Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pine Hill Park: An Easter Ride.

Come Easter Sunday all of our friends near and far come together to ride Pine Hill Park.  We roll ourselves out of bed early, only to be herded like cats in the back parking lot of Onion River Sports; to finally collect ourselves and make our Easter pilgrimage.  This year was no exception and we had some new and old faces along for the ride, with some Spring-like flurries and colds temps that followed us all the way to Rutland.

One thing that was apparent was the widespread destruction on the way down Rte 4 to Rte 100 and beyond.  Still a year later after Hurricane Irene hit Vermont much remains to be done.  The Governor's exclamation that "The landscape of Vermont will be forever changed," was all too painfully true. Last year - and still today - Vermonters have been helping each other out.

When I was a child I spent the better part of twenty years up early on Easter, inside doing other things. For the latter part of my life, though, I've found myself on Easter doing this....
Enter the PHP photo montage....
One of my favorite airs: Aaron's Air.

Dollar Bill!

Darn Tough socks on a Darn Chilly ride...

Sarah feeling the buffed-out turns at PHP.


Quinn on the grill.

I can't quite tell if Kip is impressed with himself or disgusted...

Aaron's air.

Biting off a bit more than Snack can chew?

 That's one tired dog.

Well enough about Easter; here's to the great state of Vermont and Pine Hill Park. Now get out and ride your bike - it's dry out there! (Just check and make sure the trails are open, first.)


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sunday Singletrack

My eyes opened just after 6am. You can take the girl out of the workweek, but you can't take the workweek out of the girl, I guess. As my eyes focused on our bedroom window, I could see the light of early morning: more grey than sunshine, more serene than loudly yellow. And as I laid there thinking for a moment, I realized that I had been listening to the most beautiful bird song. This bird had just been singing and singing all along. My days of ornithology are long over, so I have no idea what was singing this song, but it was beautiful: elaborate, trilling, heart-felt. The bird and I both knew it: This was going to be a good day. The sun was preparing to come out, and we were alive and well, ready for anything. I was happily awaiting a hot, strong coffee, a little breakfast, and a rare, wonderful thing: a weekend day off with Tristan, with nothing to do but go ride our bikes. Yes, it was going to be a good day.

We had lined up a group to join us at Millstone Hill Touring Center. If you have never before been here to ride trails, you should go! I'm not kidding. To be fair, everything you have heard about Millstone riding is right: There are a lot of rocks. It's technical. It's not always flowy. There are a lot of features on those two free-ride trails. But the trails are well-built, there are miles and miles of singletrack, and there is enough terrain to keep any rider entertained. It is technical in a fun way. And yes, it is well worth the price of a day ticket ($10) - or season pass ($40). As eight of us pedaled away from the parking lot, down a side road, and into the woods, I again knew it: This was going to be good. We had a great group of people and miles of fun singletrack lay before us.

 I won't recount the many trails we rode as we pedaled our way through a 10-mile grand tour of the whole place. Some highlights, though, were Locomotion, Boiler Maker, Fellowship Ring, and Roller Coaster. There's something for everyone here: Locomotion is fast and fun; Boiler Maker throws some challenging spots into the mix; and Fellowship has enough technical sections to keep any rider happy, plus this sweet section of looping flow through a beautiful forest. Roller Coaster, a fun free-ride trail with a major elevation drop and lots of BC-style built features, puts a smile on the face of anyone who rides it. Throughout the day we found several lookouts that afforded sweeping views of the water-filled quarries below and the valleys and hills of central Vermont continuing out from there.

These are the days we live for: surrounded by friends, woods, and bikes; with a few good views to put things into better perspective. There were long-time riders and newbies, including a road cyclist turned mountain biker on his first ever trail ride.

Later that evening, a few of us sat in the corner of a loud, busy apartment full of friends celebrating the thirty-one years of a most wonderful person; we laughed at how we could all snuggle up and go to sleep right there. Our legs were weak and worked, our lungs were raw, our heads were out of it; thankfully we had each other to commiserate and to keep from looking like lonely, wilted wallflowers. We all agreed, this was the best feeling to end a day with: tired, utterly used up and waiting, with a drink in hand, for a delicious spicy meal cooked by someone else. I fell asleep with my belly full, my heart full, and my mind blissfully cleared and at peace. This was a good day.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The First of Many "Sweet" Singletrack Days

When good friends call early in the morning to ride, especially in early April, you ride. Sarah and I are lucky that many of our friends ride bikes and every year we get to meet even more good folks to ride with.  So, when riding season comes around, we are sure to have many great friends to hit the trails with. And, when that first ride of the season happens, no matter where or when, there are a couple of things you can come to expect. 

As seen in photo A, above, the first thing you can expect on that first ride is to feel a little rough around the edges, to say the least. When those lungs start to burn and the legs start to cramp, especially after a less than brilliant winter, hang in there! And be assured there will always be a friend to ride by and say " Hey, I don't know about you, but I'm really feeling great!"  And you respond without restraint "Blarrghhhh."   

You might also on that first ride have this guy.  You know: he's on a steel, single speed 90's-era Trek cobbled out of parts from the dumpster behind the local bike shop, and he's dropping all the cool lines you have to work up to hitting halfway through the season. He's a good friend so you just watch and try to capture the moment.  

Ah, cabin fever.  As we all get out our bikes out for the season and brush the dust off those top tubes (although I know some of you out there have been riding all winter) we suit up for our first ride. And we get to see all the diverse culture out there. Back when mountain biking was not that popular, standard protocol for riding was spandex shorts and a crusty jersey. Nowadays you can expect  to see anyone looking like last month's cover of Mountain Bike Action or perhaps all in matching spandex (Please don't take offense: I have matching spandex. And man-pris.).  It's great to see just how far our - dare I say - sport has come.

Now, as for the ride: Yes, I think - or I hope - at least that we can all agree that we're really all out there to just enjoy being outside and ride  with good friends. Sometimes you just have to stop and smell that single track.  Riding is different from hiking, which we're quite fond of, too; but, when riding, I think one can get lost and things can fly by pretty fast!  So when your lungs can't seem to keep up with your legs or the guy in front of you: slow down, stop and enjoy the experience.

And while you're out there enjoying the singletrack, remember to get involved; think about who made it possible. Many folks sink their blood, sweat, tears and time into building these trails and we could all stand to put some of ours in as well to make our local riding the experience we all want it to be. This sign at the end of Bear Run says it all: Get out there and make it happen!

Ah, yes. Back to that first ride...or, rather, the parking lot where you can finally rest those weary legs and enjoy the end of your ride with good friends, and perhaps a toast. This is often when we share some great stories and times with old and new friends. And, after that first ride comes to an end - or the second, third, fourth... - we are already thinking about where that next ride will begin.

No fooling around here folks, it's going to be a good year; I can already feel it.

Now get out there and get involved!