Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Dixie Chicks

There we were in the middle of a James Taylor show and the peace-love vibe was kickin like organic chickin. JT had just finished up some song I didn't know. He was about to go into another song I didn't know (he was playing lots of stuff from his new album) when he says "I learned this next song from the Dixie Chicks..."

(brief silence, then...) "Boooo" goes about 50% of the crowd.

Almost forgot I live in a Red state. Gee, it's nice to be reminded once in a while. Hope my new link doesn't get me in trouble.

P.S. To the folks who gave us the wine and good company in the parking lot while we sat there for an hour waiting to get out, Thanks!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Me Ahab, You Moby

If you know me well enough, you'll know that I have an obsessive personality. While I can't go into all of my obessions in this PG-13 rated blog, I can say that one of my mountain bike racing obsessions was finally fulfilled yesterday at the last WaW race. I've been trying to beat this person for a long time and yesterday it finally happened. I won't say his name, but it rhymes with Larry Cautilli. Nevermind that he was probably already worn out running around like mad before the race trying to get everything together (he's also the race organizer, and a damn good one at that). Or he may even had a mechanical problem during the race to slow him down. I don't know and I don't care. For once in my life I posted a faster time than him. Nyahhhh! All kidding aside, Larry is an awesome rider and mountain biking advocate who has almost singlehandedly changed the face of Wakefield Park for the better IHMO. But yesterday I whooped his ass by 30 seconds. Ok, 30 seconds is more like a gentle spanking, but I'll take it.

Couldn't have done it without Foley. Except for the bit when he was ahead of me, he rode my wheel for the entire race and really pushed me. It's become a very fast SS class at Wakefield. I remember looking around at the starting line thinking, "Ohmigod, this is gonna be my first DFL (dead fooking last) finsh." But when the proverbial gun went off, I found myself in the middle of the pack going into the singletrack and that's pretty much where I stayed. For the first 2 laps it was me, Claman, and Foley dooking it out. Unfortunately, Butch was taken out early with a flat tire. Claman got around me and opened up a gap somewhere on the 2nd lap, leaving just me and Foley to sprint for the finish. I barely held him off. On any other day, he would have come around and passed me. But today, I had my "racing dress" on and that's what did it...

More pics and a view from the front of the pack here.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

If you build it, they will come

Around the time that the bicycle was being invented, a group of forward-thinking sadists built the C&O canal towpath because they knew that generations upon generations of masochists would try to ride the thing in a day:

It's 10pm and were sitting around Rickyd's house planning the support stops for tomorrow's ride. "140/100/60/35," I scribble on my arm. Those are the mile markers where Jay and Deb are supposed to meet us with a car full of goodies. As I ponder the distance, I already start having doubts. The longest ride I had done before this was a 100 miler on nice dry road. Now we were planning to do almost twice that distance on what would probably be mud-soaked gravel. At 11pm I go to sleep thinking that I would make it to mile marker 100 at the most. It's 1am when the wake-up call goes around and we get ready to leave.

The 3 hour drive up to Cumberland is punctuated by passing rain showers, some of them quite strong. I try not to think about what these are doing to the towpath. "Maybe I will make it to mile marker 140," I think to myself.

It's 4am and the ground is remarkably dry at the historical town center in Cumberland. After a quick breakfast of granola and milk, I look over my setup: Surly x-check with Serfas 700x38 inverted tread tires, moustache bars set an inch higher than I normally ride, handlebar flashlight, 48x20 fixxed gearing. In my pockets are 2 Gu packets, 2 Cliff bars, Jethro tool, spare tube, pump, patch kit, map, and most importantly-- an MP3 player. After a few pre-ride group photos, were off at a little past 5am.

It's still dark as we finish off the first few miles at a quick-but-not-so-smart pace. The towpath is surprisingly dry and morale is good, even though I'm struggling a bit to follow the gentle but unpredictable turns of the trail. After a few more miles of riding together, Stoner spies an outhouse and the call is too stong. For some reason, Rickyd stops too. I push on and the peloton is officially broken. The sun is starting to come up. A half hour or so later I spy Rickyd gaining on me. He passes me at an 18mph pace and pulls ahead. I grudingly resist the urge to give chase knowing that I have to save my energy for the remaining 160 miles. This isn't supposed to be a race after all (yeah right). Just as he's about to disappear ahead of me, his foot is thrown from his pedal and he almost stops dead. As I catch up I ask if everything's ok. "Forgot I was riding a fixed gear," he says, "go on ahead." I do so and that's the last I see of him until Harper's Ferry (100 miles later).

Meanwhile I'm heading into the pitch-black darkness of the Paw-Paw tunnel. I turn on my handlebar light and ride slowly over the uneven ground marked with potholes to rival any in DC. I spot the proverbial light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel after a few minutes and focus on it. Bad idea, there are still several potholes between me and salvation that almost send me over the bars. As I emerge from the tunnel I'm on a wooden walkway flanked by mountains of granite-- one of the more scenic parts of the trail. I'm slowly closing in on the first checkpoint.

Panic sets in soon after I realize that I've passed the checkpoint by a couple of miles and still no sight of Jay and the support wagon. I've probably got enough water for another 40 miles, but I need food. I decide to turn around and ride back to the checkpoint, hoping that Jay will show up eventually. On the way back, I run into Stoner, who convinces me that we should just ride to the next checkpoint 40 miles away and hope for the best. My stomach is grumbling as I get back on my bike. In my mind, I'm pondering pulling off the trail and finding the nearest steakhouse. As we pedal into Hancock, we find Jay waiting for us. We're saved.

Reload the supplies, rest for a bit, and set out for another 25 miles to the next stop. This time I hooked up the MP3 player, which helped the miles roll by easy. I was closing in on the second checkpoint before I knew it with Stoner on my wheel. A few hundred yards from the stop, I drop my chain and Stoner slips ahead to claim the stage victory. 84 miles down, only 106 more miles to go...

We're all going at our own pace now, not really waiting to regroup. The drama is starting to build as I catch glimpses of phantom riders behind me trying to chase me down. Any moment I expect Stoner and Rickyd in a two-man paceline to just rip past me like I was standing still. All in fun. The mental games are a way to keep myself from getting bored.

As I got to Harper's Ferry I saw Rickyd's bike on top of the wagon. I knew at that moment that his knees had betrayed him again. I felt bad that he had to stop since he was the mastermind behind this ride and it would have been nice to see all three of us finish. It's the middle of a very hot day and there's not a tree in sight at Harper's Ferry. I take a break under an umbrella while Ricky helps get my stuff together for the next stage. After 130 miles, I'm now starting to feel the effects of the ride. As Stoner arrives, I get ready to leave.

The next stage is a relatively short 25 miles to White's Ferry. Would have been easy except that I got a flat front tire and found out that my pump was defective. I rode for a mile on the front rim until I found some campers who had a bike pump. I caught a glimpse of Stoner way back on the trail as I finished my repairs and headed out again. In no time I was at White's Ferry getting ready to start the home stretch.

The 35 miles from White's Ferry to Georgetown is my nemesis. Before, I had bonked twice on this part of the trail towards the end of some relatively short rides. It's only 35 miles, but the first half before Great Falls is usually a muddy pot-holed mess. So when Stoner pedalled into White's Ferry and decided not to ride the last stage, I knew where he was coming from. Normally I would have tried to pull him out of the car to finish, but not this time-- he could barely grip the bars.

After some minor wrenching (courtesy of Rickyd), I set out to do the last 35 miles on my own. My only goal was to finish before dark. 10 miles from the end I feel a surge of energy. For whatever reason, the tiredness has left and I'm giddy. I flat out sprint the remaining miles. While I never made it past 19mph, I felt good. Some guy on a hybrid bike zips past me, looking over his shoulder to see if I'll chase. "Yeah mthrfckr," I mumble to myself, "try that after 185 miles."

With 1 mile to go, the sky opens up with a torrential rain. I get soaked and it feels good for a little while until I start getting cold. I pull into Thompson's Boat House with a time of 15h26m expecting a nice dry car and a change of clothes, but instead find my buddies are having dinner back in Georgetown. I waited out the worst of the storm under an apartment building awning before riding back to the car. I'll admit I was a bit miffed at first but then again I thought, those guys must be starving and bored waiting around for me (each of them had done at least a C&O century). Besides, I just rode the entire C&O towpath in a day and I'm complaining about a little rain?!

There's already talk from Rickyd of attempting this again and I hope both he and Stoner finish it. Me? Err, I think I'll drive the support wagon instead...

More pics and Cliff notes here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Return to Jim Thorpe

I'm riding through rooty, boulder-strewn singletrack, threading my 27 inch handlebars through trees that are 25 inches apart. Space warps just enough to let me through, but sometimes it doesn't and fingers get smashed. Here, the rocks are your friends. Ride over them and think happy thoughts, and you may get through. Try to skittle around them and you lose precious momentum or worse, get bounced off the trail into bigger, sharper rocks. This is typical East Coast riding at its best. But wait-- round the next turn and you emerge from the forest into a desert. The double-wide gravel road at your feet is littered with obsidian and quartz. You look up at Big Sky and around you at miles of exposed rock which make up a canyon wall. It's hot as hell and you're out of water. "Did I make a wrong turn and wind up in Albuquerque?" you wonder. Nope, you're in the mountains of Jim Thorpe, PA, where East and West, past and present, millionaires and vagabonds are doing the dialectic shuffle.

We came to ride and we weren't dissapointed. Tom, our fearless guide and owner of Mary's Guesthouse (where we stayed), showed us around some of the best trails I had ever ridden-- mile after and rocky mile of them. Indeed, the riding is what makes these trips unforgettable. But at the end of the fireroad and singletrack, there's a small town of opera houses and jail houses, cybercafes and general stores, mansions and log cabins, that will keep me coming back.

Ricky wasn't the only one to dab. Tree hugging is standard practice on these rocky trails.

Always a warm bed and good company at Mary's Guesthouse

This modern-day male is not afraid to ask for directions

Ricky and Jo on Flagstaff peak

There's nothing like the blurry view from a rigid bike.

A nice place to rest near the end of the Switchback trail

The sexi exi: that's a big tire.

When you can't duel on bikes, yaks at ten paces!


...and cheese

Skipping stones on the Lehigh River

The obligatory clocktower shot

Home is where you hang your helmet

The fun never ends with Uncle Ricky

Home in time for UMD fireworks. Happy 4th everyone!

Human nature cannot be studied in cities except at a disadvantage--a village is the place. There you can know your man inside and out--in a city you but know his crust; and his crust is usually a lie. -- Mark Twain