George Peck was one of the big “draws” at the California Mountain Unicycle
Weekend. I think many people came because they knew he would be there, as well
as Roger Davies, the Cotters, and of course Bloodman. I was very proud to read
this letter that he sent me via snail mail (he’s not connected – yet), in which
he tells how much he enjoyed himself. With riding tastes like his, it’s nice to
know we had enough difficulty, and enough ease, for everybody.
Please enjoy George’s humorous and informative letter below.
>From George Peck, Oct. 15, 1996:
I flew in Friday afternoon and waited for a pickup at around 6. In the mean time
Ken Estes paged me and said he was going to rent a car and he, Craig Rogers and
I would to in together. Well, Craig was late and decided to rent his own car so
Ken rented this utter piece of junk Chevy. It was completely automatic as to
lights and door locks and somehow our use of the car was opposite the engineer’s
concept because whenever we tried to use the lights or door locks they were
wrong. Despite its unfriendly engineering we managed to load up, get it started
and lash out for Roseville in the dark. We immediately noticed that California
marks their off-ramps and intersections with sighs on the downstream side.
Therefore, when (and if) you see the sign, it’s too late. So we missed a whole
bunch of turnoffs and ended up in downtown, old town Sacramento. As navigator I
desperately tried to get us back to highway 80 and after an impromptu detour
through Burger King and miscellaneous high speed U turns on the freeway
(remember, Ken is from New York) we got on Highway 80 West.
After a bit of a drive we were back at the airport. Somehow I had inverted east
and west reading the map. So, another Starsky and Hutch U turn across the median
got us going toward (not away) from Roseville. then, following John’s written
instructions to the letter we ended up against a concrete wall after turning
“left at the first stop light” (he really meant the second stop light).
Fortunately Ken’s survival instincts, native good sense and New York driving
skills took over at this point and we foundered our way to John’s place.
John started the meeting at the Confluence of the south and middle forks of the
American River. We had an entertaining workshop and a short uphill race (I DQ’d
both tries). Then we started out on the ride proper. A nice double track (some
dirt, some paved) wound up to the top of the bluff. It was very hot and by this
time all of us except Brett were feeling the strain of cranking up steep hills
in 90 plus temps. Then we crested the hill and started down on some nice single
track, crossed the washed out highway and then took an old single track along
the middle fork of the American that was quite delightful – lots of granite
outcrops and exposed drops to the river. These sections required care because a
foot or pedal strike could have launched a rider down the chute into the river.
By the time the first ride was over, about 3pm, I was burned out. I went down
to the river and lay in it up to my neck. I could feel my core temperature
slowly come out of the red zone. It was one of the most delightful experiences
of my life.
After a pizza or two we set out for the evening ride. This was a short downhill
section called Stagecoach. It had a few little gnarly spots that caused some
trouble. Paul did an amazing and impromptu imitation of a goosed frog while
trying to cross a two plank bridge across a stagnate rill. And Brett would have
been there but for the fact his car keys disappeared during the pizza orgy. By
the time the locksmith came and fashioned new keys, the rest of us were long
gone. Ask Brett where he finally found the keys.
That was one butt kicker of a day. The heat, steep hills, and rocky trails
made for tough rides. My complete admiration for anyone that complete the
The next day was a 10 miler along the edge of Folsom Lake. There is no net gain
in altitude but the single track bobs up and down as it traverses the many hills
that finger into the lake. This day was even hotter. It was so hot, a dip in the
lake really didn’t cool me down much – it just made me wet hot.
Even so, I thought I could reel in Julie Young (12 years old) who was ahead of
me for a while. I never did. She is a fast rider. And her brother Jonathan Young
(15) is a superb rough terrain rider. He tried to follow me for a ways, but
finally said, “I can’t ride this slow” and blew by me.
The only thing any of us saw of Brett was his behind as he disappeared down the
trail. At 6’4" and 150 pounds this guy is built for speed. A true gazelle. Roger
Davies, with his light frame and lighter carbon fiber cycle was also fast. More
in the whippet class. The rest of us just made on as best we could.
John Foss’ dread, “Stop! I gotta take a picture” rang out every five minutes or
so, so I never did see much of him on the rides. Nevertheless, John was
everywhere. He arranged this whole thing, got people to and from planes and let
them stay at his house. He deserves high praise from all the riders for his
efforts and genius.
[editor’s note: Hey, I never made anybody else stop while I took pictures.
Unless you count the times I asked people to re-ride certain spots . . . Also,
it was indeed very hot that weekend, with temperatures around 95 both days,
about 10-15 degrees above normal. The next two days it got to almost 100! Two
weeks later, summer was gone and a high temperature one day was 62.]
The bi-cyclists were fairly impressed with the lot of us. One guy came
barreling down the trail, saw me, did a double take then careened his bike up a
steep bank to his left, stalled out, forgot to unclip, rolled backward across
the trail and crashed below. He declined any offers of help, so I left him
muttering to himself beneath his bike. We met a fair number of bicyclers and
even one running couple.
It’s important for us to get out in groups. As John pointed out, one of us on
the trail – a kook; two of us – two kooks; but three or more unicyclers?
…Umm …this has got to be a happening.
There were lots of different kinds of cycles, equipment and skill levels at the
rides, but I think a rough consensus developed among us. First, LONG CRANKS RULE
(within the constraints of leg length and ground clearance).
Good pedal contact is important too, so a big, fat, BMX pedal and a heeled boot
works well. A comfortable seat is nice, but I don’t know if anyone has really
solved this problem yet. Suspension seat post? They help, but they are
vulnerable to being dropped, the stacked elastomer types only work for riders
with an inseam of 33 inches or more and they are expensive – about 150 bucks.
Are they worth it? To me yes, to someone else, I couldn’t say. I wouldn’t think
so unless rides are consistently over three hours, and there is soreness in the
pubic process after a long ride.
One thing that struck me about the adult riders in attendance was the dominant
representation in science, math and computer science professions. Interesting.
The heat in Folsom was mind boggling. It certainly messed with my thermostat.
About half way through the Sunday ride I started to lose my vision. It was like
watching a jerky movie. So I stopped and rested for a few minutes. Then I
continued at a very conservative pace.
Upon returning to Seward I went to the pool for my ritual Tuesday lap swim. I
wondered briefly why there was a knot of maintenance types talking to the guard
and no one was in the pool, but no matter. The water was cool but pleasant, and
I swam my set. On the way out I remarked to the guard how odd it was no one
else was swimming. Turns out the water temp was 75 degrees and no one else
Now put this in perspective. Just last week I was to be found complaining
bitterly about 83 degree water being too cold. And two years ago in 74 degree
water my cold water reflex took over so completely that I swam the first two
laps without breathing. The heat in Folsom completely twisted the knob off my
Nevertheless, it was a good outing. The next brouhaha at Tahoe should be
wonderful. Altitude problems but no heat problems. Lots of steep terrain. You
guys better get some 170’s (6.7") on those 24’s or you’ll be walking a lot.
[editor’s note: The brouhaha to which George refers is the plan for CA MUni
Weekend '97, which will probably consist of one day at a ski place in the Lake
Tahoe area. We will probably choose the Olympic venue of Squaw Valley. However,
mountain weather is very unpredictable. It could be anywhere from 40 degrees
(which it probably will be in the morning) to 90 at midday. Also, if you’re
worried about all that uphill riding, of course we will be using the lifts (and
the big gondola!).]
Stay on Top, John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone dirt-encrusted MUni rider