DirtBag DadCamp: Wet in the Tonto

There is a lot of water in Phoenix, if you are willing to  work for it. The drive-ins&outs and load-ins&outs are the prologue to the adventure proper, of book reports and traveling music and shared fountain drinks from Circle K.

Tuesday we rode Saguaro Lake with Todd and Charlie.




Thursday afternoon we went to Needle Rock on the Verde, to give the tubes and children a test float. I didn’t take any pics (duh) but it went great. The girls got clear on what a river, a current, and a riffle were. We air-tested our old river tubes, and realized the deep bed of the F150 is remarkably better for tubes than a Ranger. Plans were a’brewing…and they might include a float from Needle Rock to BoxBar Road.

Saturday night Sam offered me an open seat on his Sunday morning float on the Salt, and my calendar was unexpectedly clear! Most of the good pics are from Sam – thanks buddy for dragging me out of my routine and letting me borrow your gear (again). And for another awesome morning with some friends I hadn’t seen in a few years.

Ryan is stoked!


even the inflatable can play around on Snaggletooth rock





Patty and Corinne completed our group. I’ve known of these cool girls in the abstract FB-way, great to hang out with them in meatspace.





During the float I scouted all the small details I’d need for Tuesday’s tubing adventure with the girls! The path to the water, the current at the put-in, and mostly the same on the way out. 90% is not good enough if someone drowns or loses an ankle. The Chollaballs came out refreshed, efficient, and unscathed!

Top of the river to Blue Point Bridge


Alana compared this to the Lazy River at the Aquatic Center, then asked if they made this river to be lazy like that? I spit out my beer laughing so hard at kid logic. A dragonfly rode on my hat, they learned marshmallow combat from a couple wasted college girls, and watched red-winged blackbirds chase half a bag of chips down the river.


Tradition at West Clear Creek

We joined the Flying Nowacki Brothers Circus for a hike down West Clear Creek. They had a tradition doing this 4 years in a row on Father’s Day, and, while not strict about the holiday, so did we!

2011 – West Clear Creek

2012 – West Clear Creek – Maxwell Trail

2014 _ Summer in Hell  

They are dirtbags just like us, and we talked at the start of summer about hooking all the kids up for some adventures. I really like hanging out with them all; their kids are smart, robust, confident and capable. And I know there are other adults who will keep an experienced eye out for my girls and protect them like their own. On the hike down Elissa was off the front with Noah, Brett brought up the rear with his boy in a backpack while Scott helped him, and Beckie and I found ourselves in the main peloton with 5 girls. No worries – Robin, Miranda and Sydney got everything we had just like G and Alana.

I have liberally ganked pics from everyone else. Too good a day with 7 kids, 7 adults and 3 dogs to not share all these cool pixels.





























DirtBag DadCamp: Amongst the Hill People


Andy Grammer – Honey I’m Good

James: would you maybe want to dogsit while we are on our honeymoon?
Me: *ears perk up*
James: Cause I know you are between jobs and whatnot…*dingdong*… Oh my, you got here fast.

2 weeks in Flag to start a Phx summer! 3 chollaballs, 3 dogs, and a cat: James and Staci had no idea what they unleashed!

Its my garage now, i even peed behind the old palette.

The instant they left for the airport on Friday we took Dia for a couple laps around Buffalo Park. G picked it up, slung it around and dropped it without skipping a pedal stroke. Alana whined, complained, and had a meltdown on the 1-&-only short climb. This became her flagstafrican baseline.

Saturday was 7 miles, 75 min, shuttle down the AZT-Dogfood-Schultz. I locked Alana’s bike halfway down the ride where the AZT meets Dogfood. We 2-biked there from Weathorford trail at mid-mountain, and then she did the rest. Slowly, timidly, badly, building on last night’s frustrations, walking too much. I thought at times we should just leave her bike by the trail and never let her try anything but dance classes again.

G was skeered over this trial, after Alana tormented her with how traumatized she still felt from me riding her over it 2 years ago. I swallowed my frustrations for her seemingly innate genius at remembering every excuse to hold herself back. Fortunately a spotter was all G needed to try it, then she jumped off the front for the rest of the descent. This was her flagstafrican baseline.


G did so well we decided to do Schultz o&b right from the house the next morning. The climb had a lot of rests, encouragements, hummingbird and woodpecker viewing breaks, and chances for Dia to wade in the creek. We had no deadline, lots of apples, and silently agreed to dig in for her longest sustained climb. Telling Mom became her motivation. She nailed the DH, resting to take advice between each pitch, and patiently let me take my shots at the boulder drop halfway down. Best.Riding.Partner.Evah!

That evening we did 10 miles into town and back on the FUTS for dinner. tinyShredder rolled it easy, and mostly so did ‘lana! Her longest ride yet!

We stopped at The Ditch to play. G hitting her first-ever lip

and stacking it up! At least soft dirt doesn’t hurt.


Alana crossing Rio De Flag


No one told us Hops on Birch was, like, a bar. They had 1 bottle of rootbeer, 1 juice box, and some stale pretzels for the kids, but the beer selection was awesome.

Alana’s mood on the bike changes course like a gnat, on the ride home her flagstafricanism was trending up.

Monday we went to the Adventure Course at Ft. Tuthill. They got 3 laps on the kids course, and had it mastered by the end. To where I didn’t want to take them back for fear their overconfidence would get them hurt. I can’t wait til I finally get a chance to hit the adult course.











The new Ft Tuthill Bike Park  is, literally, next to the adventure course. Making Ft. Tuthill the happiest place on earth! Except G wrecked, badly, on her 4th run. The track was fast, narrower than we’re used to, and the trees messed with our heads. She carried too much speed into a jump and overcompensated in the ensuing turn, ripping a 5 inch raspberry down her buttcheek.

She walked off the course, gritted, let me wash it, while a couple boys gawked at the girl-who-totally-ate-shit-but-didn’t-cry out of the corners of their eyes. She even did 2-3 more slow runs, for pride. But our day was done, except for trips to CVS and Safeway for many variations of gauze, tape, and ice cream. Fortunately, I brought my tub of aquaphor with us, on a hunch.

Every time I know one of my kids is going to scar, i wish i could take it onto my unwanted skin instead. I’d look like a WarBoy from Fury Road. Removing all that pain and scabbing from them would make it worth so much more to me. But some lessons can’t be learned any other way. G knew she went too fast too soon, fucked it up deep down where you balance your bike and your skill and your confidence, and daily applications of goo are hopefully the intellectual repetition of the lessons learned from pain. Slow down, don’t overcook the turn. Her flagstafricanism was trending up.

Tuesday we slept late, had a nice breakfast with more ice cream, and I overjoyed hiking with them on one of my very favorite bike loops up Little Gnarly and down Jedi.





We saw one-and-only other person on Jedi, a rider who dropped in silently behind us coming through an Aspen meadow, just before the logramp-to-boulder trial above the switchbacks. He cleaned it while the girls cheered.


I’ve never gotten this one, but will be so much more psyched to walk it heretofore 

That night Dia and Grahammay got a trip to the dogpark, and the girls more ice cream and hamburger for their owwies.

Wednesday G was feeling better and we found some self-adhesive softwrap, so did the AZT from 418 to Bismark Lake. Alana and I had a deal, she would ride her bike for a mile before 2-biking, and get more ice cream. I lied about the GPS enough to get her to do 1.5.

climb little girl, climb!





unlocking for the 1.5mile descent

After a burrito power-up we went 3rd time into the Lava Tube. I had 8, er, 7 functioning lights, a pint of water, a 1-hit, an orange, and 2 ravenous Monsters. I feel bad, a little, for the people they overtook and dropped. I love being around the stoke they have for this hike, even if i hit my head and roll an ankle each time trying to keep up!


Thursday I hooked up to ride with my bud Rockman. His awesome daughters kept the girls occupied for a few hours.


We climbed Schultz Creek, Climb 3, then Hobbit Forest to drop into Wasabi. Solid climb and best run ever down one of my white whales. I was visualizing it all night before, and it worked! My flagstafricanism was trending up. Thanks Joe for the ego pics!




Roadwork is being done on  Elden Lookout Rd, and a couple drivers stopped to watch us roll out of Upper Wasabi. Double punch on the mancard!



Thorpe Park has a disc golf course. Using soccer balls was a fabulous idea that wound up sucking, badly, in a mountain town. So it became a kicky dogwalk in the woods.

Friday was a taper(nee, hungover) day. We drove up Friedlein Prairie road to hike Overlook, and then up to the Wilderness Boundary. Haven’t been here in a few years, such an engaging trail that is always changing due to treefall. I’ve never gone slow enough or looked up from the rocks and logs to really soak it in, and its a gorgeous airy forest with meadows at 8,000+ feet. Going to have to hit it this fall to see the aspen and avoid the crowds. Can’t wait to show it to Beckie.



this is a tasty apple.

Heard you got another apple?!






ironic that Alana snapped this photo. I was showing G the series of moves through this section, explaining how to break them down, and how I crashed and dented my frame on my 2nd-ever ride on the Heckler 8yrs ago. This seemed really hard back then, now its just another rock garden.


Saturday the planets aligned! Beckie came up, and the AES Aspen Asphyxiation had been rescheduled to this weekend. Sometimes I am glad for her arrival, sometimes not. We got this 3-sum going on, and sometimes mom storms on in and fucks it all up. I had 8.25 hrs, 7kvf and 52 miles to vanish and get everyone’s head right, they got their own 3-sum going on without me being around to screw it up. I tweaked the race route to let me hit just about everything on Mt Elden I hadn’t already gotten this week. I left from the house, climbed Rocky Ridge to Lower Brookbank and desceneded Jedi just as the really fast guys were coming up, aggressively jumping all the drops after walking them earlier in the week. The monster storm the night before made Sunset unbelievably tacky, and the stoke from that screaming descent carried me almost up to Snowbowl Road. Almost. Ray made the route awesome by adding in Twisted Sister, and awful by adding in GT trail. Pushing my bike up this stupid, primitive scratch in the volcano I yelled out ‘Fuck you Ray you fucking douchebag‘. The ensuing 3 mile climb up Snowbowl Rd was so deadlegged that, after comparing times, I actually rode it slower than Beckie ran it in a race 2 years ago. There was 3-4 more hours riding, but most of it flowed far better, and after dipping into my PainCave finally I was done.  It wouldn’t be an AES race if I didn’t kinda hate it.

Sunday I was feeling good but lazy, and meat-sweating from a fantastic dinner at Satchmo’s. Our recovery day started with a 4×4 crawl through the Cinders.


Then re-walking some of the fun, tight techy stuff from the end of yesterday’s ride, along Fat Man’s Loop on the far east of Elden.





Then the day went suddenly, utterly and deeply to shit. The huge downpour on Friday night flooded my truck’s cylinders, turning into a $500 repair on Monday.

Dia lost a tooth wrestling Graham.



and our attempt to salvage the day and ride into town for dinner quickly resulted in Beckie gauging her ankle on a chain ring, and 5 stitches at the ER.

The massive upside of all this calamity is Beckie stayed in town another night for what was our very best day of the trip. At Coco Bike park, everything started slowing down, for all of us.

The first time on the Blue line i spotted G, reminded her that you can’t can’t can’t bail out once you are in the ramp, trust that you will get through it. And after she got the feel, we kept reminding each other to trust it and go bigger!



both wheels in the air!


go Alaaaaaaannnaaaaaa!

girls are getting the attack position

whereas G has perfected a scowl, Alana believes strongly in smiling for the photo. I approve of this adaptation!



i wasn’t quite cleaning the blue line, but i was getting closer each run. G and I both were getting used to the lips on the jumps. Next time!



never know what you will get with the AlanaCam




Griffith’s Spring afterward to release the heundz!



Our final attempt on the FUTS into town went much better. I used this opportunity to promote upgrading the HeiHei to a 1x drivetrain, and forever prevent this from happening again. Alana crushed it on the way in, and gutted it out on the way home. Never figured her for a 2-ride day, until today. Her flagstafricanism is definitely trending up.


Gnarness could break out at any second!

I changed the title of my blog. Like my tattoo, a worthy idea finally came to me.

Riding the girls home from school, G climbed her first staircase. Followed immediately by her first pinchflat. I had no tools and no choices, left the girls with a diet Dr. Pepper while i sprinted home with the dog to get the truck. 20 minutes later they were still alive!

Next week Alana and I rode home from school again, Dia waltzed into a cholla. She took me up on my offer for help by rubbing the balls off on me. I left my old baggies where I stood, but easily reached for my pliers, and downgraded the crisis in record-time. I don’t ride out without tools anymore. I now have these in several packs. Gnarness can break out any second.


We are riding to school, to practice, to the library; riding into meals, into rollerblading and playdates; riding dog walks. Its not scheduled, its my — and their — lifestyle. If they didn’t take to it as well as I want to believe they do, we wouldn’t all be having this much fun?

I got the idea to refurbish the social trails that loop around the dark corners of our neighborhood, to give us some beginner singletrack right out our door. keepin it realz in the 480, yo.  Several walks of the loop with loppers strung the route together and cleaned the sight lines. I brought the girls out for a trimming session, and another to walk it at night with the offleash dog. I hooked them, into the idea of the backyard loop that they would build.  If I am lucky it may take all summer.

G and I rode the course on a Sunday afternoon, seeing what we’d done and what more was needed. We and Dia, slow, sipping from the orange crashes of sunset against the west face of the McDs. Connecting, dog so close to over her fear of singletrack. Coming into her own. Both of them.

As we rode I pointed out how bands of hardtop vs. gravel vs. embedded rock will make the same distance so much easier, if she looked at the trail a tire wide. Where should we cut it? She pushed through overgrown prickers, while the dingo kept rubbing my legs for reassurance. G has learned to cheer for her group, and to understate praise, flatly telling me ‘nice‘ after I clean 3 jumps along the foundations of a newhome start. I say little more when she claws her way up .5 mile of babyheads, she knows she did well. And Dia is perfect.

I needed weapons.





The first sunset after unpacking them i rolled the tools out to the trail in the jogging stroller, and scratched at the top rocks on the levy. The pick-axe could carve and pull up embedded rocks, but the mcleod burned a line through everything. In 2 hrs I scrawled through almost a half mile. I smoked Platinum Girl Scout Cookies and listened to the Dropkick Murphys. If I was snowboarding now, life would be perfect.

We all went out the next Sunday. Beckie has, i think, never done a trailwork day. And  once she was pointed on track, she could not be stopped, malevolently swinging that axe, enamored building her own trail.

The kids got a thrill out of riding in what they’d just cut. If we were unsure if something was still too hard, we’d send in The Alanameter. If she crashed, we got back to work.


Upgrade the Fatbike!

This project became as dear to me as building G’s bike. Though it did not start out that way.

I’ve had the PhattyCatty for 3 years. Got it used after 1 season as a rental, at 50% off list when NOBODY had fatbikes, especially smalls. I’ve ridden it over 100 hours, and hated it a lot. Its heavy and sluggish, the cranks drag every turn, the wheels have never been true and the brakes are sloshy. While all around me the fatbike craze was going off! Byron nabbing a sub-30lb carbon, XO hardtail for $1800 shined the bright light of neglect and self-loathing on me.

It took a few weeks of solid research into the runaway evolution of fatbikes on mtbr.com and the FB group Fat Bike Trades til i concluded the 2012 Mukluk 3 is a piece of shit, 38lbs with pedals, worth ~$800. I should have flipped it 1.5 yrs ago. But what to do? Today’s $800 bikes are equally shitty but with cutout wheels that amount to all of 2 lbs less. The price shoots up with better components and suspension. Fatbikes now range from steel rigid to carbon full suspension, 65 to 100mm rims, $700 to $5000. What did I want, what did I want to do with it, how much did I want to pay, what chance did i have of finding a small, and would it still cost $200-500 more to get it just right.

I liked the simplicity of the PhatCat, i liked it rigid and efficient, 4 inches of float and resistance on sand that was plenty enough to blow out my quads every workout. I finally decided I wanted exactly what I had – just lighter, nicer to touch, and less a piece-of-shit. I would lurve carbon, but didn’t have $2k falling from the money tree for a frame. For $500 I could drop 5lbs, go 1x, reduce maintenance, and turn its tactility back into something pleasurable, a bike I wanted to hold.  In 1  month guaranteed, vs. waiting for sales and hopefuls and rebuilds in my size. That was a hard plan to turn down

PhatCat lost 12oz per tire, and 8 oz per tube, for $140. For $25 I put on a chinese overstock carbon handlebar and gel grips, and dropped another half pound. 2 more lbs lost in the drivetrain for another $325.

4 years ago the only affordable cranks for fatbikes were heavy-ass DH cranks

no longer; so many variants from RaceFace, i got the Turbines

New crank’s corrected the Catty’s issues with chainline. 1×9 became a real option, cheap and simple, and the charts told me just about good enough with a 26T NW Wolftooth ring to give me the same gearteeth for less weight and more simplicity.

My Custom Gear Chart
24 34
36 17.3 24.6
32 19.5 27.6
28 22.3 31.6
24 26.0 36.8
21 29.7 42.1
18 34.7 49.1
16 39.0 55.2
14 44.6 63.1


My Custom Gear Chart
34 19.9
30 22.5
26 26.0
23 29.4
20 33.8
17 39.8
15 45.1
13 52.0
11 61.5

A lot of studying and guesswork til I finally got a ratchet on it and puked up all that 2x nonsense.


A ghetto bashguard from an old ring i had hanging from the front door (really!).


totally nuts



I have one more possible change that makes sense before flipping it all for $1300 – for $50 in tools and a day of effort, I could drop another 5oz per wheel. TBD.

Dirtbag DadCamp: Prologue

My last job rocketed past frustrating into pointless and stupid. 4 supervisors in less than a year, none interested in anything but the hamster wheel of broken releases vs. automating deeper quality. The last one asked\told me to do what was clearly not on my resume, and I explained as delicately as possible I had no interest in learning old technology to support a flawed strategy. *sigh* It was his department and his vision, which i respect, so he should respect my checking out and making myself his very expensive paperweight. When I got the severance package, my officemate cursed me for outplaying him into 6 weeks of blood money. Is there a morale problem here?

For a month I showed up about an hour a day, on my bike, around trips to the gym, and a million projects around the house. I lost 5 lbs in April, plateaued in early May as I built back my chest and core, then dropped 5 more pounds almost overnight. I cooked, exercised, saw the kids off in the morning and met the bus in the afternoon. Beckie and Dia ran everyday and ate fabulous food every night, jumping headlong into stay-at-home-dad with me.


My first cobbler was delish. I made mashed potatoes, crock-pot porkchops, alfredo with basil pesto from our plant, eggplant parmesan (twice), lentils with coconut milk, omelets and salsas. Alana is eating vegetables, scooping avocado from its skin, and putting dishes in the sink. Genevieve is responsibly using a great big knife.

The actual ‘unemployment’ left me just 3 weeks for my bucket-list of child-free adventures, in May, in the desert. And I couldn’t have been more stoked. I was rewarded with the most temperate, overcast May I can remember. Some say La Nina. I guess. I would have ridden in 110.

Hawes, after rain, hero-dirt

home-Camelback-home. 30 miles on the CX bike, a mid-week hike I haven’t done in over 10 years

National with Seron. Weather was overcast, almost chilly, so we went to Telegraph Pass and back and got sprinkled at 1pm, with just enough time to hit Los Taquitos.

A few pixels of Seron nailing the Waterfall, first time for him in over 2 years. I hope that is a good trade for all the new ego-pics he gave me.












I rode Pass Mountain for the first time in 2 or 3 years. I rode it 50x the 10 years we were in Mesa, and didn’t recognize anything on the front side – its been flattened and smoothed and dozed 4 ft wide. The pitches at the mountain’s feet we called The Canyons are now easy rollers. Places I’d wrecked that haunted me for years til finally I could ride that trail over and over without blood flashbacked if\when i thought i was passing them. Melancholy, mixed with an invigorating fast pace. Climbing the north face i wondered if that giant boulder that no one has ever gotten had been taken out. It wasn’t, and I was almost disappointed, since I gave up trying it 10 years ago. Might as well have kicked Pass Mountain while it was down.

The awesome north climb is still hard and the back side is still great fun.  If Pass Mountain was a woman, she would have a great butt and legs, and a nice tight chest, that forever reminds me of my wife losing her boobs after breast-feeding. My relationship with Pass Mtn has always been a dysfunctional mess of inadequacy, rejection and lust.

I met 2 equestrians at the summit, who were scoping out the descent, concerned about me coming up behind them. I asked them to please wait 2 min while i got on my kneepads so I could jump in front, with no good place for half a mile for us to stack up.

Them: “You must not be afraid of heights“.
Me: “Oh I am, but I contain it.”

That is how you multi-use a trail! They were talking to their horses telling them to be cool when I took off. What awesome ballsy ladies, the kinda horse people i like. Saw them coming down the Slab when i was at the bottom of the rubble field.

Later that week I hit Gold Canyon with John, TrailDoc and some other friends. Thanks for the pics!






James and Staci’s Wedding

So happy for my dear friend James and his awesome VSLF. James is a remarkable, resilient, humble, strong-like-ox person. One of my top 5 riding buddies of all time, and the one i love when i’m with him.

Graham and Lucy are their Monsters



They had a beautiful event at Bismark Lake in the San Francisco Peaks.  The girls couldn’t wait for their first wedding, and camping at 8,000 feet.




8,000 feet and intermittent rain made for some cold hours. Several times i dove into my 20 degree bag for a catnap to warm up. Dia spooned with me. The children were exemplary practitioners of leaving your shoes at the door.



Now that’s how you wedding processional!



Vato still in his jammy-bottoms.





End of School PT Party

the start of 2 months of Daddy Daycare while celebrating the end of school at Rage Cycles. Alana was charging the dropin on her 20″ but i was too busy spotting her to take pics, so proud of my girls. Rage is a hard track, and i still squirm a little every time riding in the big berm. Dia peed a little, I wont say where, it helps pack in the dirt. Dinner at Two Brothers Brewing Co


















First lost tooth, first busride home by herself, first ride to the library without whining, first chapter books. First day she might not be a soul-sucking parasite much longer.


First day homework is done with a snack just when sunsets become magical.

First day unemployed. First time seeing my six-pack in several years, a month of pre-unemployed dreamworks. First easy walk home from the grocery store with everyone’s pack heavy. First time sure i got Dadcamp covered.

Bros Before Hos – An Impromptu Performance

Back before Xmas G had a friend sleepover. Together they discovered a gift for G that Alana hid under the bed. Instantly and thusly i was thrust into the gaping maw of sororital disaster, G bonding with her friend vs. destroying her sister.

If you appropriate a phrase for a post title, you will see an uptick in site hits, which i do not care about; I do it cause some phrases rock. Its a tribute band, not a cover band.

Ahem. Bros Before Hos – An Impromptu Performance.

I parent for gnarness. This is not a threat, its an opportunity. It should have been filmed, cause it is was some of my finest work.

I do Alana really well, how she swallows word ends and narrates to herself. How she spins without looking, swirling in her mewhere, spotting something at Sports Authority that she, they, everyone wanted.  Twisting her want into a sisterly kiss, a tiny Xmas genius! Yesterday she asked me what I liked most about her and I said you are wicked smart.

can i give this to genevieve for xmas?


I tell G and her friend the story. Alana dragging it to the register, careening out the checkout line, stumbling out of the store. I bang into walls, and fall on the bed – Alana schlepping it through the front door.  She charged down the stairs “Dad! whu if we hideit unda mah bed?” Alana carrying a sheet of plywood against her face, lurching up the stairs and wobbling down the hall.

The girls are captivated by the play written just for them. They swear to silence, to act surpised on xmas morning. I drop the mic. Moments i see perfection in all things, such a good day upon a good day to build this wax tower of better and better.