Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kenda Bicycle Festival

Last week I drove out to Hancock, Massachusetts (I actually had to go through NY to get there) for the recently re-named Kenda Bicycle Festival Presented by Dirt Rag, formerly known simply as PedrosFest. No matter what the name, it's a big bike festival with hundred of riders, an expo area, food, entertainment and plenty of other fun stuff. And, incidentally, Jean and I got engaged on our way out to the festival way back in 2001. Anyway, I was only able to go out for one day this year (that annoying work always seems to get in the way), but it was worth the 3hr drive each way (I think).

With all the rain that we've had, I had a premonition that the trails would be soupy, and sloppy groups rides tend to turn into muddy walks with bikes. Sure enough, the first group trail ride that I participated in, almost immediately after crawling out of my car after the previously mentioned 3hr drive, was an advertised Intermediate Ride. I thought it would be good to stretch the legs out... At first, one of the ride leaders said to be ready because we'd be doing lots of climbing. I've given up on gears for off-road riding, but what the heck, bring it on. With 30+ people in the group, I was also predicting 2.5 flat tires, 1 broken chain, 1 muscle cramp, and lots of chain-suck. The first two miles were all up. Two miles of continuous climbing, and much of it slippery, sloppy, mud. It became conga line of riders intermittently walking and riding. Fun (not). At the top, we were rewarded with about a 1.5 mile down hill, of twisty singletrack. Fun (for real). At the end though, (mind you, 3.5 miles later), we were milling around waiting for the remaining 50% of the "group" to re-coalesce to determine what to do next. I decided to bail and head to my back-up plan--my road bike.

I grabbed a Western Massachusetts bike map and made my way from Hancock to Williamstown to Adams to Savoy to Pittsfield and back to Hancock, for a total of about 60 miles. I was hoping to ride up to Mt. Greylock but the approach I had chosen (from the north, just outside of Williamstown) was closed. I still did more than 4,000 ft of climbing on the ride, mostly thanks to a LONG slog into Savoy. I'd like to try to get up Greylock sometime though...

Anyway, after the ride, it was time to socialize with some of my Dirt Rag and Kenda peeps, grab some grub, and make my way back home.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July Vacation Part 2

So, we got to ride at Kingdom Trails, which as I've mentioned, is always awesome. That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, we made our way to Canadian province of Quebec but that was AFTER a great run on the hills and dirt roads in Newark, VT (including a 500ft climb up in the first mile). The drive to Quebec City was, for the most part, uneventful. The Canadian border patrol agent made fun of my passport photo, gas was about $6/gallon, and Canada apparently doesn't put road maintenance high up on it's list of national priorities (must be because of all of that nationalized health care). Anyway, we got to the lovely KOA, set up our giant tent and found some grub, ironically, at a restaurant called Boston Pizza.

We spent the next day in the "old town" of Quebec City. Lots of tourist shop, lots of "semi-European" architecture, and some good, dark beer (Chambly Noire). Everyone seems to say that going to Quebec City is similar to going to Europe, but we didn't get that feeling. In fact, we bailed out of the KOA and headed to another campground in a more rural area of Quebec, near Lake Massawippi and North Hatley. This was a beautiful area and we got to do some good (hilly) riding (Jean IS in the pic to the left). The scenery was similar to northern Vermont (duh) but with more signs in French.

Friday we had all sorts of ideas for things to do, but the constant cracks of thunder and lightning and torrential rail limited our options. There was a short break in the rain, and we decided to try to break camp, but as soon as we started, the downpour began again. Essentially, we threw EVERYTHING in the car, wet or dry, in absolutely no order. I hate chaos in my car.

We headed back to our friend's house in VT, and we contemplating spending another night there, but the rain followed and we knew that the trails would be closed, so we picked up our mountain bikes and continued on to home, but not before stopping in Manchester, NH, for dinner with our friends Mike and Jo.
And thus ended our Maine/Vermont/Canada vacation. We got to pick Luna up a day early and get some great riding in at home; and we got to get started on drying all of our camping gear...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Maine Bike Rally (July Vacation Part 1)

That’s how our vacation started; at the Maine Bike Rally, in Fryeburg, Maine (July 11-13). I was fortunate in that one of my co-workers took my shift on Thursday (7/10) so I could spend that day getting “stuff” done. That stuff included moving everything in our basement so it could be painted while we were away, weeding the yard, and well, you get the picture. Friday morning it was time to actually get ready for the trip, and that meant packing, stuffing everything into the Element, and dropping Luna off at the kennel. Once all that was done, we were on the road—first to Portland, ME, for lunch. From Portland we shot west—through the tourist trap that is Sebago Lake—and ultimately arrived in Fryeburg. We didn’t have time to make any of the rides on the first day, but we got our tent set up, scoped out the scene (so many great rides available), and planned our weekend. On Friday night we got to see a great slide show (don’t worry, it was digital) about a couple that was touring through Arizona when there bikes were stolen by some crack-heads. In the end, they got the bikes back, but not until they confronted the alleged thief in the “hood.” It was very entertaining, and the teaching point is to ALWAYS lock your bike.

Saturday morning we got up, got our “included” breakfast, and chose our route. We picked a fun 20+-miler called the Farm and Garden loop or something like that. The rural roads in Northern Maine were great and the ride was very fun. We got back in time for me to participate in one of the group mountain bike rides. We had to carpool about 12 miles to North Conway, but the trail was worth it—fun singletrack with some good climbs and good downhills.

The Rally had an amazing spread set up for dinner that night with chicken, portabello mushrooms, pulled pork and other stuff that Jean ate. From there we were sucked in to watching a movie presentation by a Canadian couple who rode their bikes 8,000km through Mongolia, China, Tibet, Nepal and India. While I do think a ride of that magnitude is impressive, the movie was so self-congratulatory that it was sickening. It’s not like they were over there building schools or working with sick people—they were on a ride for themselves, and it was annoying hearing them talk about how they always find new and challenging ways to push themselves beyond the limit. Blah, blah, blah. Get a job and a haircut.

Sunday we got out for another road ride, this time on part of the Kancamagus highway. This was a very scenic 35-mile ride and a great way to stretch the legs out. After that, it was time to break camp and head to North Conway to support the local “Outlet” economy. Jean didn’t do so well, but I cleaned up at Reebok and Pearl Izumi, and scored a nice sweater from Brooks Brothers. We hit the road and then made for Vermont—to the Northeast Kingdom for riding at Kingdom Trails. We drove into to scattered showers and storms…hmmmm… the trails might be messy…It rained ALL night Sunday night, and stopped just before sunrise. The weather outlook for Monday was questionable, but in the end, the rain held off and while the trails were muddy in spots, any day on Kingdom Trails is a good day.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Commuting by Bicycle...

With rising gas prices, more and more people will be considering bikes are more than just toys--they can actually be used as transportation too. Who would have thunk it? With my new job, I'll soon join the ranks of bicycle commuters, but take my advice--bring a pump, a tube, and other implements of repair. I probably have more tools and supplies than some small bike shops, but I (yes me) was caught unprepared when I pinch flatted on my way home from a PA symposium. Jean rescued me--and ridiculed me. Lesson learned.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Re-Emerging Threat to US

With the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and World Health Organization monitoring the front lines for re-emerging biological threats (from diphtheria to bubonic plague), I have to ask, who was asleep at the wheel and failed to notice an even more insidious threat? Of course, I'm talking about the fact that everything from my organs of corti to my primary auditory cortex is infected with the vile sounds of the New Kids on the Block yet again. Didn't the Coalition of the Willing erradicate them? Weren't they sealed up in a concrete bunker somewhere? Aren't they in rehab? The only comforting thought is that if we got rid of them once, we can surely come together as a nation and do it again. America, prepare yourselves.