then some) here, and snapped this shot while crossing a tire-eating wooden bridge somewhere around mile 160 at 1am, munching on a Chocolate Java bar, and contemplating my life choices.
Not pictured is my good old classic red Coleman cooler, which served as my support station during 24 Hours of Cumming. It was stocked with cold brew, potato chips, a dozen Huppy bars, peanut butter sandwiches, pickles, and 8 bottles of water/Nuun/Sword drink mix.

In mid-August, we loaded up the car with two gravel bikes and a full cooler once again and headed to El Dorado, Kansas for Grit Gravel Grind. It was a beautiful ride through the Flint Hills of Southeastern Kansas, and a few Coconut Date Ginger bars fueled me over wind and hills to the overall women's title. We spent some extra time hanging around the campground at El Dorado State Park, eating cold watermelon and drinking brews from Walnut River Brewing Company.
El Dorado, KS
A summer wound down, I decided that driving deep into the heart of middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma for the Sizzlin Sasquatch trail run would be therapeutic after a month of working in the pediatric ICU. It's based out of Centrahoma, Oklahoma on the race organizer's property. An ultra runner himself, he's carved a 3.25 mile loop on a mix of grass, dirt, and rock through fields and woods surrounding his farmland, and offers camping for free on his property. I pitched a tent the night before and settled in for a few hours of sleep before the 5am start. Start line instructions include making sure you say good morning to the llama and four donkeys who reside in the adjoining fields. I annihilated a Coconut Ginger Date bar towards the beginning of the race, which kept me full through 2 and a half hours and 16 miles, run mostly in the dark. I encountered one skunk and Mr. Sasquatch (pictured below).

If you've run for hours in the woods, you're probably acquainted with the after-burn effect. This led to late-afternoon "Snackz of Champions" after the return trip from Centrahoma: equal ratio of Shacksbury dry cider to Chocolate Java bar. Highly recommend. Five stars. A++.

"Summer" may be over in theory with Labor Day in the rear view mirror, but fortunately we've got some (big!) trips to go. The boy will be taking part of what's left of our stash on the Race Across Texas 1000 in October, and the rest will likely come up to Iowa with me for another gravel ultra. We'll be restocking before a New Mexico/Colorado bikepacking trip in the fall, TBD. Thanks again to the fine folks at Huppy Bar for fueling these adventures!

How many Huppy Bars can you fit in a top tube bag? About 9...