I have been at this mountain bike thing now about 27 years. In the beginning I had no clue. There were few people riding them in our area back in 1985/86. I rode alone staying mostly on old tote roads, ATV trails and snowmoblie trails scattered around my home on Sam Page Road.. In the first couple of years I built some fitness, but my skill set was still crude. I learned every technique the hard way. Scars, scrapes. bruised bones, and 5 helmets later some notion of how to ride in the woods began to settle in.
It was probably a good thing I was 27 years younger when I started. Had I had to endure the rude awakening off road riding supplied at my current age of 60, I would never go back into the woods again. But there is that 27 years of experience so now I ride within my skill set, my mind set and base every ride on the notion of finishing in one piece.
The one thing I don't have as much of as I did when 33 years old is as much piss and vinegar as I had then. Fitness is something you kinda have naturally while young, but have to work hard to keep as you age. I have not worked hard at it, so my bag of piss and vinegar is always on the low side.
No ride pounded that home more dramatically than yesterday's ride. A group of us drove up to Conway, New Hampshire to ride an area in the White Mountain National Forest known as Moat Mountain/ Mineral Trail Area. As I had almost a full summer of riding under my belt, I was sure I could handle the planned route I had thought about all week. Hmm............................... Seems I was wrong.
We embarked on our day's ride around 8:30 AM. A couple of miscues and finally we settled in on the "Boulder Tent Trail" that heads out to "White Horse Ledge". The "Boulder Tent Trail" has not one inch of level ground. It is either goping up or going down. Matter of fact if you ponder that graph for a moment it would appear that in the whole ride, the only part that approached being level was the 2 plus miles we did on the "Electric Loop". And by the time we got there I was spent and could only be grateful I was not climbing .
According to Dave's GPS unit we climbed for 1400 plus feet in 12 plus miles. That translates to 6 miles of climbing. Hmm............ When we finally got back to the cars 4 hours later, it felt more like 5003 feet of climbing in 25 miles.
What a brutal way to know you are alive. I can't wait to tackle that area again.
At precisely 6:28 AM a two car caravan left Sam Page Rd in Acton,
ME. The lead car contained the Cool Dudes. On the roof, perched large
and in charge, sat the sweetest pair of Niner twin bangers anyone has
had under their butt. The Soccer Mom vehicle behind - well- let's just
say with that bike roped off on the roof, no one had to guess where
those three low lifes hailed from. Sanford of course.
One minute shy of 10 O Clock AM this motley crew landed in E. Burke,
VT. Bought ride tickets, changed into their finest kits, and drove up
to park on top of Darling Hill. Offloaded bikes and gear. Tthen one
car went back down to the main parking lot so there would be a car at
each end. Hey, made sense at the time. As it turned out, no matter
what, someone ends up being punished on the pavement somewhere.
Sometime close to 10:30 AM the group lifted off. Headed up to the
upper trails, "Fenceline", "Coronary", etc. They finally located "Tap n Die".
Grins were had by all. Still fresh and full of piss n' vinegar, the
five followed their noses to "Sidewinder". More grins and now it was time
to head over to the other side..................The other side, oh yeah, that's right -
the other side -- The Coolest Dude gulped hard.
The Cool Dudes who led the drive up, now were sucking up the rear.
The Coolest Dude on the the red Rip 9 was tapped and he knew it.
Though he still looked cool with his coordinated hydration pack and
bike, inside he was a sufferin bastard. With quips like "Don't matter
how fast you are, it's how you look that matters" floating through his
mind, he fell into slow-slow mode and pushed on. They had been out
there 3 hours already. The Coolest Dude knew it was going to be a
painful ride back to town.
"Kitchel" was closed. The group broke up. The lowlifes from Sanford
headed back into the jungle and the Cool Dudes found Darling Hill
ASAP. 1/2 mile of pavement up and they could collapse next the the
car. And they did.
4 plus hour slog that I would gladly do again. What a great day in the woods of Vermont.
I was determined to have my act together for this ride. I collected all my riding gear, clothes, etc Saturday night and tossed it all in the truck. At 7:00 AM I had my bike in the truck and was headed to pick up Keith and meet the rest of whoever was riding at the bike shop. The five of us were riding by 8:15 AM.
As I have aged I have noticed it takes me more miles than it used to to feel good on a ride. In my 30s I could go full tilt boogie right out of the gate and not feel like I was going to have a coronary. Now, the body insists on some slow stroking before it accepts the fact I am bound and determined to ride whether it wants to or not. So, the fact that we start a 3 1/2 mile climb as soon as we leave the vehicles, I was off the back and out of sight of the others in the first 100 yards. About a mile into it, the blood vessels in my head calmed down, my legs stopped their whining, and I suddenly felt well enough to kick it into a higher gear. And imagine my surprise when I began to actually catch up some.
Seems there is some fitness lurking deep inside me somewhere. I felt great the rest of the ride even when I was laid over the bars into a steep climb. Today was a good day in the woods.
We all have days of recreating that are in some way or ways more memorable than others. Good and Bad. The weather was perfect for that vacation. Or the weather was not. That night out on the town left you grinning or just grateful to be back home with your head on the pillow. Group rides in the woods can often become tests of one's will just to complete them. Or the trails and the mindset blend together offering you that rare perfect or almost perfect ride. Sunday was such a day.
The edgy cantankerous chip I have been shouldering in recent weeks did not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling Sunday morning when my eyes popped open prematurely at 3:00 AM. I woke up surly and showed up at the trail head at Fort Rock in a very pissy mood. I was nursing a pulled crotch muscle, I had only slept 6 or 7 hours in the last 2 days, and I had forgotten my Camelbak full of water, tools, and something to munch on. Yep, all the ingredients to suffer a forgetful ride were in place. I looked at the spare bottle I always carry for when some other dope forgets his Camelbak and mumbled to myself, "Yeah it figures Mike, you'd be the dope today." My Karma exuded negativity. I seemed determined to have a shitty day in the woods.
Fort Rock is a regionally famous network of trails in southern New Hampshire. Riding there is always a challenge. Rocky, rooty, narrow wooden bridges, it has it all except the killer hill climbs some other areas have. My experience there is limited. I may have ridden those trails 3 or 4 times in the last 10 years. Until Sunday's ride, the technical aspects of the trails always got the better of me. An hour in and I became frustrated by the constant dismounts to walk sections that intimidated me. Sunday I still walked some, but I was not intimidated. The trail would have to force me off my bike. And it did. I went down hard at least 3 times I can remember. Unfortunately it was the "Lil Princess" that took the brunt of the damage this day. She left some serious paint on the rocks there. My helmet took a good whack also, immediately reminding me why I wear one.
"The Groove", "The Zone" - Whatever we may call it, there are moments when everything seems to cease to exist except that which we are experiencing at the moment. While I did not find my groove every time I rolled up to some intimidating or technical section, I found "my Zone" more than enough to wipe that shitty attitude out of my mind replacing it by rides end with a feeling of satisfaction I cannot really put into words other to say Sunday's ride left me with serious grin factor.
"The Demoralizer" is a very technical trail that never lets up. Constantly dipping, flipping and slipping up root ladders and down over baby head rocks nestled into and among boulders that intimidate just with their size. If memory serves, my last visit to this trail, I spent more time walking than riding. Sunday I attacked it and let's say it was a draw. The important thing was it did not demoralize me. My failures on it on fed my desire to come back and prove it is wrongly named.
Wood anything when utilized on mountain bike trails has made me nervous for over 20 years now. It was a nasty crash back in 1987 on a fast rolling downhill during the last "White Mountain Championships" that planted my fear of wood. At the bottom of the downhill run, the trail crossed a wooden bridge that completely collapsed when I hit it at speed. Me, the bike, and the bridge dropped about 8 feet before stopping in the boulder strewn creek bed the bridge was crossing. It hurt. It hurt deep. Since then when faced with a wooden bridge on my bike, I am prone to walk it before I ride it. Yeah, I am a Nancy when it comes to wood. Sunday we faced lots of wood. And I rode most of it. I can only think of 2 bridges I walked. And both only because I screwed up the approach. The bridge below is one I walked. Maybe that guy wishes he had also.
Over the last 24 years of mountain biking here in New England, I have more than likely ridden thousands of times in the woods around my area. Any day riding is a good day. Even those days when I came home wet, cold, beat beyond belief, or bleeding from being caught being stupid. Then there are days like today's ride at Blue Job State Park. Timing, location, weather, my mindset, and the group who decided to go all combine to make some rides stand out as rides to remember. Funny how many of my most memorable rides seem to center around this small state park tucked away near Rochester, New Hampshire.
All of us locals know Winter is just around the corner. Live here long enough and you get a feel for when those last nice days of Fall are happening. I guess I should not have been surprised to see so many riders hanging in the shop parking lot this morning. They all knew the days of wearing shorts and light weight gloves were numbered. With less than 24 hours notice, 10 riders had decided to head over to catch one of the best views in southern New Hampshire and Maine combined. The 1300 foot plus Blue Job towered over anything nearby, offering any who climbed her almost a 360 degree view of everything within a 50 mile radius. On a clear day, the Atlantic 30 some miles away is visible. Today was a clear day. A beautiful day.
Here in the East we do not have the panoramic vistas found out West. Views such as can be had atop Blue Job are not rare, but generally not common. Our landscape does not jump out at you. It sneaks up on you. Most of our riding is done under the cover of trees or inside walls of pucker. Being out in the open is usually a brief experience. Blue Job changes that. The top of the lower peak is the closest thing we have to slick rock. Granite slabbed with deep cracks make riding it always a challenge. And the climbing will test the baddest goat in any bunch of riders.
Our group was made up of fast young guys on single speeds, one stupidly fast older guy, and then the rest of us. I brought up the rear. As the bow hunter we passed on the way up responded to my comment that I was the last of the group, "Someone has to be last. Might as well be you." Yeah, might as well be me.
The ride is a short one in mileage, but not short on climbing. Starting at the Rochester reservoir, we climb steadily for 3 1/2 miles. Fool around on top for awhile and then 3 1/2 miles back down to the cars. Everything from recently graded dirt roads at the beginning to steep ledges no one cleaned. This ride will beat you up.
I started the ride not feeling good nor did I feel bad. I was riding my new 29er VooDoo hardtail with rigid fork. I had no expectations other than to see what "Lil Princess" would let me get away with. Once again I came away more impressed than ever with the 29 inch experience. I cleaned sections that have always given me trouble and her climbing abilities were way beyond my skillset and fitness level. The downhill back was long and brutal in sections. I had concerns about how I would handle it with no suspension up front. The Lil Princess laughed at most of it and when I choked on some sections and slowed down, I could almost hear her teasing me with words like "Wimp, loser, lets go you flounder, let off the brakes".
What a great bike. What a great day. What a great bunch of folks to ride with. Days like today are what I live for. _______________________________________________ Credits - Dash Jim provided the GPS map and the group picture - Jim provided the picture of yours truly - I took the picture of one of the young punks.
I first wote this back in the Summer of 2005. Posted it in my other blog where it died from lack of attention. Regardless, here it is again in a new format.
A woman came into my bikeshop a few weeks ago. This is not an unusual occurrence, but how she dressed and acted was. Located in Maine, our community prides itself in reticent Yankee behavior. We dress down most times and are slow to warm to strangers. So, the invasion by a boisterous and buxom woman dressed completely in Pink, big hair, and enough makeup to make Maybelline bust with pride was a noteworthy event.
When I say she was pink, I mean pink. Pink pumps, pink miniskirt wrapped around a rather generous butt and a pink belly button blouse that highlighted a naval piercing with a, you guessed it, pink stone in the setting. She even smelled pink. A heavy odor of what I imagine 2 thousand pink flowers would smell like. And to top off the overall effect, a wide pink hairband that kept her Baltimore doo standing up and living large. As soon as I saw her, I thought of Divine and the movie "Pink Flamingos". The only thing missing was the "Bawlamer" accent. When she opened her mouth, the hard speech of someone from the blue collar fringes of Boston came out.
Our encounter was a comedy. She had recently purchased a couple of new bikes from some mass merchant nearby. She wanted to outfit them and her with many accessories. Racks, Helmets, locks, etc. As I worked through all the options, she took every chance she could to throw her sexuality in my face. She was obviously well versed in using her female wiles to seduce men to her bidding. A touch here, an accidental brush there. And always that pink smell permeating the whole shop. I countered every attempt of hers to get close with tactful retreats to keep her out of "my space". I am only human and that smell combined with her overwhelming femaleness was having it's affect on me. It was not like she was seducing me, rather it was more winning by overwhelming me with superior firepower.
After setting her up with all the goodies she wanted and I had her safely on the other side of the counter, I began to breath easier. The 3 feet of glass and wood seemed enough of a barricade to keep me faithful to my wife and out of the madness of brief encounters with the opposite sex. She paid for her items and turned to leave. Then she stopped and turned, making sure all that could jiggle did jiggle. Dirty thoughts danced through my mind as she began to inquire about having me show her how her new bikes worked. I did not answer. And as she repeated herself, she smiled that knowing smile that she still had it. She could still turn a man's head.
She knew she had me if she wanted me. I had lost. That jiggle turn had done it. The icing on the cake. Satisfied she had another notch in her gun belt. She said see ya and left. I sat there staring at the door for several moments wondering what had just happened. It had been a lot of years since a woman had turned my head like that. The feeling was familar but new at the same time. And then I grinned and thought, "Damn women. Gotta love em. We have no choice. They literally have us guys by the short hairs."
I have never honored a bike by creating a special name for it. Most often or as I recollect, I will use their model name. For instance I call my Rocky Mtn "Blizzard", "The Blizzard". My dual suspension scoot I simply call "The Slayer", it's model name. And to be honest, I had nothing to do with the naming of my current new ride, the VooDoo "Dambala". It was Pratt Rat Keith who came up with it. Somebody had to. If any bike I have owned deserves it's very own special name, it would be the "Dambala".
"Lil Princess" took her first ride this morning. Mike took his first ride on a 29" wheel bike that was the right size for the stubby SOB. The two fell in love at some point. Well, Mike fell in Love. Not sure about "Lil Princess". She hasn't said much. But apparently she is fine with the set up so far. She didn't dump Mike in the first stream bed he rode her over. She was the perfect lady all morning.
Mike always had a weak spot for long legged women. Princess had him half way bagged and tagged the minute Mike finished building her wheels. He leaned them up against the counter and wondered what she would look like when she got her legs under her. When he was done gusseying her up with all kinds of new fancy pieces and parts, he stood back and realized she was just about the prettiest bike he had ever built. Not the most beautiful, but the prettiest. In a "can't look away, have to look" kinda way. "Lil Princess" is a brassy broad.
Now this less than manly build has caused some lips to flap here in southern Maine. I am sure that at the next big hoe down with riders from away, it will create even more of a stir. My manhood has been drawn into question. People might think I bat from the other side or at the least am a switch hitter. And I will admit, putting my butt on the "Lil Princess" the first time had me wondering myself.
Ultimately, it is the ride the bicycle gives back that matters. Not the high end parts and bling that do it, but the ride. How it looks to others should never matter if the rider themselves are pleased with how it turned out. And let me tell you, my efforts to build the "Anti-Black" bike turned into more than I could have hoped for. The pink I added was just to make sure those lips had something to flap about.
But looks are only skin deep. How does the Princess ride? She ain't scared that's for sure. Even when Mike was wondering if he was going to stack it on that next log coming up, Lil Princess just took it hard and kept going. Rock gardens were a tad challenging, what with the rigid fork and all. Apparently though Lil Princess just flexed those big wheels of hers and floated over them. Mike was ecstatic. At this point Mike is more than pleased with the ride.
Married and finally used to the empty nest syndrome. I endeavor to put one foot in front of the other without tripping. I just recently sold my bike shop in a nearby town and am free to .................