So a family vacation was in order to the Outer Banks in North Carolina a few weeks back (yes, I’m late, my first slip up in my new attempt at blogging). We’d been talking about vacationing there for…gosh, it must have been a decade, and finally did. And boy was it worth that 10 years to finally do. We decided early on that we wanted to stay in a 4×4-only section of beach and take full advantage of the cushy, hassle-free life. Definitely the right choice for us. No lunch decisions. No dinner decisions. No rushing around trying to clean up after the beach. We went out to the beach when we wanted and didn’t have to worry about crowds. There wasn’t a rush to figure out where we were eating that night, just a chest full of ice, lots of local seafood to grill, and Dad to cook it. Mom and I went for walks early in the morning and didn’t feel the sudden rush of people onto the beach at 9am (the norm for any crowded beach town it seems). Breakfasts could be as long or as short as wanted, and it wasn’t a big deal to get onto the beach at 10 or 11am. Normally if we tried to do that on our beach vacation, we’d be at least a dozen umbrellas back from the water and swarmed with screaming children and obnoxious gaggles of rowdy…well you can guess. The water was unseasonably warm this year at 75+ degrees. During the day it was refreshing but bearable for extended swimming sessions. And at dusk it became like a giant bath, making an evening surf session mandatory. Of course I flounder around pretty hard on my 6′ tube-shooting shortboard. Most of my surfing since buying my board has been largely a failure, as the East Coast foam (waves) are not friendly to my board, which is not friendly to a beginner. So all in all, it’s been a long road. But a great one mind you. This time around, I was actually able to catch some better waves, and get a bit of carving in. Of course that was usually followed by a rogue wave smashing into me. Overall, I feel much more comfortable on my board now. Time to get a fall/winter wetsuit so I can get out and surf when there’s actually surf. Matthew, Dad, and I all enjoyed the big sandbar that provided a decent break out from shore. We all caught quite a few waves and found the body surfing to be pretty good out far. Mom also enjoyed the water, a big surprise, thanks to the warm waters and relatively calm waters in between the sandbars and beach. We all read a decent bit, relaxed plenty, and had a fantastic time. With no crowds, mellow neighbors, and a comfy house this seemed like the perfect vacation. Think we’re going to have to try this again next summer. It might just have been the most relaxed vacation we’ve had in a while. I’m already looking at renting houses in the fall and spring for a surfing trip or two…
So this weekend was deemed the “Man” weekend, short for “Learn to be a Man” weekend. The goal was for Alex Jopek to turn me into a full blown woodsman: chainsaw skills, axe throwing (and chopping), tractor driving, dirt biking, driving a standard (sorry, just never had the chance), hunting, gun maintenance and shooting, knife sharpening, building large project over everyone’s head, etc.
It was quite successful although we will be needing to have another go one of these upcoming weekends as we only made it through half of the list. Macky Franklin and Jake Moritz joined us as well for the ruckus, and Alex’s brother Leif was there to help us all out. We headed out to Leif and Alex’s house on Saturday morning, and began the day with gun safety and cleaning. Followed by proper shooting techniques, target practice, and shooting range etiquette. That lasted most of the day. You can guess…BOOM! SHHEWP! PING! BOOM! KABLAM! KAPOW!
Then a manly lunch of homemade grill fries, hotdogs, baked beans, and ketchup…all mixed up. Damn that’s good. Next we decided to build a giant log bridge across the river that separated Leif and Alex’s house from their father’s property. Macky seemed to think this would be a simply process: get the tractor, attach log to tractor, drag log, SHAZAM! log is across river. The process was a bit more extensive, and ended in true woodsman style…which we’ll get to momentarily. We began around 4:30, and chopped the felled tree so we had a huge log roughly 40 feet long. Then we had to woodsman-engineer a series of log rollers to let the big sucker roll out of the gully of fallen trees and rocks that it was in. Then we hooked it up to the tractor with a series or ropes and chains and began pulling it along. We had to go back and repeated chop out other fallen trees lying in the way, and use large log levers to lift our beast of a log on more than one occasion. Once we finally had it out of the woods and into the lawn next to the river bank, we cross cut in lines to add traction to the top of the slippery log, and proceeded to shave off a flat section of the entire log with axes. This would create a gorgeous surface to walk across, or rather ride a bike! Next we began the true woodsman engineering process of arguing about what to do next to catapult the log across the river (remember this sucker weighs a couple o’ thousand pounds). Finally, just as it was getting pretty dark, we went for it and began trying to drag/push it out over the river. It eventually nose dove into the other side of the bank. At this point we managed to get the log onto a large boulder, lifting it with the tractor, on our side of the river. Once it was on this solid fulcrum, we attempted to push it down with the tractor while moving it forward onto the opposite bank. When this failed, (at this point the entire Jopek family was outside watching and helping), Alex and I shed our clothes to head over to the other side of the river and muscle the mammoth out of the bank and up onto it. Unfortunately we discovered we couldn’t lift more than a few hundred pounds of log past our waist (har, har, har). At this point it was completely dark out, the bugs were eating us alive, and we were standing in frigid water. Leif came over to join us and we struggled to get the log up out of the water, but failed. No matter how hard we pulled, and the tractor pushed, all we managed to do was spike the log into the muddy bank. So we called it a night and left it unfinished. Congratulations Team Man. Doing a project woodsman-style = not finishing it. We successfully moved a whole big tree trunk through the yard and dropped it into the river. Next weekend we’ll get it out…
Then we all ran up to the sauna in Alex’s father’s backyard and hopped in. Luckily it had already been started. We sat in the tight room and baked naked for a while, sweating heaps and cleaning out all the dirt we had acquired through the day. Then we bolted out and down to the river to jump in. Everyone else got in mighty quick…I stood around losing many a Man point too unexcited about the cold water to do much. Finally I jumped in after quite a bit of persuasion, only to find everyone got out immediately. Bummer. Then back into the sauna to bake a bit more. Finally we headed inside the house, had some delicious cookies that Lisa, Alex’s stepmother, made for us. Then back to Alex and Leif’s place to throw together some dinner (at 11pm that is). I managed to polish off most of a box of Oreo’s before the nights end. I needa get back on some sort of healthy meal plan soon.
The next morning we headed out to a bike race. Originally Alex and I had planned on racing along with Macky, but between the cost of the entry fee and the lack of perfectly dialed bikes, we decided it wasn’t worth the cost. We hung around, hassled each other, created the occasional moment of Man Ruckus, and fed Macky, and Chris and Ashley, two riders from UVM. I love feeding sweaty bike riders. Good time. Then to Hanover, NH to pick up Jake who had left midway through gun safety the day before. From there we headed back to Middlebury and gorged ourselves while heckling one another. I couldn’t seem to shake the Woodsman thing and question whether I want to go back to a student. Those woods are calling…
So I decided to pedal in my first mountain bike race this past Sunday. Interesting it twas.
Macky Franklin (college student and pro mountain biker for Yeti) convinced myself and two other Midd students here over the summer, Syd Schulz and Alex Jopek, to head down with him. I entered the Expert Cat 1 race which consisted of 2 laps around a 10 mile loop of trail (20 miles total). Macky, in the Pro division of course, rode the same amount, and Alex Jopek and Syd Shulz both registered for the Sport Cat 2 race (single 10 mile loop). I was way out of my league, but I wasn’t worried. 10 miles simply wasn’t enough riding for me, I wanted more.
Woke up at 6am to find Alex Jopek wasn’t sleeping on the couch in the living room and his car was nowhere to be seen. The day before, he had been in Northern VT with his family, but had apparently never come…back to his couch home. Macky stopped in, we stuffed the car full of important racing stuff (but forgot the PBR!), and headed to pick up Syd. 3.5 hours of driving and we pulled in to the grass lot with barely enough time to get ready. Fun stuff. Alex showed up minutes before my race started (15 minutes till his started) and ran up to the line to wish us luck. Off went the Pros. A minute later, I hopped on my bike taking off at the back of the pack, hoping I could manage to keep out of everyone’s way and avoid a major pile up.
The race wound on wide track for about 60m before it shot into single track in the woods and immediately began climbing…steeply…and my bike doesn’t like to shift. Basically I need to give my faithful steed a bit of loving and replace some drivetrain parts (read: the entire drivetrain!). I’ve been avoiding it for over a year, and it certainly showed on Sunday. Finally my chain snapped into the right gear and I huffed my way uphill, noticeably suffering because we had lacked the time to warm up. Once the terrain leveled out, and I had thoroughly warmed up, I began to feel a bit better. Keeping with the last few guys in my group, I felt confident that I could stay at our pace and perhaps pick it up on the second lap to improve my time (ahhh, the advantages to being an ultramarathoner). Wicked twisty singletrack wound for quite a ways and eventually spit us out onto wide dirt track that turned out to be rather unstable thanks to large loose rocks and too many options for the best rideable line. Having a hard time choosing which side of the dirt roads I wanted to ride lost me a bit of time, which I managed to make up on climbs. It was all going quite well until a few miles from the end of lap 1 when I noticed my rear tire was losing air. I rode it out for a while, but soon enough it got quite squirrelly on the downhills fishtailing my rear end around. So I stopped to change tubes. I learned quickly why XC racer’s A) ride tubeless setups B) carry CO2 cartridges instead of handpumps C) bring extra tubes. I had one extra tube thanks to Macky (I had neglected to bring any so he tossed me one right before the start). I slowly took out my tube, popped off my wheel, and began changing everything up. One by one loads of riders passed me, some asking if I needed anything. Knowing my race was done for (competitively at least) I took my time enjoying the break. Finally I got everything changed up, and took off again. Soon enough I came upon a rider who had passed me a bit before. I rode easily behind him figuring I’d rest up and prepare to make an epic go on the 2nd lap in hopes of catching back up (unlikely…but still possible). Quite close to the end, I came to a large stream crossing with spectators standing around. Apparently I had missed the race director mentioning which side of the huge, deep, completely opaque-with-mud stream to cross. He said go left even though right looked better. I only found this out after the race. So I gave a loud whoop to the small crowd and jumped full speed into the right side of the creek bed. BASH! THUMP! PSSSPOP! My tube was completely flat by the time I made it out of the other side of the water and the spectators cringed at my mangled tire. Laughing, I pedaled on as the ground was flat and quite soft with mud. No need to change my tire yet. Soon enough though, I pulled over and hopped off as the trail began to slope downwards. Now this is where that PBR would have come in handy. If only I had remembered to bring ’em along and stuff one in my water bottle cage! This flat would be a bit more interesting this time around as I had already used my spare tube and would now need to patch my previously popped tube. My race was definitely over at this point. Relaxing, I moved slowly through the procedure, enjoying the chance to watch racers pass me. In the middle of my tire change, two riders approached the stream back on the trail, and the first shouted suddenly.
Rider 1: “F***! D***!” “How the h*** did that happen!?!
Rider 2: “Dude, just keep going. We’re super close to the start line.”
Rider 1: “AAARRRRGHHHH!”
I couldn’t help but laugh quite a bit at his unfortunate luck. It made my flat a little easier to patch up. Finally I got my my act together and pedaled down the hill to the end of the first lap. Well, two flats in the first lap and a bike that didn’t want to shift. I surely wasn’t going anywhere fast.
The second lap began rather slowly as I started the long series of climbs again. Slowly I picked off a racer ahead of me. Then another one, and finally another. Sweet. I’ve knocked off 3 people that passed me. Of course as soon as I pass everyone, I manage to flip over my handlebars crossing a mud bog, and land face first in the muck. Whoooops. Now I get a large chunk of singletrack (to go with the large chunks of mud still stuck in my teeth) without another racer in sight. This time around, I have a bit more time to take in the trail and scenery around me, far less concerned with my finishing time. Eventually I come upon another racer who I tail along with for a while. She makes a hobby out of “accidentally” cutting me off and sounds like she’s losing brain cells with each pedal. I wonder if I should give her a Clif Shot…or maybe if I had another PBR… I manage to finally get around her, but only after bunny hopping off a drop into a deceivingly deep puddle (try calf deep…with my feet on the pedals still). She speeds way ahead on a road decent, but I catch her quickly as we begin climbing and let her eat my dust. That’s right, I burned her on a climb. Later on in my climb, I come upon anther rider, and slowly but surely put trail in between my tires and his. That makes me feel even better! I’ve put 4 or 5 riders behind me and manage to pick off one more before the final descent comes into view. Of course I managed to take a big spill on a super slippery rock slab first. Guess I should have changed my rear tire back when it went bald two months ago (ahh, the joys of neglecting parts). Shooting through the stream again, I take the same path, but stop in the middle, fall over, and stumble my way out. Flying down the trail at a dull pace, I pop out of the woods onto the finish straight, to Macky and Sid hollering up from below. I crash the finish line at a rather uninteresting pace whooping and flailing my one arm (I don’t have skills like those other dudes who can take both hands off and whip them around).
I ride down to meet them and holler in disgust about my pathetic rear wheel and its ability to flat wayyyy too often. I then discover that Alex’s “mechanical” failures far outweigh mine. He managed to catch a bit too much air on one of the dirt road descents. Flying through the wind, he looked down to realize that he was about to land in a huge gully that had formed from draining rainwater in the middle of the road. His tires landed on a large boulder bulging out of the track, and he flipped head over heels down into the rather large hole. His racing attire was destroyed-a flannel shirt covering suspenders holding up bike shorts- and his back was entirely shredded. And his front wheel had taken quite the beating, and was literally crushed in half by the impact. Taco’d so bad, the rim literally broke after twisting into an aluminum pretzel. He had walked the last 2 miles and crossed the finish line carrying his bike, tattered flannel still on his back.
Macky, out of racing shape at the moment, didn’t do too well in his Pro category taking 2nd to last (20 minutes behind 1st), and Syd loved her race. We stuffed our faces with food, sat around causing a series of shenanigans, and eventually ran over to the pond to jump in and clean off just as a tornado watch was issued. Macky ended up winning $10 for completing a lap in under an hour, and Alex was given a $1 for his epic crash. All in all it was a great time and we all left with smiles on our faces despite our poor showings, mechanical failures, and straight up silliness. Let’s do it again chaps!
Sorry guys, that was a long post there. I need to learn to blog daily if I want to blog about a trip. Whoops. Next time.
A week ago I was riding a bike in Park City, UT. Jake, a friend at Middlebury, invited me to join him and his family for a trip to Utah for Memorial Day Weekend. Talk about fun!
May 28, 2010:
We flew out Friday morning at 6am and arrived in SLC at 1pm, after I nearly lost my stomach on the poor girl next to me. For some goofy reason I decided to eat an entire jar of homemade hot sauce the day before flying, and it tore me a few holes in my stomach. Like I didn’t know that was going to happen, duh! And for the last hour of the flight from JFK to SLC, we hit some mega turbulence, and then had to pull up from the runway as the wind was too strong. 5 feet from landing, and we had to climb again and circle and try again. That added on another half hour. Somehow I kept my internals internal, and the girl next to me got off the plane a happy camper.
We headed to PC and stopped in to our hotel, The Sky Lodge, to drop off gear before venturing out to find bikes. The Lodge lived up to its hip reviews and flashy website, oozing with luxury. Our suite’s living room had a darn pool table! What more could I possibly want? Well maybe a private hot tub on our deck…check. How about fresh Peet’s coffee at my personal wet bar every morning…check. What about a massive bath tub in Jake’s room that poured water out of the ceiling to fill it…check. How about a plasma TV that slowly rose out of my dresser with the click of a button on the remote. Jake and I looked rather dashing in our matching robes. Two muddy mountain bikers, one sweet suite.
Found a few nice bike shops and ended up renting some bikes, a Pivot Mach 5 and a Giant XTC 29’er, and bolted out to the trails to get some riding in before the sun set. As soon as we turned onto singletrack, grins stretched ear-to-ear, and we bolted up a whipping set of switchbacks drooling over the smooth track and gorgeously flowy trail. We ripped all over the mountain on some of the flowy-est trail I’ve ever been on. We peeled back into town just as the sun was setting, cleaned up in some spacious tile accented showers with the biggest shower head I’ve ever seen, and hit the town for some delicious eats.
May 29, 2010:
We woke up the next day to blue sky peaking through grey clouds. The proposed snow and rain had held off. After a hefty (but totally delish) breakfast at one of the restaurants in the hotel, and a meeting with Chef Steve the Biker, we bolted for trails. With 300+ miles of singletrack in PC, the map we picked up of the trails was pretty darn accurate, but nevertheless, we ran into a few problems anyhow. After killing over an hour pedaling around boring wide double track, we finally found some sweet singletrack to rip around on and pounded out some miles. Suddenly I realized that it was nearing 6pm, our bike’s Cinderella hour, and we dashed back into town to return them. After that, we dropped by a grocery store to grab a super late lunch. Bad idea. Jake’s eyes bulged at the first thing he saw, which happened to be a 1.5 ft. long sub that was about 8 in. wide. That’s straight up huge. Bigger than a small child, the “thing” quickly found its way into our hands along with a 2-liter of Coke. Now the Coke was a good idea–my personal choice for a post workout drink–but the sandwich not so much. Ughhhh, I think it’s still stuck in me, slowly moving its way through. We also happened to realize while sitting down gorging our faces, that I couldn’t read time and I was paying attention to a watch two hours ahead. Duhhhh. So now we were without bikes with plenty of daylight left. ARRGHHH! And we could have gotten sandwiches for half price at the dopest sandwich shop to ever grace my gut! Luckily we fandangled some new bikes–an Ibis Mojo and a Cannondale RZ120–and headed out for a second ride. I shouldn’t have rented an Ibis. I’m buying one. Just ask Jake.
We had a lovely dinner with Harriet and Michael, Jake’s parents, and their friends to revisit the day’s adventures. Blubbering, storytelling, and swashbuckling ensued. Then a long stretch session back in the hot tub left me loose and limber for the next day, which turned out to be an epic one.
May 30, 2010:
Harriet, Jake’s mother, joined us for today’s ride ecstatic to get out of the suburbs of PC that she lost herself in yesterday. We rode on pleasant terrain for 8 or so miles on rail trail and mellow dirt track from PC to a mountain range north of the city. As the rail trail turned to dirt, it branched off from the main road, burrowing into groves of aspens, willows, and babbling brooks. Finally we popped out at our destination: a shopping center below the hills. Soon enough, we were on real singletrack, pedaling our way up a series of switchbacks on the hillside. Rocky and narrow, Harriet proved quite an adventurous rider and dove right in, even though she had never been on a mountain bike. Up we climbed, riding higher and higher, eventually weaving our way westward along the contour of the slope. A few miles in we stopped for a break, and lo and behold a moose appeared! Far below us on the hillside, a big ol’ moose with a young rack was making his way up from a beautiful stretch of suburbs. Surely he must have stumbled into the neighborhood by accident. Silly moose…or silly suburbanites rather. We watched him wander up as hikers on his trail scattered. Then a mountain biker came into frame, flying down a side trail, heading directly for the moose! He was set to bisect the big guy’s trail, when suddenly the hikers screamed out and the biker screeched to a halt just 20 feet from imminent disaster. At this point Harriet finally was able to make out the moose. We all stood around goofing off for a bit more hoping he would head up and join us for some dried figs and papaya. He decided to take a detour, so we headed on. Eventually we made it to Bob’s Freeride Basin–just the kinda place you want to take your friend’s mother who’s never been on a mountain bike before. Just as she did before, Harriet amazed us all and ripped down the singletrack. No joke, she handled some pretty ridiculous terrain. To see her shred down the singletrack put an even bigger grin on my face than the bottomless plushness of the Ibis under foot. I’m still blown away that she came along for this epic ride, and am really dying to do another bout of singletrack with Jake and Harriet. We headed out and down to a nearby bus stop so Harriet could head home, while Jake and I tooted around until dark. Well we did just that, whizzing all over the Basin and climbing up and out onto some higher peaks. We did a massive loop on the range, snaking all over what we were told wouldn’t be rideable in a single day. Well, we got some news for you LBS’s, we did it! Of course then we had to ride back 8 miles on rail trail in the dark, barely making it into a restaurant before they closed. Jake nearly died, which makes sense considering we did well over 30 miles of riding that day (Jake’s longest day in the saddle if I’m not mistaken). Of course I ended up stretching in the hot tub again back at the hotel while Jake lay face down on the floor groaning. Poor guy, looks like the hot sauce finally caught up…
May 31, 2010:
After breakfast, Jake still wasn’t feeling too well, so he spent some quality time with Harriet, while I went out for a morning ride. I took off up into the big ski mountains on the southern side of Park City, avoiding the snow still gracing the upper slopes. We had been steered away from the resort trails by the LBS’s, as most were reported to still be under powder, but I found a decent bit that was clear. But with the amount of trails on the mountains, it was nearly impossible to navigate my way along with the map. I huffed my way to the top of a peak and then wound around through valleys and gullies snaking around old lifts, ancient mining operations, and soaring pines. I returned to the hotel for lunch and hung around to see everyone off (everyone else was headed back to San Francisco, while Jake and I would return later that night to VT). Jake ushered me back out to the trails to get in another ride before I returned the bike, while he continued to nurse his aching stomach at a local bookstore. Back on the trails we rode when first arriving, I wound my way around hillsides of aspens and sage, mixed in with the occasional mountain home. Pushing on quickly, I snaked my way around to new trails, climbing up a few different peaks, grabbing some unobstructed views of the PC valley and surrounding mountain range. Finally I had to drop down back into ski resort neighborhoods and cruise my way back towards town. After (hesitantly) returning the Ibis, Jake and I grabbed a bite to eat and prowled the town making a bit of mischief before our departure. By midnight, we were back on a plane, red-eyeing it back to VT. We pulled into Burlington International at noon the next day with visions of sage and dry, flowy singletrack dancing across our eyes, while rain pummeled down on the sopping VT soil. I’d already made up my mind, another PC trip was in the works. I needed more trail. For now though, it was time to get back to ripping up the VT singletrack.
Thanks Jake, Michael, and Harriet for a wonderful vacation!
Well as seen by the time span between my last post and this one, it’s quite obvious that I’m pretty crummy at blogging. Let’s try this again.
So this site has sat hidden away. I’m going to attempt to change that and resurrect it from the bowels of the net. No longer a destination for my rambling training plans and epic run logs, but instead a pile of stories, experiences, happy places, and frustrating ones. Hopefully it will work and let everyone out there I keep trying to email in on a better portion of my life up here in the middle of Vermont.
This will eventually turn into a homebase for my training log, adventure updates, race goals, epic tales, and everything else that’s happening up here in Middlebury, VT.
Right now though, Nikki is here and I’m slaving away at work. Once I can get a handle on this, more will come. Until then I’ll leave with these few tidbits on summer happenings so far…
Going to the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference-America’s oldest and most prestigious writing conference-with Grandma Dot!
Almost done editing Angie’s wedding photos;
Training for a 50k trail race (run) in September;
Visited 3 different waterfalls, hiked to a scenic overlook, found a “cave” (and crawled into it), and hiked all over…all in one day with Nikki;
Climbed Camel’s Hump with Nikki, VT’s 3rd highest peak, and the highest undeveloped peak in VT, and one of only 3 peaks in VT to feature an “Alpine Summit.” Little vegetation up top (you’re above treeline) and unobstructed views in every direction, including Mt. Mansfield to the North (VT’s highest peak), Mt. Washington to the East (NH’s highest peak), and Mt. Marcy to the West (NY’s highest peak);
Broke my bike, waiting for Trek to ship a new one, then epic rides around VT on it;
Then maybe once my bike is fixed I can race it…?
Beginning my art photography once again as soon as I finish Angie’s wedding in my local studio in an 1800s stone mill in town;
Volunteering at a local horse farm: learning to care for horses, toying with agricultural/farming, rebuilding barns, muddy labor, and of course, learning to ride horses;
And the list goes on…
Spent the past two days over-organizing my little part of this universe (my room that is). It’s amazingly tidy and pretty comfortable too. Need an old easy chair, a little kitchen table, and a grill to complete the swingin’ pad. Of course this rain has hindered my search efforts and my ability to head back out for groceries. Could really use some bread, spices, and some other cooking supplies. Flour! So I can bake. Now to begin on editing Angie’s wedding photos, I’m thoroughly excited!
Well I was out riding the trails in Battell Woods today when I happened to slam my rear wheel into a rock unusually hard. Not 15 minutes later I knocked another rock awkwardly with my rear tire, finding a hissing sound singing out. No big deal, I had a spare tube and was borrowing a pump as mine was in storage. I pop my rear wheel off, pry the tire off, and pull out the popped tube. Get out the new tube, grab the pump, and WHOOPS, the pump doesn’t fit. Now I’ve got a totally flat rear tire and a long walk home. Luckily I was graced with the most beautiful weather and was able to grocery shop on the way back. Finishing out my ride bombing down Chipman Hill woulda been pretty sweet though. Next time…