Now I know in this day and age with GPS and technology that allows one to navigate from the seat of a mountain bike on any trail in the world, a map might seem archaic at best. Not for me. Being a little bit of a curmudgeon, I still depend on maps in my pack to get a good read on where to ride. Case in point are the Purple Lizard Maps which are available at http://www.purplelizard.com These maps are water proof, tear proof, peanut butter proof, beer proof, and generally a good way to get around. I just ordered my current version after using one for the last 20 years up in Rothrock State Forest near State College, Pa. These maps are great …….if you know how to use them. Like, read the trails and fire roads correctly instead of taking the wrong one and ending up 25 miles from my starting point at Tussey Mountain.

I got hopelessly lost after mis reading the map. It was getting dark, I was already an hour late to meet my wife and her room mate from college. I was out of water, my cell phone did not work, and my Cliff Bar situation was getting bleak with a fuzzball caked piece left. I pretty much figured I might be spending the night because I didn’t have a light either. There is a sign on the chairlift stanchions at Whiteface, New York, and Killington, Vermont that says,” Don’t ski alone. These mountains are as desolate and remote as they were 200 years ago.” So is the backside of Tussey and I thought of those signs as I was starting to get concerned about my lack of navigational skills. Fortunately, I met up with a couple camping near Greenwood Furnace who offered to take me and my bike back in their pickup truck to Tussey. They were the only people I had seen for hours. Had they not been there, I would definitely have spent the night up against some tree. Not that I could not do that, but my wife would have been out of her mind with concern. As it turned out, by the time I came back to the Ritchey house where my wife and her room mate Kathy were waiting, I heard an ear full and knew that I needed to study the maps a little more closely. After all these years riding there, I am pretty familiar with the area now and the map is more of an insurance policy than anything. But I am glad I got the current version to use on my upcoming trip there to do the Coopers Gap Epic with a bunch of great mountain biking friends.

I will tell you that I do a lot of adventurous things, but getting lost is a bit unnerving especially when you are running out of food, water, and light. Take the time I was mountain biking up in Ellicottville, New York riding away from the Race Loop Trail at Holiday Valley and into the Allegheny National Forest. I had a map of the area, although a bit outdated again, and I zigged when I should have zagged and voila, I ended up lost again- no water, sparse energy bar supply, and no lights. However I had cell service and called my friends at Mud, Sweat and Gears Bike and Ski Shop, who asked me about my location. I described the clearing with a potential of 3 different trail options that were not real clear on the outdated map. They knew and directed me to the right trail and as I made my way to town for something to eat, I bought a new map from the shop right before they closed for the night. They laughed at my old map and said, no wonder I was lost. Most of the trails are not featured on the old map.

My wife does not like me to ride by myself but if I am careful and have the right amount of food,water and the current version of the trail maps, I am pretty self sufficient these days. Most of the areas I ride are popular and you see a lot of people. But some are more remote like the Laguna Wilderness Trail System that I rode a lot back in the day. I had a good map for those rides but the signs warning about mountain lions was a bit concerning. Never saw one. Only the big blue Pacific Ocean. But without the map, you can get DFL on those trails very easily. And they get fairly remote quickly with the threat of the big cats and rattlesnakes.

Bottom line, good idea to always ride with a partner or on trails that are familiar and have bail out points. Secondly, a good map or better yet, a GPS that you can count on. I have to get one and get into the 21st century. But in the mean time, my maps are up to date and hopefully I will read them correctly and not cause my wife heartburn. Ride safely my friends and thanks for reading.

“Lost in the Ozone Again”

924186 The picture you see above is of Commander Cody. His band is called Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Take a minute to listen to his famous song,” Lost in the Ozone Again” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heK8QjhWGag . Now I was a fan of the Commander when I first heard “Hot Rod Lincoln”. The Commander was not a one hit wonder because he also had a lot of other catchy tunes like the old classic,” Smoke, Smoke, Smoke, Them Cigarettes.” I also liked a lot of other burnout music from the New Riders, Southern Hillman Furay Band, Poco, The Flying Burrito Brothers and a host of other college favorites. The Commander played at my alma mater and it was a night to remember but that is another story.

Alright. Did you listen to the song? Good. Because now I am going to get to the point. For some reason, this song always rings in my head when I get lost on my mountain bike. I was talking to Barry Jefferies the other day at Dirty Harry’s http://www.DirtyHarrys.com. He was regaling the virtues of the new Garmin bicycle computers that can sync with the I-Phone, allow you to log into other rides that people have posted in many areas of the globe, allow you to map your own rides and download them on your PC, allow your significant other to see where you are on a ride, and lastly, allow you to find yourself and get back to where you started virtually eliminating the issue of getting lost on a mountain bike. I am definitely going to get one of these gizmos because I have gotten hopelessly lost before and it is an un-nerving thing save for the Commander and his tune that rings in my head. I sing it to myself as solace until I eventually find my way back by hook or by crook.

Take a couple of years ago when I was riding by myself in Rothrock State Forest up near State College,Pa. I had my pack, cell phone, the Purple Lizard Map of the area and was perfectly prepared until I zigged when I should have zagged and ended up 25 miles from Tussey Mountain Ski Area where I started. It was getting dark, I didn’t have my lights, and there was literally nobody in the Greenwood Forest Area where I ended up. I was an hour late and I was sure my wife Janet was panicking. I always told her that I can survive a night in the woods but I am sure that is of little comfort to her. The cell service was nill and at the last bleak of light, I found a couple who were camping and I begged them for a ride. They said to throw my bike into the back of their pickup and they generously drove me back 25 miles to the ski area. Had they not been there, I surely would have spent the night and my wife would have had an all out search and rescue. State College is a buzzing college town but on the other side of the ridge is as remote as you will find anywhere. I rewarded the couple with some bucks for gas and also with a fruit basket sent to their home out of really grateful appreciation. I got the obligatory ear beating from Janet and really, I deserved it. ” I am lost in the Ozone again, one sip of wine, two sips of gin, lost in the Ozone again.”

My friend Dixon and I were on an epic ride one day which started at Seven Springs Mountain Resort and the turnaround was in Ohiopyle,Pa. We started early and rode by map all the way to Ohiopyle and got some food and headed back. It was springtime and was a little cool and as the late afternoon enveloped us, we went the wrong way and ended up off track. Now Dixon is the guy who I posted about earlier who uses blue bubble gum as an energy food on the ride and his blue teeth sparkled in the late afternoon sun as we tried to find our way back on the unfamiliar single track. The Commander popped into my head again as I kept my eye on the setting sun and noted to Dixon that we need to head west towards the setting sun and we should eventually find a road. We kept the sun ahead of us and eventually ended up back in Indian Head,Pa and begged the proprietor of the Red and White Store to take us up the mountain to Dixon’s place because we were completely out of gas to take that climb. We were out all day and our map failed us. We jammed fig newtons into our mouths and guzzled Gatorade until we reached a sugar coma in the back of the lady’s pickup truck. At least we gave her some business.

Last year, I was up at Elicottville, NY and ventured off the Holiday Valley Ski Area trails into the Allegheny National Forest. I again had my cell phone, a 6 year old map, and was adequately fueled with bars and water. However as the day wore on and I experimented with some new routes, I became lost in the Ozone again as the sun began to set. Fortunately, there was some cell service and I caught the owner of the Mud, Sweat and Gears Bike and Ski Shop http://www.mudsweatgears.com on his way out the door. He asked me to give him some landmarks which I did and he gave me some verbal directions to get me out to a fire road which I was able to follow for a long while back to the ski area. “Lost in the Ozone again- one sip of wine, two sips of gin, I am lost in the Ozone again!!!!” That infernal song got me up that hill and back to the area where I got cleaned up and got a cold one and some good grub at the Ellicottville Brewery http://www.ellicottvillebrewing.com.

Each time I got lost on these selected adventures, I had to rely on the good graces of others. I was fairly prepared but sometimes when you zig instead of when you should zag, you can get lost. That is why the Garmin 850 is in my near future. http://www.garmin.com There are apps on the I-Phone which would allow me the same safety but I think the Garmin plus my I-Phone would be the ticket. Being old school, I will still take maps. I like to ride with people but often times I do ride by myself. However, my routes as of late allow me quick access back to civilization. Probably not a smart idea to ride off into distances by yourself. The Garmin will help but I also think that getting lost is not so adventurous anymore. The Commander and his song will have to fade in my subconscious until I hear it on Sirius Radio in the safety of my Jeep.

Lesson for the day- try to ride prepared with water, pack, tire irons, tubes, patch kit, etc. Also have the cell phone and a map of the area even if you have a fancy gizmo like the Garmin. Also- remember the Commander because his songs will give you some distraction as you make your way up a mountain or a lost fire road back to that cold brew and food awaiting you and the end of a great ride. Thanks for reading.