Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A cruel trick

I went out riding yesterday on a 35 odd mile ride in Rothrock State Forest. I wanted to clear my head but also see how my bike performed on gravel roads. The entire ride (save for the ride through town) was beautiful and quiet and serene. My serenity was somewhat disturbed after I had made the first of several 2-3 mile climbs. On a mountain bike you can FLY down these roads without a care. With a rigid touring bike, I felt the need to check my speed the entire way down to prevent blowing out a tire or bending a wheel rim on the stones, potholes, and washboard sections. Being denied the fun (and relief) of racing downhill was the only drawback of the day.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A new chapter

I may have said before that I sold my house in State College. I may have joked a bit that I am homeless. Well neither of those facts really hit home until right now. I just returned to an empty house from helping my parents move a few states away. I'm sitting in my childhood home and packing my stuff up for the last time. I may be feeling a little nostalgic but it isn't a feeling of homesickness tied to a specific place. Rather I no longer have a place that I identify as 'home'. That will take some getting used to. The closest thing that I have now is the back of a pickup or my tent.

I knew this day would come eventually and now it is here. As my friend Clay would tell me, "now there's nothing left to do but go riding.". As my less tactful climbing partners would say, "shut up pansy and get on with it!"

Monday, April 11, 2011

Man v.s. Incline

Well I guess it had to happen sometime. Eventually I had to stop writing silly posts about thunderstorms and wall paint and go riding and climbing. Yesterday was the inaugural test of the idea. Aaron 'the Doctor' Regberg, Kevin 'the Librarian', Jeff 'the Machine' Carlson and I met at the grocery store yesterday morning to stock up on such essentials as sugar cane juice and baguette for our ride. We were all on touring bikes, but the Doctor and I were the most heavily laden with enough food for two picnics and a rope and rack of climbing gear.

Our objective was Donation Rocks where a local conservation organization, C3PA, was holding a crag cleanup. To get there, we would ride 25 miles with a large climb in the middle, Pine Grove Mountain. I think that PGM is a 700 foot climb. I was afraid as I wouldn't know the difference between 700' or 2000'- they all scare me. Starting the climb, I dropped down to my lowest gear and instantly started doubting myself. Fortunately the Doctor had the cure: we rode alongside one another at a steady pace singing Joan Jett songs. Before long we found the Librarian and the Machine waiting at the top. Then the fun began! We raced down the backside of the mountain in thick fog (see picture) and that momentum and high spirits carried us the next 15 odd miles.

After 6 hours of building trails, clearing brush and getting a little climbing in, it was time to decide. We could start riding back and probably finish in the dark, partially dead. Or we could stay for a barbecue and beer and beg a car ride for ourselves and our bikes back to town. Man that burger and beer tasted SO good! My first combination bike/climb event was certainly a success.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reality sinks in like the Titanic

My title is totally tongue in cheek of course- I am going to fail way quicker than the Titanic. It made it a thousand miles or so before it ruined people's lives. Ha ha. Actually I am quite excited to have nearly fully loaded my bike up and taken it for a quick spin! It almost makes me believe that this will work. The above picture shows the bike with nearly everything that I will be carrying. A set of approach shoes and food will also be riding in my rear bags. Where you see my helmet I will have a sleeping bag and pad strapped to the rear rack.

The bike is going to be certainly a little less responsive with sixty pounds of stuff on it. I saw that coming. Hopefully Freeze/Thaw can rig some training wheels on the bike so I don't totally yard sale. Also a parachute for long downhills will be handy cause the brakes are slightly slower now. Biggest news of all: it looks like my bike is leaning against my truck. It isn't. I figured out how to 'kickstand' my bike with the trailer. It totally looks like your bike is going to fall over the first time you try it, but you must believe!

p.s. The irony is not lost on me that I have my bike pictured with my truck as the backdrop. Downsizing, anyone?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ride the Lightning

Yes I unashamedly borrowed the album title from my favorite Metallica album. Yes, Eric, And Justice for All kicks ass too. But 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' is my favorite song of theirs. And my choice of title will make sense shortly.

I have lately been in a funk that I couldn't shake. I had a grand plan whenever I quit my job and whittled my life down to the barest essentials. But the past several weeks of inaction have sapped my motivation and enthusiasm. Which is all too bad really since this should be the grandest time of my life in a short while. But I believe that will sort itself out once I get out on the road.

Today was the first day to break forty degrees in a few weeks. It actually got up to sixty or so today. As I read the forecast aloud I decided to get out for a real ride. My mother was quick to note that afternoon thunderstorms were predicted. Still at it after all these years, Mom... I ended up going for a four hour ride at a random pace and a random course. I didn't bring a map but just rode in the direction I wanted to and eventually reversed my path. After a little while I got into an incredible groove and my spirits lifted. Even after the rain and thunder and lightning started, I was still grinning and waving to strangers and dogs. Upon riding back home, I passed several fire trucks on my parents' road. Apparently lightning had struck a tree only a hundred yards or so from their house.

Things that I learned today:

1). I need to be moving. I really shouldn't be sedentary for long. I am happier riding through a lightning storm with wet socks and a saddle sore than getting a lap dance while seated. Okay, that could be a stretch.

2). Thick wool socks can absorb somewhere between ten and a billion times their weight in water.

3). Outdoor Research makes a great product for the bicycling mountaineer, the Foray jacket. I was incredibly impressed with how much I could vent it while riding in a complete downpour and stay dry and comfortable. Whenever I climb with it on I'm sure it will allow me to climb 5.11 at altitude.

4). My dog is really afraid of thunderstorms.

5). God may be trying to tell me something? First a tornado and then a lightning strike! Or the world is coming to an end and it's not just me that has to worry...