Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dante's Rondo

How many circles of Hell were traversed on the Thursday ride? Was it three or four—no, it had to be more. The Fat Cat remembers dropping Virgil just after the anteroom. He was sure that they traversed a lake of souls, tires thumping from writhing limb to screaming skull. What level was that? One thing is for sure, the old lady on the porch in Pisgah who offered up life giving water (and put ice in it!) was Heaven sent. Those two hill-jacks sitting on a bench outside their backwater repair shop who refused an emaciated Cat libation— those two have a special place in Hell all ready for them when their cholesterol choked hearts finally give out.

Six riders, The Fat Cat, Legs, Aerobinator, Lord MonkeyButt, Sidewinder and new initiate, Mark G, made it out to the special road and trail edition of The Grimpeurs. The Fat Cat made many elaborate eleventh hour repairs to his 17 year old mountain bike, turning the last screw just in time to make the meeting place. Good thing too; every one of those 21 gears would soon be needed. Snake hill was knocked off in short order, a nice workout for the trailers and a happy spin for the leaders. Yes, it was all hunkey dory until the pavement gave out.

The descent down Mt Zion/ Ridge Road and especially Bull Run was a bone jarring marathon. The Cat sacrificed a full water bottle to appease the angry road. Alas, the accidental gesture was to no avail and only contributed to his later dehydration. Those with shocks were not spared the arm assault, those without felt large diameter nerves vibrate and fire off a heavy barrage of highly noxious impulses.

The Peleton (is a group of mountain bikers called a peleton?) reached the unfathomable depths of the Cheat Canyon and crossed the rickety old iron and wood bridge that spans the river. A cacophony of derailleurs sounded as all dropped into granny gear; the only defense against the onslaught of rocky 25 to 40% grades that defended the canyon’s other side. Despite the slog, Aerobinator broke momentum to befriend a little red salamander that crossed his path. He’s friendly to amphibians girls!

It is in the murky parts around Mt. Nebo and its tiny church that The Cat has often searched for the fabled passage to Pisgah. Utter failure and many hard extra miles were the only fruits his lonely efforts ever bore. Now, he knows why. A friendly local directed the Grimpeurs to a goat path that only qualified to be called a road by virtue of its lack of vegetation. It looked like a dry creek bed. The rewards for yet another gut wrenching descent were, however, great. The scenery in the bottom of the chasm was unmatched. Legs enjoyed a dip in the cool, green pool cradled among the rocks. Luckily, the group was able to dissuade him from going totally au natural.

Despite the melodramatic narration, the ride was actually quite fun up until this point. But, dehydration and fatigue started to set in and the somehow endless climbing across Pisgah and over to Coopers rocks took a toll. It became painfully obvious that The Flanders Fat Cat is the official lantern rouge in all forms of cycling. What an honor. MonkeyButt was kind enough to offer up a little Gatorade as the pilgrimage stopped for a little quasi-sacrilegious photography entitled, “Cross Bike.”

The pittance of drink did little against the gallons of perspiration that had come before. This is where Satan’s inbred sons and the angelic old Lady from paragraph one came in. After insisting that they had no source of liquid other than a beat up pop machine for which the riders had no change, they insisted that the trail that led across Coopers Rocks state park (which was in their back yard) did not exist. They sent us on our way with warnings of rattlesnakes and such. Bless that old lady just up the road. She didn’t know either, but she had rejuvenating ice water! Had we a mower we would have gladly done her overdue yard work.

Being that Birdman was the only one who knew where the trailhead was and that he was on his way to Florida, we abandoned the park. However, a merciful and quick drop down Quarry Road to home was snuffed out by Aerobinator. He hijacked the ride and led the group across Chestnut Ridge to a gravel road/ trail through the forest. Just as the weary band plunged down yet another descent festooned with softball sized rocks and past the point of no return, a terrible sight arose.

Apparently Humbaba was angry with the Grimpeur’s lusty trespass. He threw down countless arms of tall Oaks across the road as far as the eye could see. The ride degenerated into a series of bike toting hurtles and forays into the trackless forest. Unfortunately, no one thought to bring a machete.

Aerobinator was busted of rank and banned from leading Grimpeur rides after he again shunned Quarry run road for another “trail”. Down past another point of no return the group fell—back into the trackless forest. The Cat, with no thought other than liberation from the mountain’s grip, wrested back control of the Grimpeurs. The sounds of a nearby superhighway beckoned like the songs of sirens. The group fought through the foliage and jumped the fence guarding the highway. This is where Marc gets his Grimpeur name “Boy Scout”. He was the only one who gave voice to the blatant illegality to which the day’s endeavors had degenerated.

Nobody else gave a shit. The Grimpeurs were overjoyed to hit any pavement despite the inherent dangers. It has been a long time since The Fat Cat wanted nothing more than to get off his bike. No silly regulations were going to stop him now! Ten thousand feet had already been climbed and ten thousand more had been descended. Command decisions had to be made.

Everyone made it home alive. As sick as it may sound, given the long winded narrative just unfurled, it WAS a great ride. The Cat realized that he sorta missed the epic qualities of the winter rides and their snow squalls, sub-zero temperatures and other travails. Sometimes it’s not about average speeds and front running but more about survival. And, sometimes those are the rides you remember: especially when you had five great comrades to bleed with you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sunday Comes Early

Five riders made the trip up the pike Tuesday— MonkeyButt, Birdman, Aerobinator, The Fat Cat and a new initiate, Chris Baker. The Fat Cat was glad to see that the joke was finally catching on. Despite the presence of some heavy hitters, the pace was benign and devoid of attacks. The Cat was nursed up the big climbs by Big Daddy, while Chris and Aerobinator spun along effortlessly and harmlessly in the front. No word on who crested the mountain first. Speculation is that the leaders just crossed hand in hand in one big kumbaya moment.

The group wailed down the descent of Skyline to Bruceton. It was nice to hear from Aerobinator that the 6 lbs The Cat packed on in 3 weeks had really helped his descending. A word of warning, some of those 40 mph curves have gotten a lot more sketchy than they were just a few weeks ago. One particular gravel enhanced carver caused some quick movin, shakin and line changing.

About the only particularly noteworthy event of the ride was the Fat Cat’s Mechanical. On the happiest little roller coaster section into Bruceton Mills his rear derailleur, weary from the constant searching for some mythical gear to power ratio that would propel The Fat Cat into hereto unrealized glory, went on strike. MonkeyButt was greatly amused to see The Fat Cat butchering a cadence of 150rpm, bobbing and bouncing like Larry, Moe and/or Curley on a jackhammer. After the little machine proved resistant to any amount of simple pulling, twisting and kicking, The Cat fixed it the same way as everything else he knows nothing about. He mindlessly took it apart and then put it back together. This “ballsy move,” as Aerobinator called it, actually left the derailleur working better than ever. Ah yes, idiot savants.

With the Cat’s bike purring like a kitten, alright, maybe an arthritic kitten, all headed up and through scenic beauties too numerous to recount on the way to the top of Wymps Gap. Seems nobody wanted to head home to Morgantown via the monotonously bland grades of 73. Back in the lowlands, Aerobinator and Birdman hitched a ride home in Chris’s pickup while MonkeyButt and Fat Cat churned up 21 to their waiting gas guzzlers.

All and all it was just another great day on two wheels. It never ceases to amaze, what a fantastic group of riders and rides we have in these parts. Oh, I guess Chris needs a Grimpeur name. He was so quiet I almost forgot. But, his legendary prowess proceeds him. Kinda brings to mind a snake. You know, the way they sit there, all coiled up and quiet like. They’re not dangerous as long as you don’t rile em. But if you kick em—well, let’s just say The Fat Cat had enough sense not to try and lay a boot to him. The best I can come up with is Sidewinder. It’s either that or something to do with sleeping dogs. See you all Thursday for the road and trail edition.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

To ride or not to ride.

Despite having to alter the meeting time, two riders, The Flanders Fat Cat and Talks-With-Legs, made the Tuesday Grimpeur ride. They rode across to the Jumonville climb and over the ridge line to the Summit Inn. Legs realized his dream of sitting on the veranda, sipping tea, and enjoying the view. Unfortunately, his dream did not include shivering in June and putting on his rain jacket against the cold. The Fat Cat's knee protested just enough on the first climb to cut out the Kirby climb. Legs and The Cat continued across Skyline and down Mud Pike to the finish. All and all it was a relaxing ride with a lot of interesting conversation at a 14mph average speed . The Grimpeurs had to ride themselves dizzy, literally for The Fat Cat, over the last mile to get that (the speed, not the interesting conversation).
Scheduling is getting tough. The Grimpeur ride originally manifested organically in a stitch in time between work, dropping one son off at pre-school and picking both sons up after school. Smack dab in the middle of all that running around, is the mountain. Mud Pike and the trips up it served as ideal filler for an otherwise dead space that could not be filled by work or other chores due to the strewn about locations of the office, the schools and the home. Well, school is out now. Between work, pinto baseball, t-ball, boy scout camp, music lessons, etc., It's tough to fit a ride in edgewise.

The easy way out would be to just quit. Being that the Fat Cat rode only one time last week, that may be happening despite his best efforts. However, such a short term, surface fix ignores deeper, important issues. There is of course the fitness postulate. It'd be nice to keep the joints fluid, the lungs expanded and the heart strong so that the children, yes there are kittens, can be fully enjoyed for years to come. Beyond even that though, beyond the cardio, is the cranio workout.

The term cycloprozac/bicyclic antidepressent effect has been bandied about several times in these pages (probably mainly because The Fat Cat thinks it a clever turn of phrase). The spinning cranks, pulleys and wheels of a bicycle seem to whirl a dirty wash of confused thoughts and emotions round and round until they come out clean and presentable. Some have likened this spin effect to the constant repetition of a mantra, so important to meditation. But, as good as meditation may be, you won't catch any son of a coal miner zoning out in the lotus position. There are proven biochemical changes that occur as a result of physical exercise too. Everyone who's anyone knows about the feel good endorphines that are so nice that they can actually become addictive and give "a high." Norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine and other neurochemicals are also affected, to be sure. Don't believe it; I'll offer a higher proof than published papers. Anybody who knows any cyclist will eventually hear how their spouse said, "Why don't you go out and ride your bike!" when chemicals were waning in a negative way. Bottom line is, the wife and the kids like the cyclist, and he or she likes themselves, better on a bike. It is not selfish or wasteful or anything else disparaging. It's just fact.

So, in light of the above, we will try and eek out a place for the Grimpeurs over the summer. We'll be glad to host any seekers of cycloprozac, persuers of personal records or racers against the Reaper and Father Time, on Tuesdays at Noon. As for Thursday...we'll take that one on a week by week basis.

One more thing. The author of the deleted comment from last week can piss off. Sounds like you couple of lurkers deserve each other. However, I feel for your own children. I truly hope they can survive the negativity in which they are so obviously smothered and become positive and productive adults.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Reluctant Grimpeurs

Three riders, The Fat Cat, Legs and Big Daddy met at Birman's nest because no one could decide on a route. It seems a case of the wishy washies was going around. Big Daddy complained of being "cooked," possibly from the heat. Legs slouched, shirtless, in a chair claiming to have forgotten his shoes. The Cat admitted to his own misgivings about riding, recounting how he yawned deeply in his car and the hot air burned his lungs. Eventually, it was decided that the only thing that could get the Grimpeurs out was a "recovery ride."

The Cat chased the Bird down the bike path along the Mon river towards Bakers Ridge and a rendezvous with Legs. Legs rode via mini van to his estate where his shoes were alleged to be. Talk was, it was just an excuse to cut a few miles off the ride. The only real, sustained hill of the day was the climb up Van Vooris from the bike path to the ridge. Of course, that damn Birdman flew up it--oh, well.

After some more procrastinating in the cul-du-sac, the group headed across Bakers ridge, up 119 to Stewartstown and into fabulous Point Marion via the back door. We spent quite a bit of time searching the up and down side streets of the Point for a pool that Legs assured his comrades was close at hand and cleared for use. Man, it was hot. He kept insisting that the elusive pool must be on the next street, which happened to be up. The search ended at the top of a wall that was so steep the Cat was complaining about his wrists giving out, of all things. Thank God there was no more up and no more road.

The search was given up and the Grimpeurs, or should I say roleurs, crossed the river and continued to try and avoid exertion. A certain member of the expedition vetoed Dilliner HILL road in favor of a shady trip along crooked run. The fact that part of the road was constructed of golf ball sized gravel was outweighed by the cloying heat and the desperate avoidance of undue exertion.The Guard at the power plant shooed Legs away from his well paved way so the roleurs picked through the rocks over to Fort Martin road and some dump truck dodging. At the bottom of Fort Martin hill Legs and The Fat Cat had to wait for Birdman, as usual. He was drafting one of those boxy little gangsta Toyota things and cut a sidewall on a lonely little stone in the middle of the road.

Big Daddy and the Cat eventually made it back to the nest and the sweat just started pouring out faster than they could replace it, cool. Legs had to pay for his earlier commute with a climb up Van Vooris at the end of his ride. He might still be at the bottom. Anyone heard from him?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Never Let the Bird Pick the Route

Let's see if I can make this one short and Sweet. The Grimpeurs stayed local and hit the hills around Morgantown on the hottest day of the year so far. We went up Aaron's Creek road, a one mile climb; down to the bottom of Breakiron and back up for a 2.75 mile climb; up Nicholson loop; down Kingwood Pike, much to Tim's dislike and my pleasure; across the backroads south of Masontown; way down Bull Run; way up Mt. Zion (too tired to see how long a climb); up and over Snake hill and back to my house, where I had to break in through a second story window, for a couple of post ride refreshments. Pounds hollow hill and dug hill were also in the mix.

Don asked me if I thought the 48 miles today was harder than the Laurel Mountain miles we logged Tuesday. I thought back to how I rode at under 4 mph for about 8 minutes on Breakiron's 19% grade (total time 25.15, 2 min behind Don and Tim, or was it 3). I winced in remebering how on the final off the chart gradient up Mt. Zion I stood up on the pedals and lost wheel rear traction. I belly flopped onto the handlebars and into a full stop .Only the clipless pedals kept me on and only a ridiculous couple of quad contractions kept me from falling over like a tree in the woods. (No one was around so would anyone hear? I'm just glad they didn't see.) "Yeah," I said between breaths, "definitely harder!"

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Waiting for Don

The Flanders Fat Cat and Talks-With-Legs rode circles around Big Daddy Birdman Thursday. Of course, this was in the parking lot while he checked his tire pressure. Hey, you take what you can get.

Birdman and Talks-With-Legs took it easy on the Fat Cat up Mud Pike and throughout the ride. It did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Much of the initial climb was more about tire rubbing and jersey tugging than getting ahead. The Grimpeurs were joined on the mountainside by a faction from Mon county grade school. Several shiny yellow buses passed us on the way down, fresh from a trip to Laurel Caverns, followed by a line of SUV drivin’ soccer moms. One mom got separated from the herd and asked for help. Turned out the field tripper knew the Fat Cat. She chastised him for not calling her back regarding some sort of land speculation, biking instead of working and other sundry slights while he gave her directions. At least she offered up a reason to stop in the middle of the ascent…so Don could catch up (heh, heh).

The group did get in a bit of pace lining along the still smooth part of Skyline drive north: couldn’t pass that up. We barreled down a short stretch of the nation’s first toll road, route 40. All three drifted down the long, gradual drop of Wharton Furnace road as it followed the boulder strewn and Mountain Laurel lined course of Big Sandy Creek. A right turn out of the valley led us into the attack of the virgin road.

The Grimpeurs needed a way back over the ridge and Google Earth said it was Wirsing road. An initial thin flat section of blacktop quickly gave way to an unexpected drop. Not unexpected was Birdman’s blind and brake free attack of the descent. Unfortunately, the resolution on Google Earth falls just short of being able to discern asphalt from gravel. Big Daddy hit the surprise rocks at speed and promptly flatted out.

Once the tire was fixed, the Grimpeurs did their best cross biker imitations as Wirsing did its poor imitation of a road, intermittently turning from lane to stream. Half way up the climb, The Cat and Talks-With –Legs had to stop and wait for Big Daddy: He flatted out again. One thing we learned while we occupied ourselves in that meadow in the middle of the woods, bicyclists can’t throw. A no hunting sign laughed at the Fat Cat’s efforts. Talks-With-Legs tossed rocks like Lemond. Birdman, well, after his attempt he had to drop trou just to prove his manhood (sorry girls).

Twenty yards from where Birdman flatted, the road finally reverted back to hardtop. If it weren’t for the gravel, one might say old Wirsing is the easy way up the mountain. That is if you don’t rely on Talks-With-Legs’ jilted internal compass. He was quite insistent about adding 20 or so wrong way miles. Only the hope of a hundred dollar bet against the Fat Cat’s sense of direction dissuaded him and his leftward leanings. The Cat is still waiting for his C note. Heading NORTH up Skyline to Mud Pike, The Cat and Legs dropped Birdman on the final climb and had to wait, again. Of course, it was only because Big Daddy was making a phone call.

If you’ve read this far, I’d like to reward you with a bit of local Grimpeur knowledge. Next time you’re climbing Mud Pike with a powerful thirst and an empty water bottle, tap the spring on the outside of the hairpin at the top of Scylla. I have always wanted to try that pipe, gushing water out of the hillside, but never quite worked up the courage. This time I finally mustered the nerve. We stopped on the way down and made Guinea pigs of ourselves. The fact that I am not stricken with dysentery, Giardia or some other waterborne illness today attests to the safety of the source. Not only is it potable but it is cold and refreshing. It’s worth a stop even if you aren’t dehydrated.

Thanks again to Birdman and Legs for coming out and administering just the right dose of cycloprozac. It’s good have friends when you need them. Thanks also to Legs for the cooler of Czech beer and the Musette bag from Italy. Now The Fat Cat is the ultimate Poseur!