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.
One of the better rides I've done in the last few weeks was a 100-mile gravel ride from Moraine State Park with a bunch of friends. The full crew consisted of me, my brother, Simon, Stick, and Thad... going out on a new route I had just designed.
The roads up north of Moraine are fantastic: low traffic, great country views, and a rolling terrain that makes for an odd combination of mellow and difficult. What I mean is, there's still 100 feet per mile, but it doesn't seem like it. It's pretty great for a nice group ride.
Of course, no western Pennsylvania ride would be complete without a Sheetz stop. We stopped in Harrisville, a town I've never been to, and re-fueled at the Sheetz. I devoured an entire personal pizza along with a soda.
This picture certainly isn't very good, but it's the only pic I got from a 4-hour North Park MTB ride with Zach, Thad, and Litz. Despite a 100-miler the day before, I actually felt really good on the trails and we had a great time.
For those who've known me for a long time (that is, well before I started biking) know that I'm somewhat of an eccentric person. I like to collect odd things and I tend to do things that might be seen as strange. Like buying an antique farm tractor. Or building not one, but two, trebuchets.
And so, when I saw this antique Underwood Number 5 typewriter for sale on Facebook, I quickly replied to the listing and went to Elwood City to pick it up. For $40, I consider it a steal. Based on the serial number, it was made in 1914, which I think is pretty cool. Like I said, it's a strange thing to buy. But I guess I'm strange.
The following weekend, I went out for a gravel ride with some friends into West Virginia. It was great to catch up with some people I haven't seen in a while, and getting to ride some new roads is always a treat. Plus, seeing this old abandoned store or adult entertainment building or whatever it is (above to the right) was quite interesting.
Even though I'm a singlespeeder, I must admit, I rarely drink. Maybe once every month or two, at most, much to Dahn Pahrs' disdain. So, when I went to a Mexican restaurant up in Bradford, PA with Will a couple weeks ago, I had to memorialize the occasion with a photo. Let the record show I finished three of those grande margs. Dahn was proud of me.
After getting back to Pittsburgh, I went out for a local gravel ride with Simon and Davey. If you know those two, you know the ride was basically a non-stop comedy act. Just remember to always look Simon in the eyes when you eat a banana.
Alright, I'm almost back up to present-day now. Last week, Dave J. texted me that he was taking off work on Friday, and he asked if I wanted to join him for a gravel ride. Seeing as I only have one class on Friday, and seeing as how we weren't doing anything in that class, I decided that missing one day of class was worth spending a gorgeous December day outside on my bike.
The route, courtesy of Dave, did not disappoint. We got over 6.900 feet (nice) of climbing and splashed in more than a couple puddles.
The day after riding with Dave, I drove out to Belmont for a massive gravel ride courtesy of Thad. My brother, Rob, and Stick all came along for what turned out to be a fantastic day of suffering with friends.
Thad's route was legit. Over 13,000 feet of climbing in 103 miles and more steep climbs than you can shake a stick at. Speaking of Stick, he gets the medal for overcoming the most adversity during the ride. When we stopped at a Dollar General for resupply, I went to spin his cranks backwards just for the heck of it, and found that they would barely turn. Apparently, his hub was messed up and the cassette locking was rubbing against the sliding dropout of the frame. In addition to making an awful noise, it also made it so just turning the cranks was quite difficult. I'm not exaggerating when I say it easily cost him 20 to 30 watts. Despite all that, he cleaned every climb and finished the route just as strong as he started.
Thad's route, in combination with my ride the day before, gave me 20,000 feet of climbing in two days. My legs were like the meme I always see, from The Green Mile with Michael Clarke Duncan, "I'm tired boss".
Anyways, I guess that catches us up to the present day. I'm sitting in my last class of the fall 2023 semester at Geneva College right now, which is in fact one of my last classes ever in college (probably). I'll be student teaching in the spring, and then the real world starts after that. Exciting times.