Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ironic Inhibition

Four Grimpeurs hit the highlands Tuesday. Lord MonkeyButt Joined The Fat Cat, Phallose and newest member, Chris N. It was a gloriously sunny day with moderate temperatures and just enough wind to be helpfully cooling rather than quarrelsome and pushy.

The Fat Cat was the only one on a cross bike. This did not occur out of some kind of masochistic machoism. The speedy little Cervelo that usually labors beneath The Cat’s girth apparently did not like the extra Sunday morning mountain ride that Aerobinator, Slider and the boys cooked up a week and a half ago. Her already shortened chain broke early in the ride and lost a few links in the repair. A couple of hours later, in the midst of a climb, she went into a fit of madness and began to violently cannibalize herself. In the end a twisted derailleur lay on the road and the rear wheel was warped beyond rotation. All attempts to turn her into a single speed failed and the call for evac was made. The poor girl still hangs in the garage awaiting a new derailleur hanger, derailleur, cables and wheel repair.

Of course, much to Lord MonkeyButt’s irritation and everyone else’s amusement, the Fat Cat forgot something. Now, he has at various times ridden without gloves, without water, without a helmet, without socks and in tennis shoes (very painful with clipless pedals). If you’ve ever happened to see a potbellied half man, half hairy ape type creature on a bike then you had the misfortune of coming across The Fat Cat on the day he forgot his shirt. Quite a stir occurred in the Bigfoot community that day. But, without shorts, that might be where the line is drawn. Fortunately, the world was saved from a Sasquatch in whitie tighties sighting by a pair of swimming trunks buried deep in The Cat’s trunk.

Despite MonkeyButt’s official lodging of a pre-ride excuse—he had suffered grave illness recently, possibly pneumonia or maybe even TB— he rode up Mud pike with aplomb. Phallose has reportedly been working on his skills and was strong. Chris is 140lbs, nuff said. Then there was the Cat.

He didn’t lodge any excuse. He did so well in the 4 climb extravaganza last week that he thought this one summit adventure would be a breeze. Wrong! It was evident early that the legs were not willing. The knee jerk reaction was to blame Earnestina. But, it really wasn’t her fault. The funny part was, though turning the pedals was shockingly difficult, the pulse rate and respirations were not even close to the red. After some time alone on the climb to think, the reason became clear.

It was really quite interesting and ironic. The Fat Cat attended a seminar on neurology, more specifically—reflexogenic systems, the weekend prior. This entailed 15 hours of sitting in an uncomfortable chair as well as about 10 hours sitting in the driver’s seat. Monday morning’s up and at ‘em turned into a wince and roll outta bed affair. Yep, the old disc was acting up and making standing erect a difficult proposition.

By Tuesday afternoon the Cat’s back had calmed down quite a bit, at least in the realm of cortical realization of pain. The ride up the hill, however, showed the very mechanisms covered in the seminar to be at work. The damaged tissues were sending impulses out that were reflexively causing inhibition of the muscles of the low back and legs. The gams were only recruiting a fraction of their total motor units. Thus, The Cat was at his limit in terms of strength to turn the cranks but, because of less muscle recruitment, oxygen usage and cardiac output, were not maxed out. Now, that’s one hell of an excuse; don’t cha think?

After the Cat finally limped up to his comrades on the mountain top, all headed out across Skyline Drive, past the Summit Inn, past the perpetually closed Fabrizi’s Italian eatery and down the mountain via Jumonville Road. Earnestina showed herself to be a pretty good downhiller and brought a small measure of redemption for the climb.

Pressed for time, the Grimpeurs made a pretty good run along the foot of the mountain. Chris andPhallose finally opened it up between Hopwood and Fairchance . Through great effort, The Cat caught a wheel and hung on for a bit. MonkeyButt was lost in the jet wash. He would later proffer a second, post drop, excuse. He had to make a call…okay. The kid is really learning form The Fat Cat but he’s still got a ways to go.

The Grimpeurs all made it back to Haydentown with minutes to spare, strung out but safe. The whole trip was only about 30 miles but they were good, mountain miles. Everybody enjoyed the ride. Chris earned his Grimpeur name with little struggle. He is “Goldfish” because he’s wafer-thin and always has a smile (like a Goldfish cracker). See ya next time.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tunnel Grimping

The Fat Cat has added some music to MonkeyButt's guest post. It's the kinda thing Williams likes, or did in the old days. You might have to turn it off to actually read the post as it is not really conducive to cognition.

Today, a non Grimping sidebar bonus post by me,
Evan. As I was coming home from working in Valley Forge Friday, I decided to take a small break at Breezewood Pa and explore the abandoned 12 mile stretch of Pa Turnpike hidden in the area. Back in 1968 this section of the Pike was closed because the two tunnels became a bottleneck and current road building methods deemed it more cost effective to plow through the mountain rather then bore another tunnel. There were 3 tunnels effected by this and these are the pictures of two along this 12 mile stretch. The first tunnel was Rays Hill, approx. 3700 feet long. As usual I was 90% prepared for this trip the missing 10% being a lighting system but little matter....I made the decision to go through in the dark as I could see the exit portal on the other side. As I went through things got darker then I imagined and I began whistling in the dark to ward off potential unknown beings in the tunnel, waiting to take me down.....I'm not really afraid of much, but this was a bit unsettling.
As I pedaled down the crumbling road I could not help but feel like Charlton Heston in Omega was quiet and empty all around. I neared the next tunnel at Sidling Hill and peered inside. As I remembered from the info I had read earlier, this tunnel is 6500 feet long and passes under the current turnpike road. The sound of dripping water and a blackness blacker then my very soul left me only peering in, not to enter.
I will let the pictures speak for them selves as I am still sick after two weeks and feel very uncreative at this point.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Mountain Too Far

Dear Madam,

We regret to inform you that your son didn’t make it this time. He fought alongside his unit with valor and honor and gave all he had to give. Our mission was an all volunteer detail. We were to take four major hills all in one day. The fact that he knew the enormity of what was being asked and still took that step forward with only six other seasoned Grimpeurs speaks volumes about his courage and fortitude. You should always be proud.

Our mission was far beyond anything we had done before. We trained as best we could but for some things you just can’t be fully prepared. We pushed on for many miles through the woods and took two pitched battles at Mud Pike and Jumonville without losing a man. That much should have been enough. I could see it in the sallow faces of the men. Retreat at that point would have been unquestioned and without shame. That we fought on, and the horrors that followed, I alone take responsibility for that.

I know I shouldn’t go into detail, after what I did to your son, but I feel a need to unburden myself. I led the boys into uncharted territory. By the time we got lost the first time, we were already down two men. There were rumblings from some of the others that we should turn back. Despite the wounds already suffered by your son on this, his first Grimpeur mission, he was not among them. His only complaint was that he might slow us down. It brings tears to my eyes just to think of his bravery in the face of extreme physical adversity.

I had been told that Ohiopyle hill was a real meat grinder. One grizzled old veteran had told me that if we ever were to assault that point, we would never make it past Mt. Carmel. To have taken on the task after already fighting two arduous uphill struggles was simply madness. But, sometimes in the heat of battle—when the sweat of our endeavors reddens the eyes and our muscles burn like slow fuses ready to explode—the forward push becomes all encompassing.

Initially, we rolled up the mountain with little resistance. I have to admit I was a little drunk on the tap of our easy progress. Surely we would be heroes, taking such an imposing chunk of territory so quickly. I forgot that heroism always comes with a price. I cannot describe the fear that overcame me when I saw our foe rise up to its full height before us. I admit that I myself sat down and cried for a brief moment at the sight. Honestly, we would have turned back but we had already passed the point of no return. We were caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place.

Against an impossible gradient we flung ourselves again and again until finally we reached the safety of high ground. We had made it but no one rejoiced, there were too many miles to cross before we were thrown into the breech again.

Despite his best efforts, your son began to succumb to exhaustion, dehydration and general trauma. The boys tried to feed him and pull him along as best they could but it was no use. Killer Bee Stayed behind with him and called for a rescue evac. That was the last I ever saw of him. We remaining three fought our way up one last mountain on route 40. Just a few miles from home one of our strongest men even faltered and fell behind. In the end we logged more uphill miles and elevation change and a greater grade than Mount Ventoux in France. That’s without counting the rollers in between.

New grunts are always razzed and nicknames for Larry such as “Kid Dynamite,” “Dwarf Star” and “Trizilla” were playfully mentioned. But, for the way he kept tagging along like a little brother, and for how the boys nursed him along without complaint, “Cubby” is the name that stuck. He will live on in Grimpeur lore.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Calm Before the Storm

“We have nothing to fear—but fear itself.” The little known following line to this famous quote is, “That is, of course, excepting the climbing of several monstrous hills in succession by means of a bicycle.”

Legs and Birdman cycled the 20 miles in from Morgantown and joined the Fat Cat at the foot of the Appalachians. The skies were lightly overcast, temperatures were in the seventies and humidity was low, perfect conditions for a little ride. The Grimpeurs started up the mountain with the promise of a virgin 43 mile route with climbs up both sides of the ridge. The route was to pass Lake Courage and skirt the Fort Necessity battlefield. Alas, Legs flatted out at the top of Mud Pike and the fix took a while. So, instead of blazing trails, the group fell back on the same two bagger as Thursday— because it was so much fun.

The Cat decided to attack one of his weaknesses and do a lot of standing on the pedals in a bid to keep up on the steep climbs. The pace was a bit faster than Thursday, enough to keep Legs in short sentences rather than long diatribes. Everyone was riding strong. In fact, nobody seemed to be feeling much pain until the second summit. Big Daddy, of course, showed everyone who was boss along the way if they got a little too feisty.

Sometimes when you’re wrestling your way up a hill for thirty straight minutes, you kind of fold inward. To notice what condition anyone else is in would require too much effort. The picture below was snapped with much difficulty after the second climb. Only after seeing it later did The Cat realize he wasn’t the only one feeling it.

Suffice it to say that everyone had a workout by the time they got back down the mountain and into Haydentown. The Fat Cat was feeling particularly dry of mouth, much like long past Sunday mornings of a misspent youth. Everyone piled into the Cat’s car, their bikes sticking from top and open trunk like porcupine quills. Time constraints weren’t the only thing stopping them from cycling home.

“So, what’s all this about hoo-ha about fear?” you say. “That ride seemed to go pretty well. Nobody’s innards were melting like summer statuary at Madame Trousseau’s with the heat on? No one’s legs seized like rusted pistons? Did someone blow like a Daisy Cutter and I missed it?” Before you go feeling all mislead, realize that fear is usually of the unknown—of what is to come.

The Aerobinator informs the Grimpeurs that he will grace them with his exalted presence Thursday. In a fit of inspiration, or madness, The Cat designed a course specifically to put some hurtin’ on the big “A”. He then splashed this epic, four summit, diabolical extravaganza all over the internet via the Mon Bike Club site. This, of course, drew other local luminaries such as Slider, Birdman, etc. out of the woodwork.

(I left off one KOM marker near Ohiopyle State Park.)
Now you can feel the fear creeping in, can’t you. The hero Phallose backed out when he found out that his mommy wouldn’t pick him up if he got tired. Did you actually think we bought that last second groundbreaking ceremony thing, old boy? If the big Fat Cat was feeling spent after two peaks, how the hell was he gonna make two more. Sure, it looked all “Tour de Francy” when he mapped out the stage. Sure, just the look of it stirred the competitive fires. But, guess what—The Fat Cat is no Tour de France rider! If it’s going to hurt the Aerobinator, then it’s gonna kill The Cat. Maybe this ride will finally knock the delusions of cycling grandeur out of his thick head. If he’s lucky, those parasites from George Washington’s watering hole will save him from the whole thing with a nice case of Giardiasis. One can only hope…or lie.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Honey of a Ride -or- The Dishwashers

Any ride is gonna be good when it starts off with Grimpeurs bearing gifts of homage to The Fat Cat. Killer Bee sacrificed the toil of his insect minions and presented the Cat with some “dark beer” honey. That’s gonna be great! Much thanks. Thursday's group was rounded out with the return of Slider who brought along Bob Vernon as a candidate. You guys can bring your offerings by later.

Killer Bee took his turn as nursemaid to the ever expanding Fat Cat while Slider and Bob spun easily to the top of Mud Pike. On Papa Bear, The Cat put on a pretty good 20% grade sprint and got some separation, just to see if he could. On the 3 percent final stretch, Killer Bee rallied back and lured the Cat into another sprint. Bee laughed when the Cat sat up just before his comrade at arms said he was about to blow. The Cat filed away the information.

The temperatures were great and everyone was feeling flush. The Grimpeurs headed north on Skyline drive. This time the trip along the ridgeline was extended with a shot up Braddock road behind the Cross, followed by a plunge down the mountain on that schizophrenic hill that was ascended for the first time when Slider last joined the fray. After that the group sauntered happily along the foot of the mountain for a bit until they came to a crossroad.

To continue tickling the toes of the mountain all the way back or to go for the double bagger, that was the question. Who knows if it was the fantastic riding conditions or the perfect combination of pullers and suckers (clean up that filthy mind); whatever it was, everybody was game. So up the mountain for the second time went the Grimpeurs.

The Cat stayed within himself and kept within 47 seconds of Killer Bee all the way up. Bob was about 25 seconds ahead and slider took the summit with ease; although just where the summit was, that was a matter of dispute. Slider said he thought the Jumonville retreat, with its water fountains and such, seemed like a logical spot to regroup, but he just wanted to keep on going. Isn’t that just like him— that 5 % body fat energizer bunny. We checked under his jersey for batteries.

“Wow that rain is refreshing,” turned to, “Damn that’s cold,” just as quickly as the summer storm had jumped out of the blue. Where were the locals handing out back issues of Le Monde and Le Equipe for the Grimpeurs to stuff into their jerseys? Luckily, the good old Summit Inn and her majestic shelter came to the rescue.

As the storm thundered about, the Grimpeurs shared a delicious “Chianti platter” of cheeses and breads and imbibed the various beverages of choice. The storm, all fluster and little fury, blew itself out in short order. Satiated, The Cat and company were ready to hit the road as soon as the Sun came out. Unfortunately, the words “resort” instead of hotel, “Chianti Platter” instead of cheese plate and “service on the veranda” did not come together in the slowly warming minds of the Grimpeurs until the check came.

“Ahem, Miss, yes, it seems that we are a little light with regard to the bill. We’d gladly pay you Wednesday (or later today) for a hamburger (or inflated cheese plate) today.” What’d she expect from such a scraggly bunch clad in wet spandex and shoes without heels? Hell, if we had means we would have arrived in big American automobile, right? I mean, why ride a bicycle if you’ve got a perfectly good car? The Grimpeurs reputation must have preceded them though, for the young lass had no qualms about letting them ride off on their word. Either that or she was smitten with Sliders worldly looks and manner (See the above picture, he's the dashing chap in orange.). Leave a partial payment? “No, no,” she said, "that would just make it confusing” (just like the sentence structure, not to mention punctuation, of this paragraph). The Grimpeurs bid the trusting young girl adieu and slipped out onto the steaming pavement. They swore they could see a tear cross her cheek as she waved from the whitewashed rail.

For the amusement of his fellow Grimpeurs, Killer Bee, who was riding strong all day, repeatedly pulled away and blew up like an old Chevy Impala on the final leg. Up fire tower hill, the last climb, The Cat put his considerable ass into it. This time he didn’t quit. Bee cried out from below as he blew thermonuclear. Slider and Bob didn’t pass— let’s leave it at that. Short hill sprints: that is really the only trick The Fat Cat has got in his bag.

Well, there is one more trick, the gravity sprint. The Cat regained his descending crown as he ripped off a ferocious descent down the mountain. He did this mainly to avoid following Slider into any more off road mayhem.

It was another GREAT ride, the kind that leaves you smiling all day and pedaling it all over again in your dreams. The Cat even brought his bike into the office afterward so he could gaze lovingly on her the rest of the afternoon. Bob, you shall be known as “Pockets,” as in light pockets, for not being fully prepared for the finery to which the Grimpeurs are accustomed in their feed zones.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Her Cup Runneth Over

The Fat Cat forsook Mud Pike and her high risin’ pals Tuesday and did some work closer to home. But enough of that: a recounting of such small matters will not do today. There were big doin’s this weekend to talk about.

An overall Grimpeur champion was crowned at a huge Saturday night gala this week. Oooooh, the breathless anticipation, the tingling of spines and the erect hairs on the napes of necks. The electricity in the air of the great hall was palpable. All the dignitaries; Legs, Birdman, MonkeyButt, Analgesus, etc., were there in black tie and tails.

After painstaking calculations over the arcane and ancient Grimpeur king of the mountain point system, it was determined that this year’s winner, in the female division, was—La Femme Grimpeur! Thunderous applause nearly drowned out the torrent of joyful sobs accompanying such a prestigious major award. The orchestra sang out “Chariots of Fire.” Corks popped and glasses clanked neath a shower of confetti blanketing head and shoulders in red and white polka dots. Wow! You just had to be there.

Well, actually…the “great hall” was a table at Black Bear restaurant. The corks were really bottle caps and the confetti was only left over helmet head dandruff. Black ties and tails were really black t-shirts and tie-dye. No one sobbed and the gathering was really a send off for La Femme Grimpeur, who has completed her thesis work and is leaving for Utah. The Fat Cat just glommed on with the whole award thing. But, other than that, it was all exactly as written.

Oh— the orchestra was really one guy with a guitar. He played Beatles and ELP tunes at barely audible levels. The old codger was oblivious to Her Eminence and her courtesans, as well as just about everyone else in the place. He didn’t know “Chariots of Fire.” But everything else I told you was spot on.

Well… I guess the calculations weren’t all that complex. The winner was pretty clear. In truth, La Femme Grimpeur was the only female to have taken up the sword to do battle with the beast. ( Doesn’t that make the accomplishment all the more grand? Of a whole gender, only she was up to the challenge. You wouldn’t accuse me of melodrama and hyperbole if I said that, would you?

But! There really was a trophy. It really did say, “2008 Grimpeur Champion: Female Division.”( It would have said more but engraving was 3 bucks a word.) And, La Femme Grimpeur was happy to receive her trophy. Of these things, I can assure you. If you have read any of my past ride reports, you can surely see that I am not prone to exaggeration or fabrication, can’t you?

Good luck, La Femme Grimpeur, with your new orthomolecularphytowhoziwhatzit degree. Enjoy Utah. I hear they have some pretty good hills out there. You are expected to uphold the Grimpeur faith and promote the order— a missionary in a land of missionaries. Be warned, the Fat Cat has people out there. A group of Grimps might just drop in someday and expect you to lead a ride.
(Open comments are back. It would be better if you used the "name" selection rather than anonymous. Only foul types use anonymous.)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Not really the heat....

.....but the humidity. That's what we thought during today's edition of the Grimpeur. Hello. Its me, Evan, aka the reluctantly named "monkeybutt" taking the helm for the Cat today.

Two riders took to the hills today under what looked to be grey threatening skies. A brief warm up in the lot and we were off. The steep, little climb to the hairpin turn where the Cat bit it a few weeks ago was going rather slowly and as we climbed the Cat (known from here out as Weimer) made it known he forgot something. Now I know Weimer and it wouldn't be a ride w/ out him forgetting something, this time it was water. A brief stop at the natural hairpin springs pvc pipe spewing cloudy mountain water was in order as he filled his filthy bottle with equally cloudy (probably filthy) water (it had just rained). Now its rule number one, well maybe not one, but its in there somewhere that you DON'T STOP on the climb. I mean, that's the whole idea of the Grimp, to torture ones self to the point of failure, but today's water stop was as welcome a republican in the White House! We needed it. After his bottle was filled we mounted and climbed again, this time, feeling new. Litter abounded, Woodsy Owl would of shared a tear w/ the Indian Guy who cried beside the interstate in those 1970s era public service ads on TV. About a quarter mile from the stop we noticed a new sign posted high in a tree where we once again stopped to take more pictures.

Was the sign referring to us? Lowlifes ride bikes up steep hills during the work-week? Naw, it was the litterbugs for sure.

At this stop we noticed that sweat was literally falling off of us as we stood basically still in the sylvan tunnel of foliage that we were climbing under. It felt way more hot then the 81 degrees measured up on the Subarus trucklettes dashboard. We finished the climb to the top O' the pike in relatively gentlemanly style, not competing and pushing each other this time, commenting and contemplating the random garbage strewn all over the road on the upside of the climb.

A quick decision was made to turn left and go across Skyline drive where the sky suddenly turned blue and the humidity vanished and it felt as if we were riding in the air conditioned convenience of a climate controlled environment. Another quick stop at the famed Summit Inn to gather literature where a guest approached us and told us that we impressed her with our most recent climb. A quick "it was easy mam", an outright lie and we were off again, over towards Jumonville. On the road, down a short downhill both Weimer and I noticed some signs about the same time....realizing that we were now in tourist mode, we made a U turn to go back to look at the ancient cast iron signs. They proclaimed the young general George Washington and General Braddock made use of the area directly below the signs in the summer of 1755, it was a natural spring. Seeing this, Weimer was off down the foot path to the spring and derelict spring house to sample yet more ground water. I was more then a little reluctant to drink the clear water from the springs stone bowl, but Weimer said that if it was good enough for the first president of the United States, it was good enough for him! And drank away he did.

We hopped back on the bikes and headed down towards Hopwood. I sprinted past Weimer at the top of the hill but he quickly passed me as the downhill became steeper due to his ceramic bearings. As he pulled away from me I dared a look at the little gps speed thing and I was doing 49.1 mph, Weimer must of been at 52 mph as the gravel truck passed us on its lumbering climb up the hill. The force of its wind and gravel dust combined with our terminal downhill speed hit us like an atomic shock wave and nearly knocked us off the road, its what downhilling is all about. The Hopwood/Fairchance road was uneventful and the humidity picked up where it left off earlier as we finished our ride.

Bottles and Drafts followed along w/ lively discussions of General Hospital thru the years at Bull Feathers bar and grill post ride.
For you vicarious types, check the ride out here!