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.