• Category Archives the sporting life
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  • Some Bearing On The Situation

    So the week before last, Anne was on a self-supported bike tour with a few of her friends, Albany to here. They made great time and the ride ended sooner than expected, so she put together another ride, and I went along… We went with our friend Kellyn and did a three-day tour, a sort of triangle: from home to Jim Thorpe via roads and towpath, Jim Thorpe to Anne’s sister’s house in Tamaqua, and home via the towpath again. I have no touring-specific bike, so I rode my trusty old Iguana, which may need some bike-maintenance love but does have a rear rack.

    mountain bike with panniers
    Old Paint Rides Again

    We started Thursday morning about 8:00, just after Kellyn got to our house. Our route took us up toward the south side of Blue Mountain, then over to the river, via the back roads near Point Phillip and Danielsville, before we picked up the D&L at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. We rode the rest of the way to Jim Thorpe on the trail, but had to do a bit of bushwhacking in totown: the Mansion House Bridge is scheduled to open tomorrow, but it was closed to all traffic last week. No matter, we got into town and had a huge lunch/dinner (with a few beers) before the final leg — all uphill — to our campsite, right on the shore at Mauch Chunk Lake. Our camp was fairly spartan (no fire, very little food), but we didn’t care: we took our showers and were asleep before the sun was down

    Lakeside Camping Hammock

    Friday we got an early start for Tamaqua, but before we got too far my bike was making the most horrible squeaking sound. It happened every time I turned the handlebars, and I concluded that the problem was in the headset; we stopped, I turned the bike over, and saw (through the spot where the bearing seal should have been) that the bottom bearing was exposed, and bone dry, and most of the balls had fallen out — there were only two ball bearings still in the race, sitting there like lonely buck teeth in an empty mouth. Uh oh…

    I packed a bunch of thick lube into the bearing, tightened it down and hoped for the best. The squealing was gone, and I figured I could at least limp the rest of the way to our destination; I was stressing though, and when we got into town and stopped at a coffee-less “cafe” I managed to leave by Camelbak behind… This was the shortest leg of our trip, but it was starting to feel like a loooong day. But we continued on, grabbed some lunch at Heissler’s Dairy Barn, and then all of a sudden we were at our destination. A quick (and very welcome and refreshing) dip in the pool, then Ray drove me back into town, where we bought some beer, retrieved my Camelbak, and stopped at the bike shop to get some grease and ball bearings. Back to the house, where it was a surprisingly simple matter to pop some balls back into the bearing — this was my greatest “MacGyver” moment ever — and I could finally relax and enjoy the afternoon. This was awesome because Lorraine and Ray had prepared us a feast, and Lori & Chris came over — and when it started to storm, they put us up at their place for the night. We were living in the lap of luxury!

    We got up the next morning just before dawn, and went with Lori & Lorraine to walk through a nearby field of sunflowers just as the sun came up. It was a misty, overcast sunrise, but still very beautiful.

    Morning Sunflowers

    We were back on the road before we knew it, and had a long, and beautiful, but thankfully uneventful, ride back home — and that was that! Three days, 113 self-supported miles over mixed road and trail, good company and some beautiful scenery. I got home and took a “nap” that lasted until the next morning.

  • When Darwin Met Pavlov

    I’ve been embedding too many rides lately so I won’t post the data, but I did two rides at Nox this weekend and I learned something about my new Garmin: it beeps when you get air.

    Friday night I was out once again with John and Renee, along with Scott & Erin and Heckler Mike, for a “happy hour” ride. We started at the boat launch parking lot, basically rode most of the place in the opposite direction I’m used to, but then again that was the first time I’ve been there since 2017 so it was all like new… Some trails had new (to me) flow sections, with bermed turns and little jumps, and I managed to get some pathetic air on one — and my Garmin chirped at me!

    We all went back to J&R’s place for beer & burgers afterward; it was a later night than I expected but when I got home I confirmed it: the sound was because of a jump, and the jump location and stats were all recorded with the ride data.

    Saturday’s wake-up was a little rough, but there I was, back at Nox for a morning ride with my friend Ted. We were joined by a friend of his and did a brisk-but-not-crazy standard loop — it was a hot day and I was tired, and I think they took pity on me.

    When we got to the little dirt jumps I did some cautious experimenting and got three more beeps out of the Garmin… I think I’ll need to keep a tight rein on this, otherwise I’m going to hurt myself chasing that bell.

  • In the Heat of the Moment

    So, Friday night last weekend, we were at the Velodrome with John and Renee, when Renee says “Hey Don, I’m racing at Michaux this Sunday. Want to race the 10 mile course with John?” After a bit of waffling I said yes I’d join them, so last Sunday we rode out to Big Flat and did the Curse of Dark Hollow. (Later I found that Jon had no intentions of going, it wasn’t even on his radar until I said I’d go.)

    It turned out to be the hottest day in a multi-day heat wave, temperatures in the high nineties. Standing around in direct sunlight was unbearable, but things were OK in the shade of the trees with a slight breeze blowing, while we waited for the start, and the race itself was fine.

    Renee did the 20-mile course, and took off about a half hour before us, then John and I lined up at around 10:00. John rode hard from the start, but I really didn’t feel much killer instinct, even when I ended up towards the back of the “rumba line” of cyclists struggling through the first rocky singletrack. It was just good to be back on that Michaux stone, especially once the field spread out a bit and I could ride without interference. (I even saw a few Allegheny mound-builder hills.) Team Terrapin’s “start slow, then ease up” was my mantra, though I started pushing a bit later…

    The last time I raced at Michaux (eight years ago?), I lined up next to a guy in my age group, who looked a bit like John Bolton and who seemed (at first) to just be an officious blowhard: he basically commandeered the race director’s speech, with “let’s thank the race promoters!” and “let’s hear it for the Vet racers!” and we all clapped dutifully, but then he started with some serious TMI about aging and his privates — “amirite fellas? Give a shout out!” — completely oblivious while the applause died away to an uncomfortable silence. He took off like a rocket when the race started, and that was the last I ever saw of him.

    Until Sunday, and there he was! I recognized him first during registration, then he was lined up with us for our race. He started with the blowhard stuff again during the pre-race meeting, but the director shut him down (politely, but firmly). I could hear him shouting somewhere ahead of me in the first singletrack, likely berating riders that were in his way, and I caught up with him at the water station.

    I had plenty of my own water so I didn’t spend much time at the stop, and I got out of there before he did. The next section was a 3-mile long climb on a Forest Service road, and while I don’t have the fitness I once did, I took this smooth hill as an advantage I could press against “TMI guy,” as I started calling him. Up the hill and back into the woods, where I was now dying and getting passed by people I dropped a while before, and then I got to the finish line. John beat me, but hey I beat TMI guy!

    The promoters provided bag lunches, water and a keg of beer, and John and I hung out in the shade with other riders eating our lunches; Renee finished and joined us (she looked like death, which is probably how we looked a half hour earlier) and we stuck around for the awards ceremony — Renee took first place among the 20-mile women.

    Anne and I went to Valley Vivaldi that night, and it was all I could do to stay awake…

  • Northeast Kingdom

    Posted on by Don

    Well, as it turns out, I didn’t take many pictures, but I do have some stories…

    Joe (Anne’s brother) and I drove up Saturday, starting around 6:30 and arriving just about 3:30 at the cabin. Joe’s friends had already arrived, one carload early enough to go out for a ride, so us remaining four got ourselves together and hit the trails, which were literally right across the street.

    We did a little riding around, entering the trail system at Coronary and doing the Troll Stroll, one of the nearby black-diamond downhills, then climbing up some steep doubletrack to our starting place, where we managed to connect with the other two members of our group. The six of us continued to explore that part of the system, bombing down several other, very similar trails — smooth, steep and swoopy, with banked turns and names all starting with a “T” — and looping back up to where we started. It was a blast, but those guys were all strong and fast, and it was a hard ride — we regrouped fairly often, but I had trouble keeping them in sight both uphill and down. We basically worked out all the kinks from our long drive, got in a day’s worth of riding and, when the afternoon started getting on we made our way back to the cabin.

    cabin in sunlight
    Razzle’s Cabin in the Northeast Kingdom

    This (Razzle’s Cabin) was perfect: it was cozy and compact, but it was also roomy enough for all of us — it said “sleeps five” but we packed six of us in there no problem — and it had a porch and a bike wash as well as an outdoor shower. It really was one of the nicest places I’ve stayed, and next time I go to the Northeast Kingdom I’m going to try and stay here again.

    Dinner was in town. We ate outside, until it started to rain and we moved indoors. Back to the cabin and I at least slept the sleep of the dead. Our big ride day would start in the morning.

    Sunday was a really nice day, and the trails were in great shape despite the overnight rain. In the morning we drove out to a new section and did two more gravity trails (Black Bear and Stormin’ Norman), earning our turns each time with a 700 foot doubletrack climb. (By the way, these two trails were the best trails we did all weekend.) We then went over to, climbed up to, and rode down Moose Alley — this was the trail I missed last time I was here in 2011, when I noticed my frame was cracked, after climbing to the top. All went well for this attempt, though after those earlier trails it was a bit of a disappointment.

    Our parking place for Moose Alley was nowhere near the end of the trail, so we climbed up a jeep road to get back.

    The Crew just after Moose Alley

    This was the only photo of us, taken by one of the guys after Moose Alley (and the jeep road climb) and before lunch, our next stop. We ate at the Tiki Bar in town, which is more like a pavilion or picnic area but it also had some food trucks. After lunch we went on a quest for Sidewinder, the legendary, ur-swoopy gravity trail.

    We got a bit turned around looking for this one, but that meant we just rode more trails, and with the help of a few other riders we found the entrance. This was as fun as ever, but again I was a bit disappointed: Sidewinder is pretty hyped, and though it was fun it just seemed short, or smaller than I rememberd. (I later found out from other friends that they often do multiple laps on Sidewinder, to make it worthwhile. Live and learn.)

    After Sidewinder we continued riding. I got separated, we met up again later and rode on, got semi-lost together, and eventually worked our way back to the cabin. Dinner downtown at the pub, then home and another deep sleep. Monday would be our last day.

    We got up early and went back to the trail area with our new favorite trails, and though the other guys did a slightly longer ride, I basically did the same ride again: up, then down Black Bear, up again but only partway — they went to the top — and down Stormin’ Norman.

    And with that our riding was over. We went back to the cabin, cleaned up, and hit the road by 11:00; I was home by 9:00. There was much group texting the next day, post-vacation work blues but I kept my mouth shut: Anne and I went blueberry picking Tuesday with Renee.

  • A Familiar Feeling

    Posted on by Don

    We went up to Jim Thorpe early Sunday morning, Anne and Donna to do a trail run and me to do a short MTB ride while they did it. We started at the lake, and I basically did a loop on the Switchback.

    I was really hoping to catch a glimpse of some rhododendrons or mountain laurel in bloom, but I think it was a bit too late. No cicadas either, but I didn’t feel disappointed. Maybe it was the look of the trail surface — sandstone and dirt with reddish bark and pine needles — or maybe it was the particular environment I rode through, a certain combination of vegetation and soil that I associate with the Alleghenies, and the giant anthills of Allegheny mound-builders though I didn’t see any, and with rides at Michaux and West Virginia, but I felt a sense of nostalgia, of having come home again.

    Anyway, the ride itself was fairly uneventful, if extremely pleasant: I went up the Switchback to the Upper Switchback, across the ledge over that RR tunnel/cave, took the Wagon Road back into town (I had trouble at that same spot I always have trouble, but rode it all better than usual) and finally climbed back up to the lake on the Switchback. I was done just about the same time as the ladies, and we drove off — we were home by about 11:30. What a way to start the day!

    That evening was the Pennsylvania Sinfonia “Valley Vivaldi” concert in Allentown, and drinks with friends at Brew Works.

  • Grit And Flow

    Posted on by Don

    So I’ve had my new Garmin Edge 830 fro a week or two now, and my verdict is: meh, it’s better than the 810 but it’s not magic. The map it comes with is OK, but I plan to put an OSM map on instead — I think I can do this, but I’m not going to try for a while — and there are a bunch of other features I haven’t explored yet, which don’t do much for me (yet), such as connectivity to Strava, map connectivity to TrailForks, and some new MTB measurements: Grit, Flow, and Jump.

    “Jump” seems pretty straightforward, it measures something about how much or how well you jump on the bike, but “grit” and “flow” remain a mystery to me, even after reading their explanations. “Grit” apparently is a sort of trail difficulty score, based on turns and elevation changes, while “flow” senses the rider’s performance as a function of maintaining momentum. Maybe they’re useful, but they sure don’t seem to tell the whole story — where does rockiness, or trail roughness generally, come into the equation? We’re talking Pennsyltucky riding here, after all…

    Anyway, for now the unit shows me where I am and where I’m going, and I can explore what I think of the other, new features over time.

  • Philly Biking

    Posted on by Don

    We (Anne and I, and Scott S) went in to Manayunk yesterday morning. We met Ben there, got some coffee/breakfast, and then lit out for Philadelphia proper via bike paths. This was part of a CAT investigation of bike lanes and similar infrastructure in nearby cities — Anne and others did New York last week — so, with Ben, and some maps provided by Scott, as our guides, we rode through a bunch of areas and neighborhoods: West Philly, South Philly, Center City, etc, trying the various bike lanes on for size.

    We were meeting Sarah Clark Stuart (executive director of the Greater Philly Bike Coalition) in Center City, but we were early so we grabbed lunch at the diner inside Reading Terminal Market. After lunch we did laps around Market Street and JFK Boulevard, met with Sarah, and took the Schuylkill River Trail back to Manayunk.

    We had a bit of trouble back in Manayunk: while we were out riding, someone hit our car in the trailhead parking lot. It was ugly, a smashed quarter panel, but there seemed to be no actual frame or mechanical damage, like to the radiator or whatever, and there was a police report with insurance information on the windshield so we just drove home — slowly — and are now dealing with insurance, estimates, and so on.

    What did we learn? I have to digest my experiences, but I will say this: Philadelphia is a fun place to ride a bike.

  • Playing Catch-up: Some Rides

    Last week was a pretty good week for me: I managed over 100 miles total on the bike, and got in rides with Doug and also with Anne.

    • I did a towpath “semi hot lap” ride on Monday.
    • Wednesday I rode to the Museum and back, and then met Doug for another towpath ride.
    • Saturday was another towpath ride, my first Trail Patrol ride of the year.
    • Anne and I did a nice ride north of town, visiting Housenick Park and then riding out to Georgetown Road.

    I also started using my HRM again, and some of those rides were done as training, or rather “training,” rides. This week has been cold (and rainy yesterday), so there’s been no riding, and I don’t think I’ll have the same miles. But spring is definitely here.

  • Spring Sprang Sprung

    It was a perfect springlike day Monday, so I hopped on the Iguana to do a little OpenStreetMapping — there was a note on the website saying that a Moravian spiritual retreat just outside of town had been closed, and I thought if I could go there and confirm it on the ground, I’d go ahead and make the change when I got home. The former retreat was right next to a new park too, so I could also do a little exploring when I got there.

    My ride was pretty low-key: I was just out in street clothes and boots (and my helmet), something I’d been doing lately for casual riding; I was also inspired to keep it simple by Bike Snob’s recent article… I tooled up Main Street to Macada, then Altonah, then made a right onto Santee Mill Road, which is basically as bucolic as the City of Bethlehem gets. I was looking for a road/path off Santee Mill to take me into the park, but never found it (I saw later it was smaller than a sidewalk and very easy to miss). No matter, I continued forward, back into civilization, and entered the park from the front. Just outside the park entrance was a house where the retreat would have been; the house had posts out front, from which there might once have hung shingles, and the shingles might once have said “Spiritual Retreat” or whatever, but the shingles were gone now and there was a big “Private” sign by the driveway. So Phase 1 of my exploration was complete…

    That left the park — officially, “The Janet Johnston Housenick & William D. Housenick Memorial Park” but apparently just called “Housenick Park” by normal people. This is a parcel of land donated by Janet Johnston Housenick, granddaughter of Archibald Johnston, the first mayor of the consolidated City of Bethlehem (he was also chief architect of that consolidation, and a high ranking executive at Bethlehem Steel — he was as Bethlehem as it gets). The land was once part of the Johnston farm/estate, and it includes the old Archibald Johnston Mansion. The park is fairly new and still under construction/renovation, but there are a bunch of new footpaths and old carriage roads, and I cruised around for about an hour, taking pictures.

    It’s hard to believe looking at it, but the estate only dates from the 1910’s or 1920’s — it looks typical of a farmstead from about 100 years earlier — and the house was built using Bethlehem Steel beams. There was a boat house and tennis courts (or the ruins of them), but there were also lime kilns and the remains of orchards, ornaments in a hobbyist’s historical reenactment of country-squire life.

    The ride home was uneventful, and pleasant though the day was getting breezy. I returned via Township Line Road, which eventually becomes Altonah, and basically retraced my steps from there. I went about 16 miles all told, and total ride time was just over 2 hours