Monday, December 21, 2015

Who Will Be Last?

Mountain biking has given me much over the last decade. The freedom of two wheels rolling effortlessly down a dirt ribbon in the woods. Visits to breath taking destinations only a lucky few get to experience. Exhaustion or encouragement or a belly laugh when I need it and friends I never would have met except for biking. Biking is more than a distraction for me, it is a meaningful part of my life. And every now and then it all comes together in a hum-dinger of a memory like it did on Sunday.

It started with an afternoon milk-run tour of the west side, our train of 19 riders careening down the old Struble and then singletracking up to the quarry and eventually to the ruins for some hydration and a spontaneous round of "fatty smashing." The crowd was getting rowdy after a kinger and a double-stack round, but they went off their rockers when RI pulled off the never-before-attempted-in-competition rear wheel fatty smash. The crowd was howling but temperatures were dropping and we were out of beer so we decided to work our way back to camp and the food and the main event.

The food. Where to start? How about pulled pork with smoked jalapenos, braised short ribs and goat (would be cooked in a cast iron dutch oven in the bonfire), Italian sausage and peppers, and venison tenderloin reindeer chili. Fried chicken, Christmas cookies, and Dunkin donuts. Two tables, under the stars, piled high with food and no vegetables in sight. Mountain biker heaven.

With half a chord of wood and 7 wooden pallets to burn, the fire would be impressive as well and the pallets would present an interesting opportunity to host our first and probably not the last annual [mothers continue reading at your own peril] fire ride. Pallets expertly arranged over the fire - up, over, and down. We knew it would ride but the question that had not yet been answered was..."who would be the LAST to ride the fire?" Would the last ride be a case of good judgement or something else less good? There was only one way to find out so we lit it up and commenced to encourage (wasn't hard) a few brave souls to surrender to the fire ride. And ride it they did and I am happy to say the last person to ride the fire survived with nothing more than a couple singed eyebrows and can now bathe in the glory of that ride for many years to come (and can thankfully check "fire riding" off on the bucket list).

A Real Wangtangler
(a.k.a a valuable lesson?)
As if that were not enough, the fire ride would still teach us a valuable lesson about the butterfly effect - in this particular case a bent derailleur hanger that nearly sent MR to the Brandywine burn unit. Earlier in the week an attempt to realign a hanger on MR's fat bike highlighted a drive train issue that required a chain ring change which resulted in a broken crank bolt which meant that MR would be riding a bike with 2.2" tires this evening instead of his fatbike. So what? Fast forward to the bonfire. The first fire riding pallet was nearly burned through so another pallet was unceremoniously thrown on top. This not only fanned the flames of the riders and audience, but it also left an awkward step up from the entrance ramp onto the (now burning) pallet so again demonstrating good judgement we turned the entrance ramp lengthwise to improve the entrance angle and solve the step problem. However this created a new problem with the 2" gap between boards running lengthwise (in the direction of travel). So instead of guiding the front tire onto the platform it could conceivably grab the front wheel and propel and rider over the handlebars onto the burning pallet. Our rightful conclusion was that from that point forward only fat bikes with 4" or wider tires should be riding the fire. Now if you've been paying attention you know that MR who is accustomed to riding a fat bike was now riding a bike with 2.2" tires. Yes it was a close one (a.k.a. "A Wangtanger") and we may have learned a valuable lesson but only time will tell. [mothers may safely continue reading] 

Proud parents
The tradition of beer presentations heated up with the fire with over a half dozen entries. The creativity, the craftsmanship, and the passion for such an ephemeral moment was inspiring. The energy in the crowd as each artist sacrificed their personal creation. The blaze of glory as each creation was turned into pure heat and light. One catharsis after another, experienced as one by creator and the crowd:
  • BP's rocket - 8 feet tall, all cardboard and plywood, and capped off with some sort of firework. It was the first to burn and for a few seconds the flames were probably licking 30' high. It was so intense we couldn't even tell if the fireworks went off. 
  • KP and GP's baby - The defining presentation started with "we have an announcement to make." I turned to see KP tenderly lifting an infant from a baby carriage and cradling it. Juxtaposed with the raging campfire and the near carnage that had preceded (the fire riding), the image was beyond disturbing. Of course it was not a real baby (it was a large beer bottle with hot-glued baby legs and head) but the whole scene looked real enough to raise the hair on the back of my neck. Then a frenzied GP raced that baby stroller up the exit ramp, full tilt. The carriage flew into the air and followed the most wonderfully graceful arc, landing in the fire a little off kilter and was immediately engulfed in flames. Seconds later it was completely gone. No trace. It could have been a dream, as if the carriage had never existed. Epic.
  • But the twisted takes on "best beer presentation" just kept on coming. For example JK's colorful shewee beer mug and SB's meat baby (long story there). There was MR's Christmas wine and beer rack and the JP's Mr and Mrs Claus throw-pillow-six-pack-protectors (Mrs Claus survived but, well, Santa not so much). 
  • We had great fun spinning the Beer Exchange Roulette wheel and I was flattered when some in the crowd began chanting "save the wheel" (there were suggestions of keeping it for '16 or hanging it at The Tree). I let the flattery go to my head for a few moments as I entertained the thought of spinning that wheel at The Tree but thankfully the right side of my brain kicked in and I rightfully consigned the wheel to the fire to be consumed like the many worthy presentations that came before it. It was glorious.
It's was pretty clear that the "best beer presentation" had transcended the concept of winning. This was performance art at it's best and the mantra "must burn to win" was shortened to it's cathartic essence "must burn" and everybody won.

This was an evening for the scrapbook and I just want to thank so many people for bringing their A-game to this ridiculous event.


"It's such a fine line between stupid and clever." 
     -- David St. Hubbins (This is Spinal Tap)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

10th Annual Bike Bonfire and Beer Exchange Fun Quiz

Bank some sleep and start hydrating because it's just just ten days until the Tenth Annual Bike Ride Bonfire and Beer Exchange. Below is the official Bike Ride Bonfire and Beer Exchange Fun Quiz but first let's get some business matters out of the way:

  • Since it's on a weekend, instead of pacing around all day waiting for nightfall we're going to get things rolling mid-afternoon on Sunday the 20th. This way we can provision and set up the camp kitchen in the light of day. If we then saddle up around 3:00pm we can ride a gentleman's pace tour of Marsh Creek with an obligatory stop at The Beer Tree and additional stops for "shots of courage" before returning to camp in the dark to ignite the kerosene soaked pyre. So get your family stuff out of the way Sunday morning because the afternoon is shot.
  • Everyone should bring something for the group to eat. Since this is sort of the "anti" Christmas party we don't want to overdo the planning end of this, but would be helpful if everyone responded with what they plan to bring so we don't wind up with 8 dozen donuts and a bag of pork rinds. I'll be cooking up a pot of chili (the reindeer kind if I can find some elk locally). It would be great if a couple more people could sign up for something hearty like brats, burgers, whatever and the rest can bring snacks.
  • Beer presentation is important. You don't have to share your beer ("exchange" is just cover for use with the spouse) but it should be presented in a manner befitting this event. In past years, beer presentations that were interactive or offensive fared best. But remember the presentation (not the beer) must burn to be eligible to win so don't use a finely crafted family heirloom like Riley did in '08. 
  • Come prepared for the long haul. Bring a change of clothes if you don't like sitting outside in the winter for hours at night in schweaty biking gear. Camp chair also a good idea. Beer obviously, but cooler optional unless you're trying to keep beer from freezing. Food. Sense of humor and lack of good judgement come in handy. 
  • We could really use about 3 or 4 wooden pallets. You know.
  • Oh and clear the deck for Monday.

Enough business, now on to the Fun Quiz...

The official cookie of the 2015 Kingdom Trails bike trip was:
A) A death cookie
B) A snicker doodle
C) A gluten free fig bar
D) Under the refrigerator

Fat bikes are:
A) Dumb (F.A.D.)
B) Stupid (F.A.S.)
C) Sometimes Temperamental (F.A.S.T.)
D) Really Tremendous (F.A.R.T.)

What local trend is BD responsible for starting:
A) Grilling "meat babies"
B) Growing scraggly beards
C) Drinking from a jelly jar
D) Dividing by zero

At Kingdom Trails AD hit:
A) Dirty Penny's boyfriend in the nose
B) A piece of pine paneling with his foot
C) 38 miles per hour on Sidewinder
D) On MV's wife

Money can't buy happiness but it can buy:
A) Bikes
B) Beer
C) A corrupt politician
D) A $330,000 burger

True or False ... MR is retired from fire jumping:
A) False
B) False

We don't have chairs at The Beer Tree because:
A) We couldn't get the Barcalounger up Sucker-Punch Hill
B) Chairs are for roadies
C) There is no more room due to the bike rack
D) If we sat down we would never get back up

The Beer Tree at Cranston Gap is:
A) On the east side of the lake
B) The place to be on at 5:30 on Fridays
C) A place on FaceBook
D) A magical land of unicorns where beer grows on trees 

At Kingdom Trails 2015 we spent too many hours watching:
A) Homey D. clown sketches
B) Irish sailing reports
C) Mexican weather reports
D) KT fall asleep sitting up

The "Rock Zone" is:
A) Uninhabited
B) Uninhibited
C) Underappreciated
D) Underwear

Never trust the following:

A) A happy song
B) A bearded man with a snicker doodle
C) A fart after 8 miles
D) The Tour Duh planning committee to actually make something happen

Bring your answers to the bonfire, The winner can be first in line for the fire jumping contest (always a crowd favorite).