Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Fatties drawing a crowd at The Beer Tree
Six of us closed out the 2013 season with a morning ride on the frozen tundra of Marsh Creek. Befitting an end of year ride, we had a little bit of everything. We had angry single speeders leading out. We had fat bikes, skinny bikes, mountain bikes, and CX bikes. We had mechanical breakdowns, flowy single track, and some rough stuff too. And we paid homage to The Beer Tree. Overall it was a fine wrap up to '13.

But today's ride was not just a teary-eyed and sentimental reflection on '13. We also looked forward. Kirk reminded us that we need to start thinking about the Cinco de Mayo ride because it is "just around the corner" (apparently time flies when you are having fun). We also commenced planning for the 2014 Tour de (pronounced too r duh). Already we know almost ten things about this soon to be epic event:

Blind taste test
  1. It will be about a 30 miles mix of single track, gravel, road, and small town urban decay
  2. It will involve forward positioning of supplies at strategic locations
  3. We need a logo and team kit
  4. It will include a stop at Rincon Tarasco
  5. Mark is the chairman of the 2014 Tour de planning commission
  6. It will include Harmony Hill, Marsh Creek, and a white knuckle ride across a decrepit railroad trestle bridge
  7. It will be the perfect antidote to the mid-winter biking blues
  8. The planning commission will meet at Victory Brewing some time we don't know when
  9. It will be stupid fun
Thanks for all the memories in 2013, and I look forward to more memories and adventures in 2014.


"2014 is going to make 2013 look like a picnic."
     -- unknown (I have no idea what that really means, but it sure makes 2014 sound interesting...)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Grippy to Slippy

Trails still grippy but soon to be slippy
at The Beer Tree.
Today's post Christmas ride started with Bryan's one-line email yesterday afternoon. It was succinct and it covered all of the bases. It said "Merry Christmas where are we riding tomorrow?"

The ride was badly needed after the previous day of unbridled gluttony and materialism run amok. Fortunately four of us were able to gracefully (more or less) get exemptions from family plans to exchange gifts, spend gift cards, and generally wallow in the soulless black hole known as the King of Prussia Mall.

Temperatures were in the low 20s and the trails were rock solid. The usual spots were pretty torn up and so just a little treacherous when frozen (unless you were Bryan on a fat bike), generally the trails were in great shape. We took our breakfast break at The Beer Tree and marveled at the partially frozen lake (beautiful), Kirk caught us up on the epic SSCXWC from earlier this month, and we debated the merits of centimeters versus inches (inches won) and attempted to measure Kirk's custom frame but failed miserably.

About then, our pithy discourse was interrupted by a lone snowflake that drifted down (presumably from a mile or more over our heads) and landed smack dab on the top of a metal flask that we happened to have with us and was sitting upright on the ground at our feet. We took this to be a blessing straight from the biking Gods and we were right because no sooner had we saddled up the the ride home when it began to snow BIG TIME. Huge flakes, Visibility dropped from miles to a few hundred feet, and the trails went from brown and grippy to white and slippy in about 10 minutes. It was a magical example of being at the right place at the right time

And most of all it was a great example of not being at the mall.


"You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning."
     -- Celia Rivenbark

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Everyone Loves a Parade

The mean streets of
 This time of year, the North East weather can be soul sucking for a mountain biker. Days of sloppy singletrack the consistency of peanut butter punctuated by periods of ice and, if we are lucky, a couple days of dry frozen trails. Too much down time between rides. Too many YouTube biking videos. The email traffic gets edgy and it's obvious we need to ride. Even a rainy day gravel grinder would be a welcome distraction.

Bryan and I turned today's ride into more than a distraction by grinding the gravel to The Cup in Downingtown. Our own private rainy-day parade. At The Cup we figured the Sunday morning crowd might not appreciate a couple muddy mountain bikers mixing with the Sunday crowd, so we got our coffees to go and parked our butts on a sidewalk stoop to drink our coffee and Snap, eat Christmas cookies, and watch the Sunday morning traffic roll down Lancaster Ave.

Coffee and cookies finished, we took our parade back to Marsh Creek and cracked a couple of Jai Alai's (a stiff IPA from Cigar City brewing) at the top of the dam while watching the mist gently waft across the lake. For the ride home we had Pandora streaming Christmas Jazz from my pocket, and finally Bryan and I parted ways with a fist pump and and a copy of his traditional annual Christmas mix on CD (old school).

Even the rain couldn't rain on our parade.
Jai Alai and Christmas cookies


"Keep riding, Nancy. It's just water and dirt."
     -- Huck And Roll

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pretty Hard Core

Pre-ride scene
at the bonfire site. 
The allure of this event is evident only if you fully embrace the adversity. Not surrender to it, but embrace it. Revel in it. More is better. Cold? No problem. Snow and mud? Good. Sleet and freezing rain? Excellent!

By that measure, the evening was a home run. The snow started around 5:00 and by 6:30 it was a near white-out. Awesome. These would have been perfect riding conditions an hour earlier, but now with 4-5" on the ground we knew it would be a challenge.

One of many stops to
check the "root."
Sure enough, twenty feet into the ride we knew we were in trouble. The tiny climb and turn onto the Struble railroad bed was impossible to negotiate. In fact the slightest turn risked immediate washout of the front wheel. This is gonna be tricky. Got to pay attention. Stop laughing. Focus or you are going to get hurt. Thankfully we had Rob breaking trail with his new fatty and those 4" monster tires. A half hour into it we found ourselves at the bottom of the Quarry climb with visions of warm Chili and a blazing bonfire dancing in our heads.

This is when Mike played the mountain biker shame card.

Looking up at the impossible Quarry climb, he said something like "what's with the defeatist attitude?" There would be no warm Chili and bonfire for us now. No. Now we would have to climb. Damn Riley. So we climbed a lot and we pushed a little and 15 minutes later we were at the top licking our wounds from a few nasty spills but looking forward to a mostly flat ride through open fields back toward home and the chili and the fire. Only those mostly flat open fields were covered by a nasty crust that made pedaling even harder. Sonofabitch. ALmost two hours later the ride ended with a treacherous high-pucker-factor descent through the neighborhood on an unplowed ice-slicked road. Be careful, you are one tiny twitch away from a broken wrist or concussion or worse.
Fine dining alfresco
with bonfire in the background

Back at camp the 8' high bonfire pyre was aflame and stoked by the gusty winds and as (the other) Mike said "shit burned, and burning shit fell over, and everything else turned to ice." But that process took a few hours during which we were treated to:
  • Brats roasted over the fire (and doing weird things in the fire).
  • A new fire jumper filling the void left by a recent retirement. Did he just do what I think he did??
  • The competition for best beer presentation (see below)
  • Hot chili, then warm chili, then cold chili. 
  • Bourbon, Root, Snap, and assorted brews. 
  • A homeless person in spandex. Who is this guy and why is he wrapped in a sheet of plastic?
  • Day old donuts
  • Freezing rain
2013 winner of
Best Beer Presentation
Congratulations to Mike for his beer tree which won the Best Beer Presentation of 2013 by a comfortable margin. Everyone was impressed by the attention to detail (stainless steel screws) and especially it's ability to sprout an endless stream of microbrews for the thirsty judges.

The crowd +1'd to seven (not counting 2 casualties who were unable to make it out of their driveways due to the snow storm but were there in spirit and missed by all) and then the group slowly dwindled until three hard cores decided to throw in the towel around 1:30am. We've done it again.

Oh and yes, the firepit was still smoldering the next day around 2:00pm, twelve hours after the 2013 winner went up in flames.


"I'm going to put my pants on now."
     -- Homeless Mexican mountain biker standing outside in freezing rain around midnight at 2013 Bike-Bonfire Beer-a-palooza.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Perfect Storm

The view in front. Virgin singletrack.
Today we had the perfect storm. It was perfect because:

  • It was a Sunday which means no hunting in Pennsylvania.
  • I had a belly full of bacon and waffles.
  • I had just finished putting up the Christmas lights.
  • It was a snow storm and anyone who bikes in a four-season climate knows that riding in the snow in the woods is just awesome.
  • I got home in time to watch the 2nd half of a memorable Eagles home game played in 8 inches of snow. The way football is supposed to be played.
The view in back. A single track (mine).
In front of me was miles of virgin singletrack, covered by 3" of fresh sticky snow. In back of me was a single knobby tire track snaking through the woods. In the middle was me. Pure Nirvana.

"Cycling is like church-many attend but few understand"
     -- Jim Burlant

Monday, December 2, 2013

Awesome Asia Adventure Day #9 - Working on our Resumes

It is reassuring to know that silliness
spans cultures, politics, and languages
It was little more than a narrow alley in Zangzizhonglu. On one side was the Dragon King Hostel and on the other side was a restaurant whose name translates to "Hot Bean" and yes it was "hot" as in bright, loud, lively, and filled to capacity by a young vibrant crowd. We peeked inside on the first night and we knew we had to come back the next night. That next night we tried to get in for dinner and were told they had no room and we had no reservations. We left but did manage to slip in later that night for a light snack and drink and to make a reservation for our last night.

That last night we got a table in the overflow room and ordered a couple beers and just about everything on the menu. It was sort of a Chinese take on a tapas bar - small entrees for two served on skewers which came to our table 1-2 at a time. The beers and the food kept flowing and when the overflow room emptied we moved ourselves to the main room and switched to some sort of fortified rice wine (40% alcohol instead of the 50% firewater we had the night before).

It was getting late and the crowd continued to thin when I made a casual comment to Dan that we should think about heading over to the hostel bar. Without hesitiation Dan said "Let's stay until they kick us out."  I did a double-take and he repeated "We'll stay until they tell us to leave. Trust me. It will be great."  I racked my brains and realized that I had never been kicked out of a bar in a communist country before so in the interest of adding to my resume, I said "Ok, that sounds like a good idea" even though it didn't really.

But it was.

When the last of the patrons left, they locked the door and began cleaning up. We kept drinking and picking at our food.  The kitchen help came out to the dining room to have their dinner. We drank and chatted. The owner joined them for dinner while the waiters finished cleaning up. Finally when their dinner was done and it was obvious they were ready to switch off the lights, we got a glance and a polite gesture towards the door.

This is when it got really good.

We stood and situated ourselves on either side of our waiter and handed the phone to his (obviously) brother "asking" him to take our picture. Then the owner and another waiter decided to jump into the picture and next thing the owner and I were standing back to back so we could be measured to determine who was taller. More pictures ensued and then we were on our way out the door with our drinks (and their blessing) having made three new friends and rounding out our resumes.

Dragon King Hostel Bar
We took our show to the hostel bar across the alley. It was a little jarring because it was filled with mostly young Europeans and a Chilean trust-fund student who had just gotten off the trans-Siberian railroad (he has been travelling continuously for two years now). All of the discussions were engaging and centered around politics and travel and philosophies but eventually I realized that I had to get up and function the next morning and that I had somehow lost my wingman so I worked my way back to the room to crash.

I am out of breath just thinking and writing about that evening. It is so vivid and surreal at the same time, with amazing people and conversations and food and drink. An incredible ending to an amazing day I will not ever forget.


"Little hand says it's time to rock and roll."
     -- Bodhi