Category Archives: Site News

Goodbye, Adios, Adieu

clementine ending

I’m afraid this is the end of SteepClimbs as a regular blog.

With all this injury history over the last couple of years, I’ve contemplated pulling the plug many times. The only reason I haven’t is because, surprisingly enough, people still visit. Traffic has dropped slightly from where it was when I was riding and posting regularly, but not as much as I expected. Most of the people are reading the Climbs section, Rides, or Routes. Why stop something that many people find useful?

The answer is that I’m not. That information is going to remain up, but there will be no new posts and I will not be actively maintaining the site. At some point it will become outdated, but it should be useful information for many.

The reason is because I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that this part of my life is over. The injury to my hip went way beyond my worst expectations. Even now, more than a year later, I am facing the possibility of getting a resurfacing or replacement sometime this year. As much as I appreciate positive thoughts and encouragement, that’s not something I want to blog about. When I do get better and am able to ride, and someday I will, it will not be close to the level that I was at two years ago. Cycling will always be part of my life, but never like it was. I’ll probably go slowly, mix it up with other weight bearing activities, and most likely will never be the climber I was before. That might sound fatalist, but after 2.5 years fighting an injury, I’m fine with that. In fact, I am completely happy with this decision, and have found other activities to occupy my time.

Through this website, I’ve met countless friends, truly great people, far too many to mention. I can tell you one thing, that aside from a bad apple here and there, cyclists are people of incredible character. People forget that it is a social activity. Many have helped me by taking a pull when I’m tired, and I’ve done the same for others. That’s just what you do. Because of this website, probably more people than usual would be aware of this injury process. I’ve received some valuable advice that I have used. The fact that the injury has persisted has nothing to do with anything I’ve done or any of the advice I’ve been given. It’s simply a rough injury.

Many of you I already have met, and some have connected through email, social media and elsewhere. I’ll probably talk some about my progress on my personal Facebook. If you would like a friend request, feel free to drop me a note at the SteepClimbs page. Or you can find me through normal search channels. I’m not that hard to find.

You are welcome to join our 30 Day Fitness Challenges. If you have a Google Plus account, just drop me a note here and I’ll get you an invite.

I’ve always needed a creative outlet in my life, and even though I cannot write about cycling presently, I still have plenty to write about. Some may know that I recently finished a History and Film degree. I’ve been a film buff since I was a kid, and after surgery I started blogging about movies. That led to me getting back into The Criterion Collection, so now I blog about that. You are welcome to follow me at CriterionBlues.com, just realize that my tastes are all over the place. I’ll talk about old French or Japanese art films far more than modern superhero action flicks, although I like everything. That blog and all those movies are what got me through the long recovery process. My personal Twitter is awest505, which I use regularly, but most of what I talk about is movie, TV, or music related. The Twitter I use for this website has long since been abandoned.

Thank you for following along this journey.

(Edit: Posted this to Facebook as a response to all the kind words)

Last word: when I pressed the ‘publish’ button this morning, I intended to walk away and not look back. I’ve been injured awhile and didn’t expect many people to notice. The outpouring of support, thanks, well wishes and encouragement has been unexpected and overwhelming.

I never expected to build something that would be interesting, helpful, or inspiring to people. A lot of people have said thanks. I would say “you’re welcome,” but “asante kushukuru” would be a better response. If you look it up in the Swahili-English dictionary, it translates as “you’re welcome” but that isn’t accurate. They don’t have a matching phrase in the language. The literal translation is “thank you for thanking me.” So, thank you for thanking me, because even though I’ve put in a lot of work, blood and sweat, it has been a true pleasure.


Another Milestone: 200K + 500

200k traffic

Just in time for some good news, this website recently achieved a couple of milestones that are, frankly, baffling. Just last week, we went over the 200,000 pageview mark. What’s particularly surprising is that the last hundred thousand have been in 2013. The last milestone post was back in January. At the rate this has gone, the next hundred could come early next year.

The Facebook page also reached a milestone with over 500 likes. As of this writing, we’re at 547 likes, which seems to grow very slowly and steadily. Probably 100 of those are my friends who I have personally invited, but all of the others have been from readers or social media surfers. Oddly enough, the website has more friends than I do.

I’ve taken to the Facebook page. It is far more of a community than the blog will ever be, with more interaction and comments on every post. There are some little things I can post there that I would not here, like quick pictures, links, etc. There have even been a couple interesting, lengthier discussions which really cannot happen with the blog.

Part of this milestone is bittersweet, because a good chunk of the traffic came as a result of Ed Hudson’s passing. His tribute post has exceeded 7,000 views, many of which came from internet social media like Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and elsewhere. The day I published that post was also the highest traffic day of all-time.

While a lot of people comment on the articles, a lot more of you seem to quietly read and follow. It seems that on just about every ride, at least one person and often more will recognize me and introduce themselves. That’s a weird feeling because they know a lot about me, and I know virtually nothing about them. Usually I try to fly under the radar, but I’ve found that I enjoy interacting with you all in person, and I always appreciate the nice comments. I’ve managed to meet some tremendous people on this journey, and I’m sure there are plenty to come.

Last year a lot of the traffic came from ride posts, many linked directly from the organizer’s websites. That has been true again this year, but it seems like there has been just as much traffic visiting the other content sections. The Climbs sections have been especially popular ever since I mixed up the format and split them up regionally. Over the last several years, I’ve managed to develop a nice database of places in the southeast to ride. While it is not a definitive list, it is probably the most comprehensive southeast guide that I’m aware of.

North Carolina continues to be the most popular climbing area. In order, Asheville, Tryon/Saluda, Boone and Brevard are the most popular areas. Colorado is the next most popular, followed by Greenville and Columbia in South Carolina. The remainder do not get as much traction, but that is mostly because I haven’t ridden enough to develop them up. One day.

The most popular 20 posts so far this year (not including Dr. Hudson):

1. North Carolina Climbs
2. Assault on the Carolinas, 2013
3. South Carolina Climbs
4. Assault on Mount Mitchell, 2013
5. Asheville Climbs
6. Tryon/Saluda Climbs
7. Rides, Alphabetically
8. Rides, Chronologically
9. Boone Climbs
10. Copper Triange, 2012
11. Haleakala, Hawaii, Cycle to the Sun
12. Brasstown Bald, Hogpen & More
13. Clingman’s Dome
14. Brevard Climbs
15. 2013 Schedule
16. North Greenville Mountain Routes
17. All In for Hincapie
18. Colorado Climbs
19. Boone Gran Fondo, 2013
20. Haute Route: The Stage is Set

Thanks for reading, commenting, and inspiring me.


Climbs Project Completed (for now)

Independence Pass conquered!

There’s nothing like a nasty, lingering cold to help finish long-term projects. Since last year, I’ve been working on revamping the Climbs section to something a little more detailed and pleasing to read. I’m pleased and relieved to say that this project is done as of today. From now on, it’ll be a work in progress as I continue to explore this lovely planet.

Here is what is new:

Boone Climbs: Thanks to this past weekend’s Boone Gran Fondo, I was able to add many new climbs to the existing Boone list. It is now looking to be a pretty comprehensive list. There are a couple notable omissions, like Reynolds Parkway that will be climbed on this weekend’s The Ascent, but I’m unfortunately going to have to miss that one.

Colorado Climbs: There are all from last year’s trip. Most are up in elevation around Vail, Leadville, Breckenridge, with a couple near Denver, and of course, the highest paved road in the United States.

Georgia Climbs: At this point, these are mostly the gaps in the north Georgia mountains. There are some great climbing areas that I’ve had on my list to check out, such as Ellijay and Clayton, that I hope to one day visit. That said, the gaps are some of the best places to climb in the southeast, so I’m pleased with this list.

Tennessee Climbs: This is a fledgling page with a mere two climbs listed, one of which is the highest in the state. I have no plans yet this year to visit the state, but I have a couple rides in mind next year.

Virginia Climbs: This is another fledgling page, with only this past weekend’s foray into Grayson Highlands listed. I expect I’ll add a number of new climbs in a couple months when I ride the parkway.


South Carolina Climbs + Odds and Ends

Pedaling up Caesar's Head, slowly but surely.

Caesar’s Head Mountain

The sick bug continues to plague me. After a week of relatively heavy training, it became much worse, developing into a painfully uncomfortable cough this weekend. Rather than continuing to train and possibly making it worse, I decided to take it easy for a few days.

That gave me some time to do some catching up with the website and various other things.


The Climbs section has been updated yet again. This time I completed with the transition of the South Carolina Climbs to the new and improved format. There are now two new sections:

Columbia Climbs: I was surprised to come up with such an extensive list for Columbia. It isn’t thought of as a climbing city, but with a couple lakes and several rivers in the area, there are plenty of hills around town. Many of these hills have proven useful training for climbing in the mountains.

Greenville Climbs: The majority of these hills are in the North Greenville area up to the state line. These are more traditional, lengthy climbs that are either in, or lead up to the mountains.

There are some notable omissions. The most glaring is that Spartanburg is not mentioned. I’ve ridden plenty in the area, and know of some good hills, but the majority of the climbing near Spartanburg is shared with North Greenville, or just across the state line in the Tryon and Saluda area. At some point if I get to ride more in the city, I may make a Spartanburg section, although I expect there will be a lot of overlap.

Another omission is the far northwest corner of the state, beyond Greenville, around Clemson and Anderson. I have a few Walhalla climbs that I know from Issaqueena’s Last Ride, but the remainder of the area has not been explored. There are a couple of friends and readers in the area who have invited me up to ride. Hopefully at some point I can take them up on the offer.


Blue Ridge Breakaway

Waterrock Knob

Next month I’ll be participating in the Blue Ridge Breakaway ride. It was my favorite ride in 2011, and is among my favorite events that I’ve ever attended. The organizers have offered me a handful of $10 discounts off registration through Active.com. Those interested can use the code steepclimbs at checkout to get the discount. There are only about 3-4 codes remaining, and they expire in a few days. Please either comment below or on Facebook if you use a code.


The response to the Blue Ridge Parkway trip has been tremendous. A number of you have expressed interest, and I think we are nearing a full group. If you are interested in taking one of the last couple spots, please let us know soon.


I cannot give details yet, but I’ve been asked by a couple publications to do some writing. One of them is a paid gig and feature article. I wish I could say more, but all will be revealed in time. I love to write about my hobby, so I’m pretty excited about both projects.


The weekend rest has done me good. Still probably a couple days away from resuming my training, but I should be okay for next week’s Roan Moan and the busy August schedule.


The New and Improved NC Climbs

The initial climb on Pinnacle Mountain

 
The winter project was to clean up the Climbs sections. Many of the pages had grown uncontrollably, had become unwieldy, and made the information disorganized. The NC Climbs page was the worst culprit, as it was just a long, scrolling page with climb after climb.

My first goal was to chop up that page and make it easier to read. To be honest, I finished NC a couple months ago, and simply forgot to tell everyone. So I am telling you about it now.

The new and improved North Carolina Climbs section is up and running. Several geographic areas have been given their own page, with detailed descriptions of the climbs, with Strava and content links. Since this is an autobiographical project, some areas are more comprehensive than others.

You can view the new section here, or explore the specific areas below, ranked from the sections that I think are the best:

1. Tryon/Saluda – this is the closest thing to my backyard in NC, and measures up against anywhere when it comes to cycling climbs. While I don’t have all of the ones in the area, the signature climbs and some hidden gems are all included.

2. Boone Climbs – I’ve encountered quite a few of the climbs in the area due to the sheer amount of organized rides in which I’ve participated. There are a quite a few I’ve missed, notably Beech Mountain, Reynolds Parkway and others, all of which will be crossed off the list someday.

3. Brevard Climbs – Nestled between North Greenville and Asheville, Brevard has some terrific climbing, either at higher elevations as you approach the Blue Ridge Parkway, or lower elevations near the SC border.

4. Asheville Climbs – It feels like I haven’t been to Asheville much, so I was surprised to find so many great climbs in the area that I’d conquered. Since that’s where my coach lives, I expect to get back there plenty more as I begin training again.

5. Sylva Climbs – If the climbs were measured based on epicness (epicity?), then this area could go head to head with anywhere. Down here I’ve found there are a lot of long, not quite as steep climbs, although I still have a lot of ground to explore in the area.

6. Cashiers Climbs – This area overlaps some with Sylva, but I know there are so many unexplored climbs in the Franklin and Highlands area that at some point it’ll be a more comprehensive list.

I’m currently working on the South Carolina Climbs area, which I hope to have finished soon. The other, smaller pages, will be finished shortly after that. I’ll keep all of these sections updated as I discover new playgrounds.


Giving Something Back

Today, for the first time, I accepted advertising. Don’t worry. I’m not selling out. It all went to charity, and there’s more where that came from.

The advertisers are linked below. They are UK-based retailers for outdoor equipment:

Cotswold Outdoor
e-Outdoor
Springfield Camping

There will be more coming soon from some mountain events, and possibly a couple bike shops.

This is a first for SteepClimbs. I had previously received overtures from companies wanting to promote themselves on the website. No thanks, I said. The site is not for sale.

Let me backtrack ..

Independence Pass triumphant!

Independence Pass

Last summer when I was riding up Independence Pass in Colorado, I had an experience of sorts. You could call it an epiphany, a revelation, a realization, or whatever. It was on that ride that I determined my life’s goal to give something back.

To get from where I started years ago as an overweight lump, wasting away on the couch, to someone who rides up 12,000 or 14,000 feet mountains for the pleasure, was inspiring. I wanted to make it my mission to inspire others, and to use my resources as a way of helping others.

This website didn’t start as a commercial venture. I never intended, nor even hoped, to make a dime off it. Frankly, I have a good career, live within my means, and am not looking for an extra source of income. This is just an extension of my passion, my hobby. The fact that people find this thing interesting is an added bonus.

After just recently passing the 100,000 mark, I heard from a few different parties. This time I was more willing to listen, not because I’m looking to make some money, but because this was a way I could give something back.

Since that Independence Pass ride, I’ve been searching for a charity partner that I could work with. At first I struck out, but the search slowly continued.

I settled on the American Diabetes Association for a number of reasons. First and foremost, diabetes is the cause that I feel most aligns with my interests. My goal is to inspire people to be healthy, active, and to reduce their risk. Many of my friends and family have suffered from diabetes. It is a lethal disease, but in many cases, it can be fought.

TDC sidebar

Second, the ADA has annual Tour de Cure events throughout the country. Not only do these benefit diabetes, but they also encourage the local cycling community. The local Tour de Cure is one of the most popular rides in our city.

Here’s how the program will work. All donations will be considered advertising, and will be funneled through the event. You can follow my fundraising progress at the new Tour de Cure section of the website, or donate directly through the Tour de Cure site.

Anyone who donates any amount will get their name and a link of their choice in that section (if they want). The higher the donation amount, the higher the placement on the list.

Anyone who donates $50 or above will get a prominent graphic link on the sidebar of every page of this site. That means that donating a small amount to charity means you are advertising on this website, potentially reaching thousands of cyclists. Again, the more that is donated, the higher the positioning of the link.

The donation links in the Tour de Cure section will remain archived forever. The links on the sidebar will stay on the website until the Tour de Cure on May 4th, 2013. After that, I will restart the fundraising effort for another event to be announced.

A lot of websites and blogs will ask for support through Paypal, clicking on Amazon links, or visiting sponsors. For many, that’s just because they want to generate income. I’m asking you to support my website by helping out others and donating to a great cause. If you appreciate what I do, I ask you to follow my example and give something back.


Breakthrough Week

It has now been nearly seven weeks since my last ride. The time off has been a roller coaster, sometimes with extreme pain, sometimes with absolute boredom. Fortunately, it looks like I am finally closer to the end of my recovery than the beginning.

After two weeks of making hardly any progress, major strides came this week. On Tuesday, I noticed that something felt different. I had more flexibility, mobility, and less soreness. A dull ache existed, at times worse than others, but it was drastically better than it had been a few days before. That was my first breakthrough day. It became even better on Wednesday, Thursday, and then Friday. It feels remarkably better now.

I’m not out of the woods yet. On Monday I will visit Dr. Ekman again, probably get an X-ray, and a direction for treatment. It is possible I’ll need another MRI (Ugh!). My guess is that the fracture has mostly healed, but there are some other soft tissue issues underneath the labrum that still need to be dealt with. There is some lingering soreness, and I can tell that my hip still is not quite right. I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll be able get everything working in harmony again, and that I can begin training on the bike soon.

In two weeks, I will register for the Assault on Mount Mitchell again. That seems like a bold commitment at this stage of the year, but one I am prepared to make. Even if I cannot train like I have the last couple of years, this is the ride I want to do every year. I’m banking on having enough carryover fitness to make it to the finish line, however slowly, without focusing on time. Any training I can manage until then will be a bonus.

Speaking of Mitchell, my friends in the southeast might be interested to know that I am now blogging for the 2013 Assault. The first post is up now, and more will follow. Much of my material will not be new to readers of this blog, and a few things will be cross-posted over the next few months. I’ll be an editor of sorts as well, working with a few others for different perspectives and tips, varying from beginners to professionals. Even if you do not ride in the Mitchell event, you might find the material useful to prepare for any sort of endurance event.

Finally, I’d like to give a couple shout outs. It was a tough decision for me to bail on this year’s Haute Route plans, even if it was the right decision. I want to thank Wes for backing out with me. We had planned to do the ride together, were going to train together, fly together, and be roommates during the entire event. We both deferred our registrations and plan to participate in the 2014 event.

The final shout out is to the Vicious Cycle team. Wes and I left them in the lurch by backing out. Fortunately they were able to find a couple replacements rather quickly. Keeping in the spirit of internationalism, they added Julian from Edinburgh, UK, and Patrick from Sydney, Australia. They now have a great looking kit, which I’ll be following for this year’s event.