I’ve been trying to work endurance lately, and the past three weeks I’ve been able to get in some decent rides, and I’m averaging over 100 miles a week now. The downside to that has been that my ability to ride intensely has suffered a bit, due to fatigue I guess. I took Monday off after Sunday’s ride, but yesterday’s Sals ride needed to be cut short — I just didn’t have it in me to ride there. Tonight was the towpath, a mid-level effort, and tomorrow is another rest day, since the forecast is for bad weather, and also because we’ll be spending the day in Philly visiting Ben. Friday I may do a century ride, Saturday is the Full Moon Towpath Ride, and Sunday is…? I’ll play it by ear from that point, maybe pushing for longer MTB rides (mid intensity, mid length) for the next week or so.
I did an awesome, and fairly long, MTB ride in Jim Thorpe this past Sunday. It was a beautiful summer day, and Anne and I went up to Mauch Chunk Lake; she did a long run on the Switchback and then visited her mom while I did my thing over Pisgah and Broad Mountains. I didn’t realize it until I was pretty far along — Mountain Bike Weekend is 11 years dead and gone — but this would have been the right weekend for my annual JT Epic.
Ride stats: 27.49 miles in 5:56 (3:53 actual moving time), 2996 feet of climbing, 2387 calories burned. This doesn’t quite meet my old criteria for “epic” status (40 miles / 8 hours), but I’ll definitely call it a “solo mini-epic,” and like I said, it was a beautiful day: warm and sunny and breezy, really a perfect day to spend in the woods.
We got up to the lake just about 11:00, and both started not long after, Anne taking off a few minutes before me — I had to stop and take a few pictures of the lake before I left, it was just amazingly beautiful. The pictures I took don’t really show it, but it was a pretty windy day, and the lake had whitecaps on it at times, but in the meantime the sky and lake were blue and the mountains were green…
My plan was to take the upper switchback over to the Wagon Road, pick up the Rhododendron Trail and take that down to the RR tracks, and get up Broad Mountain via Rt 93 and the old James’s Run Challenge. From there I’d do some backing and filling to find myself at the Uranium Road, then I’d take Pine Tar back to the Broad Mountain jeep roads and down the Bear Trail to the pipe crossing and back via the RR tracks into town, where Anne would pick me up. I was budgeting four hours riding solo I was avoiding the more difficult, riskier (and slower) trails, and figured my pace would be quick enough. I set out after Anne about 11:15, caught up with her at the intersection of the Upper Switchback, and we went our separate ways from there.
There were a number of times on this ride when I was surprised by how much I liked some trails that I normally don’t rate highly, or ride much; the Upper Switchback was the first of these. It was beautiful, with mountain laurel blooming along both sides, with the mountain rising like a cliff on the left (and dropping like one on the right), and the little ribbon of brown dirt disappearing into the greenery.
After a while I noticed something else too: there was a lot of noise in the air, and I finally realized I was hearing a brood of locusts. I had no idea that there even was a brood hatching now, but there they were, or at least I could hear them on the hillside, in among the mountain laurel.
I’ve always loved these guys, remembering them from many summer rides on this same mountain, and here is where I realized that I was essentially riding on what would have been Mountain Bike Weekend — it was always some time around Father’s Day, when the mountain laurel was in its glory and the locusts would be singing their song, which I liked to think was a familiar sound, and already ancient, when the dinosaurs heard it. In years when a brood hatched, you almost had to shout to be heard on the trail, but this wasn’t as crazy loud, and when I stopped I didn’t see any flitting about nearby. I took a few pictures of the blooms and continued on my ride.
I crossed the cliff, rode to the top of Pisgah Mountain and down the Wagon Road (where I had my first “real” crash on a bike, more than 25 years ago), and picked up the Rhododendron trail behind the playground. Rhododenrons and mountain laurel are pretty closely related, at least in my mind, but these guys were nowhere in bloom — it was just a dense, dank jungle trail, though it seemed to be in good shape and get quite a bit of use. Eventually it dropped me down to where I crossed Rt 209.
This next section didn’t look like it got any use at all; the last person on it might have been me, on my last ride through here, years earlier. I had to do a bit of bushwhacking to get to the RR tracks but from there it was pretty easy to follow, out to Rt 93 and up Broad Mountain.
About halfway up the Broad is where I picked up my next trail. I pulled into the Game Lands lot just next to the jail and decided to take a break and a photo opportunity. I took this picture in the general direction of where I just came from; the closer mountain in the background (on the right) is Pisgah, the further one is the one with the fire tower (you can barely see it but it’s there if you look) south of town, and you can see East Mauch Chunk, the upper part of Jim Thorpe, nestled between the two. Once again I was surrounded by locusts, but this time you could see them everywhere — they’re the dark blobs in the sky in this picture. I suspect that they’re attracted to the bright colors of bike jerseys, and soon they were landing all over me, singing for a second, and taking off. The first time it was pretty alarming, I’d forgotten how crazy and loud each individual song can sound. Then I got used to it, until I realized that they were all really horny, and singing to me… It took a little work, but here is a selfie with one of my many admirers.
The next part of the ride was up what remains of the James’s Run Challenge, a difficult uphill trail and probably the hardest part of my day, but beautiful, and shockingly lush considering the hardscrabble look of the ground. More mountain laurel, more locusts, and now a whole lot of ferns and pines too, and then I was at the top. I cut through James’s Swamp and picked up the Deer Path. The Game Lands people have made a real mess of this area, with heavy stone put on the jeep roads, and big sections bulldozed or burned out (actually I’m OK with this one), but the Deer Path was in relatively good shape, and also looking beautiful, more woods and pin oak, but also big regions carpeted, under the canopy, only with ferns — it seemed you could see for miles. It was a surprisingly park-like look. (I happen to like trails best when they get some use, but not a whole lot. This way they are easy enough to follow but the surface stays pretty pristine and the vegetation stays tight to your sides. Most of the singletrack I rode today, but especially the stuff on Broad Mountain, was in this condition.)
Eventually I came out at the power line right-of-way, and stopped to take a break. Here is where I looked at the time (maybe 3 hours in), noted that I was way behind schedule and decided to do a bit of reconfiguring. I decided to skip Shovel Head an the Uranium Road, and just use the Deer Path Extension to get to Pine Tar, and I texted Anne saying I would probably be more like 5 hours (after her run she was going to hang out by the lake for a while then visit her mom in town, and she would pick me up at the end of my ride). While I did all this I noticed how different the power line area looked compared to everything else I’d seen so far to I snapped this picture.
Deer Path Extension came up next, and this was the second big, pleasant trail surprise of the ride. There were a few branches blocking the trail — which I attributed at first to lack of trail use, but then noticed a lot of dead looking small trees everywhere, not sure what was going on — but on the whole the trail was in great shape, covered in mountain laurel blossoms, and way more fun than I remembered. I was actually left wondering why I always ride past this trail to do the Uranium Road instead.
This eventually brought me to the Pine Tar intersection, where I took my last photo of the mountain laurel. (By the way, up here on the flat top of Broad, you could hear the locusts in the distance, but they seemed to mostly be on the slopes rather than the flats.) Pine Tar turned out to be all that I remembered (and then some), but I managed to ride most, but not all of the difficult spots — I surprised myself making some, and I surprised myself not making some. I was getting a bit tired.
Much of the stuff after Pine Tar was uneventful, mostly just jeep roads (with that stupid ballast covering them), but I id get to bump into two separate groups of hikers, somewhat turned around and miles from where they should have been (Glen Onoko). I was glad to help them get back on track.
Eventually I came back to James’s Run Challenge, and I took the turn for the Bear Trail, which was actually much easier to follow than the last time I’d been there. Over the old ruined dam, drag the bike up the cliff-like bank and onto the trail, and I was on my semi-last leg. Down the hill, over the pipeline — one big regret is that I didn’t take a picture, it was perfectly framed by the creek and foliage — and then I was back on the RR track, texted Anne one last time, and (miracle of miracles) I had a tailwind all the way back to town. Anne was waiting at the station when I arrived.
We did another Bike Smart rodeo this morning, again only a few blocks from home. It was pretty low-key compared to some of the others, but still very fun, and I’m actually pretty proud that this is something I’m involved with. However…
When we got home, I saw on Facebook that today was also “Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day” at Trexler, and it was also the day of Curt Cyclery’s “Angel 34” century ride. Too many summer things in too few summer weekends, you’re going to have to make some hard choices.
Meantime, last night we had Indian food (the perfect food for this time of year), followed by a nice long walk, and tonight we’re having another Indian dinner, and then we’ll be heading out again.
So, about yesterday’s ride…
My original plan for this week was to do two 75-mile rides, Tuesday and Thursday, and then take it from there. Tuesday turned out to be quite a bit shorter and, what with a lunch break and afternoon thunderstorms, so my training hopes were set on the Thursday ride. My plan was to get up early and do go over Blue Mountain at Little Gap, then take Mountain Road to Little Gap and head home from there.
I got up fairly early, but then procrastinated fairly heavily — in my defense, there was a pretty strong wind blowing, and I was hoping it would abate, but by 1:30 I was done with everything else I needed to do (we’re talking gardening chores here, the subject of its own procrastinations), and the wind was still whipping so out I went anyway.
Turned out, the wind was pretty bad, somewhere around 17 mph and it was a headwind, but I felt good and strong if not fast, and once over Little Gap it was a tailwind, albeit somewhat blocked by the mountain. I now felt like superman, cruising uphill with very little effort. My mileage was 25 at the top of Blue, and it was 40 at Wind Gap.
…And then it was 60 miles and I was home. To my surprise, and despite some backing and filling — frankly, I got myself a bit confused, OK lost — it was actually shorter to get home from the “far” gap than the “near” one. I’ll have to study on this more with a map…
Stats: 63 miles in 5:15, 4112 feet of climbing, 2078 calories burned.
Yesterday was another long ride, so today was another rest day, and today we did our second boil for the new batch of Berliner Weisse we’re brewing.
(Our method: We do the mash as usual, e.g. strike and sparge, and after a very short boil we cool the wort and pitchLactobacillusfor a preliminary fermentation.Lactobacilluseats sugar and produces lactic acid; it’s the bug that turns milk into yogurt, and it gives a clean tart taste to sour beers. After a few days its job is done, and we perform a second, 60-minute boil, the “real boil” which in addition to killing the Lacto is where we toss in the hops. After that comes the regular yeast-based fermentation to convert the remaining sugar to alcohol.)
We were a little surprised and disconcerted when we opened the pot with the wort: it had a nasty off-odor, very much like cooked corn, and it didn’t look as clean as the last batch. Fortunately, I’d read that this particular odor — an indicator of dimethyl sulfide — is common in certain types of beers if they’d been cooked but not thoroughly boiled, and is easily driven off with a longer boil. Like the one were about to do…
We’d done the strike-and-sparge on Monday, along with making a batch of a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale clone, using an outdoor propane burner borrowed from Keystone Homebrew. That worked out so well that we bought our own on Tuesday when we returned the loaner, and today was our new toy’s maiden voyage. Everything worked out great, the off-odor was driven off pretty quickly, and after cooling the wort we pitched the yeast. Both beers are now in carboys in the kitchen.
Things are working out pretty well this week, weather-wise: Anne and I rode yesterday, down to Quakertown for lunch and back (we saw Scott S lunching at the cafe, and Lori P joined us for a coffee), enjoying a lot of good weather and about 10 minutes of storm along the way. Today I took as a rest day, and did my first stint volunteering at the National Canal Museum while the thunderstorms rolled through, and tomorrow I’ll be doing a road ride up and over Blue Mountain. Timing is everything.
Or maybe “Paradise Destroyed” would be closer to the mark. I’ve been on a mini-obsession over that island in the Lehigh (Calypso Island) that Calypso Street and Calypso Elementary are named after. Here’s what I found so far:
It was an island near the south side of the river, maybe a quarter mile west of the current Hill-To-Hill Bridge. Owned by the Moravian Church, it was maybe 13 acres total and covered in catalpa trees, with a pavilion and a natural spring, and was a popular spot for Sunday School and summer picnics — it was named after the Greek nymph Calypso by George Henry Groundie at the July 4th celebrations there in 1869.
Unfortunately, environmental stresses (coal and other pollution from the steel mills and railroads, frequent flooding, and increasing difficulty navigating on the Lehigh) started cutting into the popularity of Bethlehem’s river island resorts in the late 19th century. In the meantime, the Lehigh’s south bank bulged south at Calypso Island, forcing a big curve in the railroad at that point. In 1902, the Moravians sold the island to the railroad, who dug it up to fill in the south channel and straighten their line. (Judging by old maps, I’d say that Reeb Millwork currently sits on the old island’s infill; you can still see the river’s old bulge in the shapes of Brighton street and the millwork building on Google Earth.)
It may have been gone, but I guess it wasn’t forgotten for a while: Calypso Elementary was built around 1916.
I’m feeling a bit tired right now. Anne and I did the CAT/BikeSmart “Calypso Bike Day” at Calypso Elementary this morning. It’s really fun to watch the kids, some of them diffident at first, lacking skill or confidence, come to enthusiastically ride the bike course over and over with their friends — you can actually see them become better and more confident, even stronger, as they ride. My job was to sort of referee the course, and get the kids to stop at the stop signs we had out — not an easy task sometimes, but the kids do pick up on “who’s turn it is” at the intersections, and kid-land social pressures usually take it from there. Totally fun, for them as well as me, but keeping tabs on that chaos eventually left me feeling frazzled. It was over at noon, and I helped pack up and put things away and was home by one-thirty or so: hot, tired, over-stimulated and sunburnt, I came in, took a shower and napped for three hours.
FYI: At the end of the day we quizzed the school principal and found that the school was named for Calypso Island, a small island in the Lehigh. The more you know…
Morning weigh-in: 184.5#, 14% BF
A little bit of suppression in there, as I pushed it a bit on yesterday’s ride: I did Sals first, then afterward I did a towpath ride. Total mileage was only about 33-34 miles (took me about 4 or 5 hours), but I was pretty depleted when I was done. Today, I feel like I’ve been beaten with sticks…
The thing is, I am down to the final push. The Wilderness 101 is late July, meaning it’s about 6 weeks away, meaning I have one more month of training and preparation left to get ready — and I really feel like I could use three or four. An ugly win is still a win though, and a weigh-in is still a weigh-in, for all that suppression, and I am starting to feel like, with the proper choice of goals (“just finish the race”), this thing will be difficult but no longer impossible.
My next big tasks are to incorporate longer (much longer) rides into my training — nothing crazy, but we’re talking road centuries and the like. I also have to start working on my on-bike nutrition, this will play a critical role in both the training and the race.
I also need to spend a shit-ton of money: I need new pedals, new cycling clothes, and I may get a new bike. I have a month…
By the way, today is the eight-year anniversary of Anne’s and my first date. We’d been in the same crowd, meeting Tuesday nights for drinks, and slowly it became more common that our seats would be next to each other, and we would go out expecting to hang together, but this was the first time it was just us two.
Naturally enough, it was a bike ride. I came down Applebutter Road from Easton, and met her coming the other way just about where that S-turn is (towards the Freemansburg end of the road), and we went up and did the farm roads north of the Valley. We stopped at Brew Works afterward for a beer and snacks at an outside table, very cool and Euro.
It would be another month before we really considered ourselves an item, but I think of that ride as our first real date.