Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Holidays

I've definitely slacked off with the blog the last few weeks. I'll just blame it on the hectic holidays (like everyone else). The good news is I haven't lost all sanity and shot anyone, burned down any houses or carpet bombed towns filled with small children. Ah, I love the way the holidays bring all of humanity a little closer. Brings a tear to my eyes, just wish it was one of joy.

Bringing it down a notch and a little closer to home, the holidays have been pretty good to me. I kicked off the season with the Hoppy Holidaze ride into Baltimore with a gaggle of Outlaws and one Victor. I met the group at the 195 Park N Ride. I parked and we rode into the city for some beer, grub and kick ass music from the All Mighty Senators. First stop was at Max's on Broadway to get properly lubricated before the show. I must say, Max's has one fine beer selection. More beer on tap than any place I've ever seen and a mind numbing amount in bottles. I stuck with several different offerings from Stone Brewing Co., but, one word of caution, the smoked porter is VERY smokey. Like this thing sat over a campfire for a week smokey. From Max's it was off to the 8x10 to hear some music. Sitali was the opening band and they were pretty good. Similar to Fishbone, this trio had a big, fast sound infused with lots of humor. AMS came next and I knew I was in for a treat when a fluffy pink drum kit was placed front and center. I've heard of the band before and regret waiting so long to catch their show. It was in a word, AWESOME! Lead singer Landis Expandis has an energy rarely seen and the fusion of rock, soul and funk is truly unique. Do yourself a favor and check them out, you will not regret it. After the show we dismantled the pyramid of bikes and rolled out of the city in a very satisfying beer and funk induced haze.

Next was some fine family and friends fun when a group of us loaded up the (shutter) minivans and checked out the winter lights at Seneca Creek State Park. The kids had a great time singing holiday songs as we drove through the displays. Frank and Lisa invited everyone back to their place for mulled cider and baked treats. Most of the parents opted for adult style beverages over the cider and the good doctor keeps a fine selection at home.

Christmas eve, eve we decide to brave the cold and check out the National Tree down in DC. Again, this was a family oriented trip and the kids really seemed to have fun on the trip down. We had our own car on the Metro for a good portion and the wee ones wrecked havoc when the opportunity arose. Naomi braved the long line to see Santa as the rest of us checked out the sights. After their holiday fill the kids decided wrestling David was more fun than looking at some stinking tree and they took him to the ground with ease. On the walk back we searched in vain for hot chocolate and ended up getting juice boxes and coffee from McDonald's. Not quite the ending we were hoping for, but, the kids didn't seem to mind.

Christmas eve was spent at my sisters house, the kids did a fine job destroying her house before Santa's arrival. Next morning was spent watching the kids rip through a mountain of toys and then dinner at my brothers a little later in the day.

Saturday, feeling all that cheer around my mid-section, I was able to squeeze in a quick road ride while the family napped. The weather was nice and apparently a lot of people felt the need to burn those holiday calories off as well. I saw numerous riders out over those 21 miles.

Sunday was my "big ride" day, however, there was not much chatter from the gang about a ride. RiderX and I had exchanged emails about possibly hitting Raystown or Michaux, but, the weather had other plans and we decided to stay local and ride the Shed. A tentative plan in place I get a call from DaveG and then one from Tim. Dave wants to beat the rain and we think an early start @ 9 would be in order. New plan in place I catch wind of a ride from Sandflats at 10 and think we can hook up with the larger group as we head north towards Salamander. Timing was almost perfect as our small group of three roll into Sandflats shortly after 10. Ricky, sporting his signature red knickers, was just pulling his bike off the roof and Darius (true to form) was tinkering with his. Stoner, Camps, Bunky, Mike Miller, Mrs. Outlaw, Bek, Jojo, Anne and Lynn were also there and it was great to see everyone out and about. The only one missing was Tony and he's the one who suggested the ride the night before.

Tim and I help the Big Dog install some new brake pads while with for DC Tony to show. About 10:30 he's still not there and my original group is getting the itch to get moving. We are on a schedule and still have lot's of ground to cover. Hoping we will run into everyone out on the trail we bid everyone adue and head towards Salamander. Bunky and Mike jump on and we are now 5. The pervious nights rain has made things slicker than snot and I get thrown to the ground, hard, when my front wheel washes out over a log. My head, shoulder and shin all take a good wack and I require a few moments to regain composure. We roll all of Sally and then take Blue towards Super Sweet. The single track, with it's rock base, is solid enough, but, the fire roads and utility cut-throughs are SOFT and sap tons of energy as we negotiate around the trails. At the 3 way we convince Bunky to stay with the group and ride Super Sweet. I go down two more times on Rock Candy and seem to hit the same spot on my left shin each time. Still, even wet and slippery the trail is a hoot and I'm glad we decided to burn the elevation. At the road, Mike and Bunky turn left, while Tim, Dave and I go right. We decide to road it back to the lot, lick our wounded egos (and my wounds) and save ourselves for another day. The road ride out, however, is not to be taken lightly and some serious climbing lay before us. Running low on gas we pushed hard on those final pitches and finally made it back to the cars. My GPS was having fits that day and I estimate we covered about 20 miles, however, it felt more like 40. Tim and I finish off the day with a killer lunch at Poblano's, which needs to be put into regular rotation now.

The mailman delivered a special package that I've been anxiously awaiting. A new pair of Karhu Kodiak telemark skis and Hammer-Head bindings. These skis are FAT, much wider than my old Tua's and hopefully a little easier to ski. The last couple winters have been very frustrating for me in that I'm just not progressing with my free-heel technique. I'll have a couple good runs and then cross a ski, go down hard and twist a knee in the process. That's about the time I'm forced to put the planks away and bust out my trusty board. It also means I'm not spending the required time on my skis. I hope the new gear will change things up this winter. I guess I'll find out tomorrow when I put these babies to the test. Big thanks to Camps for lending me a couple DVD's of the free-heel variety. One was instructional and one was pure powder porn. Reviews to follow soon....or a trip to the ER.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sno n Meeshow

After numerous emails (what happened to the flow chart?) and some grumbles about cold weather, the Sunday ride was finalized and we stayed with the original Michaux plan. Camps opted in late Saturday night and there was still no word from Scuba Steve....or anyone else for that matter. Saturday saw some flurries and a nice dusting on the ground by Sunday morning. There was a definite chill in the air as the G-Town/Burg contingent headed north to pick up the Big Dog. Upon arrival we were happy to see Tony, who apparently showed up around 10 the night before, was going to join in the fun. Of course, true to form, Tony and Darius had to tinker with something before we could leave and this mornings project was Tony's bike mount. Once we saw the Allen wrench go through the sunroof we knew it was going to be a "special" day.

We met up with Larry at the Totem Pole parking lot and the wind was howling. Any expose skin was instantly stung with the biting cold of an icy wind. Questioning our sanity we moved to a slightly less exposed parking lot and that made all the difference. Layered up and with a pre-ride taster in our bellies we headed up the mountain for a long sustained climb up yellow. The dry snow on top of the leaves made for limited traction, but, at least we weren't cold any longer. Larry and Darius played tour guide and the trails took on a whole new personality with the wintery covering. Several of the trails we hit I have ridden before and a few were new to me. All were good. Michaux has some exceptional riding and I highly recommend making the MBM rides if you want to explore the trails.

We stopped periodically for photo ops and to talk about possible routes. Half the stuff up there doesn't have a name, so, make sure you travel with someone in the know. When in doubt just call the trail "connector" and go about your business. It was on one of these "connectors" that "that guy" Tony lost a chainring bolt or two and tacoed a beautiful Boones Ti chainring. In the process he also broke an arm of his crank spider. With no hope of repair his ride came to an abrupt end. At the road the guys inform him of a road route back to the cars which is mostly downhill. Not one to send a person off alone, I opt to hang with him and get an early start on the beer drinking. We walk, roll down and push our way back to the cars and crack a couple 60 minutes upon arrival. The rest of the crew is only 20 minutes or so behind us and Larry invites the lot back to his place for beer and Chili. Of course, we have the obligatory stop over at the Chambersburg Pump Track for some heart pounding, thigh burning fun before the feast.

Big thanks to Kim & Larry for the hospitality.

Pump Track

Monday, December 1, 2008

Doggie Style

I thought that would get your attention.

I got back from the beach around 1 on Saturday and had to squeeze in a ride. Barb was leaving for NY early Sunday morning, so, that meant no "ride with the guys" that day. I give DKEG a call to see if he made it back from his trip and interested in joining me. He was and the next decision was where and what type of ride to do. Schaeffer and the Shed were closed for hunting, a road ride seemed too pedestrian and Gambrill meant getting back in the car. A quick check of park closures revealed that the HMC and Blackhills were open, so, we grab the cross bikes and decided a mixed surface ride to Sugarloaf would be nice on this beautiful post Turkey Day ride.

David's C'Dale has been set up SS ever since the IC debacle. My TriCross hasn't seen any love since that race and she gets pulled down for the days ride. I quickly install some pedals and lube the chain and we are ready to roll. The skies are clear, the sun is warm on this Autumn day and we shed a layer before heading out. On the HMC we come across the nearly completed bridge that has been in the works for some time. A couple quick snaps and we are moving again. Once we pop out on the road a decision needs to be made. The subject of Flying Dog Brewery came up at my house as did Blackhills. If we ride over to the single track of the park, we probably won't make last call at the brewery, however, if we make the trek up North we WILL run out of light and neither of us are packing supplemental lighting. We decide to pass on Blackhills, make our way to Sugarlaof and re-assess time at the mountain.

DKEG really knows the back roads through this area and we are having a spectacular ride. Rolling hills with pocket horse ranches and farms sprinkle the landscape. The sun is warm on our faces and the still air is filled with the smells of fall. We pick up the second of our gravel roads outside of Barnsville with views of Sugarloaf off in the distance. The washboard ripples make taking pictures a little challenging, but we get a couple good ones to document the route. Near the mountain we pick up Mt. Ephriam and take this around the base of the mountain. A quick left on Park Mills and then back to the gravel and Monocacy Bottom Rd. This "road" is very wet with numerous puddles and I fear the stream will be more swollen than usual. My fears confirmed I get a good run up to the stream and make it all the way across. Unfortunately, the water was deep and my feet got just as wet as if I would have walked across. David wearing his Lake winter boots didn't have the same concerns. Back on the road I'm thankful the temps are so mild, my feet are soaked and we have plenty of riding before we are done.

We pop out on 80 for a moment and then a quick right on Michaels Mill Rd. This is a great little road that skirts along the Monocacy river and a beautiful old stone house overlooking the river. It is a short, but, very sweet section of road that brings you into the quaint borough of Buckeystown and route 85. From here we know our final destination is just minutes away. This section of road is the busiest and least appealing one we've been on all day. It is a necessary evil I guess with no real viable options. Once out of Buckeystown, we pedal for a mile or so and quickly turn left into a massive industrial complex and English Muffin Way. Had we turned right we would encounter the Thomas's English Muffin plant for which the road is named. Our direction brings us to the Flying Dog Brewery and the Saturday afternoon "tasting".

From 1 until 4:30 or so, 5 bucks will get you a souvenir pint glass and and as many free "samples" of the brewery's offerings you care to try. Many a head turned as David and I entered the packed tasting room. I guess helmets and hydration packs are not common attire, but , we didn't care. Our first attempt to visit the brewery was met with locked doors. We were happy that fortune smiled upon us this day. I started with their Gonzo Imperial Porter which helped to bring feeling back into my slightly chilled feet. I don't recall what David sampled first, but, I know it put an instant smile on his face. I tried and liked the Barley Wine, but, was less than impressed with their double IPA. It seemed rushed to keg and had a bitter after-taste. Another unusual beer was the Smoked Lager, it was like bacon in a glass....and I like bacon.....just not in a glass. The brewery shares it's operation with Frederick Brewing and the Wild Goose line of beers. So, their offerings were also available to the curious patron. I tried a short glass of the Pumpkin Patch which was nice and subtle with hints of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. The Snow Goose was another seasonal of note. I finished up the same way I started, with a Gonzo Porter. Shortly before 5 the staff informed us we had to vacate the premises. Good thing David called his wife Lisa when we reached Sugarloaf. Our ride home had been established and I was thankful for the lift. The short bike ride to Buckeystown was fun in our slightly buzzed state of mind, however, my feet were getting cold again and there was no warming sun to provide relief. With impeccable timing, Lisa and the boys arrived at our extraction point the exact moment we did. No waiting around in the cold for us....which was sweet! On the way home we regaled Lisa with tales from our ride and she just shook her head in wonder. Wondering how two grown men can have so much fun on a couple bikes.

Oh, did I mention it rained the whole next day?

Gobble gobble

Turkey day 08 was spent down on the Eastern Shore with Grandma. Sunny skies and mild temps meant we were not hunkered down indoors all weekend and we made the best of the nice weather. Got on the road in the early am Thursday, breezed all the way to the beach and proceeded to stuff our faces most of the day. Mom was a little bummed when the turkey came out under-cooked and had to go back in the oven. Fortunately, it was only my family and we just continued to fill our bellies with crab dip and clams casino until the bird was done. Since Jonathan's birthday is so close to Thanksgiving, he received several gifts from Grandma and I had to split my time between eating and putting Transformers together. Jackie got a few toys as well cuz grandmothers just can't buy for one child.....you know.

The next day we headed down to the boardwalk to burn off a few calories. The skies were partly overcast and made for slightly cooler temps. Jonny kept eyeballing the arcades and was pestering us to no end. I spotted a flock of Seagulls being fed by a family and had the kids run after the birds. That kept them occupied for a little while and provided a few laughs for me. Of course, I was a little concerned about being crapped on by these flying rats. We escaped unscathed and decided to rent a 4 person surry for an hour. If you've never seen on of these, it's a four wheel, 4 person bike with a little canopy. Barb, my copilot, did a great job as the second engine and we really tore up the boardwalk. Just as we were getting ready to return the bike, I hear a voice calling me. Turns out the Kings were down for the weekend as well. Steve, Tracy, Sam and Maddy (with a couple friends) were staying in Bethany and were killing time on the boardwalk as well. We chatted for several minutes and bid them farewell as we had to head back to Grandma's house and round 2.

Back at her house I start pulling out Xmas decorations and help to get her house ready for the next holiday. The kids are back at it with their new toys and Mom is cooking up yet another feast for Friday night. It's going to take some serious rides to work all this food off.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ahhh Bliss!

Take one part mountain bike ride, one part home-brew tasting, throw in some fine grub, sprinkle with sunshine and you get the 2008 Bootlegger's Bliss. The Blue-Eyed Devil really did a great job of putting on this little pseudo-underground event. '08 marks the third installment of the Bliss and was my first time in attendance, I don't plan to make it my last.

Patapsco Valley State park was the backdrop for the days events and Jon "Baler" worked with Steve on a great route that took us on an amazing sampling of the trails. I was told we were planning on 12 or so miles, personally I didn't care. It was a spectacular day, I had great company and a beer in my bottle cage. About the only thing that would have made it better would have been a backup beverage for when the bottle went dry. Not concerned with hammering through the woods, I elected to hang back, help out and take some pictures when I could. Aside from a couple mechanicals and a few wet feet the group make it through the woods in one piece. I can't say the same for dcTony's chain. It broke twice during the ride and was eventually pieced together from several sources. The second repair seemed to take and the group made it back to the pavilion for the second half of the days events, the potlatch beer tasting and feast.

As Steve noted in his final email "The Bliss is a DIY-themed potlatch", no commercial beer or food was to enter the pavilion. At the conclusion of the ride, everyone set forth to present their offerings to the group. Both the food and beer was of the highest caliber and quantity. The beer selection was one of the most amazing I've ever witnessed. There were brews from many different styles that reflected both traditional and not so traditional recipes. Dark Irish Stouts, hopped up India Brown Ales, a Pumpkin Saison, Breakfast Stouts and so on. One of my personal favorites was Butch's Obama Chocolate Stout. The label alone made the beer highly sought after and I'd love to have one of his spoke cards. The same degree of care was put into everyone's food. Dave made some great pork BBQ and home-made rolls. There was a delicious Southwestern pasta salad, BBQ ribs, several chilies and Mike brought and shucked oysters on the half shell to name just a few. I decided some fresh cut fries and wings ala Scud would help to fill any wanting bellies. They seemed to be a hit as a group of hungry bikers always hovered close by.

While I was frying up wings and things a few people were having a go at a unicycle near the picnic table. Ricky borrowed the uni from JoeP and it was a big hit. I commented to someone that I use to ride one years ago (20+) and they suggested I give it a shot. Once a batch of wings got dropped I knew I'd have some time and gave it a whirl. I was rusty, to be sure, but like the old saying goes "it's just like riding a bike". After a few initial wobbles, I got my balance back and was able to stay upright for brief periods of time. After a few more beers my confidence grew and I foolishly rode the uni in the asphalt derby. I was probably more of a liability out there, but boy, it sure was fun.....and HARD! I sweat more during the derby than I did during the entire ride. Derby concluded we adjourn to the picnic tables for the obligatory trials session. Dave Blum schooled all comers with his skills and made track stands look easy. My hat is off to you sir.

Shortly before sunset a ranger's truck comes the wrong way up a one way road, Baler takes note and correctly called that we would be asked to vacate the premises. Fortunately the fading light had already made that decision for us and we were well on our way with packing our belongings. The oil from my fryer was still a little warm and I hoped DKEG would not get burned by it on our way home. Last few items were placed in the truck when I realized I didn't have my souvenir pint glass to commemorate the day. I ask our host if he had any more and he produced what I believe to be the last one....and one from last year. Thanks Steve, I owe you a beer. Hell, after all the work you did and the amount of fun I had that day, I owe you a keg of beer.

I'll be back in 2009.

Additional photos from Icon O'Classt

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Trick or Treat
Glitter Graphics

I like that graphic, courtesy of Bligee.com.

The 3rd annual Halloween Ride @ Schaeffer has come and gone. We broke some attendance records, again, and I may need to ask for an exemption from the rider limit next year. This ride gets more and more popular every year.

I blew out of work a little early to get the tricks placed out on the trails and couldn't have asked for more perfect weather. Sunny, high in the sixties and crystal blue skies. This made the task of pulling a heavily loaded BOB trailer seem at bit less nauseating. Spider webs, ghostly brides and a variety of seasonal favorites peppered the trails on the eve of Halloween. Tricks in place I headed back to the lot for a quick beer and some final preparations. About this time a number of people were arriving including the Big Dog and DC Tony. Darius busted out the State Farm mascot bear and Tony did his best Dark Knight impression. Actually, most everyone came in costume this year, a nice change over the weak showing last year. Cathie won the "sexiest costume" award with a nice skin suite, Stoner got best decorated bike, mainly because Cathie already won something (she REALLY likes Halloween) and Jim got "most dangerous" costume. This goes out to the person who has the greatest chance at bodily injury do to costume malfunction.

After the awards we broke down into smaller groups and hit the trails. Some of the motion sensors didn't quite go off like I was hoping, so, some things were less than spectacular. However, we had some very spirited riders and they more than made up for the malfunctioning props. This year we even learned of an old graveyard from the 1800's out on the yellow loop. DKEG was tinkering with his wheel so a few of us went in search of the pre-civil war burial ground. Sure enough it was just up the gravel road a couple hundred yards. Tuck away off in the woods this old, unmaintained cemetary had the makings of a bad horror flick. You know the story line, a bunch of panksters get hacked to death while violating a grave on Halloween. Pretty standard stuff and I'm sure I cursed myself with some bad juju as I laid down for a photo opt in one of the depressed graves.

The pleasant daytime temps faded with the sun and some of the crew was getting a little cold. Several stream crossings and wet feet didn't help as the group was whittled down. By the time we hit the yellow/blue playground our original group of 12 was down to 4. Darius, DKEG, Jim and I pressed on and hit the interior yellow and crossed over to the white. We decided the hour was getting late and split up to retrieve the tricks from the trials. Some of the other riders beat us to most of the props and back in the lot we learned only a few remained on the outer white. Jim volunteered to give me a hand and we finished our task as fast as we could. Back in the lot a number of people waited for our return and then we met the rest of the riders at DogFish Head Brewery for some post ride libations and food.

Another Halloween ride for the books. People are already talking about next year. I can't wait!

True, true

Monday, October 27, 2008

Watershed 911

One of my oldest buddies, Capt. Pat, came into town this weekend and had but one request, singletrack, classic East Coast singletrack. Happy to oblige I round up the usual suspects and hope the weather clears for Sunday. Saturday was wet with storms most of the day and the front was supposed to move out later that day. Well, caulk one up for the weather people (about time) cuz the sky was crystal clear Saturday night and Sunday morning looked incredible.

Pat shows up a little early to assemble his airline boxed bike. We knock back a cuppa joe while we wrench and try to catch up on several years worth of news. His bike assembled I go to load the bikes on the car and notice a front flat on my ride. No worries, a quick tube swap and we were back in business. Pat notices what we thought to be a shipping scratch on the front plate of his Thompson stem. Merely a scratch we think and proceed to finish packing. Running a little behind schedule we meet up with a few others and get the carpool situation resolved. Headed north we continue to catch up and I look forward to showing him some of the rocky goodness in the "Shed".

In the p-lot the gang has assembled, I do some quick introductions and we continue to gear up. Just as we are ready to roll someone comments on the scratch Pat noticed earlier. Apparently it was not a scratch but a full blown crack, right down the middle of his face plate about half the length. Fortunately I have a spare stem in the car and we set forth to swap it out...quickly. The stem had other plans as one of the cinch bolts was stripped out and would not budge. With limited tools Pat thinks his ride will be scrubbed. Darius goes off in search of a drill, chainsaw....whatever he can find. I get the idea to just give him my face plate and put the spare stem on my bike. Spare in place, face plate swapped we were ready to roll.....again. If your keeping score we have had three mechanicals (so far) and haven't even started the ride yet.

Blasting down Blue Tony drops his chain twice and decides adding some tension might be a good idea. It was and he didn't drop it for the rest of the day. Pat is smiling ear to ear and we decide to hit Trail 6 and a little technical descent. We actually miss Trail 6 and come down the freeride trail, which is just as good when dry. The previous days rain and Autumn leaves made for some slick riding, but, everyone made it down in one piece and we were all still smiling. Rolled down to Death March and the climb up took its toll on our guest rider. Being on a boat and not on his bike, Pat was a tad out of shape and Death March let him know it. At the top of the climb we decided to modify our original plans and head over to Iceberg and do it in the Grebeci direction. While discussing these plans I decide to find out where a mysterious "clicking" noise is coming from on my bike. About the same time someone asks Phil if he planned on fixing his flat tire. Apparently, at some point, 1 of my chainring bolts fell out, the other three were VERY loose, Phil developed flat front tire and Liz' stem and handlebar bolts worked their way loose. She noticed some creaking on the climb and we decided to take a look, just in case. So let's see, that's 1..2...7, 7 mechanicals and we are at mile 4?? Oh, and Pat looks like he might hurl his breakfast if we do another climb anytime soon. Thank goodness it was a nice day otherwise all this might of sucked!

Over on Grebeci the going is slow but fun. Again, the wetness made things tough and this trail doesn't need any help in that department. We pick our way through the boulder fields, session a rock ledge and decide Table Rock will be a good place to crack our beers and take in a snack. Some more sessioning ensues and we are having a good time once again. Off Table Rock, we come down off the Ridge and onto the Roman Highway, bash our way to the S Turn and just couldn't convert it this time. As the rocks gave way to trees things were looking better and the pace picked up again. The trail gods weren't quite done with us and they demanded another sacrifice, however, this time it was to be a human one. DaveG slipped on a log-over and went down......HARD. He hit the side of his torso on part of the stump and heard a loud "snap", hoping it was lumber, knowing it was something else. Dave in agony, Liz and I volunteer to head back to the lot, get a vehicle and EVAC Dave out of the park. Darius suggests taking Mountaindale down and back up as the fastest route. I agree and head off.....in the wrong direction. I don't know what I was thinking, but, I went down Gambrill park road and essentially doubled my trip back to the car. Halfway down the mountain I realize my mistake and can do little but press on. I'm now committed to this direction.

Liz tells me to motor on, get the car and meet her on my way back down. I hit the gas, negotiate several long, steep climbs and try to make up some time. Bike on roof and a trail of dust behind me I pick up Liz as she finishes the last climb (of course). We kick in the after-burners and head down the road at a white-knuckle pace. Got back to the group at the trailhead and Dave is not looking good. Darius helps to pack all the bikes and gear in my truck and the four of us, Dave, Liz, Pat and myself head back to Hamburg to get Dave's car. Liz drove Dave in his truck, Pat and I follow in mine. We get him back to his place where Shannon is waiting to take him to the hospital. Sure enough, that cracking sound was two broken ribs. Dave is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks.

Get well soon Dave.

Oh, and Pat.....welcome to The Shed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Heaven and Hell

AKA, The Iron Cross VI. That pretty much summed up Liz's description of the race and I can't say I'd disagree. You were either grinning ear to ear or cursing the sadistic bastard who designed the course.

This was my second year racing the IC and my first doing it on a SS. Like last year the race started off on a traditional CX course and the dizzying "vortex of death". A spiral near the center of the course with opposing traffic on either side. AC/DC blaring over the PA system, this has to be one of the coolest ways to start a race. Somehow the vortex didn't implode and all the riders were spit out to the roads and trails throughout Michaux State Forest in PA.

The cool Autumn air and perfect weather made for an exceptional day of racing. DKEG and I had talked the race up to a number of people we knew and quite a few actually showed up. It was awesome seeing a few more familiar faces this year. I had the pleasure of spending a bit of time with Aaron (HO) and Stephen throughout the race. Always a good thing when you can ride with some buddies.

Liz and Becky both raced in the SS division, which was not separated by sex. Liz's commuter was still sporting a fender and was switched from fixed to free early that morning. Baler was rolling fixed, JoeP on his Cross Check. DKEG, Aaron, Stephen and Camp (can you believe it!) decided multiple gears were the order for the day. This decision would come back to haunt David as numerous problems with shifting resulted in his early departure from the race. Through an interesting turn of events I'm the proud owner of a Specialized SingleCross and decided to race it instead of the new La Cruz. I'm not sure I made the right decision, but, it's a damn fine bike and was fun to race.

The great thing about the IC is the variety. You hit a little bit of everything during the race. CX course, roads, gravel, double track, single track and "run-ups" that require a climbing harness and ice axes. Well, that may be a bit much, but, the run-ups really are VERY steep and VERY long and a single mistake can result in serious injury. Just ask the MBM rider who broke her leg training for the IC. For me the best part is the single track. Popping through the woods on skinny tires, banging down loose rocky descents while in the drops is just silly fun. Sure, the roadies would crush me with their long trains on asphalt, but, I was grinning like a fool as I passed them on Lippencote while they shouldered their bikes over the smallest obstacle. Paybacks are hell.

Speaking of hell, the hills just demoralized you. Last year, when I had gears, they sucked and they weren't any better on Sunday. Still, you gotta pay to play and that was the toll exacted on the participants. Once you got over a major climb you were rewarded with a screaming downhill, sometimes on loose gravel roads. More than once I came into a turn and saw many skid marks that went off into the trees. More than once I was damn close to being one of those guys. Thankfully my brakes worked well and they kept me upright and on course for the entire race.

After the last "run-up" I knew we didn't have much left and most of it would be on the road. Pushing through some minor cramps I put my head down and turned the cranks as best I could. I caught up to two single speeders I had been playing leapfrog with throughout the day and was able to pass on a long road descent. I thought my gain would be short lived as both guys were very strong riders and much better at the road portions than myself. With a small gap on them I hooked up with a geared rider and we worked together on the final stretch. I kept looking back expecting to be overtaken at any moment, however, I didn't see the other riders for the rest of the race. As a matter of fact, after I crossed the line I kept an eye out and didn't see either rider cross the line at all. I'm still quite confused about that aspect of the race. Post race daze....maybe. Anyway, I ended the day in 9th place for SS class with a time of 4:54. A cold beer and warm burrito topped off a perfect, painful day of racing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Camping with Kids

A whole bunch of us decided to do a little Fall camping in Gambrill State Park this past weekend. 3 Wives, 11 kids, 3 dogs, several bikes, big wheels and fishing poles....this was family car camping at its finest. A few of us went by the campground (with our boys) Friday after work to secure the sites and pitch a couple tents. Beer accompanied us and no one really wanted to leave after a few stouts. Unfortunately Frank was the only one planning to spend the night, so, the rest of us were not prepared for the cool Autumn night. As the temperature dropped we reluctantly loaded the minivan and headed south to Germantown, leaving Frank and Grace as the sole representatives for the evening.

Sunday I awoke to a very excited 5 year old boy who asked "when are we leaving" every 32.5 seconds. Friday evenings anticipation gave way to Saturday mornings stress and I was about to crack while trying to pack a mountains worth of gear for a one night camping trip. Food, coolers, blankets, toys and a slew of other things needed to be pulled from their dusty corners and precisely packed in order to fit in the van. Preparing for a 24 hour race was easier than packing for our overnight trip. Somehow I managed to get all the gear, the kids and my wife in the van and we headed north towards the park, all the while I knew I had to unpack and setup everything once we got there. Hopefully the boy will have let go of my leg by then.

Setup wasn't so bad and I was happy to see Jason and Reilly show up for a little visit. They couldn't stay long, but, it was nice to see him out and hopefully he'll be re-joining the rides soon. Tony also came up from DC with his daughter Lexi, a nice surprise, as well as DaveG & Naomi, the DKEG & Mark clans, Phil with Charlie and Cheyenne and my brother and niece. We really packed those 4 pads.

Dinner Saturday night was an amazing potluck rarely seen while camping. Everyone brought and shared some great dishes and the beer selection was equally as impressive. After dinner the boys went off into the woods and did boy things and the girls went into a tent and did their own thing. The parents finally got a chance to sit back and enjoy the cool mountain air on a brisk Autumn night. David's site became the communal spot and his fire pit played host to the evenings activities. Oddly enough, our host retired at an unusually early hour. Apparently DKEG went in his tent to change his cloths and didn't emerge again until the next morning. Probably a good thing as we received several warnings from the camp host about noise, dogs and more noise. Such is life I guess.

The next day we awoke to a spectacular morning and a hearty breakfast. Bellies full, a large group headed up the mountain for a little nature hike. My two kids are not very familiar with the concept and I had to carry the girl on my shoulders for most of the hike. Jonny kept asking for a ride, but, with 35 pounds already on my back he was getting no love from daddy. Still, the boy pressed on and seemed to have a good time. At the Tea Room the kids played on the swings and explored the mountain top. After a little time Phil needed to head back down and I decided to join him. Back at camp we started the process of packing it all up again....what fun. Loaded up and ready to roll David and I bid everyone farewell as he and I decided to ride our Cross bikes back to Germantown.

With a beautiful Fall day in front of us we headed off the mountain for what was supposed to be a 32 mile ride. He and RiderX planned the course that would take us through Frederick and down some scenic country roads. Our slight detour to the Flying Dog brewery was met with disappointment as the brewery is closed on Sundays. Probably a good thing as the pint glasses would have had a tough time with some sections we added later in the ride. Once we moved further from Frederick the hills began to roll more and we decided to throw in a couple "roads" we've ridden in the past. Prior to Monococy Bottom Road we came across a couple old chainsaws and had to stop for a photo op. Our revised route took us through a stream crossing, a ford and all around Sugarloaf mountains gravel roads. South of the mountain we decided on a couple more detours to continue the adventure. We hit Black Hills park and jumped on every good single track trail the park has to offer. Each of us in a zone, we barely spoke a word as we navigated our skinny tires through the twisting trails. Shortly before the exit onto the double track I hit a root hard and experienced our only flat of the day. Not bad considering where we took our bikes.

Out of Black Hills we hit the Hoyles Mill Connector for one last bit of dirt before the final asphalt stretch. Two more stream crossings (one with a tree bridge) and some small rock gardens added to an already intoxicating ride. Out of the trails we cruised around the soccer-plex and back onto the road. 2 miles later David and I separated as we neared our homes. A little over 46 miles of some extremely varied terrain topped off an already incredible weekend. Can't wait to do it again........soon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Need a good laugh?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Just had to throw a shout out for the Blue Eyed Devil and his annual Bootlegger's Bliss. Saturday November 1st, save the date. This will be the third installment of the event and it's always a good time.....so I've heard. This will be my first year attending and I'm rolling on Pink's admission ticket, cuz I'm a slacker who would rather drink beer than brew it.

I'd like to brew and RiderX even invited me to learn. The Big Dog, however, had other ideas and we busted rocks that day.

Some day....hopefully.

Oh, and bring your cheap wheels if RickyD shows up.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Douthat 2008

The MORE fall camping trip at Douthat was a blast, as always, and I feel sorry for the people who bailed. The weather people were calling for rain, 30% for most of the weekend. As soon as I turned west on 64 the clouds parted, moon popped out and we had beautiful weather for the whole weekend. Sure, it was a little hot and humid, but, the trails were in great shape and I got in some good riding.

Saturday I hooked up with the "fast" group led by Jonathan and we planned to head south out of the park in search of newly cut trails . The ride started with 15 people and like most rides in Douthat it began with a climb. The extended climb up Stony Run really spread out our group and by the time we got to the top there were mummers of a mutiny. At the Tuscarora Overlook more than half the group decides to do a shorter loop and headed North instead of South on Middle Mountain. Our reduced group of 7 press south at the summit and are greeted with tight single track that sees little traffic. The trail was narrow and many a rock were hidden by the encroaching brush and this added a welcome sense of adventure to these spectacular trails. Off Middle mountain and out of the park our map was of little use and we had to rely on vague directions and hand drawn marks on the original map. To be sure there was a little second guessing, but, I was with an adventurous group and we were having a great time. The GPS came in handy once as a way to confirm the groups location and direction. A little piece of mind can go a long way in unfamiliar territory. As the gravel road turned to single track we encountered the new trails we went in search of. Some of this trail was built by the Boy Scout and some by the local clubs. The Boy Scouts have a little to learn about bench-cutting, but, their labor is always appreciated and the new trail is a welcome addition. No idea what the name of this new trail is, but, it brought us all the way back to the middle of Stony Run, just below the switch-backs. From here we could have bombed down the trail, jumped back on the road for an easy spin back to camp. Instead, we decide to hit Locus Gap and keep dirt under the tires. We then pick up Huff's and traverse all the way to Backway Hollow and a screamer down to the campground. I cooled down an Imperial Porter and a nice dip in the lake. Great ride!

That night MORE had its potluck dinner and first every Kung Fu movies. I borrowed my brothers big "event tent" and it served as a central meeting spot for dinner and later became the movie theater for the night. We screened a Power Point presentation of Denis' trip to France, I showed some slides of various bike trips/races of my own. JoeP brought along the movie he made for the winter party, which is VERY well done and always a hit. Joe also brought The Kung Fu Hustle and it was a pretty entertaining movie. We topped of the evening with Off Road To Athens, a spectacular movie about several mountain bikers quest to make the Olympic team. Somewhere in all that I participated in the naked crit, but, we won't go into any details on that one. I will say that John went down hard, Scud has pictures and I'm lucky not to be in hand-cuffs.

I next morning my head throbbed from all the porter I consumed and the pancakes did wonders to make me feel human again. We had a lot of work to do breaking things down, so, I opted for a shorter ride with a slightly less rambunctious group. I also decided to give the new La Cruz another spin on the dirt. It was an interesting ride to be on skinny tires and drop bars, that's one of the things I like about the bike. She climbed well, however, I had some issues with the brakes and I had a couple sketchy moments going into a few of the switch-backs. I had one flat that took too long to fix, but other than that, it was a great ride.

Back at the campsite I started breaking things down. Damn.....I had a lot of stuff. I really have to stop packing so heavy. Of course, the largest item was the event tent and I was happy to have assistance taking that down. Car loaded up I was headed home. Another beautiful weekend of camping and riding. I can't wait for next year.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Psycho Cross Shakedown

Rich aka Chet aka Phil and I recently built up a couple cross bikes and needed a little shakedown ride to make sure things were tight. DKEG comes up with a little route inspired by RiderX's famed 1903 rides with one small exception......rocks.....lots of freaking rocks!

Phil exceeded what I'm sure Ellsworth had in mind when they created his pure CX race thoroughbred. A sexy mix of aluminum and carbon with canti brakes and no braze-ons for water bottles, his bike was made for the grassy knolls of traditional cross racing. I opted for a more utilitarian (read cheaper) steel steed and Salsa's La Cruz disk specific cross frame and fork. The La Cruz is a bit more of a "jack of all trades" bike and really exceeded my expectations during our ride. Both our bikes were spec'd with Shimano's Ultegra SL group that blew my mind with uber crisp shifting throughout the entire ride, even when the trails took a turn for the rocky. I was also happy to have the non-UCI-compliant disk brakes providing the stopping power. I always knew I could stop on a dime, if needed, and I needed that power a few times during the ride.

On the initial descent into the valley Phil got a little loose on a sweeping right turn and spun the bike around 180 degrees......at 35 mph! Not wanting to have to explain things to his wife I encourage him to go "a little easier", we still have 30+ miles left on the planned route and I don't want to spend my day in the emergency room. He smiles and takes off on the next steep section. Personally I think he just didn't like the squeal his canti's was producing, so, he didn't use them. At the reservoir we take a hard left and begin the first climb of the day. The previous days rain settled the dust on the gravel road and gave the mountain streams plenty of water to cascade down the mountain. This has to be on of the most spectacular sections of "road" in the Shed and the day was shaping up to be near perfect.

After a good bit of climbing we get to the first section of single track and the "trail of tears". Things were a little sketchy at first as I had to get accustomed to the skinny 32's on this wet and rocky climb. Finding the right balance the La Cruz carried me up the hill with a sure-footed confidence that put an instant smile on my face. Even the wet log piles that required negotiating could do little to dissuade the bike from achieving its goal and the top of the climb. We bomb down the ridge and picked up Salamander at the over-look. This section produced some of the biggest grins and almost uncontrollable giggles as the narrow small blocks tackled the technical rock sections with aplomb.

Off Salamander we road it for a little until the "gold-fish pond". Back on the dirt we take the trails to and around Sandflats, a short section of Blue and then the "golfball" connector trail over to DeLauter and Five Points. At this point we begin RiderX's traditional 1903 route and some incredible gravel/country roads through Frederick. The gravel of Rum Springs gave way to the asphalt of Highland School and our max speed of the day @ 54 mph. That was a screamer! Quick left on Wolfsville and then a right on Meetinghouse. We re-group and take in some calories that will be needed for the next series of climbs. Up Meetinghouse and then the steep and loose Wildcat. Right turn on Wolfsville for a little road section, left on Spruce and a quick left back to the gravel and Hayes. This was a nasty bit of "road" that was long, steep and rutted in several sections. Right turn on Stottlemeyer and an extended road climb. I can't remember the name to the next road, but, we stopped, refueled and took it over to Tower. At this point we were on our way back towards our starting point and felt we had spent enough time on the road. Our tires required some dirt and the Blue trail off DeLauter was happy to oblige. Phil got the first of our only two flats on the road and then the second one a little while later after a nasty rock garden on Blue. We all agree the descent down Blue sucks and decide to give the "tricky trail" a shot on our skinny tires. This is a section of trail that gives pause to many people when running full blown mountain bikes and we hit it with our cross bikes. It was kinda ridiculous and amusing at the same time. With the exception of one small ledge drop I clean the whole trail including the rock slab drop back onto Blue. It was here I was extremely happy to have the stopping power of the disk breaks. I set up quickly and hope to catch DKEG and Phil as they negotiate the slab. David looked good at first, but, didn't get enough weight over his rear wheel and did a flying superman OTB, hits the ground and then his bike lands on top of him, just to add insult to injury. He doesn't get seriously hurt and even threw his arms in the air like a gymnast upon a successful dismount. Phil looked good the whole way and rolled the slab like the seasoned pro he is. From there we climbed up Buck Flats trail and back to the car.

The La Cruz put a smile on my face from the moment I threw a leg over her and kept it there throughout the day. She didn't complain once as I asked her to take on trails the engineers never thought she would see. 32 miles, 4300 feet of climbing and lots of big honking rocks. Damn, I LOVE my new bike!!