Monday, May 28, 2012

May we get to June, please?

The month of May has been a bit difficult, although that doesn't mean that it's been all that negative. I'll start with the bad, highlight the good, and move on to bigger and better.

A couple of days into May, I was just riding along on the mountain bike and all of a sudden my face met our native West Virginia plant, the greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia).

It was strung across a well-traveled trail, and before I knew it...well - I'll spare you the details. I ended up in the ER for most of the night, and went home with 9 stitches in my eyelid. All's well that ends well, though, and I'm happy to say that everything has healed up nicely. After a few days of rest and recovery I was back out on the bike. Just riding along...

Somewhere in the month of May is my birthday, and I got a surprise visit from my Dad. He's a semi-retired enginerd, and couldn't believe how light my road bike was in full race trim (it's not that light). He was impressed with the engineering that goes into carbon bikes and components these days. I still remember the first time I got a real BMX bike. I think I was about 7 or 8 and I watched as he and a friend pieced it together in the garage, literally jumping up and down waiting for a chance to ride it. It had an Araya wheelset, Shimano freewheel, gold Sugino cranks, Powerlite "Powerbend" bars, etc. The build wasn't extravagant by any means, but more of a working-man's (boy's) competition machine that was light enough to fly and strong enough to take a beating. My Dad knew I'd ride and wreck that thing on a daily basis on the mini-BMX track I had built in the woods by our house, and he set me up proper. I owe a lot to my Dad for that bike (I remember casing the double jump and the stitches I needed post-crash...he even took me to the ER for those). Some may think that I'm accident-prone, and I even wonder sometimes myself, but I think it's more pushing my limits than anything else. I've been riding and competing on bikes ever since - BMX, MTB, observed trials, downhill and freeride, dirtjumping, fixed gear, singlespeed, cyclocross, and even road bikes. He noticed that I had a passion for two-wheels early on, and I wonder if he could have imagined at that time how important bikes would be for me during the next 25 or so years of my life. I'll have to ask him, but in the meantime - thanks Dad!

Did a bit of racing in May. I say "racing", but I mean "racing as training". I didn't sign up for a race this month with any ambitions other than to get in a good day in the saddle. The Wisp XC Challenge was first, and I rode the rigid singlespeed to last place in the category. It was great, though, because apparently there were only 4 single-speederific racers so I was in the "money" and just off the podium. Sometimes it pay$ to go $low.

I also signed up for the Tour of Tucker County, which is an interesting mountain bike race, held on the road with everyone using road bikes. I've heard all the stories. I've heard that the race is so tough that folks are blowing up tires before the race even starts. I heard that one year, a lone rider was actually eaten by Sugarlands climb...never to be seen or heard from again. Let me say that is all TRUE and the race is all that and more. If you miss it next year - well, you will have MISSED OUT on probably the best mountain bike road race in West Virginia, and possibly the entire mid-Atlantic. Be there.

I finished well off the pace in the 3/4 field, but considering the heat, my ambitions (to not finish last), and the fact that I had 2.5 bottles for the entire distance and none left for Sugarlands or to wash down any "food"...I'm gonna say that I had a good day. Plus - doing the Clay Lick descent twice on freshly mounted Kenda Super Domestique tubulars was awesome. Next...

June has some fun stuff in store for bike enthusiasts. Here's a list:

Those should wear you out for the rest of the summer.

Speaking of being worn out...I just spent 7 hours today playing arborist in the Memorial Day heat. After climbing and pruning two tall sugar maples (Acer saccharum) and one boxelder (Acer negundo), and eradicating a ton of the invasive wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) I am tired, but the place looks great! (Any time a plant's scientific name ends in "fortunei" - you can bet it takes advantage of the situation it's given...actually it's named after Robert Fortune, but the vine does grow wicked fast and will out-compete and kill 40'+ trees if you let it don't!)

sugar maple (the maple syrup tree)

Until next time - keep the rubber side down.