Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Trick or Treat
Glitter Graphics

I like that graphic, courtesy of

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 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.