Thursday, April 29, 2010

the big ride to the mountain

(written for school and lengthy. mmm hmm.)

“Dammit cat would you shut the hell up?’ I yell.
“Marowll!” the orange fuzz ball whines.
“Alright alright I’m coming.” I say and follow him into the plastered room where his food and litter box live. Zip the big black cat plods along behind me.
“Marowll!” Damn he has the most nasally meow I’ve ever heard. I dump dry food into the split green dish and scratch both cats on the head. Same routine every morning.
I’ve been writing papers for the past four days in prep for finals week. I promised my self that when I was done with reports I would decompress on the bike for a hundred miles. Now it’s finally Tuesday. Time to ride.
I pull on my chamois and fill my water bottles with Arizona green tea. A big cookie, two bananas, and three packs of peanut butter crackers go in my hydration pack.
Do I have everything? Think so. I’m out of here. I grab my orange bike and trot down the front stairs onto the side walk. A big push and hop on to start peddling.
I roll past the unemployment office and look at the gaggle of people lying around. Every day they chill there, smoking cigarettes, leaning on the wall. Past the office building with the big plate glass windows. I check myself out in the reflection. Man that’s vain. But I want to see what I look like to drivers. Skinny, all legs. Long hair. Fruity black and white striped arm warmers. Yep I’d probably run me down if I was a diesel wielding hick.
The road leads up the hill and out of town. I leave the last red light behind. 45 minutes in I’m passing the Westmoreland fairgrounds. I used to wear a camo uniform while parking cars and cleaning bathrooms at that fair. It was a fund raiser for the Civil Air Patrol; always had to explain to people that we were an Air Force Auxiliary dammit, not Army guys. But I wonder why county fair women always ended up getting fecal matter on the walls of the bathrooms. The sloppy potbellied dudes had better aim.
The sky is perfect. A few clouds and a brilliant blue. “Weather as fair as South France” I always think of that William Penn recruitment poster from the colonial era when the weather is nice. A coal truck blasts by and plows a wave of air that knocks me over to the side. Screw those asshole truckers. They don’t give a shit about anything or anybody other than hauling their load.     
I start the climb up the Chestnut Ridge. We ran up this hill in high school cross country once, and then did intervals on the Laurel soccer fields. That was a crazy run. I’m grinding up the hill at about 8mph. I tear open a pack of crackers. Oh god dammit. My cracker filled mouth immediately dries out. Why the hell do I always bring frigging crackers. These bastards are impossible to eat on the bike. I try choking the things down with some iced tea.
Finally hit the top of the hill. I’m feeling good. I tuck out of the wind and hit 44mph down the other side. A big pick up tries to pass me on the twisty road and almost hits an oncoming car. These fuckers are so dumb. I shake my head at him.
I cross Four Mile Run. A met a guy at a race who said he used to live here. “I grew up chasing frogs in that stream, then I hit puberty and figured out that girls were more fun.” He moved to the city to chase his new favorite thing.
There are horses everywhere now. I try not to look the things in the eye. If they wanted to, they could jump right over those tiny fences and pound my scrawny ass into the pavement. I can’t believe people ride those monsters. They’re all staring at me. 
Now I go by a cow farm. One looks like it’s going to charge. I resist the urge to moo at it. That thread on the mountain bike forums said you never moo at a cow. The guy who mooed was knocked off his bike and trampled by the bovines. They broke his back. He doesn’t ride bikes anymore.
I stop to pee on a gravel road. There are “no trespassing” signs everywhere. $300 dollar fine for setting foot in these woods. People take their property way to seriously. Stupid society making all the forests off limits. I read the name on a mailbox. “MacDonnell.” Holy crap. How did I end up here. Jimmy MacDonnell was such a weird little monkey. He spent the first 11 years of his life on a boat sailing around the world with his parents. Used to wear duct tape rings and leave orange bug juice stains around his mouth. I swivel my head to the right and look at the red barn. There used to be a hay fort in there. It was the most elaborate hay structure I’ve ever seen.
Hey I know exactly where I am now. I smile and put a foot down before crossing Rt. 711. I roll down the hill and into Rector. I pass a moldy run down house. “You’re gonna live there when you grow up!” we used to jeer at each other on the school bus in grade school.
I hit the base of Laurel Mountain and pass the Valley School were I went until 7th grade. My last act before leaving that place was mooning a girl in my class because she made fun of me for wearing tighty whiteys. I sure showed her. The road is a steady grade. It’s nice and smooth since they repaved it. The trees close in tightly around the road. Air gets cooler from the shade and increasing elevation.
I stop at the spring where an old man is filling gallon jugs from the dual metal pipes. His old wife is sitting in the gray Oldsmobile.
“Mind if I hop in here and fill up my bottle?” I ask.
“Sure go ahead. Where ya commin from?” he says.
“Greensburg” I say.
“Oh yeah? Us too. That’s a trip. You goin up over the top to 30?”
“Yeah it is. And I am. But it’s a beautiful day for it.” I get back on my bike and ride off. “Have a good one” I yell. He doesn’t hear me and goes back to filling jugs.
My speedometer reads 42 miles. I’m climbing up the mountain at a good pace. The first time I tried this four years ago, my legs cramped up so badly that I had to lay in the gravel by the side of the road and moan. Now it isn’t bad. I turn off the road and onto Fish Run Trail. A big stream froths down the mountain beside me.
I get onto the gravel road at the top of the hill and ride over to the grassy parking area. The picnic pavilion is available, so I sit on a bench and break out my big cookie. The plan is to ride a few hours of the super rocky trails on top of the mountain. I lean back happily and dig out my phone to check in with my padre and Tessa. The little text envelope is lit up.
Tessa the Bear: 1:28 “Drew and I were in an accident. Please call me soon. We’re going to the hospital and I can’t have my phone on.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

the greensburg

The last week of the semester is here already, so there hasn't been any time to drive to "good" trails. Instead I've had to confine myself to the beautiful riding in the Greensburg area.

I pounded out a few miles on the big chunky railroad gravel, which is probably the most difficult and un-fun riding surface in the world. (I'm not sure why the sky is always purple when I take pictures on my bike, but I think it may have something to do with the intenseness of my wheels)

The atv guys are always nice enough to shred some trails in along the power lines,

but the swellest place in the area is the slate dump

When the slag is dry, it's cool to sprint around all the jumps and banked turns.

With so much fun, there's bound to be carnage. I guess toy jeeps just weren't built to withstand jumps while carrying drunk 200 pound hicks. They should include that in the instruction manual.

The dumps even have log crossings:

(chainring crushing concrete punishes improper technique)

And if I didn't already think the riding was great around here, some charitable flower loving woman decided to prove that it was the best. White Oak doesn't have a monopoly on trail side panties anymore:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Big Bear Classic Race Report ('10)

Big Bear is one of the closest races in the WVMBA series, but Tessa still found enough time to kick me in the head on the car ride down.

Mirrored bananas of victory:

After we arrived at the campgrounds, we shuffled into the mead hall to register, then sat in the warm car for almost an hour. It was freezing outside. But at least the bathrooms were friendly:

Closer to race time, I hopped out of the car and started to get warmed up. I messed around with my fork a little, put some air in it, and adjusted the rebound dampening. I finally found a setting that felt good on Reba (they're a bitch and a half to get set up, especially for lighter riders.)

Then it was time to line up.

The experts went off a few minutes before us, then we rolled up to the start line, and the race began. The usual WV guys took a local line through the woods and cut off 20 feet of the start, and I accidentally followed them. The short cut felt like it was slower than the real turn.

We hit the first hill almost immediately, and started catching some of the slower experts. On the first section of single track, Mike "Vaginas are Cool" Cordaro took the lead, and Nathan Annon stayed right on my wheel. We started to put a nice gap on the rest of the SS field, and didn't see them again.

Around one sharp corner, Mike went in a little too fast and crashed. He got right back up, but Nathan and I had already passed him. He stayed out of sight for the remaining 20 miles.

Nathan stayed with me, then on a steep climb, used his littler gear to spin by me. I decided to stay right on his wheel until an opportunity to pass presented itself. We hit the super fast pine forest section at the top of the course, and ripped around the turns. The pines ended and the course went back to the typical chunky rocks of Big Bear.

After a long downhill, we traversed a rocky ridge with a steep kicker at the end. Nathan hopped off his bike, but I kept slowly grinding my big gear and was able to get around him. I passed Shane Gouldthread at about the same place, but the two stayed on my wheel.

While I was killing myself out on the course, a tractor ambled by the finish line with a house in tow. Tess thought it was funny. I have to agree.

We hit the huge downhill that flowed into a stream, and at the bottom when I looked back, Nathan wasn't behind me. I rode the rest of the race with Shane following, then when we were about 4 miles from the finish, he went around me and hammered in. I let him go because he was racing gears and had a head start (and I was tired.)

I kept the pace up, fearing that some SS'er might find and pass me. Before long the finish line was in sight, and I sprinted in (kinda.)

I looked around to make sure there were no magical single speeders there before me, then grinned in celebration. First victory in an XC race and 6th overall.

Don won the old man's class, so when we headed home, we were surely the winningest vehicle at the race.

Oh hells yeah. Money and bear mugs. That's the way to start a season.


Monday, April 19, 2010


I'll let the bear mugs do the talkin for now. More words later today or earlier tomorrow.

Friday, April 16, 2010

hammmm boooone

When I rolled the Poo Poo Thunder II inside last night and flipped on the light, I witnessed the most dastardly scene. The Notorious Z.I.P. had slain the Super V:

Trying to look cute and innocent. Furry devil. (and if anybody says anything about my awesome carpet I'll pop em right in the face.)

Sunday begins the long awaited West By God season with the Big Bear Classic. In true WV form, there's cold rain on the forecast. I'm stoked.

Big Bear was my first decent race (4th SS) last year. At the time when everybody bitched about how short the course was, I couldn't understand. I though 16 miles was more than enough. But times have changed. Now I can ride my bike for at least a full 2.5 hours before cracking and wanting to take a nap. So I was delighted when I saw that the course has been extended to 22 miles (I hope.)

In 2009, I also coerced my friend Bowl to do the race with me. He entered Sport, ended up trying to do the Beginner loop, "took a wrong turn," found two water bottles (one from Wamesly Cycles, which I still cherish because the name Wamesly is so soothing to the ears), and took 3 hours in the cold rain to complete one 8 mile lap.

Bowl ran far away and has not come mountain cycling since. But I thought it was a fun race. After all, I did win a big mug:

In other news, The Conglomerate was plugged on the Pgh Racing website. Not only was my 5th place in the Mash included, but my fictitious victory in the SS category was also listed. That means somebody is wasting precious minutes of their life reading my word slobber. Interestingly, Don Powers was only listed as "2nd non-existent SS category," which proves that my imaginary categories are actually more important than the "real" masters (sandbagger) in which he was 5th.

Looks like I've hit the big time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Michaux Mash Race Report

Super 8 doesn't have soap. Instead, they have "deodorant bars" next to the shower. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to bathe with it or rub it on my armpits and groin, but since I was the first one to shower, I chose the latter.  

After not consulting me, Don decided that we would go out to Chambersburg the night before the race and split a hotel room with Tim and Brian. The other two were late, so we found a red robin and did some fat loading. In the middle of a conversation about stupid people, I was staring at a picture of a kid photoshopped next to a massive puppy and wondered out loud, "Where the hells did they find such a big puppy?"

"That's an elephant."

"Oh...I thought its tail was wet.."

After our waitress came by for the 7th time and politely asked if I wanted more fries or water, we decided it was time to leave. 

Since I was the youngest of the group, I won the floor prize at the hotel and zipped into my sleeping bag on the hard greasy carpet. I listened to the other two grumble about the cold in the other room for a few minutes before they snuggled up (purely a guess) in the big bed they were sharing. 

We drove out to the Michaux early in the morning, and stood around in the spring cold for 30 minutes before registration opened. I was highly disgruntled because the Super 8 had not provided muffins with their breakfast before we left. 

After another hour of hopping around for warmth, it was race time. We rolled down a fire road to the bottom of the mountain, and froze the whole way. 

We turned around, and then we were off to the mountain top. The Pflug (on gears) took his place at the front of the pack and started breaking away with two other guys. After a few minutes of climbing, we turned through the finish area and began the Canada Hollow ascent. 

Before long, I caught the first guy spit out by the Pflug, and started working my way up to the next one. The climb was steep and sustained and full of baseball-sized rocks. I could see the whole way up it, and was slowly closing the big gap the Pflug had put in on the road. I passed the other guy and settled into 2nd. 

Almost 20 minutes of climbing after we started, I turned into the single track. I was all alone. I smashed my pedals into some of the hidden rocks, crashed coming around a corner, (Apparently an Igniter can't be pushed through a corner like a Rampage) and tried in vain to get a rhythm going. 

I rode the rest of the 9 mile lap alone, did the screaming chattery downhill back to the bottom of the mountain, then headed back up. Half way up Canada Hollow, I looked back and saw a guy in a red jersey. I put in a huge effort to increase my climbing speed from 6mph to 8, and left him behind. Up in the distance I saw the Pflug, just a little further ahead than he had been on the last lap. 

I held onto 2nd for 2.5 hours, then on the 3rd lap I started to crack. We were on the second section of fire road after Canada Hollow and the single track, when the guy in the red jersey caught me and hammered down. I watched him get smaller and smaller as I spun out on my silly speed. 

On the forth lap, I had to hike up part of Canada Hollow. With my climbing speed cut in half, I was passed by another guy at the top of the climb. I decided at that point that if I got in before the 4 hour mark, I wasn't going out for a 5th lap. I was toast.

I did the rest of the lap, keeping an eye on my computer, hoping that four hours would roll around before I got back. On the last downhill, my hands were screaming, and I was super relieved when I hit the bottom and my speedometer said 4:01. I climbed back up the fire road, and right at the finish I saw another rider. We sprinted for the end and slid across the line.

"Hey you got 8 minutes! Go out for another one! Go! Go out!"

"No. Absolutely not." 

I stood at the finish and watched one of the guys behind me go out for a 5th lap, thus moving me into 5th place. But I just couldn't stomach the thought of climbing up Canada Hollow again. So I ate a bratwurst.

Not that it mattered, but I was the first SS in, and Don was the second, even though he was riding rigid. That's a sweep of the imaginary SS category. The only time I had to walk a little was Canada Hollow on the last lap, and I was able to clear everything else on the 38x20. 

But more importantly, I was victorious in the number plate competition:

Friday, April 9, 2010


A certain girl I'm dating was supposed to come over and help me make a race number. She was two hours late.

So I'm rolling with a flamingo.

It's Mash time. Hells yeah. Race report on Monday. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

a razor spoon

The trails have been excellent ever since the return from Kananwanana. This week I hit Roaring Run once, and Laurel Mountain three times. It was great.

I love this place when the sun is out.
From Drop Box
(click make grande)

On Monday, Rob and I headed to the mountain for the longest ride I've ever done up there.

After parking at the bottom, we jumped out of the car and climbed up 900 feet in a little over a mile on Grove and Quarry Run Trails (think dirty dozen hills on dirt.) I'm surprised my head didn't pop.

We hit almost every trail without incident, but unfortunately for Rob, the mountain demanded a blood sacrifice, and Wolf Rocks Trail was determined to collect it. But I suppose he didn't really need that elbow skin anyway.

I saw a porcupine for the second time up there, and saw the inside of a porcupine for the first time. The flies seemed to dig it. There was a little patch of fur further down the trail, and I can now confirm that those animals really are covered in sharp needles.

On Easter I finished purpleizing the Flourecent Death Machine of Doom. I debated between buying a new stem and spray painting the stuff, and in the end, the $3.27 can of Krylon won. It turned out pretty damn fine.

The FDMoD is prepared for domination (of what, I'm not certain. But something will be dominated) at the Michaux Mash this Saturday.
From Drop Box
(Thanks for holding my bicycle General Green. I'm sorry I didn't let you ride it, but I think you'd be a touch over the weight limit.
your neighbor)