dirt bike riding

Exploring the Camp Claiborne Multi-Use Trail

During our long holiday break we enjoyed a couple of days trailing riding at new spot we found – Camp Claiborne, in Forest Hill, Louisiana. It’s closer than any of the other trails we’ve been to before (who knew?!) and the trails seem to be well maintained. At least, most of what we explored was well maintained. There are three loops of trail marked for multi-use.

  • North Loop – 32 miles
  • Boy Scout Single Track Loop – 30 miles
  • Woodworth Loop – 20 miles

We got a late start the first day we went up.

DCIM101GOPRO

We didn’t make it on the trail until around 3:30 pm which is partly why the above shot is so grey but it was also just a very cloudy day. Since sunset would be coming around 5 pm, we decided to try the Woodworth Loop, hoping we could cover 20 miles before dark. No such luck. Thank goodness our bikes are on and off-road legal. We covered 10 miles, came to a road crossing and checked the time. It was already 5 pm and clearly getting dark fast. We took the road back to the trail head in minutes and headed home for the day.

The next day we went we made an effort to be early so we could have plenty of time to cover the entire trail of Woodworth. There is an area, called the Clay Pit, near the trailhead that we explored first, with berms, whoops, and climbing hills.

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These are definitely more Don’s speed than mine.

Now, don’t laugh too hard at my expense in this clip; I’m still a newbie and this since this area was right at the beginning of the ride, I was going a bit slow and taking things tentatively. Don seemed to think this area was a good warm up area. I told him it’s not MY kind of warm up. It takes me 20-30 minutes to warm up to that level! LOL

Once I get my groove on though, I’m not so bad. 🙂

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It took us a little over 3 hours to cover all 20 miles of the Woodworth trail. For the first 10 miles, the trail is wide, smooth, well maintained, and consists of lots of tight corners and berms. It narrows down for the second half. There are a lot more trees, roots, debris on the trail (which could have been from heavy winds the day before), and ruts. Generally, the second half of the trail was more technical than the first half. Both fun for different reasons.

All in all, it was a good day. The sky was clear, the sun was out, and even though it was chilly enough to need to bundle up in 3 layers, including my old snowboarding jacket, it was a beautiful day and a great ride.

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Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.
~ John Ruskin 

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All Geared Up

We geared up properly this weekend.

I feel slightly foolish because I’m a total newb and I feel like the outfit implies differently. But it also provides protection that everyday clothes and shoes don’t. For that, I am thankful.

Day 3 of learning to ride (for me) was good, rough in some ways, but good.

First off, the gear may look snazzy but it feels incredibly awkward and it’s just one more thing for me to adjust to. (Really? Do I have to?) The boots feel like bricks. I kept thinking, “How in the world is this thing supposed to fit between the pedal and the gear shift?” (I managed.) Then imagine wearing “coolmax” (cool my ass) boot socks, boots, and padded pants in 80 degree weather. Oh, and don’t forget the awesomely awkward goggles and gloves. Every inch of your body is covered by something and I was swimming in sweat. The price you pay to play I guess.

I had trouble enjoying myself at first. I was so overwhelmed with all the new sensations and the many things I’m still learning. Have you ever heard the phrase, “too much in your head?” This was my brain for perhaps the first 20-30 minutes. How am I supposed to move in all of this? OMG I’m so hot. Breathe. Flex fingers. Don’t death grip. Lighter touch. Breathe. I don’t think I’ve ever been this sweaty. Remember the clutch. Speed up. Shift up. Roots. Bump, bump. Relax. Breathe. Crap. Downhill. Slow down, shift down. Breathe. My goggles are not sitting right. HOW DO PEOPLE FUNCTION LIKE THIS? Eventually the gear felt more natural and I wasn’t so distracted by it which allowed me to focus more on handling the bike and enjoying myself.

Here we are taking a much-needed break.

That sign says *easiest* for trail rating. My ass. Maybe right there by the road.

Do not be deceived. This is NOT what most of the trail looks like.

We explored north of the camp this time. And thanks to poorly marked trails and maps we weren’t entirely sure we were going the direction we meant to be. Thankfully Don’s pretty good with a map.

Never fear, we found our way back eventually. I don’t think either of us anticipated being out for so long – 3 and 1/2 hours this time. We took a lot more stops along the way which gave me a chance to get some shots of the trails.

We even saw some wildlife! Two deer sprinted across our trail like lightning and surprised the heck out of us. I didn’t see the first one which crossed in front of Don but the second came between us like a shot. It was barely 6 feet in front me! It was pretty cool.

Another pit stop…

Here’s a closer look at the hill coming down toward where Don is standing.

Here’s another look at the path I took coming down this hill…into a tree.

Please excuse my sad stick figure skills.
It’s supposed to show you where my front tire and handlebars were.

I was trying to maneuver the decline with a little speed (probably all of 5-10) rather than just coasting and braking which was my method most of the time. It didn’t work out. There was more of that tricky loose sand here and I knew I was in trouble as I started to veer off the trail. I managed to slow down enough that I didn’t hit the tree with any force but I was resting against it when Don came back to investigate my absence which is why his bike is facing the opposite direction. My clutch cable came free as I was coming down the hill or when I hit the tree. It happened too fast to say but it was definitely disconnected once I was stopped. I couldn’t get it into gear to disentangle myself from the tree. I wasn’t sure what I did. LOL  But it was only a few minutes and Don had it re-connected and we were good to go. Back in the proper direction.

Before this little mishap I also had one full-on wipe-out and another incident with an incline that was just too technical for me. I promise I wasn’t hurt! Not even any bruises or scratches. The hill I just couldn’t make it up, too steep, too much loose dirt and gravel. I killed my engine going too slow. I didn’t even try to get up it. I just asked Don to do it for me. Too much, too soon for me.

My wipe-out was another loose sand issue; that shit is hard to ride in! My back tire shifted in the sand, I was losing my balance, and I think in my attempt to keep my balance I jerked on the throttle, which I’m sure you can imagine isn’t what you want to do when you’re already losing control. I sort of went down to my left but because I was throttling I didn’t just fall off or over, the bike wanted to keep going and was spinning out from under me while I sort of laid across it. My right leg was on the engine and exhaust and if it had not been for my new padded pants and head-shielded boots, I’m sure I would have been burned. As it as, my new pants did get singed a bit but I was not.

Those white marks are NOT part of the pattern of the pants.

So after feeling slightly foolish and encumbered by my sweltering new gear, I was thankful to be wearing it and I’m certain it paid for itself in one day of riding. The boots, while feeling clunky and stiff, were a blessing as well. I can’t count the number of times I planted a heel or foot to catch a fall that might very well have twisted an ankle if I’d been wearing simple shoes.

The moral of my story: wear the protective gear. Even if you think it’s silly.

Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.  What if they are a little course, and you may get your coat soiled or torn?  What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice.  Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble. 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Riding. Day 2. Trails.

We went to the Kisatchie National Forest yesterday for some trail riding. We explored the Vernon Enduro Trails, southeast of Leesville, LA. You can see a trail map here, if you’re so inclined. We rode the two shorter trails south of the Enduro Camp and we tried to do the small loop just northwest of it but part of the loop was closed or we got turned around. Either way we rode around a little above the camp but we didn’t fully explore the mass of trails to the north yet. Maybe this weekend…

I started out a little rough but by the end of two hours I was enjoying myself.

We took a break and took pictures in this open area so I don’t have any pics of the actual trails. The trails are a mixture of hard packed dirt, sand, gravel, and tree debris, as well as lots of roots. Some areas were open without many obstacles, some were a little more tricky.

Don made a comment when we were done that you can’t frown while riding. Well, some people can. I did. For maybe the first 30 minutes. I just I don’t learn new things well. I can remember similar unpleasantness when I was learning to snowboard about 14 years ago but when I mentioned it to Don he said, “Yeah, but with snowboarding you cried.” So at least I have that. There’s been no crying with riding. But man do I go kicking and screaming inside. I know it’s because I’m afraid but I don’t know what I’m afraid of most: getting hurt, looking stupid, making a mistake, or not being able to figure it out. Wait a minute, sounds like I don’t like to fail. That’s it. I knew that! Well, I’m just going to have to keep working on that.

As for my second day out riding, I stayed in 1st gear, barely moving, and only coasting down the trail if it had any decline to it for a good while. By the time we left I was moving from 1st to 3rd and was getting up to about 15 mph, maybe a little faster; I was keeping up with Don without him stopping to wait for me so I count that as doing pretty well.

There were definitely some squirrely moments. I almost lost it a few times. And…I did have my first spill. Nothing major! I know some of you (parents) are worried. I was trying to get over some roots in the trail and after getting past the worst of the roots my back tire was squirrely and I had one of those moments where I twisted the wrong way and gunned the engine so then it really got squirrely on me. And…I lost my balance and…tipped over into sticker bushes on the side of the trail. So I didn’t run into anything. I didn’t get hurt. I wasn’t even going very fast at all. The stickers did scratch me up a bit. LOL  Too bad Don didn’t take a picture. Although I do appreciate that he was more concerned about my well-being than pulling out the camera to immortalize the moment. All in all, I think it was good for me. I learned a little more of what not to do and hopefully learned a little more about how to control the bike to avoid those kinds of things in the future.

On a totally different note, when we were done and loading up the bikes, this little fella was taking a break on my shoulder.

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
~ Dale Carnegie

Beach Riding

We took the bikes out to Holly Beach on Sunday.

These bikes are so much easier to load and unload than the quad we had, 
partly because the truck is much shorter and easier to work with than the old Dodge.

It’s not a huge area, we pretty much explored all there was to explore in the 2 hours we buzzed around. (We only put about 18 miles on the bikes, lol.) But it was great for allowing me open space to learn to shift for the first time. And I did!

Do you like my “her’s” stickers?

I felt pretty comfortable shifting up and down between 1st and 4th gears. I still have lots to learn but I’m sure it will all come with time and practice.

There wasn’t much terrain for Don to play with but what little he found he couldn’t resist.

We got lucky and timed our trip just right. We headed out when the skies cleared around Noon and just as we were loading up to leave it was starting to rain again. It was fun to get out and play a little while we could.

Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.
~ Dianne Ackerman