Sunday, January 18, 2009

My boyhood hockey rink still rocks

My boyhood outdoor hockey rink
Bennett Field, Deephaven, Minnesota
Free outdoor ice - Priceless!

I was back in Minnetonka, Minn., to hang out with my Dad over the weekend, and I had a little time Saturday afternoon to head over to Bennett field -- a place where I used to play hockey when I was a kid. Much to my delight, the outdoor rink was flooded, frozen and in good shape. Six juniors from Minnetonka High School had a pickup game under way.

I laced up my skates in the warming house and joined the game. We played for an hour until we were exhausted (no resting allowed). Much to my delight, I could hang pretty well with those boys. They loved hearing about how I had played in league hockey at that rink and others nearby in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Back then, below-zero temperatures were typical in January -- and my toes and fingers will never be the same.

It's too mild in Boise for consistent outdoor ice. So I really love it when I have a chance to play sandlot hockey in Minnesota. It's a treat. -SS

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cartwright Three Summits Loop always delivers

After at least a week of melting conditions, the roads are dry again in the lower elevations surrounding Boise, so I thought it'd be a great chance to ride the Cartwright Three Summits Loop (also known as "the Dump loop") on Saturday afternoon.

It was a partly cloudy day, with temps in the high 30s, so I dressed warm and peeled out on my road bike toward Hill Road. It's easiest from my house in NW Boise to ride up N. 36th Street past Quail Hollow Golf Course to Arrowhead Point and connect to the first summit on Cartwright Road from there.

And then, there's the killer steep hill going up the second summit of Cartwright. It's always a punishing experience going up that 10% grade -- guaranteed to hurt.

At the top of the second summit, tho, you can really let it rip down to Pierce Park Road, bear right and climb over a short hill on brand new pavement to the Dry Creek Valley. It's mostly downhill through here, and you ride by Hidden Springs, turn left on Seamans Gulch Road and climb to the third summit. It's a fairly gradual climb to the Seamans summit, but your legs are a bit taxed by now, so it still hurts.

Once over the top, you zoom by the Ada County Landfill and the Seamans Gulch foothills trailhead, connect to Hill Road and bear left to return to the start.

The loop is about 17.5 miles, 18 from my house. Total vertical gain is 1,598 feet.

The ride is featured in the new Boise Road Cycling Guide, the first-ever road cycling map for 30+ rides in the greater Boise Valley. - SS

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Quick rendezvous in Sun Valley

One of my favorite cousins, Peter Damon, who lives in L.A., made an impromptu trip to Sun Valley last weekend with his family, and so my son Quinn and I jetted up there Friday afternoon to spend the weekend with them.

Peter and I took our boys to Dollar Mountain on Saturday morning, and they had a blast poking around in a some powder pockets between the slopes. Meanwhile, Peter and I toured around the big Baldy-o, cranking turns on the groomers, and flying off soft bumps everywhere. The skies were clear that day, so it was brisk on the mountain, but certainly comfortable, with temps in the high teens by the afternoon. Peter kept remarking on how beautiful the moutains were all around us, and I talked about all the yurts I love to visit in the surrounding mountain ranges and the hiking and mountain bike trails, the rivers, and on and on.

On Sunday morning, I planned to go skate skiing on the beautiful groomed trails at the Sun Valley Nordic Center. I thought I was real smart to get my skate skis waxed with a fresh coating of cold wax at the Elephants Perch the day before. My previous outing had been on pretty warm snow (31 degrees) at Jug Mountain Ranch on New Years Day.

But lo and behold, on Sunday morning, it was so crisp and cold that my nose hairs stuck together (reminiscent of my Minnesota childhood), and the danged skate skis didn't glide at all ... they felt just the opposite, almost like sand paper. It was about 10 degrees F at the time.

The track looked absolutely gorgeous. I was SO ready to fly on a groomed track after pushing through tons of fresh powder my last three times out. It looked perfect but I was as slow as a fricking snail.

So I slogged through about 8Ks and came back to the lodge, with extremely cold fingers, and thought, the hell with it, I'm going to go watch the NFL playoffs, drink a beer and relax. But I had to stop at the Elephant's Perch and ask about the wax, and they were like, yeah, skate skiing doesn't work when it's this cold. You should use your classic gear on a day like today ... and I'm thinking, dang! why didn't they tell me that when they waxed my skis?

Live and learn. Skate Skiing Lesson #205. Leave the skate skis in the garage when it's butt-ugly cold. Got it.

- SS