Monday, May 22, 2023

Mohican 100 plus more Ohio domination

My alarm went off at 4:55 AM, and I immediately heard the sound of rain on my tent. I was expecting that, so at least it wasn't a surprise. I ate breakfast still in my sleeping bag and I contemplated life's many mysteries, like why I was going to crawl out of my dry tent into the rain before sunrise to get ready to race my bike all day.

After getting dressed in the campsite bathroom, I rode down to the finish line area in the campground, where I met up with Thad, Simon, Anthony, Joe, and Joe Sr. I forgot my ankle timing monitor (how the race records your finish time), so I had to race back up to my campsite to grab it from my car. After I got it, I met back up with everyone at the finish line, and then we rode the two miles into downtown Loudonville for the start of the race. Of course, it was pouring down rain all the while.

The Mohican 100 mile singlespeed podium

Monday, May 15, 2023

Gradumication (noun)

I graduated from Penn State last week. Well actually, the official "graduation" was last Saturday while I was racing PMBAR in North Carolina, but I guess they'll mail me my diploma? Bless and thank.

Edited to add: damnit, sorry, this post got pretty long and out of hand.

Either way, four years of Penn State is over. My official degree is a B.S. in General Science with a minor in Mathematics. But please don't ask me to do maths. I forgot already.

It's not really as dramatic as some college graduations, however, because I'm not really done yet with college. I want to be a high school math teacher, which means I need to go back and get a teaching certification before I can officially become an adult and get a jerhb. Just kidding, I will never be an adult. But I will get a jerhb as a math teacher.

For now though, I need to figure out where to get my teaching certification. Most likely, it's going to be somewhere close to home. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which being that living at home will save over $10,000 in housing. Plus, after the difficult winter (for mountain bikers, that is) they had out west, it seems less and less appealing for me to go somewhere for school where I can only ride my bike on dirt for two weeks out of the year.

But enough about looking ahead. Let's look back, because hey, tomorrow is tomorrow and yesterday is today. Mebbe? I don't know, but either way, it seems like an appropriate time to look back at my time at Penn State. Surprise, it's mostly about bikes.

When I chose to go to Penn State, I really had no idea that Rothrock was such a good trail system. And plus, the first two years of college I lived at home and went to Penn State Beaver, a branch campus only 25 minutes from my house. When I applied to Penn State in high school, I didn't even apply to main campus. In fact, the only place I applied to at all was Penn State Beaver. I got accepted like a week or two after I applied, and that was that.

One of the first rides I did with Will, photo courtesy of Simon

Thursday, May 11, 2023

PMBAR '23: Part 2, the first place loser

I stared blankly down at the map as Cinderbloch raced to locate the checkpoints. I nodded my head and occasionally let out an "uh huh", but to be honest, I was just the pretty face in this operation. In the words of Schultz from Hogan's Heroes: I know nothing.

At Buckhorn Gap (I think)

But seriously. I did know nothing. After a few minutes of map reading, Cinderbloch seemed confident (enough) on where to go, so we headed off down Buckhorn Gap Trail. If you didn't read the first post, or forgot what PMBAR is, it's an adventure MTB race that requires you to navigate on your own to five checkpoints in Pisgah National Forest. Oh, and you don't know the checkpoints until the start of the race, and you can ride any route you want. But anyways.

Monday, May 8, 2023

PMBAR '23: Part One

"You've never been there?", in an incredulous voice, is the usual response I get from people when the topic of Pisgah comes up. It's true. I've been fortunate enough to have ridden in well over 20 states, bikepacked the Great Divide, but still, I've never been to Pisgah. So, when Cinderbloch texted me back in February about being his partner for the PMBAR race, it was the perfect opportunity. In case you're wondering, Pisgah is a National Forest in western North Carolina, and it's the home of a huge network of trails.

I finished my last final exam at Penn State on Wednesday, and it went well, which means I unofficially graduated from Penn State. I guess they'll mail me my diploma? I dunno. I now have a B.S. (which mebbe stands for bullshit) degree in general science, and a minor in mathematics. I still have to get a teaching certification if I want to teach high school math, so that'll be one more year of school, but at least I'm one big-ish step closer.

But anyways, I drove home from Penn State Wednesday evening, hurriedly packed up everything I needed for a weekend of camping and bicycle racing, and went to bed as early as I could. Cinderbloch and I left around 7:30am on Thursday, bound for Pisgah, and got there just before dinner time. It's actually a pretty cool drive; the mountains on I-26 between Johnson City, TN and Asheville, NC are really something,

Once there, we set up camp (which for me consisted of my teeny tiny bikepacking tent), and then pedaled into town for dinner. We went to a BBQ place called "Hawg Wild", and before long, I got a text from Dahn Pahrs with a picture of him in the same restaurant when he did PMBAR a few years ago. He was bragging to us about how much food he ate. I guess you need a lot of food when you're Dahn Pahrs.

Hawg Wild with Cinderbloch; the picture Dahn sent me to brag about how much food he ate

Monday, May 1, 2023

Crushed by the Commonwealth 2023, i.e. a DNF

I rolled over on the cot in Cinderblochner's spare room and looked at my phone. It was 3:30 A.M., and time to wake up. I went downstairs and drank my morning Mountain Dew and ate my morning Nutella-covered bagels. Combined with a bunch of pizza and late-night chocolate the night before, I was feeling quite stuffed. But in a good way. Well, I guess not in a good way, but in a good-for-a-long-ride kind of way.

The squad

Monday, March 13, 2023

A Very Yinzer Spring Break

I was sitting on my apartment couch writing a blog post, watching some TV, and listening to the maintenance worker in my bathroom installing some new drywall.

He was using a drill, and then all of a sudden, I heard gushing water and a loud "Oh f*ck!" coming from my bathroom.

Apparently he accidentally drilled into a water pipe in my ceiling and it burst. To make matters worse, it took him and other maintenance guys almost an hour (seriously, almost an hour) to find the water shut-off for the house. By the time they got the water shut off, there was water spewing out of a light fixture in my hallway and dripping into my bedroom through the ceiling.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Opinion: No Backhoes in the Backcountry

Loose rocks clatter against my steel frame and mountain laurels scrape my arms as I weave my bike down a steep rocky chute on Wildcat Gap Trail. It's a mountain biking trail in Rothrock State Forest in central Pennsylvania, although you might not guess that from the looks of it. There are no berms. There are no jumps. In fact, there are barely any turns. For the most part, it's extremely steep and points straight down the mountain - a trail style known as a fall line trail.

Many trails in Rothrock State Forest share a similar background. They began as a logging access road; a way for loggers to access the forest and remove the harvested timber. Many of these access roads were carved as early as the late 1800s, and after falling into dis-use, they began to be converted to trails for recreational use. Over time, the wide logging paths devolve back into singletrack. 

Monday, February 13, 2023

Flat bars are the new drop bars

I knew exactly what I was doing taking apart my Raceface crankset on my singlespeed gravel bike, but in another very real sense, I had no idea what I was doing. I broke it, and I'm waiting on a new bolt. I swear I'm usually a good mechanic, so I don't know what happened there.

That meant instead of using my Salsa Stormchaser gravel bike with 38x19 gearing, I blasted pavement and gravel all weekend with my 31-pound Karate Monkey mountain bike with 32x16 gearing, and a 140mm fork. Stick calls it "enduro gravel". At least the gear ratio is the same, because maths. You'll see later on there was one road where I was glad I had a mountain bike, and I felt bad for my drop bar frands.

Everything above probably isn't very interesting, but if you keep reading, you can at least see some neat ride pictures and maybe another couple funny bits.

Picture by professional photographer Rob Cinderblochner

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Being on the Dark Side

"Come on over to the dark side!" this strange, unknown, tattooed man said to me, wearing a sleeveless shirt and jorts. There was probably an adult beverage in his hands.

It was the after-party at Keystone Gravel in 2019, a grassroots event in central Pennsylvania. I had planned to spend the day riding with my road cycling teammates, but I somehow got caught up in the riff-raff of the singlespeeders and spent a couple hours riding with them. 

I, of course, was on gears, and the thought of owning a singlespeed had never crossed by mind. I remember battling up a long gravel climb that day with Simon, who I didn't know at the time. About halfway up the climb, I heard some grunting, and Dahn Pahrs, who I also didn't know yet, passed both me and Simon. At the top, Dahn was waiting and taking a shot of fireball.

Ironic that a post about Pittsburgh has a photo from Colorado. But, this is the most inclusive photo I could find, and even this only has a fraction of the people I call friends.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Texas actually has some really neat places

I guess it's sort of becoming a tradition of mine to spend the New Years holiday in the desert. Last year, it was Arizbrona bikepacking with Will, and this year, I drove down to Big Bend Texas with my brother to explore some new terrain. 

I'll start off by saying that the Big Bend area of southwest Texas is awesome. When I was in Texas back in May, it wasn't exactly my favorite state. Eastern Texas is pretty flat and there really isn't much public land. Plus, driving around Dallas to pick Will up from the airport sort of left a sour taste in my mouth because of all the sprawling suburbs and traffic.

Looking through an old truck in the desert

Friday, January 6, 2023

Looking Back and Looking Forward

In the words of a trucker I heard at a rural Arkansas restaurant back in May, "I woke up to a day I've never seen before, and I'm feeling peachy".

Every year, and every day, brings something new. I can safely say that 2022 was probably the most fun I've ever had in a year, and yet, I don't want to replicate it in 2023. Who knows, maybe I will end up doing similar things. Or maybe not. But I think you limit yourself if you try to place yourself into a framework of what you expect to do for an entire year. 

Like I said earlier, 2022 was probably the most I've ever packed into one year. I was fortunate enough to travel out west six different times, probably totaling up to over two months spent west of the Mississippi. That was pretty rad, if I don't say so myself.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Friends and bikes and snow

Last week was finals week at Penn State. The impending snowstorm caused my last final to be moved online, so I drove home to Pittsburgh a day early to beat the storm. With finals out of the way, it was on to bigger and better things. Namely: a weekend full of riding bikes with friends.

For Saturday, I talked to my friend Simon and we got a group together for a big suffer fest on gravel roads out near his house. The route was about 66 miles with nearly 9,000 feet of climbing, including plenty of gravel, mud, closed roads, powerline cuts, and steep climbs. Exactly my kind of stuff. Plus, a few of us were extra stupid and we took our singlespeeds on the ride. My bike was my Salsa Stormchaser with 38x19 gearing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Great Divide Chapter 8: The End

Sometimes it takes being at the end of something to truly appreciate it. When you're in the moment, it's pretty hard to see the forest for the trees. I think the first time we actually looked back at the trip was in the community center in Hachita, because even though we were still 45 miles from the finish, we knew we had made it. I always sort of hesitated to imagine being done, because I thought if I did, a bike would break or something would happen that would prevent us from finishing. But like I said, in Hachita, I let myself think about the finish. I couldn't possibly be more grateful to have Will as a friend to do this with. I'll save the rest of my ramblings for another post, but even just writing about this really makes me appreciate how fortunate I am. Bikes are fun, y'all.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Great Divide Chapter 7: Cuba to Silver City New Mexico

The Great Divide threw us a few curveballs in this stretch. For one, I got giardia. We also hit tremendously terrible mud just south of Cuba, New Mexico. But, looking back at it, those are the things that add color to the trip. Nothing that takes over six weeks - like our trip did - is going to be all sunshine and rainbows. And I wouldn't want it to be. Anyways, here's a recap of how our trip went. There's gonna be one last chapter and then I'll make a more general, broader overview post. I'll include one of my favorite pictures of the stretch here before I dive into the daily recaps, partly because it's a cool picture and partly because it'll be a good thumbnail picture for Blogger.

The flash flood creek that we couldn't cross

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Should I Stay Or Should I Go

I don't regret many things; in fact, I think it's pretty dumb to have regrets. After all, you can't do anything about it, so thinking about it just seems pointless. But still, here I am finishing my undergraduate in science and knowing full-well I still need to get either a teaching certificate or a masters in teaching to actually start my career as a high school teacher.

I remember sitting in my freshman year engineering seminar and hating every second of it.

"It will get better, it's just one bad professor".

"Engineers can do lots of different jobs".

Those are the things I was told (and believed), and it's why I stayed an engineering major until it was too late to reasonably switch to education. 

All that said, I'm pretty happy with the way things have turned out. I wouldn't trade the Great Divide trip I did with Will this past summer for anything. The circuitous path I'm taking to a high school teaching job has taught me exactly what I do and do not want. So no, I don't regret starting out in engineering, because if changing that means changing anything else I've done, I wouldn't do it.

The Colorado Rocky Mountains from Quandary Peak this past July