Friday, November 26, 2004

Black Friday

"Oh my god, they're f**king!" I mutter, as Jason and I draw closer to the pickup truck and my brain reluctantly discerns the mysterious silhouettes in the cab window...

It started off normally enough. It was Black Friday and instead of wallowing in the circle of hell called shopping, we were off to the Watershed to ride. Jason, aka crashmore, and I were on a quest to find the connecting route between the Watershed and Gambrill. We were to start at the Hamburg parking lot, ride down to Gambrill, putz around, and then ride back up. It looked easy on the map, but neither of us knew the trails very well, and that's where the adventure begins.

Read about the whole thing, including the encounter with the bouncing truck, over on Jason's blog.

Lessons learned from that day:

1) Never trust my own sense of direction. If I say "the sun rises in the east, so south must be this way," the sun, just to spite me, probably won't rise in the east.

2) See rule #1

Props, to Jason. Given the relatively short time he's been riding, he's getting to be a little monster on the bike. Better get the tire tacks ready for him next racing season...heh heh.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Giving Thanks

What’s to be thankful for? Lots, thankfully. Gina, Sagada, my parents, my bro and sis, my really big extended family including sisters-in-law, bothers-in-law, uncles, aunts, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousins, pets (you get the idea), and last but not least, all the friends I’ve made who share in this great insanity called biking. And most of all, the fact that I can still do stuff like this:

We headed out for Jim Thorpe on a Friday-- Gina, the kid, my old man, little sis, and myself. I was driving a full wagon with three bikes on top. My dad, who hadn’t been on a bike in years, would ride one of my singlespeeds, just in case the climbs proved too easy for him.
We stayed at Mary’s Guesthouse, a very nice downtown hostel that was less than half a mile from the trailhead. Sounds easy, but that half-mile is sort of a gut-busting road climb.

Negotiating the stone ledge

We started out early Saturday morning and after the road climb, we headed out on the Switchback trail to the base of Flagstaff Peak. From there it’s a 1.6 mile fire road climb up to the top. “Climb 1.6 miles?” my dad asks, “I don’t even walk 1.6 miles.” Although he did wind up walking most of it, he hung in there like a champ, stopping only occasionally to catch his breath, or maybe to curse me under his breath. Gina flew up the mountain like it was nothing, stopping only to keep us in sight. At the top we make a right onto the singletrack. We were planning to ride the Mauch Chunk ridge trail and descend back to town, but I take a wrong turn and immediately bomb us back down the mountain on a super rocky water chute which blows out my front tire. We’ve missed the ridge trail completely and none of us have the legs to make the climb again. To make up for my mistake, we ride another, less steep trail to the top of Pisgah peak. On the way carry our bikes across the famous stone ledge and reach the peak where we see the old “power station” of the gravity railroad that used to run through there. From the top, we descend the old (very) rocky wagon road back into town. Props to my dad for hanging in there, on a rigid singlespeed with regular flat pedals no less.

The old wagon road descent

The next day I wake up early for a solo ride. The fog is thick on the ground as I head up the road to the trailhead. The climb up Flagstaff has me sucking wind by the time I reach the top. Once on the singletrack, the sight of the morning ground fog wrapping itself around the babyheads and algae-laden puddles, coupled with the pounding of blood in my ears, gives me the shivers. This part of the trail is absolutely beautiful. I stop for a while to take it all in. The peaceful feeling ends shortly, however, and a slight panic sets in as I realize I might be lost. The theme from “Deliverance” somehow creeps into my head as I survey the primeval forest around me. I’ve doubled back a few times already and the guide book is useless at this point. Somehow, after a few miles of some really awesome singletrack, I find the Fireline Trail, a 3.5 mile gradual descent back to the highway (with absolutely no turns, so sit back and enjoy the speed!). I push on to complete the whole “Twin Peaks” loop, finally climbing up to Pisgah peak where I’m greeted by a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. We somehow missed this overlook the previous day. As I descend the wagon road and head back into town, I think of my idea of a perfect ride and how these last two came pretty close. Thanks to all the folks from MORE who helped me pick out such a great spot to spend a weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The town of Jim Thorpe, PA

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Just waiting around

Haven't been on the bike since Thursday. Didn't get a chance to ride last weekend and totally missed out on the Richmond Epic. Also missed Emm Gryner at the IOTA club. So I'm just waiting around for a chance to ride again. Maybe I'll ride the road to work tomorrow. Speaking of which, the wife got into her first roadie battle the other day. She goes to pass this guy and the next thing she knows he's hammering to keep up and riding her wheel. Seems like some men don't take too kindly to women passing them. Anyways, she's game so she takes off and manages to drop him. He later catches up to her at an intersection and the battle begins anew. And again she gaps him. You go girl! But this guy won't give up and Gina's had enough, so she just slows way down and let's him pass. Hmmm, sounds like there's a new roadie in the family.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Drevil made me do it

Drevil, aka rickyd, in full race mode
(photo by Joe Foley)
“Soooo, you’re into mountain biking eh,” Jo asks mischievously, “you should meet my boyfriend, Ricky.” A few emails and phone calls later, I’m driving into the parking lot at Wakefield to meet up with some new friends for a ride. There was Marlan, Leslie, Jo, Gina, Ricky, and myself. Yup, six pinoys on bikes. Later on in the ride, we ran into two more. What possessed eight Filipinos to show up at Wakefield on the same day, I don’t know, but the adobo vibe was strong and I was eating it up. I was just getting into biking at the time and had just graduated to clipless pedals. After a few laps around the parking lot to make sure I had the clipping out thing down, I stop to check out Ricky’s bike. Hmm, a no-name bike with only one gear. What a crappy bike, I think to myself, as I throw a leg over my $250 aluminum hardtail.

Life went on and I kept on riding and eventually got myself a new full-suspension bike. I thought little of that crappy no-name bike with one gear until I met Ricky again at a bike demo at Wakefield a few months later. I was showing off my new ride to him and couldn’t understand why he didn’t seem to be too impressed with it. After all, my new bike had front and rear shocks, 27 speeds, and set me back $1500, and he was still riding that no-name one-speed -- and this time it didn’t even have any shocks on it. “You paid what for that bike?” I ask in disbelief. “Well,” he says, “a grand for the frame, but it was custom made by Matt Chester…blah blah titanium blah. And that’s how it all started.

For the next few months, I’m getting dropped by this guy on every ride. Not only Ricky, but every one of his singlespeeder friends, I notice, are incredibly fast and, when they’re not making fun of my lack of riding skills, pretty cool. I got my first singlespeed bike and never rode a gearie again (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Just recently I put myself down on the waiting list for a Jones. It’ll be a rigid-specific 29er and it will be beautiful. When my turn comes, I’m gonna ask to not have any stickers on the frame. Crappy no-name bike with only one gear, indeed.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Year Zero

I had a puppy when I was four years old, growing up in the subdivisions of Metro Manila. The puppy grew up to be quite a mean dog that barked all day and drove us all crazy. Then one day he was gone... That's the way it was in my neighborhood. There was no middle ground when it came to dogs. You either loved 'em or you 'ated 'em (ha!).

When I used to live in LA, there was a group of Filipino artists who called themselves Grupo de Gago (Group of Fools) who were commissioned by the city to make the banner for the annual Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture. The banner that they came up with, which was hung in LA city hall, depicted a dog roasting on a stick with the words "This is America." The banner was removed after several days over complaints that it was racist and promoted negative stereotypes of Filipinos (uh, we don't eat dogs, do we?) After the artists complained, a "modified" banner was reinstated after a community forum to discuss the issue. During the forum, chief gago artist Manuel Ocampo was walking around in a monkey mask. Rumors say that the gagos put dogmeat in the lumpia (egg rolls) which was served at the reception. I remember it tasting a bit funny, but I just thought it was stale. I went out and put a sticker of the dog banner on my guitar the very next day.

Don't be afraid of who you are. This is year zero...

"Identity is your own worst enemy."
-Manuel Ocampo