Monday, June 3, 2024

Pennsylvania Wilds Almost Got a Bit Too Wild

I laid down in the thorn bushes, needing a second to stop and think. The stars were out, I was halfway up a mountainside, and as the hill got steeper and the thorns got thicker, pushing my bike became more of a challenge. I had no cell service, but a faint line on my Garmin gave me hope there was a trail in the distance above me. How did I find myself in that situation? A combination of stubbornness and optimism, I'd say. Let's start from the beginning.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

PMBAR '24 The Actual Enchilada

I could already hear sprinkles on my tent as I dazed in and out of sleep. 

"So it's going to be one of those kind of days", I thought to myself.

By the time I fully woke up, though, the rain had stopped. I crawled out of my tent and reached my phone to the sky in search of enough cell service to check the weather. Miraculously, my weather app loaded: rain starting at 9:30 AM. 

"Well, at least we'll have a dry start", I thought.

One-by-one we emerged from our tents and ate breakfast and made last-minute preparations for the race. I had my usual pre-race breakfast of peanut butter on bagels (yes, plural, two full bagels) and some Diet Coke. Mmmmm, I love me some Diet Coke.

With the forecast originally calling for rain in the morning, I had planned to wear my rain jacket, but with dry weather (for now), I had to stuff it into my USWE pack, where it just barely fit.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

PMBAR '24 Preface, Prologue, and Foreword

One by one, the rest of the Yinzers arrived. Well, actually, it wasn't that dramatic. Rob got there, and then a bit later, Montana and Colleen pulled up in their yellow Scrumbler (a Jeep). It was just those three, but I've always wanted to use that "one by one" bit.

The first order of business was getting tents set up, and then we sat around for a while delaying the inevitable 1,000 foot climb up to Black Mountain on our afternoon ride.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Pre-PMBAR in North Carolina

I love mountains. It's probably one of the most cliche things you can say, and I think every-other Subaru you see at a Starbucks has a bumper-sticker saying something similar. But still, I do. The Appalachian Mountains - which I'm fortunate to live relatively close to right now - are super rad. You've got the ridge-and-valley region in Pennsylvania characterized by huge synclines and anticlines, you've got the Blue Ridge region further to the south, and well, you get the point: there's a lot of variety. I'm no geologist, and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I really enjoy studying geology in my free time. It makes me a lot more appreciate of all the mountains I ride my bike in.

North Carolina has the tallest mountains on the east coast, and unlike central Pennsylvania, the mountains near Asheville have defined peaks - more similar to out west - as opposed to the ridges and valleys near State College. 

I drove to Asheville Monday morning - leaving home at 5am - and I did my first ride in Pisgah Bent Creek in the afternoon. Compared to the Pisgah trails near Brevard, Bent Creek is super easy. It isn't very technical and the climbs are pretty mellow; I cleaned everything on my 32x19 gearing. Of course, it's still super fun and my driving-weary legs liked it a lot. I don't have a total mental picture of the Asheville-area yet, but if Asheville is in a big valley of sorts, then Bent Creek is sort of like the foothills before getting to the real tall mountains.

Monday, March 25, 2024

A Late Winter Weekend in Rothrock

It had been a few months since I'd ridden in Rothrock, so when a nice weekend of weather appeared on the horizon, I texted Thad and asked if he wanted to drive up and do a couple rides with me. Of course he was in, so I reserved a roadside campsite in the forest and we met up Saturday morning for the first day of riding. Actually, we randomly met up at a Sheetz on the drive up, and then I followed the Blue Rocket (Thad's blue Honda Civic) up I-99 toward  State College.

Highline Vista looking out over State College.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

2023 in 50 Photos

Rather than a long write-up, I'm just going to do a look back at 2023 in photos, with only some short captions. For one, I think I've already written enough about most things this year, so why write about everything a second time? Plus, pictures give a certain spontaneity to the construction of the post, meaning I don't have to write a memoir to get through a year's worth of events.

I'm already starting to go on rambling longer than I intended, so this is it. Just pictures and short captions. Fifty of them. Well, one or two might've got lost while I was editing.

One of my favorite trails I've ever ridden: the Monarch Crest Trail near Salida, Colorado. This was from June 2023. It also makes a good blergh cover photo.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Southern Carve

"Some big gators on that trail, watch out."

"We'll keep an eye out!"

From what we'd read, alligators are pretty sluggish in the wintertime. Of course, high 50s may not feel like winter for a Yinzer like me, but for gators along the South Carolina coast just north of Savannah, that's winter.

As the man promised, we saw several alligators along the trail, although none that I'd consider exceptionally big. This was the very first ride of our trip, a little hour cruise after driving all day, and seeing so many alligators on the ride seemed like it would set the tone for the rest of the trip. 

But, as it turned out, those were the only alligators we saw the whole time. Instead, we saw manatees, a wild hog, and a hippopotamus. Yeth. A hippo. More on that later.

Monday, December 18, 2023

A Million Feet

I suppose I've always liked numbers. How many fly balls can I catch in my front yard? I kept count well into the thousands. I even kept a log of all the field goals I kicked, through an almost-full-sized goal post I built with my uncle out of PVC pipe when I was six or seven years old. What I'm trying to say is, I like numbers, and nice round ones at that.

The idea of riding a million feet in a year honestly wasn't something I really thought about at first. In fact, the first time I did ride a million feet in a year - back in 2020 - I didn't really think much of it beyond the fact that it was a neat milestone. But of course, those were my roadie days, when "Els" came quickly thanks to skinny tires, gears, and smooth pavement. Now that I primarily ride a singlespeed mountain bike (well, less so now with muddy trails, but still...) and do more racing, the million feet isn't quite as easy for me. This year, it took me until early December, the 6th, to be exact, to get the 1,000,000 feet. My brother got it a few weeks before me.

The Brevard, NC wolf approves of the million feet.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Big Wheel Keep On Turnin'

I'll be honest, November and early December are usually some of the hardest months of riding for me. By the time the eleventh month comes around, I've been doing races, big rides, and traveling for the better part of the year. I guess what I'm trying to say is, once Thanksgiving is around the corner, I'm tired. Physically, somewhat. But mainly, I just need a way to reset and start focusing on the next year. Out with the old, in with the new. Maybe that's too crude, because it's not that dramatic, but I nonetheless like to shift my focus on to the next year.

That being said, it's not that it's is bad. There are days when going out to ride for two hours to get 3,000 feet of climbing isn't very exciting. But still, I keep doing it. Surely that says something. All it takes is a little reminiscing of riding the Great Divide, of getting the belt buckle at Marji Gesick, or of endless singletrack miles with Dahn Pahrs in Park City to fully convince myself that every ride is worth it.

All that is to say that there's still nothing I'd rather do than ride my bike and grind out miles in the cold and rain. When I'm finishing up an all-day ride in some new-to-me place, I look back fondly to the rides I did to get there. 

I guess what I'm trying to say, it's a bit like a rainy day in paradise. It's not your favorite, but it's still paradise. I won't lie, I may or may not have stolen that from Magnum P.I. (my favorite show), but still, it's extremely applicable here.

Alright, now back to regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Rothrock for the Weekend

I graduated from Penn State back in May, and one of the biggest changes is not having Rothrock in my backyard anymore. I took for granted having Tussey Ridge as part of an easy hour loop, or sharpening rock skills on John Wert multiple times per week. All that is to say, I'm going to take every chance I get to head up to State College and ride those northern Appalachian trails. 

Last weekend, Stick and I were planning to bring our tents and camp somewhere in Rothrock. I had some ideas of where to camp, but nothing that seemed to be perfect. I texted Brad to ask if he knew of any popular campsites near Galbraith Gap (a spot in Rothrock) that I might be forgetting, and quickly he texted me back that Erik offered to let us stay at his cabin. If that's not perfect, I don't know what is.

The cabins in Rothrock are pretty neat. It's all state forest land, but the state offers land-leases where people can buy cabins on the leased land. Most of the cabins don't have septic systems, and instead have good 'ol fashioned outhouses. Luckily, Erik's cabin, which he co-owns with Bob, has a septic system, electricity, and even running water. Even so, it's still very rustic. The floors are raw, rough-cut lumber, and you can see the downstairs through gaps in the floorboards from upstairs. There's a wood furnace in the living room, firewood piled on the floor, and there isn't a TV within several miles of the place. In other words, it's exactly what I like. I've always thought it's strange to build a cabin and then turn it into some five-star penthouse. You're in the woods. 

I'm a pretty eccentric person, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't start making plans to build my own cabin in the future. I really can't stress enough how much I enjoyed staying at Erik and Bob's cabin for the weekend. But I digress, back to last weekend.


Friday, November 3, 2023

Q&A with Kenny Kocarek

I present to you the newest part of my blog: a written question-and-answer discussion with inspirational people that I know in the cycling world. I've always wanted to do something like this, and after seeing Kenny Kocarek take on the DWR 500 route, I decided it was the perfect time to start.

So, with that being said, here's Hamburger Talk #1 with Kenny.

Before we start, I'll give a brief overview of what it's about. Kenny rode 314 miles through the state of Ohio in a single ride, from the southern border to the northern border on Lake Erie. Pretty dang impressive. Oh, and he did it on a singlespeed, too. I've known Kenny for a couple years now, having met him at Transylvania Epic back in 2021, and he's always doing cool things on his bike. Plus, he's an all-star trail builder and volunteer at Camp Tuscazoar in Ohio. If you want to check out his ride on Strava, or find him on Instagram, follow the links below.

Kenny's DWR 500 ride on Strava -

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The Pisgah 111

When it comes to east coast riding, there are few spots that rival the ruggedness of Pisgah. In Pisgah, you never know when a tame-looking trail will suddenly point down at a 30% grade with washed out ruts, and to me, that's what makes it special. My brother had never been to Pisgah before this trip, and when he was asking what Pisgah was like, that's how I described it: it goes from 0-60 in the blink of an eye. Just ride down Turkey Pen Trail, or hike your bike up Middle Black Trail, and you'll know what I mean.

Alright, so now to the actual race. The Pisgah 111 is Pisgah's endurance MTB race, and it get's its name form being roughly 111 kilometers, or 68.9722 miles for those who don't habla. Actual distance may vary.

In terms of average speed, it's the slowest race I've done this year, except for maybe Stage 5 Wheeler Pass of Breck Epic. Even Marji Gesick, which with a wheel sensor is 115 miles, took me 11.5 hours, meaning an average speed of exactly 10 mph. The Pisgah 111 took me 7 hours and 23 minutes, and being only about 67 miles (with a wheel sensor), that's an average speed of just north of 9 mph. Like I said, Pisgah is very tough.

Left to right: Chad, Chris, Hamburger, Ryan

Monday, September 25, 2023

Let's talk about buttered sausage

What do you do the week after Marji Gesick? Besides talking about buttered sausage, where it comes from, what it does, and why it's doing what it's doing, of course. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it means you're behind on what the "kids" are talking about nowadays, and you probably need to look up "Gary Busey buttered sausage".

But first, please, if you do nothing else today, scroll down and take a look at the elegant gallery of Simon. After reading the rest of the blergh, of course.

Ok, on we go. I had a lot of bike work to do after Marji Gesick, some of which was getting to use a q-tip for yet another unintended purpose. I mean, seriously, has anyone ever actually used a q-tip for what they're supposed to be used for?

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Marji Gesick 2023: The Buckle Edition

I went into the Marji Gesick 100 this year with one goal: get the belt buckle. In order to get the belt buckle, I'd have to finish the race in under 12 hours; a difficult feat on the challenging course. Usually, only 10 or 12 people out of more than 500 racers get the buckle. It's a long race. Lots of people take over 20 hours to finish, and lots of people don't finish at all.

The last singlespeeder to get the buckle was Justin Holle, back in 2021. I was just coming off of a 2nd place finish to Justin at Breck Epic, so I was interested to see how I would compare to his time at Marji Gesick. All of this is just to highlight the fact that it was far from a sure thing to get the buckle. I thought I had the fitness, but at the same time, I really didn't have anything to base that off of. Last year, I missed the buckle by 40 minutes, albeit on a slippery wet course. 

Going into Marji this year, my motto was "buckle or bust". I knew the time splits I had to make, so I was going to push as hard as I needed to make those splits, and if I blew up, I'd just crawl to the finish line with disappointment.

The buckle class of 2023

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The Onion 2023

Kennerdell is a little river town up in the great northwest of Pennsylvania, and if you've ever been there, you can't help but feel there's something special about it. Even before I started mountain biking, my family used to do camping trips on the Allegheny River, and Kennerdell was typically the town where we'd put the kayaks on the water. So you see, Kennerdell, despite being an oft-forgotten nook along the winding river, has a bit of nostalgia for me. When you add in fantastic backcountry trails and awesome friends, it's easy to see why the Onion is one of my favorite weekends.

Admittedly, I've only been to a few Onions, but despite some, uh, difficulty on a past Onion for me, it's something that will always be on my calendar. The name "Onion" comes from the idea that people can "peel" (bail and head back to camp) off from the route at any point. Those who do the whole ride are the "core" of the Onion.

The new Onion poster (left) and the Dahn Pahrs send-off poster (right)