Sunday, October 25, 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Climbing out of Blue Diamond on a
Canondale Trigger with red
rocks in the background.
Don't forget Viagra.

It was Thursday afternoon at the Aria resort in Las Vegas. The week had started with a customer dinner on Sunday night and had been non-stop since then. Sessions, meetings, dinners, drinks, nightclubs, and casinos. Rinse wash and repeat for four days. I'm not complaining but seriously too much of anything is too much for me and that was a little much. Plus I had been staring at the desert and the Red Rock mountains in the distance all week from my gilded cage on The Strip, wondering what adventures might await.

So it was Thursday afternoon and the last session was over. I was barefoot in my room when the text message finally arrived. "I'm in front of the casino. White Ford Focus with a Super Fly on the back."

Byron, my savior, had arrived. He was a professional mountain bike guide from McGhie's Bike Shop. He was here to pick me up, drive me to Blue Diamond (population 200 where the general store is also the Sheriff's office), get me my demo bike, and lead me into the desert to be cleansed in dirt and dust and sweat.

The riding was, how shall I say this, incredible. The mountains are massive and the distances are vast. East Coast riding is usually in mature forest where you can see the trail for tens of yards. In the desert you can see the trail under your wheels snaking off into the distance for a mile or more. The vegetation is yucca and joshua trees and all sorts of crazy cactus bushes. Dust and sand and rocks with strange shades of yellow, red, and sometimes green (minerals I presume). The trail names tell the story pretty well: Landmine Loop, Badger Pass Loop, Mustang Trails, Viagra, Old Spanish Trail, Rubber Ducky, White Rhino, and Dead Horse Loop.
Two thousand year old yucca tree

The first 8 miles or so was a long gentle climb, almost imperceptible but it was steadily adding up to some altitude which meant the ride back on Viagra was fast. 25 mph doesn't sound like much but I assure you when your on a curvy gravely singletrack threading the needle between cactus bushes and yucca trees (think pointy swords on a tree) is it plenty fast. And as the miles racked up I was getting the hang of the full suspension, letting it soak up the rock gardens instead of picking my way through them.

The last time I rode here about six years ago, it started a thought process that culminated into an 8 guy 5 day mountain bike odyssey from Durango Colorado to Moab Utah. Now the wheels are turning again. So much to ride, so little time!

In closing I want to send some props to Amy at McGhie's. She does an incredible job running their mountain bike guide business. It was flawless from beginning to end. All I had to do was show up in front of the casino with my biking clothes and turn some pedals in the desert, her team did the rest. I will definitely be back and you should too.

Byron's Strava summary


"It’s opener, out there, in the wide open air"
     -- Dr Seuss

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Popeapalooza ("85 seconds from Downingtown to The Delaware")

Sorry no music or editing.

Just 85 seconds of time lapse from Downingtown to The Deleware. 


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Popeapalooza ("Good News")

Pope Ride Re-Ride challenge #1:
Change your tire in intersection
at Chestnut and 13th.
The good news for those of you couldn't make it to Popeapalooza and the three Pope Rides is that we've laid the ground work for the Pope Ride Re-Ride. Sort of a scavenger hunt ride where under the supervision of Jesse and I, you will attempt to recreate selected pictures we took during the event. No doubt this will go down in the pantheon if other epic ride ideas like the "Tour duh" and the new bike-packing trip that is just entering the planning phase.

Sara's picture of people
taking pictures of the Pope.
In closing, it's fairly easy to recap the Popeapalooza events but difficult to convey the actual experience due to the many intangibles. First was having a ride partner who totally embraced the adventure and was always game to "take a peek around the next corner." Also this was a one-of-a-kind (maybe lifetime) event and everyone there knew it. You could see it in their eyes. Multiply this by a million or more souls sharing in this common experience together, and you get a sense of the magic. 

Tomorrow's post will be an exhilarating Popeapalooza post, the last in this series.

Until next time,

"The Pope Ride's over."
     -- Guy straddling bike at end of The Pope Ride
         (I had never heard anyone say that before)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Popeapalooza ("The Saxophone")

In the prior post I explored some of the non-bicycle aspects of this epic event. In this post we'll dig into the actual rides, all three of them:
  • The Ride to the Pope Ride (pretty self explanatory). This one started with an informal meetup of about 30 riders in the parking lot of the Conshohocken Ikea. We rode the SRT via The Trolly Cafe,  Manayunk, and the Zoo to 30th Street Station.  Every mile got more Pope-ish with more riders, national guard troops, and palpable excitement growing.
  • The Pope Ride was of course the featured bike event. This was the Open Streets Edition rolling from 30th Street Station into Center City and then east to the river. Reports from the train station were that Market was jammed with riders queuing up for two blocks prior to the ride. Newspaper reports of hundreds" of riders were vastly understated. We joined the Pope Ride as it entered Center City and then took a leisurely meandering ride through the neighborhoods of East Philly with pedestrians queuing up at crosswalks and locals coming of their homes to take pictures and cheer on the riders. Magical.
  • After the Pope Ride we took a few hours to eat and explore the Center City festivities. Finally it was time for The Ride from The Pope Ride which somehow passed the same saxophone player three times before finally hooking up with the SRT heading north. We managed to work in a side-trip through an impressive cemetery perched on a hillside south of Manayunk (because we hadn't seen enough miles or hills or mausoleums yet). 
On the ride home I was struck by the number of people still streaming into town. Lots of extended families (grandparents, parents , and kids) pushing strollers down Kelly Drive. Some were in street clothes and others were dressed in their Sunday best. But what really struck me was that they had already walked many miles, and had 2-3 miles left to go, and then the same miles on foot after the festivities. This was HARD for many of these people, but the mood was celebratory and positive. This part was humbling.

My next post will feature some coverage from my daughter Sara who was also at Popeapalooza and who (unlike me) she stuck it out for the evening and got to see the man himself.


"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."
     -- Dr Seuss

Monday, September 28, 2015

Popeapalooza ("It Wasn't ALL About The Bicycles")

Got bombed before the Pope Ride
In my last post I explained why we believed this was a "must" event. In this post I'll explore some of the non-bicycle elements that made it so special.

As with any Pope Ride hosted in a closed city, there would be a Ride to the Pope Ride and a Ride From the Pope Ride in addition to the actual Pope Ride. Three great rides and 47 miles packed into one day. Plus between rides there would be miles poking around the Philly side streets which featured:
  • Dozens of jumbo-trons showing the festivities at and around the Art Museum and connecting everyone into one synchronized million-man Popeapalooza. 
  • Assorted Pope schwag and souvenirs, Pope pins, t-shirts, bobble-heads, and squeeze dolls. There was Pope corn and Pope bracelets. Rosaries. Pope flags, Pope posters and cardboard cutouts of the Pope. Free enterprise was alive and well in the City of Brotherly Love. 
  • Spontaneous outbursts of joyous music and large-group dancing in the streets. Huge singing crowds ambling down the middle of otherwise deserted boulevards and streets towards the Art Museum.
  • Hundreds of "Pope Johns" gleaming in the sun, many of them lining the bridges into and out of the city.
  • Pope food. For us it would be two Epiphany sandwiches ordered sight unseen at Di Bruno. The official Pope sandwich was a no brainer and turned out to be just what two depleted cyclists needed (beef tenderloin, house made mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, and grilled romaine with chimichurri sauce on focaccia bread). Yum. By the time we got to the Reading Terminal food-orgy we were pretty full but that did not stop us from grabbing some coffee and browsing the glorious food show.
In my next post I'll dive into the actual rides and we'll even explore some local mausoleums.


"Take the long cut, we'll get there eventually."
     -- Unknown

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Popeapalooza ("It's Pope Time")

"In back alley. It's Pope time."

What started as a innocent Facebook
meetup spiraled into an epic urban ride
And began our adventure in the wee hours of Saturday morning as I picked up my fellow pilgrim Jesse Piersol and her bike, and we set off on our pilgrimage. We had no idea what the day would bring. For months the newspapers and interwebs had been warning of crushing crowds, transportation breakdowns, food shortages, and mass chaos in the streets. Maybe, but we also knew that:
  • The Pope. He was coming to Philadelphia for the second time in history. This was the definition of a once-in-a-lifetime event. The lawn mowing would have to wait until Sunday.
  • The People's Pope. This would not be just any Pope, this would be the People's Pope. Admittedly organized religion is not a big part of my life, but this Pope is an incredibly powerful and positive force in the world today and we wanted to show our support.
  • Open streets. The city was shut down to vehicular traffic so for a few precious hours we and our bikes would have the run of the 5th largest metropolis in the US.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists (and
    a few dogs) rule the streets
  • Adventure. We had a loose plan but we knew this would not be just "another ride." Stuff would happen and we would have to adapt and that is a formula for a memorable day. 
So at 6:23 am we cast our fate into the wind and started our pilgrimage.

In my next post I'll explore the special atmosphere that permeated the city yesterday and introduce you to the "Pope John."


"A bicycle does get you there and more And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun."
     -- Unknown