Saturday, November 26, 2005


I spent the week before Thanksgiving in Kauai with Gina. Before heading out there we made a quick stop in Cali to drop off Sagada with Grandma. To a five year old, a weekend with Gramdma vs. a few days in Hawaii is a no-brainer. Grandma is more fun than a bunch of palm trees. It didn't take much convincing to get her to stay behind.

We stayed at the Marriott Resort which was nice enough, but I couldn't walk anywhere without getting sand in my toes. And the weather over there is stoopid. It doesn't know that its autumn. At least they had a decent pool.

marriot pool

On our first day we drove West to Waimea State Park and found some spectacular views into Kalalau Valley


and Waimea Canyon.
waimea canyon

On the way back we spotted some nice singletrack from the road and hiked around for a bit. I'm not sure if this trail was legally open to biking since there was a sign up the road that said "No Biking" but the many tire tracks said otherwise.

550 singletrack

The next day we rented some bikes from Kauai Cycle and Tour in Kapaa and hit the local trails. After a four mile ride on a scenic coastal caning road (fireroad in Eastcoastese) we found some singletrack. Really nothing special compared to what we have around here, but it was nice to be out riding with friends nonetheless.

kapaa singletrack

One thing I discovered was that old cane fields in Kauai double as de facto dumping grounds for old cars. We saw several by the side of the trail stripped to the frame.


After a few more days in Kauai I started to miss the rainy, cold, and generally miserable spell of East Coast weather that we had the day before I left. I started to dream of all those rides cancelled due to bad weather, the gripping cold that greets you at the trailhead as you step out of the warm car, the freezing of wet toes and fingers, the epic fireroad climbs, the spectacular rock gardens, the vision-blurring downhills, my riding buddies, my faithful singlespeed... yep, it was time to go home.


Black Friday

Shopping malls be damned. With my Christmas shopping pretty much done, Markie, Rickyd, ChrisH (aka AteMrYeats), and I headed for the Watershed for some playtime on the rocks. 23 degrees was the temp at the start of the ride, and that's where it stayed the whole time. After a week in Hawaii and California with temps consistently in the 80s, this was a shock to my system. My legs turned to jello early in the ride and I found myself hanging on for dear life for most of the ride. Rickyd on the other hand was in top form, clearing all of the big climbs and besting everyone on the "Death March". Must be the new bike (heh heh).

Markie did a great job leading most of the ride and finding some great trails that I had never seen before. I really liked the boulder field leading into "Little Canaan". Those were some big rocks. Unfortunately for ChrisH, those rocks took a toll on his fork, which snapped, sending him on an long walk back to the cars. The three of us continued on for another 3 hours, stopping to play on the more techincal sections and taking pictures.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'm certainly thankful that I can do stuff like this.

Monday, November 21, 2005

desperate (biking) housewives

For most of us, growing up means having a job and plenty of responsibility. Not much time for all those fun and spontaneous activities you used to do when you were a kid. But once in a while, you find yourself ditching work, having perfect weather, wonderful company, and your most favorite activity in the world (that you can afford) - biking.

It all started with RickyD and one fateful night. He was looking at his very cool wife Jojo and he was hit by this intense feeling of guilt...err, i mean gratefullness...for all the times Jojo let him spend time with his bikes instead of quality time at home. So he thought that maybe, he'd organize a bike ride on the C&O for Jojo and her biking girlfriends. Unfortunately, Jojo has plenty of girlfriends who ride bikes and Ricky didn't think he could serve eight women on his own...geez! How hard can that be? So, he decided to enlist the partners of all the girlfriends and in the end, it was eight women, 7 guys, and Sagada. The guys carried all the camping gear, cooked all the food, and made sure that there were plenty of smores for the campfire.

So on a glorious November 7, four cars packed with bikes, paniers, tons of camping gear, pasta, and gatorade made a convoy from Bek's house in Columbia to Cumberland. It must have amused (and frightened) some motorists to see four overstuffed cars one after another and at times attempting to cut each other off.

We made it to Cumberland around 11am and our crew (husbands/boyfriends) started getting the bikes ready. Since this trip was to show their appreciation to their partners for letting them ride on weekends instead of doing house and lawn maintenance, the guys reiterated that they will do all the work and all we have to do is ride. That was soooo nice of them. We really should do this more often :) So here we are at Cumberland getting ready for our first 35 miles of riding to Stickpile camp ground.

Rose, slowly, step away from the little guy...

Morning by the river
The camping spot is pretty nice. The porta john doesn't really stink (at least the first day) and the river is just behind us. In no time, Steve managed to have a roaring campfire and the guys started making a pasta dinner. The next morning, i woke up early to watch the fog lifting from the river. The autumn leaves were falling and I was even able to catch a few. Those early hours were so quiet and peaceful it was priceless. I went back to the camp where the guys had started to prepare breakfast -pancakes, eggs, bacon, coffee (bailey's optional) and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for the road.

In my dreams...
More picture taking and off we go. The trails are very pretty as it is now the peak of the fall season. It's like riding to Rivendell and hoping to meet Legolas on the way (fine, i'm a Tolkien geek). We usually rode side by side so we can talk. Guys talk about bike components all the time but us women talk about more important toilet paper alternatives, lyrics to the songs of Spandau Ballet and other 80's songs and of course- world peace! We were having so much fun it was almost sad when our ride ended at Hancock. This picture in Hancock is my fantasy race picture. That's me in front and Bek way in the back... in real life of course it's the other way around.

Rickyd as mule.
And as in all good things, this trip must also end. This post was tardy but better late than never. So to our significant others (in alphabetical order) Erin, Jason, JoeP, JoeW, Mike, Ricky, Steve, and Sagada, our undying gratitude for a fabulous time. Thanks guys!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

L.A. stories (The Gun Club)

Life in LA can be hard and unrewarding. Sometimes you just want to go out a bust a few caps from your AK. And that's just what we would do on Saturday nights.

When the stress of grad school would reach toxic levels, Gina and I would call a few friends, pack up the guns, and head out late at night to the L.A. Gun Club in the middle of town. The L.A. Gun club is a warehouse converted into an indoor shooting range behind rows of razor-wire fencing and security cameras. It was open late at night, it had character, and most importantly, it was the only indoor range that would let me use my MAK90 (Modified AK), albeit, with soft-tipped bullets only.

The clientele was also pretty interesting. Rich Korean businessmen would mingle with gangster types, sometimes complementing each others' choice of weapon. One time there was this newbie who leaned over the rail to see where her shots hit. In the process of leaning over, the barrel of her pistol wound up pointing directly into her neck. On rare occasions you might spot a bonafide celeb like Ice-T or some other TV star late at night when the crowds were smaller, but that's another story altogether. Mostly though, there were the regular schmucks like me who were just looking to unwind, or better yet, let loose.

Between me and my friends, we had quite a nice arsenal at our disposal. I had my MAK90 and a Chinese-made SKS. Both fired 7.62x39 caliber rounds-- heavy and slow bullets, but with enough power to go through a small tree trunk and still be lethal. We also had an M1 garand, a 12 gauge shotgun, another MAK90, and a assortment of handguns. We brought everything. Mostly though, I stuck to the rifles. With most people at the range using handguns, the sound of the MAK90 and the shower of sparks it made against the back wall silenced the place for a few seconds as people looked around to see who brought the small cannon. Sometimes, when the owner wasn't looking I'd fire 3 in rapid sucession and watch the fireworks. After a few hundred rounds with my friends, I'd be covered in gunpowder residue and feel positively peaceful.

I sold my toys before moving to VA thinking that transporting them on the plane (even in pre Sept 11) would be too much trouble. Plus, I didn't know VA gun law very well, or the relative lack of it. Once in a while I think about finding a local range around here and revisiting my old hobby. Somehow though, I don't think I'd enjoy it as much as I did. Bikes trump guns... and there wouldn't be much chance of me running into Ice-T in these parts anyways.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gambrill 101

The rocks of Gambrill
It's always fun to ride Gambrill. It's even more fun when you're showing people around there for the first time. It's like discovering the place all over again for yourself. Last Sunday we had a good mixed group of newbs (to Gambrill) and seasoned cadres: Jo & Rickyd, Gina & meP, Dima, Lou, and JayD. We did the usual Yellow loop, stopping often to play on the rocks. The first climb put the familiar taste of blood in my lungs, but the rest of the ride went well and with no serious casualties (at least none that I saw). It was a beautiful day with the leaves starting to show their Autumn colors, and the smell of crushed leaves like the fine aftertaste of a good brew.

Dima clearing the rocks with ease

A well-earned rest

Aww geez, get a room!

The infamous climb under the powerlines

JayD riding big on the rocks