First big race of the year.
First big race of the year.
Shooting shows has been curing my urge to make photographs while a wait for mountain adventures and the cyclocross season to start. Here is a selection from the White Reaper show here in Pittsburgh, if you would like to read my thoughts about the show you can do so at the KidsDontFollow site
There is something about visiting a place for the first time, the way it smells, the weather, the people you encounter, it leaves a lasting impression, even after countless visits it’s the memories of that first visit that stick. As rain fell hard on the roof of the youth hostel we arrived at only a few hours before, the structure shook with an echoing crack and rumble thunder. Jolted awake, almost not remembering where I was or just how I had gotten there, and who all these people were sleeping around me, clarity fizzled in just a bit as another explosion of electricity lit up the night sky and barreled a wall of sound straight down main street as if all of the boulders on the surrounding mountains had broke loose. The rustle of half dozen people who were awoke by the storm filled the open room and I remembered the man we had encountered when entering the hostel, tall with pigtails, wired rim glasses not unlike that of John Lennon, he was sleeping out in the yard in his tent, lightning continued to strike near by and I was thankful that we were inside of a hostel instead of half way up Mount Marcy.
Morning came too quickly at 5:30, our tall friend had found his way into the living room, contorting his lanky frame to fit into one of the reclining chairs. We shuffled across the road to catch the diners first round of pancakes and eggs as the cold rain chased whatever sleep was left in us away. Coffee arrived and it’s heat reminded me that we just left Rochester where it was in the high 90’s and the sunburn on my nose still stung and now here we were in the Keene Valley surrounded by the Adirondack mountains and we were likely going to find winter conditions on top of Mount Marcy. We took our time planning out the day, discussing just how close the lightning was really striking through out the night, getting our fill on diner coffee before setting out for the day.
Bags packed, water bottles topped off, we said goodbye to our new tall friend as he was headed off into the outskirts to find his missing bike pump, we drove down the road twisting through New York farm land, clouds gave way to brief glimpses of the sun and a quick spell of a rainbow over a barn, I wondered if this was right? surely it’s not this beautiful here. It was a Sunday, the rain continued to lightly fall as we put the first dozen or so steps towards the top of Mount Marcy, I regretted only bringing shorts realizing that the temperatures on top will likely be near the freezing mark. We would pass weekend campers as they packed up to head home, the steep rocky pitches, worked in patterns through the pines, along the cascading creeks, the clouds would part every so often to give us a glimpse of the surrounding mountains. I hoped for a bear, not to close but just enough to get that rush that we were actually somewhere wild. Keeping the pace steady we were soon above the tree line, and the wind took a solid bight, gloves, another jacket, cinching the hood tight around my face, by over layering on the top I thought maybe I could counter act the lack of coverage on my legs. With the trees gone, there wasn’t much hiding from the wind, every so often a boulder formation would give a bit of shelter but it never lasted long. New York’s highest peak, wind pushing so hard you could lean full into it and not fall over. We enjoyed the isolation high on top before other hikers arrived from below.
Descending back to the trail head the rain had finally pushed through, the sun gave a bit of warmth to the air and the ache from a long days hike started creeping into my legs. Surrounded by peak after peak, giant rock slides, and technical traverses, on clear days Vermont is visible from the high points, we sat on the ledge of Marcy dam looking back up to the peak where we had just found winters first efforts, smelling the pines and the air unaffected by exhaust and heavy industry I wondered why it had taken me so long to be there.
Surrounded by the ghosts of the 1980 winter olympics under the shade of Whiteface mountain we searched for dinner in the village of Lake Placid. It is almost as time has ceased to progress in the village, hockey jerseys and souvenirs still hang in almost every window, the haunting structure of a ten story high ski jump sits just on the outside of town leaving us to wonder if that was it’s original location and where the hell the landing was? With the sun fading as quickly as whatever energy we had left ,we headed back to the hostel with the hopes of a good nights rest in order to find ourselves back out hunting the second highest peak Mt. Algonquian the next morning.
Fumbling bags and extra jackets I was welcomed by a crusty old miser grumbling on and on while banging dishes around in the sink. I said hello, more grumbling. I remembered the old man as more of an apparition that morning, quiet, sipping instant coffee in the corner of the dining area near a bare light bulb, hair in a state of unrest and shaggy snow beard to match. The calmness he possessed that morning must have been misplaced somewhere in the mountains or perhaps at the bottom of two dollar well drinks at the tavern down the street, the grumbling continued, deep and raspy “corporations” “businessmen” repeating several words over and over again. In intervals a cabinet would get slammed and more guttural complaints would follow. After a brief attempt to tolerate the episode it was decided that it was best to find somewhere else to sleep that night. Perhaps the old man was harmless and just venting at what he saw were the ills of the world, disturbed enough by the current state of the global politics that he was unable to keep his accusations of it’s perpetrators to himself but we weren't willing to stick around to find out. Finding refuge in a local motel we were able to sleep soundly with out wondering if we were going to be woken by gangly figure wielding a knife over us accusing of us of treason against man and nature.
The sun greeted us early on our second day in the Adirondacks, as did the remnants of the days before hike with stiff legs and sore feet we set back out on trail for one more quick fill of mountain air before the long drive home. A traverse steeper than the day before, technical, rocky, and steep, very steep. Once the trail started going up it did not relent until the summit, where we were treated to clear skies and a full view of the mountain range. Spared the winter weather and wind from the previous day, we were able to enjoy the view and rightfully earned snacks before setting off. As the afternoon faded into evening and back mountain roads eventually gave way to the endless highway the Adirondack mountains had already left me wanting more, more of its steep pitches and unpredictable weather, more of its quiet foggy mornings where you can walk straight down the main road to the diner without seeing a car or person, more of its pine forest, hiding wild life and vagabonds camping on the sly, more haunting experiences to fill pages and scrap books so that when I reach the point of a wild old drifter sifting through the mountains I’ll remember to not spook my bunk mates.
You often hear people referring to tone, athletes and coaches in pre game interviews speaking about “setting the tone early in a game”. Musicians obsess about tone, is it too warm, to bright to saturated, which leaves many wondering are they talking about sound or imagery. Tones, vibes and all other perceptions of time and space can inevitably set the mood for the duration of the situation you find yourself in. A heavy check in the opening sequence of a hockey game can send an opposing team reeling just the same as a heavy technical riff can send a crowd of metal heads into a frenzy.
When I pulled into the driveway of the house that would be base camp for four days of cycling around western Massachusetts with the gentlemen of Arrow Racing, Dan L. (aka Action) and Mikey Green had well set the tone for the weekends exploits. Both Mike and Dan took a time out from layups and jump shots to welcome me to a weekend of two wheeled adventures, but not before a proper dinner at a local watering hole named the People’s Pint while we waited for the rest party to finish the drive from Philadelphia to Deerfield. Pints from People’s washed away the sharpness of an 8 hour drive and a Scorpion Bowl from a local Chinese restaurant furthered the soothing, the way John Coltrane soothed with his openings before crushing you under his improvised solos.
The next morning a relaxed roll out under the guidance of Dan L. who not unlike Coltrane, soothed us with a roll along the sleepy streets of Deerfield, to the ease of shade covered rollers only before a left or right lead to a steep pitch over splintered carriage roads. We turned pedals as the heat of the day turned up and bottles emptied and when a rest stop that was all the sudden was not and we stared at another steep grade, the search for open doors, friendly faces or unattended hoses began. A day at play on empty roads with nothing to do tomorrow but the same, and play we did, on secret cuts through double tracked farm roads, through state forest paths that reached ungodly pitches to smooth rolling pavement following the New England bikeway and with that the tone had been set for the head lining act of the weekend, D2R2.
Have you ever had one of those dreams where you are fighting someone or some thing, and you are throwing punches that have the same effect as a butterfly kissing your nose? Round after round no matter how hard your brain is forcing the body the results are pillows and kittens instead of Mike Tyson. As morning’s light trickled through the trees and fog and the first mile or so of the D2R2 went buy I felt as though this must be a dream but I wasn’t punching I was pedaling and the fight wasn’t with a man or monster but with the road. No matter what I told the legs they ignored me, perhaps angry from the two days of crawling over bergs or pounding down gravel lanes left them defiant. For a moment I wished I was sleeping at least that would be an explanation but the road turned upward and I sank into a dullness. In the first few rotations of cranks there were no sounds, just the sight of steaming breath, then a tune began and continued. Dan being the man of action that he is broke into a full rendition of the Doobie Brothers “Taking It to the Streets” only to be joined by Mr. Green and take it we did. Dan’s blazing descents down blown out gravel slopes was like Randy Rhodes riffing on “Crazy Train” we had long since came off the rails and now it was now time to dive head first into the abyss of what D2 had to offer. The elevation gained in the distance traveled seemed preposterous, how could we go up so much with no significant mountains insight? Up we went, and then down and then up and then up some more until there was no way we could possibly go up again and then we did.
There’s a strange thing that happens at the end of 10 hours of pushing your body around on a bicycle, a relief but yet a full understanding that with snacks and water this could keep going on for a while and you wonder how much longer, how much of this can my body take, 15 hours 20 hours and then the site of tacos and beers reminds you that what ever you rode that day was plenty, and a swim in the crisp cool Green River further drives that point home. Coltrane may foray into a chaotic atmosphere of noise and audible boundaries and our riding may have done the same but in the end the smiles of driveway hoops and local beers gives everyone a sense of that this was good and it was “The Night We Called It A Day” in Western Mass.
A wonderful day in the Allegheny National Forest with Ryan and Steevo. We set out to do One hundred miles or so of the snowmobile route that meandered on the dirt service roads of the forest if you would like to read the whole story you can do so here.