Riding on the rothROCKS!!

Purple Lizard Mapstussey2-0Rothrock-(4)-0rothrock_crop_1024x1024photo17 My wife Janet is a Penn Stater. She and her family bleed Blue and White and for the last 26 years of our marriage we have made the pilgrimage to Happy Valley for homecoming, and other PSU related events. The bonus for me, and also my buddy who you see here on the left in the 3 guy picture (Dr. Mike Smith of Philadelphia), is that we get to ride at Rothrock State Forest. It’s always nice to have an Osteopath along when bouncing along the rocky trails of central Pennsylvania. Mike, Bobby Reading and I always get together at homecoming to ride mountain bikes and then enjoy the sumptuous feast at the tailgate during and after the game. Mike and I have had some real adventures over the years up at the Rothrock and they don’t call it Roth-rock for nothing. See the pictures above as a testament to the challenges of the trails. Momentum is always your friend on rock strewn trails but if you stray on the wrong ones, like the Mid-State Trail, you not only get some unrideable climbs but the tombstone like rocks present a challenge even when we have to walk in some sections. Mike and I have slid across icy bridges, ridden the rocks in the ice and the snow, searing heat, biblical rains, and we always consider it an epic adventure. It has been great to have him and Bobby as accomplices in mountain bike fun over all of these years. Even when I ride solo, there is something special about looking out over Bear Meadows, admiring the foliage, and looking skyward to see the Blue and White of PSU painted all over the horizon.

If you are inclined to try this area, I would recommend that you at least purchase the Purple Lizard map available at all the bike shops in State College. I have an old ratty one that I have used for years with the exception of the one year that I forgot it along with my cell phone. The long and the short of that adventure was that I ended up 25 miles from the ski area at Tussey Mountain( our starting point), alone, out of water in my pack, out of food and it was getting dark. The Central Pa. mountains are very remote and I was due back at State College an hour before. Fortunately, I was able to find one couple who was camping and they graciously agreed to drive me back to Tussey. I sat with my bike in the back of their pickup and had it not been for their benevolence, I would surely have spent the night in the wilds of the Rothrock State Forest. My wife was none too happy as I entered the Ritchey house( her roomate from college), several hours late, in the dark, and late for our dinner engagement. I am surely a candidate for a new Garmin GPS which should at least be insurance in the event that I ever get lost again. But, to continue, there are a number of great shops in State College- The Bicycle Shop http://www.thebicycleshopinc.com and Freeze Thaw Bikes- http://www.freezethaw.com which can assist with rentals, parts, and anything else that you would need to tackle these great trails. I would also recommend checking http://www.mtbproject.com and http://www.happyvalleybiking.com for further information. The Ride Guide TV show out of Canada on the Ski Channel also did a great expose on the area. You can catch the highlights on You Tube.

One thing about mountain bike riding in Pennsylvania and West Virginia is that you have to get used to riding trails that are rocky and technical. When you get into the Laurel Mountains and the Central Pa. ridges, there is no getting around riding technical trails. You can take a breather on the many fire roads,but for the most part, you will pay your dues on these paths of destruction. Some days, I feel energized and have the mojo to ride most of the rocky sections, but on other days, I have crashed and burned and have paid the price for challenging the shale and granite of the Keystone State. The Tussey Mountain Trail and the John Wert Path have several sections of real rocky terrain. If you add the elements of rain, snow, or ice, the ante is upped exponentially and momentum is definitely required to survive. However, the beauty of the ridges coupled with sunny days or changing leaves, add to the general feeling of satisfaction in immersing yourself into the mountainous terrain of Pennsylvania. My favorite moment comes at the end of most rides when we ride down the Longberger Path to the parking lot. This downhill has a few rocky sections but the descent is the reward for all the climbing of the day. Most of the rides in this area end up near the Tussey ski area and the long downhills, culminating with a tasty beverage at the end of the ride, makes all the rocky suffering worthwhile and gives you the great memories and feelings to make sure that you come back soon.

Mike,Bobby, and I are not Penn Staters, but riding in the Rothrock has forged many memories that bring a satisfying feeling that somehow we belong here. I am a Nittany Lion at heart even though I never hit a book here. I am sure that I will be eating Janet and Val’s chili and Judy’s turkey, slaw and challah for many years to come on those homecoming weekends. It tastes really good after a long ride in the Rothrock. But on those solo rides, when they occur, I will be more careful to be prepared. No more pickup truck rides for me. Thanks for reading and come ride the rocks!!!

The Art of the Change

IMG00214-20100708-1448IMG00053photophoto I met a friend of a few years ago and he was amazed that I was fully dressed to ride mountain bikes after driving from work. He was sitting in the lot in his business casual dress and I was patiently waiting for him to get ready. He inquired how it was that I left work in similar attire and now was fully dressed to ride? I told him that similar to being in shape and concentrating on fitness, you also need to be well skilled in what I call “The Art of the Change.”

SUVs, like my Jeep, facilitate this type of behavior in that you need some room to switch from business clothes to recreational clothes. The proper use of red lights and putting the vehicle in park are key elements to this skill- but I will refer to that later. Let’s talk for a moment about some of the classic changes that have taken place in the life of the 59 year old kid.

One time I was sitting in the parking lot of the OSI Meat Company near Salt Lake City after a successful meeting. My co-worker said, ” We didn’t get our tour of the plant” and I said,” You drive- I have seen enough meat plants in my day and we are 8 miles down canyon from Alta Ski Resort.” As she took the helm of the rental SUV, I quickly made the Superman like change from sport coat and slacks into my ski gear and asked her to pull into the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird. I told her to get a massage and that I would be back to get her at 5:00 so that we could drive to the airport to get our flight to Las Vegas for a trade show. She was dumbfounded but amazed at the plan and to her surprise- in no time I was back to pick her up and was dressed in slacks and a sweater. I told her,” Great afternoon pounding the High Traverse, Eagles Nest and High Rustler and look, ready to go to the airport.”

Another co-worker was with me on a week long trip to our Salt Lake City location for the company. Every day after work, I would drive her up to Park City and tell her to meet me at the parking location in 2 hours. We then would have dinner and enjoy the town before the return trip back down Interstate 80 to the hotel. She saw me remove my mountain bike, which I had brought on the plane with me, and as she walked away, she noticed clothes flying in the car and voila- another Superman change. When she returned to the car I was standing there putting on some shorts behind the car door( some decorum is necessary some of the times) and a T-shirt and some deoderant so that I would not totally gross her out and off we went to get a cold one at the Wasatch Brewery and a burger. This similar routine allowed a full day of work, 2 hours of great riding up at Park City and a beer and a good meal before we got up and did it all over again every day of the week. She was astonished and said,” Pat- if you would not have taken me up there every evening, I probably would have just stayed in my room and done nothing.” I said, “Jamie- you need to enjoy every moment in life. Carpe Deium girl.” She laughed and shook her head in amazement.

One time the Art of the Change was challenged by an Ambridge,Pa. police officer as I was coming from skiing in the Laurel Highlands and dressing on the fly for a funeral in Ambridge. At one point, I was down to my boxer shorts and the lights from the police car came into full view in my rear view mirror. I pulled over to the side of the road like a good motorist and scrambled with my dress shirt and suit pants as the officer came to the window. He greeted me and fortunately did not notice my bare feet on the gas pedal. He said,” Not you sir- the guy behind you is who I wanted.” ” Thanks for pulling over though and have a nice day.” I returned the pleasantries and sighed with relief that he had not seen me two minutes earlier driving down Rt. 65 basically in my birthday suit.

One other time, I was in the Reno Airport and frantically ripping through my bag to put on my ski clothes right at the carousel. People laughed as I strapped on my ski boots and schlepped my skis and bag to the curb to be picked up by my friend Eric to ski up at Mt. Rose. He laughed when he saw the blue Lange boots in the distance and said that he had only missed three runs when we arrived back at the area. That quick carousel change assisted us with gaining some valuable vertical feet.

One thing about cycling and skiing is that you spend some time changing clothes to participate in the apres activities. As important as it is to be able to change out of your clothes, it is perhaps more important sometimes to be able to quickly change into your clothes especially if you are meeting some folks and you are late. This is where the Art is fully employed. Traffic lights are the friend of any car changer and it is most important to know what can be accomplished between red and green lights. After putting the car in park, a shirt change, sock change,and cycling short change can easily be accomplished. Ski pants can take a little longer and your timing must be perfect otherwise you travel “au naturale” until the next light allows the completion of the change. If you are really skilled like the 59 year old kid, you can even put in your contact lenses between traffic light cycles. But safety first!! I have often been tempted to change by steering with the knees and completing a final change cycle but I consider that like texting and driving and opt for the completion down the road a bit. Some things can throw you off like a big toe stretching the lycra of cycling shorts down to the brake pedal. Or perhaps a ski sweater put on inside out. Or even a clumsy change of a sock. But the better you get, the more you can utilize traffic lights, heavy traffic, and quick pull-offs to a rest stop on the Interstates.

One of my mantras is to always pack what you need before your day starts. A rookie would stop at home first and risk having a series of “honey-do’s” befall him or her. You can get sidetracked if you do not focus on your exercise after work by the faux pas of not packing ahead of time. Similarly you do not want to sit around drinking a post ride or ski beverage still attired in your workout or ski clothes. The change is necessary for full comfort and the more skilled you are at the Art of the Change, the better the experience and with a little effort, you can enjoy some things that you might not have even considered. Timing is everything in life and you must reach out and go for the gusto. Use your vehicle or rental vehicles for the appropriate changes, be courteous to your fellow travelers but never let decorum stand in the way of a good time. If they catch a glimpse of your Steeler boxer shorts, so be it. Life is short- grab it for all its worth. Thanks for reading and use those red lights.

Trail Transformation

photophotophotophotophoto This summer and fall, the trails in the Laurel Highlands and our own trails in our county park were dry and flowy. The mountain bike riding was spectacular and even when the time change came, the night riding was done in rather temperate conditions. That all changed at Thanksgiving when the winds of November came blowing. The snow came and the trails were transformed into winter conditions. When this happens, it gives the 59 year old kid a chance to switch gears a bit and do more trail running and hiking. My friend EJ Sigety used to drag me out all winter on the trails to mountain bike ride no matter what the conditions, but these days, I use good judgement and enjoy the trails in different ways.

I spoke in one of my last posts about dialing it back a bit and that on occasion, it is a good idea. Hiking is very enjoyable way to dial it back and I see things on the trails that I don’t see riding in a pack or pounding up a hill in the heat with my eyeballs bulging out of their sockets. Hiking in the snow can allow you to experience the silence of the woods, and the smell of a distant fireplace. You can experience a buck eyeing you up as you enter his domain. The trails look different and the footing dictates that you carefully place your steps so that you remain upright. Where this transformation may discourage some folks from enjoying the trails in the winter- hiking, trail running and snowshoeing can be a great alternative to the riding that we enjoy most of the year. I usually take my ski poles with me to help with the footing and balance in the icy conditions. These can also be used with snowshoes. Sturdy hiking boots are a must and I usually use my old reliable Vasque Hiker IIs that are 40 years old and still kicking. Dialing it back over Thanksgiving was enjoyable and I ran into some of my die hard friends who were still riding . They harrassed me but I enjoyed the hikes and was glad for a change.

Now if you are the hearty type and want to keep riding on the icy trails in the winter, you can use studded mountain bike tires as shown in the picture above. The new rage is the “fat bike” which has oversized tires that aid in the traction. These were developed originally to race in Alaska and have seen some major acceptance in the mountain bike community here in the lower 48. The curious thing about riding in the winter is that once you get going, the heat builds up and if the traction is good, you can enjoy a good ride when perhaps you would have thrown in the towel. Sometimes I will ride, other days I will run or hike. But the main thing is to keep enjoying the trails and the woods in all seasons and have the mental and physical preparation to do so. My friend Mark “the Shark” Sauers has a great expression for winter as well. He says there is never bad weather……only bad clothing. I would agree in that if you have the right winter weather gear, you can be comfortable even if the conditions are raw. Gore Tex, wool socks, good winter riding shoes, trail running shoes or hiking boots can make all the difference in the world and allow for that “go for it” attitude that you need in the winter. Good lights as described in my earlier posts about night riding can make a big difference too. There are a lot of good choices for lighting that are essential for enjoying the trails after dark. I try to avoid indoor exercise at all costs and good water proof clothing can allow outdoor activities even in the coldest, winter rain or snow. You get that fresh air, good exercise, come home and take a hot shower and sleep like a baby. Nothing like it.

Winter is just starting so why not think about continuing to use the trails at your own pace and sometimes with different tools. Nobody is going to think badly about you if you put the bike away and run or hike. Just as long as you do something and not let the winter get you down or allow for added padding which is painful to lose in the spring. Hydration is important as well. You lose a lot of moisture exercising in the winter and the need to drink fluids is as important in the winter as it is in the summer. Take your hydration pack with you at all times. Chistmas is coming folks and maybe Santa has some new equipment for you to use. Gear up, pick your poison on exercise, and enjoy the winter. Thanks for reading and think snow.