Monday, September 27, 2010

Runnin' on Empty

We drained the tank before we even got there. Cruising west on the turnpike and the trip computer saying zero miles remaining in the gas tank. This was to be a harbinger of things to come.

We did find a gas station with about -7 miles (that's negative seven) in the tank and made it to the Allegrippis trail head around lunch time. We geared up and hit the single track agreeing we would leave it ALL on the trails. All of it.

And let me tell you, The Army Corp of Engineers and I.M.B.A. made it easy for us to drain the tanks. Many miles of sweet undulating single track on these hills surrounding Raystown Lake. They are all about flow with plenty of rollers, tabletops, and seriously bermed turns so no excuse for using the brakes.

At about mile 12 we made our second mistake of the weekend (not bad), riding Sidewinder backwards. Many of the trails are meant to be ridden in one direction (CW/CCW) and clearly we were riding this one the wrong way. And we were getting really toasted.

But somehow we managed to scrape out another 18 miles. It was just too good to call it quits. Admittedly the last five miles were pathetic but necessary to ensure the tanks were bone dry. And it gave me a lot of time to think about riding 30 miles of single track, every day for 5 days, at altitude in the Rockies, which is how I plan to celebrate my birthday next year. Thankfully even my oxygen deprived brain realized that it was the pace, not the distance, that had buried us (and maybe the single speed bikes). I still think it's the right bike for Allegrippis but we could have ridden more efficiently with gears. For the record, we logged 30 miles in 3 hours 15 minutes elapsed.

Having accomplished the primary goal of this weekend trip, we then began the hunt for a hip bar with a beer selection, great grub, and some good bike mojo. After swinging through Rothrock Outfitters to see a Big Dummy and get a rundown on this year's Dirtfest, we found ourselves in post-ride Nirvana at Boxer's Cafe:
  • Hip - nice combination of mountain bikers and Penn State coeds gave it a great vibe. Cute waitress with dreds was a nice touch.
  • Beer - Spaten by the half liter
  • Grub - Great menu (for me it was chef's salad, mushroom and swiss burger, side of fries)
  • Bike mojo - Cannondale mountain bike hanging over the bar
After solid day of riding, a monster feast, and a liter of German beer there was only one thing left to do. Head to camp, light a campfire under the stars, crack open the coolers, and finish the job. And finish it we did.

Almost. Because we were able to squeeze in one more ride Sunday morning before the long drive home. It was not a barn burner like Saturday, and it was downright painful in spots, but it sure was a fitting way to end an epic weekend. Great weekend, and I am still feeling the glow 36 hours later.


"Go Big or Go Home"
     -- Unknown

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Grab Bag

Tonight would be grab bag full of surprises.

We had about 20 minutes before we would rendezvous at the lake to pickup another rider. A little overambitious we found ourselves at the top of the quarry with one minute to go before the meetup. So we dropped the hammer(s) and cracked off a stupid-fast screaming descent down to the lake where we were greeted by rider #3 and... acoustic duo (upright bass, guitar) jamming at the edge of the lake. They were pretty good and were playing just for the joy of playing next to a beautiful lake under a glorious sunset. It was really breathtaking, the music drifting out over the lake, the sunset. Such a contrast to the lung-busting adrenaline rush we were enjoying mere seconds ago.

We chilled and listened for a while, thanked them, and headed off to bag a few more miles before dark. Crossing the dam we noticed three people with backpacks bushwhacking through the lower field toward the spillway outlet. Could it be "Ben and Jerry", making good on their promise to ride "the breathing dragon?" Either that, or some copy-cats making their own attempt at immortality. We made a casual descent of the Sole Trail, timing our return to hopefully witness the madness first hand. When we returned, darkness had fallen and - sure enough - we could hear voices emanating from the spillway riser. They were inside "The Dragon." We listened for a good while but eventually convinced ourselves that these were copycats with no intention of following through.

We wrapped up with a spectacular lights-out ride home under a brilliant full moon. You know, the kind of moon where you cast a shadow and frankly lights are just a buzz-kill. When I got home I fetched the Benn and Jerry's Half Baked from the freezer (as is customary) and on a whim checked by email. Imagine my reaction when I saw a message posted to the C2C message board, from "Ben" stating simply "Water Slide Tonight."

Dang, we missed it...but just the same it was a heck of a night. Where else can you get an adrenaline rush, live music under a spectacular sunset, a full moon ride, and some silly spelunking...

...on a Tuesday, in my own back yard, no cover charge. God I love this place.


Monday, September 6, 2010

The Hammer

It's good to be The Hammer. But sometimes it can be good to be The Nail.

Three of us rolled into French Creek at 7:20am this morning, and soon had 10 riders saddled up and ready to hit the trails on the east side of Route 345. This would be my first time in the area known as "The Proving Grounds" and it lived up to it's reputation by proving to me that:
  1. I've been riding waaaay too much at Marsh Creek
  2. I can ride some pretty sketchy stuff if I'm running in a pack and going too fast to use my better judgement
  3. ...and my Turner, which I have not ridden much recently (see Marsh Creek comment), is one hell of a bike, devouring miles of gnarly rock gardens and precipitous water-bar drops
The Proving Grounds made last week's ride on the west side of the park look like a boardwalk milk-run.  It dished out a never ending series of burly rock-infested downhills and steep technical uphills that had us (or at least me) white-knuckled but grinning ear to ear. We eventually rolled back into the parking lot around 9:15.

We stayed there long enough to eat a banana, take a wiz, and bid adieu to two riders before the remainder of the group struck out for a "quick one hour cool down loop" that would last more like two hours. One more rider bought it on this loop, which left our attrition rate at 30% - still respectable given the amount of punishment that was dished out.

When we got back to the lot the second (and last) time, our driver quipped that he had just (barely) enough energy left to push the clutch the 47 times it would take to get back home.

I think this Jef Mallett cartoon sums it up pretty well.