Monday, August 31, 2015

A Bee in the Bonnet

Post ride looking for something cold

On our rides we often say "you don't get this stuff sitting on the couch at home." True but for a few minutes yesterday that couch was looking pretty good...


The ride was Nockamixon. Hot and humid it was our 3rd ride in as many days. We were wrapping up a short food break when it started. A couple painful stings and a few confused expletives. A swarm of very angry wasps was upon us. A hundred yards of frantic pedaling to get away from the nest but the stinging continued and I had to stop in a vain attempt to swat them away. But then the swarm increased. Damn, they were following us! More frantic pedaling. My ankles and left hand were already a mess but now they were stinging under my helmet and shirt and - ahem - in my shorts. They are pissed and they are following us and we can't seem to lose them. Now everything is a blur of pedaling and stinging and swatting and cursing. We roll up on a trail work crew. I ditch the bike and run behind a tree to drop my drawers. All clear. Shake my clothes. Swearing. I toss my helmet to the ground and ... the mystery is solved. Out of my helmet rolls a nest of yellow jackets. Sonofabitch.

So they weren't exactly chasing us...The entire time we were pedaling "away" from the nest, they were bouncing along in or on my helmet getting more and more pissed and doing what they do when they get pissed. Goddamit.

Moments prior. Notice there
is no cursing or swatting.
I counted about a dozen stings. Head, hands, back, and butt. My ankles got it really good with 5-6 stings but it gets better ... my crotch and ...yes it gets even better still ... one right on the family jewels. Ironically it's the ankles that were the most "uncomfortable." Once it was apparent none of us were going into apoplectic shock we swore a couple more times and eventually got our heads back into the game and finished with 90 minutes of miles and smiles.

Post ride we grabbed a cooler of coldies from the truck so we could relax for the customary post-ride debrief (the first coldie went straight into my shorts). As usual the conversation was pithy and far ranging but can be summarized as:

  • Check your helmet. Now check it again.
  • It can be a fine line between thanking someone for doing you a big favor and thinking you want to punch them in the face.
  • Everyone has their price. No exceptions.
  • Mangoes are awesome.

So in the end I have to say I'm still glad I got off the couch yesterday to hang out with this bunch. And with the itching and swelling that I've got going right now, that is "sayin' something."

Chris

“You do something stupid, you gotta act like it didn't hurt" 
     – Anonymous

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Thirteen Degrees North

Crew aboard STW
First blog post in five month but it is a doozie...the return of The Joy Boys to Caribbean sailing! It reads more like a ship's log than any sort of coherent story, but I want to get it down in writing before the details start fading. It's missing some color (Cathyann, PSV resort bar, etc) but those stories are best told in person anyway. I hope you enjoy 5% as much as I did!


Day 1 Downingtown to St. Vincent


  • My first delousing leaving Trinidad (thanks LIAT).
  • Lisa met us at airport and delivered is quickly and safely to Blue Lagoon (thanks TMM).
  • Beachside chart briefing with John West, very thorough and some great stories.
  • Lisa took us to opening of Carnival @ Victoria Park Kingstown – old (decrepit) soccer stadium packed beyond capacity, live music, and primitive but serviceable facilities. Chatted with the Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves at the beer tent.
  • The beaches on Mustique don't suck
  • After a visually inspiring drive through the streets of Kingstown, we returned to Blue Lagoon to watch Mayweather v. Pacquiao in the outdoor bar.



Day 2 Sail to Mustique



  • Explored ashore, snorkeled, chased some goats, hunted some coconuts, and busted a gut over Jim’s header boarding STW.
  • Ashore again, nice walk past the airport to Cotton House.
  • Introduced to “Sparrow” rum @ Basil’s (definitely flammable).
  • Fishing village with Basil's in
    the background.
  • Late that night, “Tranquility” (a 78’ cat) drags off their anchor and is drifting toward Montezuma Shoal. Unable to hail harbor master on VHF16, so we Seal Team 6 boards the dinghy with a couple PFDs, a flashlight, and a walkie talkie and saves the day for some clueless sailors. The dinghy is not seaworthy, so remaining crew relieved we didn’t have to leave the mooring ball in the dark to rescue Seal Team 6.


Day 3 Explore Mustique, sail to Tobago Cays


  • Rented a “mule”, explored the entire island including Macaroni beach (rugged and remote) and Obsidian bay (black sand beach) on the far side.
  • Firefly – Dave finds ringing cell phone, we enjoy an $80 round of drinks and the classy casual luxury. Dave parked in Lady Cat Jagger’s personal barstool.
  • 4.5 hour sail to Tobago Cays, saw many flying fish. Put the hand line in, lost a lure to something with very sharp teeth.
  • View of turtle sanctuary and Tobago
    Cays from Baradel island.
  • First anchoring – shallow crowded anchorage, windy since the reef breaks the swell but not the wind.




Day 4 – Explore Tobago Cays and sail to Petite St Vincent



  • After breakfast we snorkeled the turtle sanctuary the explored Baradel on foot. Many iguanas and some great views.
  • Returning to STW, the dinghy takes on water. A lot of water. It would be on the bottom of the Cay if it weren’t inflatable. 
  •  “Free Willy” and “Mr. Quality” sold us a bunch of T-shirts.
  • Sailing to PSV we get our first glimpse of Happy Island.
  • Added a beer can teaser to our fishing gear, but still nothing on the hook.
  • Slight navigational issue thinking the shoal off Mopion was Pinese rock. Almost tried to sail between them. We would not have made it. Yikes!
  • Anchored off PSV in 2kt current, need to pay attention while swimming.
  • This was our third day of sailing, the cobwebs are mostly gone and crew is working really well together.
  • Seal Team 5 takes dingy ride thru international waters to Petite Martinique for PK supplies. Nothing open, but we did manage to convince Paula to open her beach bar and negotiate for 2 cans coconut, 1 nutmeg, 1 fresh pepper, and about 8 ice cubes.
  • Fresh water shower off the fantail with the Liquid Joy – forgot how good it feels to be clean!
  • Motor almost falls of Dinghy. Only real complaint about the charter is this POS dinghy.
  • Happy Island is self explanatory
  • “Goaties Beach Bar” closed early so we redirected to the resort bar on the hill. We are cruisers (forbidden) and don’t have trousers (required) but they have beds, drinks, ice. After a (very very) rough start we hit it off well with the bartender and when we leave for STW they throw in a carton of ice (that is GOLD). 



Day 5 – Sail to Union Island



Getting happy
  • Anchor and re-anchor off Happy Island (just to windward of Newland’s Reef).
  • Large power boat trying to anchor next door – fail!
  • Margaret Wroughton anchors under sail next door – success!
  • Met Janti and enjoyed some cold ones on Happy Island
  • Sail to Chatham Bay (other side of Union) – big water, this is not BVI!
  • Dinner at Seckie & Vanessa's "Sun, Beach & Eat".  Fabulous family style meal of lobster, potatoes, plaintains, rice, salad, fish, ribs, chicken, and of course lobster (halved and still squirming when they went on the grill). Oh and Vanessa’s own cake for dessert.
  • Talk to Shark Attack ("Jamaque" & his mother; "crazy fucking italians"; "figure lickin' good") -  walk to Aqua (end of beach; pool; owned by Antonio)
  • Peeing off the fantail at night with Southern Cross overhead. Does it get any better?
  • Throw some lobster on the barbie
    at Seckie & Vanessa's.
  • Wind occasionally kicks up for 15-20 seconds, sounds like a train roaring through the anchorage. 



Day 6 Climb Mt Olympus and Sail to Mayreau


  • Guy named "Eisenhart" left bag at Bollhead's night before (cash, camera, passport) and sailed away without it. Never found out how that story ended.
  • Met Bollhead, Tim and guy from N. Hampshire (is he hiding something?)
  • Steep hike to Mt. Olympus, met "Bushman" and goats, bunnies, amazing gardens
  • Sail to Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau. Our first tack (previous 4 days have been all gybes).
  • Walked into village past cemetery, school (goat on roof), old Catholic Church with views of Tobago Cays. Meet "Righteous" Robert @ "Righteous & de Youths". Dogs everywhere - one is racists (we later learn).
  • Drinks & early dinner @ Dennis' Hideaway - meet Charleston, Cathyann & Dennis. Cathyann was initially guarded but warmed up and we had very engaging few hours (worldly for a 27 year old). Charleston did fantastic job cooking for us in the open air kitchen.
  • Robert
  • Back to STW; swim to shore, drinks at SW Bay Club.



Day 7 – Sail to Bequia


  • Anchor tangled with mooring ball made leaving the anchorage a little tricky.
  • Early sail to Bequia (6+ hr sail with long beat into Admiralty Bay/Princess Margaret Beach)
  • Nailed the noon sextant sighting.  Sextant: 61°22’W 13°8’N.  GPS: 61°23’W 13°1’N. Did the math long hand and yes this sighting was accurate to 7NM! 
  • Dennis' Hideaway with Cathyann
  • Ashore to Whaleboner (Ruth & daughter Ariel). After the previous 6 days, Bequia feels a little too civilized for my sensibilities.



Day 8 – Return to Blue Lagoon and Fly to Trinidad and Tobago 
  • Morning snorkel (moray eels). 
  • Generator goes kaput.
  • Sail to Blue Lagoon, is a beat against a strong current. Lots of tacking.
  • Marlin “We were worried about you. You never called.  Everyone always calls.” We explained that our goal was to “get away from it all.” Cell phones and radios didn’t fit into that program.
  • Barge towed out of Blue Lagoon, ran aground in the (narrow) channel. If we’d returned 1 hour later we might never have gotten into the Lagoon!
  • Saltwhistle on Mayreau
  • Fly to TT in my bathing suit.



Day 9 – Fly Home


  • Start planning return trip!



I'm fortunate to have a wife that supports these more than occasional indulgences, and to have friends with a sense of adventure with whom to indulge...and who can spend time together 24x7 in very tight quarters and still be friends when it's all over.

"Thank you" to all who made this possible doesn't quite cut it...
Nailing the noon sighting. Marquesas
here we come!

Chris

"I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."
     -- John Muir (1838 - 1914)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The One Less Traveled

 The jaunt to the boat launch confirmed the inter-web reports of treacherous riding conditions - the trails were coated in half an inch of hard shiny ice - so I was surprised to see half a dozen riders circling at the boat launch when I arrived (this group seems to thrive on adversity which is good because we were about to have some).

After gravel grinding to the dam, we knew the Sole Trail would be a ticket straight to the emergency room, so we diverted to ride the frozen flats above the spillway. With so many of us on fat bikes this quickly devolved into a Charlie Company bushwhack through the bamboo, hand-over-hand dragging bikes up the side of the decrepit crumbling spillway, and finally onto some east-side high pucker-factor icy singletrack.

For the return from The Beer Tree (yes, "all roads do lead to The Beer Tree") we rode/skated/walked across the lake ice back to the flats to ride in more aimless circles around and over the occasional rock pile. It wasn't long before one of us pinch flatted with the sun just about to set and the temp about to plummet. This of course presented even more opportunity to yuck it up and 20 minutes later (ICTs have big tires) we were all smiles for the gravel grind back to the launch.

This ride was the definition of "Adventure by Bike." No plan, no destination, just a group of friends turning corners just to see what would happen next.

Chris

"Two paths diverged in the wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
     -- Robert Frost

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 "Hair of the Dog" Hangover Ride

Man down. Like really down.

2015 started pretty much the same way 2014 ended...riding. The only difference was that this morning's Hangover Ride was sparsely attended - possibly due to the 10:30 am start time. In spite of this, the ride was a success on multiple fronts:

  • Some healthy hangovers were burned off by the fresh air, the exercise, and a little hair of the dog.
  • We on-boarded a new (to us) rider Justin. He's a quick study on the dog hair stuff and also outlasted us on the riding part.
  • We were able to give one very bedraggled (decapitated actually) camper a proper Sioux-style tree burial.
Field work.
Looking forward to more 2015...

Chris

photos courtesy of mike

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Answer

25° temps ensured the trails were fast and grippy for twelve  riders who turned out for the last ride of 2014, and if this ride was any indication then 2015 is gonna be a hum-dinger even if it does start with vegan month (more on that later).

The short ride to the trail was painfully cold, but once the cold turned to tingling and then to burning, the blessed numbness finally set in. In two hours we hit most of the sights at White Clay including The Goat Trail (never gets old) and Corkscrew a couple times.
Trail tip: After the first trip down Corkscrew, Kirk's rear brake started dragging. Unable to find any bike lube he resorted to borrowing a flask of bourbon to "loosen up" the caliper and we learned yet another valuable lesson - that that sometimes "alcohol is the answer."
14 miles later, eight of us hit McGlynn's pub to recap the awesomeness of the ride and to celebrate that it is not yet vegan month by devouring:
Bourbon fixes everything
including stuck calipers.
  • One ahi tuna burger (a vegan distant cousin)
  • One McGlynn's Stuffed Burger. The vegan coup de grâce, this is pile of beef the size of a bowling ball stuffed with a whole philly cheese steak sandwich and (we think) poached in duck fat.
  • Six Farmhouse Burgers topped with cheese, locally grown mushrooms, and a fried egg. We added lettuce and tomato just to make our Moms happy if they are reading this blog.
We started washing these down with a session IPAs (it was 11:30am after all) but then mercifully switched to Old Dominion Bourbon Oak Barrel Aged Stout. 


We thought we might have a problem when Jesse (our passionate part-time vegan) dove into her Farmhouse Burger and her eyes rolled into the back of her head like a great white shark devouring a sea lion. No joke. It was weird. Tom thought he might have seen an extra eyelid too. 

Thanks all for turning out for the ride. I'm lucky enough to be able to ride a bike in the woods. To do it with eleven other great people who are at least as passionate about it is just awesome. Impossible to put into words.

Cheers,
Chris

"RIDE HARD, live easy"
     -- Unknown

photos courtesy of our vegan photographer

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Licking Windows

"We're licking windows now."  It was an apt observation. At 2:00 am the discourse had deteriorated to something akin to a bunch of 12 year olds in the back of the school bus at the end of a very long ride.

About seven hours earlier we kicked off festivities with the traditional mountain bike ride. This ride is never too ambitious but it's always fun because we know what's coming next. The ride is how we legitimatize what happens afterwards (the window licking part). This years ride was notable for the number of  fatties (five) and our penchant for driving headlong into every mud pit we could find on the west side trails.

Some kiln dried lumber and a couple gallons of kerosene ensured that the bonfire got rolling without a hitch once we tossed the match after the ride. We had a minor violation since Rob, as only the second person in history to clear the Trail of Broken Collarbones uphill on a mountain bike, was supposed to do the honors but was otherwise indisposed. We'll somehow rectify this next year at the Tenth Annual which is sure to be a doozie.

The post-ride alfresco menu featured reindeer chili topped with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream, cornbread, homemade mexican guacamole-sour-cream-cheese-bean dip, bags of cider donuts, a huge pile of christmas cookies, chips, and assorted other high-calorie snacks enjoyed by mountain bikers.

Well fed, amply watered, and energized by the ride, nine of us settled in for a long night of shenanigans and belly laughing around the bonfire. Shenanigans included one fire jump (it's not a bonfire without one of those) and belly laughing included Löwenbräu lyrics and some now immortal bonfire memes and quotes including:

  • "The Finger of God." I won't attempt to explain it here and Google won't help so don't bother.
  • "It's the end of the the world and I was facing the wrong way." It looked like it was, and clearly one of us was. Yeah, I guess you had to be there.
  • The window licking reference which I think has some legs with this group.

We finally threw in the towel not because we'd run out of material but because it was almost 3:00 am and apparently you have to draw a line somewhere.

Chris

"Here's to good friends, last night was kinda special."
     -- The Löwenbräu guy

Friday, December 12, 2014

Just Around the Corner

This guy provided the chili recipe. I figured if he could make 
a bunch of squirrels edible then he could probably do 
wonders with some reindeer meat.
Quick update on the bike bonfire beer thing, which is just around the corner:
  • Elk & bison meat chili has been re-dubbed "reindeer chili" by my disapproving daughter. No need for me to bring any home, she won't be trying it.
  • It will be mild (low 29 degrees) so consider flip flops for apres-ride attire. Also Kirk has kindly offered the use of his hot tub to "take it up a notch" so bring your bathing suit too (no birthday suits please). Seriously, bring it.
  • Kirk and I will be setting up the bonfire tomorrow mid-day (felling trees, lashing the pyre together with bailing wire, dousing with gallons of kerosene, setting up a fire jumping skills course, etc.) so if you want to join that fun let me know and we'll keep you posted on time. 
  • Park at my place or in the cul de sac, then hump your stuff behind Kirk's (walk to left of his house) and down the trail to the bonfire site by the creek. Plan on a couple trips to get all your stuff (bike, cooler, chair, food, gear, etc) down that dang trail. It's called the Trail of Broken Collarbones for a reason. Note: if you RIDE down the trail then you are nominated to light the bonfire (an honor not unlike the lighting of the Olympic torch). If you ride UP the trail then you are superhuman. It's only been done once. Ever.
The fun starts in about 21 hours and this house smells awesome!

Chris


"Oh the things you can find if you don’t stay behind."
     -- Dr Seuss