Sunday Dirt

Photo Jan 13, 9 06 32 AM

Been a long time since I have written those words. Dirty ride with Greg in Middlesex, VT. Mountain bikes, with studs. Dirt roads, some trail. Ice, mud, snow, hike a bike, slop on the way down when the temps warmed up. Just under 18 miles, with a claimed climbing of ~2750′ according to the online maps. Will have to run it through TopoFusion later. Pretty amazing scenery, and a convenient place for the two of us to meet at the Red Hen Bakery.

Photo Jan 13, 8 03 25 AM

Photo Jan 13, 9 10 17 AM

Photo Jan 13, 9 11 40 AM

Some thoughts from the ride: I started keeping my kit ‘ready to go’ – so I’d always have the same things at the ready. While this has been working – I looked at the sky, at the road, and the temps as we were suiting up in the parking lot and decided to leave the camera in the car. I also figured we’d get up the first few climbs and decide to bomb back down – so I left extra calories with my kit bag. The first rule of bike club is: always take the larger camera. The second rule of bike club is: always take some extra food. The third rule of bike club is: always take the same kit, repeat and modify as needed.

I did the entire ride on some licorice and my coffee and bagel from an hour before. Yes, we did less than 18 miles, but I was feeling it at the end.

To all the bikes I’ve … pt. 6

Heading into my first fall in Vermont I had been reading about brevets and long distance cycling. There was something about riding incredibly long distances that had always intrigued me, and exploring under my own power has always felt like a part of who I am. Somehow I stumbled upon the Boston-Montreal-Boston website, and through various links and forums found RUSA. I wanted to be ready for the next season, so I became a member, and sought out some training books from the local bookstore. I even flirted with a big name online coaching system, paying for a 3 month subscription in the late summer. I did regular baseline time trials wearing my heart rate monitor up and down my road, took long endurance rides while targeting specific muscle groups and heart rates, and jumped on the recovery drink and energy food band wagon. After the Thanksgiving holiday that year I even dropped most meat from my diet, moving to a near vegetarian palette.

After sorting out the previously mentioned ‘bad idea dating’, I returned my attention to meditation, time on the bike, and stretching. As winter rolled in I set up my home office as a make shift bike studio. Bike stand, tools, and gear strewn everywhere, with my LeMond mounted in the trainer in the corner, desktop computer with music and speakers against the wall, and a small cabinet in front to place my laptop for movies. I would work in my office in town for most of the day, when the weather was accommodating I would ride home (downhill!), have a snack, read, and then ride inside. I kept up a simple heart rate training regime, focused mainly on base miles, listening to specific sets of music, or watching a movie I’d download to iTunes on the laptop before I left the office. I’d end the evening sitting to settle my mind, then drop off to sleep, often on my living room floor, tucked into my meditation cushions with a book left open and snuggled into a cozy blanket. I’d repeat this most of the winter, with the trainer rides getting progressively longer. Weekends were filled with hikes or outdoor activities, as much as possible.

At some point I started to get fussy with fit, so I would teak my position, record it on my digital camera, and then compare it to fit videos in the office the next day. I also purchased my second Brooks saddle. I bought a Ti railed Swallow, the narrowest and lightest they made at the time, for mounting to my carbon and steel go fast bike. I again fussed with position, and had to swap seat posts to something with more setback. In my search for the part I discovered Thomson components, and through a cascading series of internet wanders discovered whole nother world of high end bike parts – carbon wheels, featherlight brakes, ti-everything. Most out of my price (or use) league – but shining with that go-fast, top of the line, racer boy glow.

At the same time I rekindled some winter sports that I missed. I got out on my XC skis a bit, snow shoed when the snow was good and deep, and eventually took a telemark lesson that the West Hill Shop organized at the Brattleboro town ski hill. I was instantly hooked on the skiing, as it would blend nicely with my desire to explore under my own power. With a light gear setup one could get into the backcountry, do some moderate terrain both up and down – which was the original reason I had bought my bc xc skis back when I lived in the Rochester area. I learned over time though that turning on my long and skinny Karhu Pavos was something of a challenge – so I rented better gear for the lesson. Despite getting pretty sore from lots of stumbling and falling into the snow – I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and the following weekend took a lesson at Mad River Glen.


The lesson at Mad River Glen was an eye opener. Ungroomed snow (and ice), a quirky lodge and lifts, crap rental equipment, but a pretty incredible instructor. The lesson was labeled beginner, so we immediately took the lift to the top of the mountain, and began working our way back down. Snow (and the view) at the top was incredible – powder dolloped on trees, 8–12” of fresh snow under foot, and mild terrain to negotiate while learning how to turn on those slippery and long shoes. It wasn’t until about mid mountain that I knew I was in for a long day. The lower snow was pretty skied out, and there would be many areas of hard pack and ice. Not knowing the trails I’d follow my class trying to keep up – only to turn a corner and realize I was doing everything I could to keep and hold an edge into the snow. Despite my best intentions and focus on good technique there were many many wrecks that day. After about three runs with the class – and having watched a fellow student on really light metal edged nordic gear ski circles around me – I moved to the easy slopes to practice the basics. I left a bit discouraged, and physically wasted. After a long drive back to Putney I questioned my sanity in wanting to learn to ski. (This after snowboarding in high school…)

Back on the bike, as we hit mid winter I was logging my longest base mile trainer rides, typically an hour plus every other night, with a different pattern developed for each day. I’d religiously watch my heart rate monitor and try to stay in specific zones to further build a strong foundation for what I hoped would be a successful first brevet series. As those rides got longer, I started needing more options for entertainment while pedaling circles. On my days where I’d go ‘into the city’ (of Brattleboro) – I’d often shop at the coop and drop by the video store on my way home. I discovered the Bourne Identity series, revisited some Philip Glass movies, and did marathon sessions watching the Lord of the Rings movies. I had the Swallow broken in and ready for prime time in short order, and felt like I was well on my way to the best shape of my life. I was dropping weight slowly but surely into the high 180s, a number I hadn’t seen in a long long time, since I lived in NYC as a student.


My sanity check from downhill skiing was short lived, as a college friend was going to be in town while his wife taught at a workshop in Western MA, and he wanted to know if I would be up for a Friday of snowboarding. I had learned to ride (poorly) in high school, having saved up paper route money to buy a Burton board and boots to take down our itty bitty little ski hill. It had been a long time since I strapped on a board, but I jumped right back in and made arrangements for us to go to Stratton. Not an hour after getting excited about playing in the snow with a college friend, my brother called from NYC and wanted to know if he could come up and ski that same weekend – he’d arrive by Amtrak late Friday and would leave on Monday. He skied in high school – the two of us would take the family car out to Boston Mills and Branywine for night skiing or on the weekends. I offered up my room for him and his girlfriend, and would be their taxi service to and from the train.

Friday I rented a board and spent the day with Tim, who never having been on his snowboard outside of Ohio and western NY, was simply amazed at the snow, and the length of the runs. Getting off the mid mountain lift, and being a bit in early morning flurries and clouds, he thought we had topped out. It wasn’t until I took him up the gondola that he realized just how big (compared to our midwest experience growing up) the mountain was. For the better part of the morning we floated on fresh snow, and later carved turns on long cruisers. Somehow I felt great after a full day on the slopes. Legs were a bit sore, but overall I confirmed that all my core work and endurance riding was starting to show benefits.


Saturday with my brother in town was a blur of hanging out in Burlington, and Sunday brought a huge powder day. As we left BTV that evening the snow started falling, and 3 hours of sketchy driving later returning to Putney we had 8” on the ground. We got to the mountain early and probably had a foot of fresh snow to play in. I was on a West Hill Shop tele setup, and my brother and girlfriend were on rented alpine skis. I found that my confidence went up quite a bit skiing in the fresh snow, and I slipped into a good rhythm practicing my turns, as well as chasing my brother all over the mountain. By the end of the weekend I was exhausted – but we managed to squeeze a half day pass into Monday, before they returned to NYC via Amtrak.



I returned to my monk like life – work, ride, work, ride, repeat. And I began venturing out for long winter rides when the conditions would allow. The LeMond would be the bike of choice, as I was trying to log as many miles on it as I could before the Brevet season started.

As spring arrived I had developed a great friendship with the owners of the West Hill Shop, Putney’s world renowned bike shop. I managed to get recruited to help with the Putney Bike Club, and before long I was organizing meetings, helping to set the upcoming ride calendar, and getting a simple blog online. I’d often ride down from my office in town, snag lunch at the Coop, and spend my lunch time sitting in the shop hanging out. I also got to test my early season legs on some group rides – where I was promptly dropped on the climbs, but had good fun being out with a group, and getting a taste of riding that wasn’t in my apartment.


I started to ramp up my utility mileage, and realized I wanted (needed) a run about for town and errands. Having my office in town, just 2 miles away, and nearly everything that I needed for day to day existence right in town, I opted for a single speed. I had the shop order me a Redline 925, and I set it up single speed. I used the bike for office runs, lunch errands, trips to the post office, and short spins down my dirt road. I eventually picked up a Brooks saddle for it, and swapped the stock bars for a Nitto Mustache, which had a much nicer bend.



On the weekends, and a day a week I’d leave the office early, I’d be found on a long loop ride on the LeMond. I often rode with clip on fenders, so my ‘go fast bike’ now had a leather saddle and rain protection. And occasionally an Ortlieb bar bag strapped to it, or a cue sheet flapping from the bars.


Somewhere along the way, I started to take seriously the fatigue I was feeling. I had been trying to rest and recover more, but I wasn’t seeing any gains from upping my intensity, and it felt like I just hit a wall with my training. My thyroid was the first suspect, so we checked all the levels and things looked good. After some blood work my doctor informed me that I was severely anemic… something he wanted to confirm with a follow up a few weeks after moving back to an omnivorous diet, being sure to eat plenty of read meat, and starting iron supplements. The follow up showed virtually no improvement.

To be continued…

To all the bikes I’ve … pt. 5

In the midst of the holidays in 2004 I sorted through my belongings and began organizing and packing for the move to Vermont. I shuttled quite a few of my tools to Ohio, where some of them still reside in my parents garage, or in use at Chris’ studio. I donated my Raleigh Technium to the Rochester Zen Center (complete with an added rear rack and pump), sold off some of my rigging and staging, and put everything else into boxes. The holidays that year were spent shuttling to parties at family and friends houses in the Cleveland area – lots of driving back and forth on the NYS Thruway. A few days before the new year I picked up a UHaul trailer and loaded up my belongings in Canandaigua. I moved into my apartment the day before New Years eve, and Greg came down to help me unload. We hit the pub up the road when we finished, and I crashed for a long long sleep late that night. The following day I went to a New Years Eve party in Montpelier, and began 2005 settling into my changed life.

In moving to Vermont a few things were important – a job that offered some creative outlet, reasonable pay (I took a hefty salary and benefits cut), and a beautiful place to live. The last item was pretty easy to figure out. Pretty much anywhere that you land in VT is a short walk, ride, or drive from beauty. The first two proved a bit more challenging, but things worked out. I settled for about $10k less in salary, and a drop in benefits, but I figured I would make some of that up in consulting and freelance work. The town of Putney (population ~2,624 as of 2000) would become home. A small farmhouse apartment, down the big hill on River Rd. Horses and barn out back, a pub within walking distance that had a nice row of single malt, and about ~8 miles from where I would be working in Brattleboro.

My first few months in VT were filled with exploration – both of my new geography, and of my mind and inner self. I had local topo and road maps pinned to my kitchen wall and I was still meditating regularly. I spent lots of time sitting in my small apartment – it had great light, and felt cozy and comfortable. I didn’t have much in the way of furniture – my old architectural drafting table served as my kitchen table, and my meditation cushions served as my chairs and couch. I spent lots of time reading – texts about natural building, meditation, bicycle touring, adventuring to far off lands. I didn’t have a phone (cell only) or internet connection, and I have been TV free since about 1997. As part of my morning ritual of coffee getting before work I discovered the Putney Food Coop’s community bulletin board. The bulletin board became my ‘Oracle’ – if I wanted something to do, something to explore, something new to experience – I’d often find it while standing in the cold sipping my morning coffee. Over the time I lived in Putney the the board pointed me to a book group exploring ‘Voluntary Simplicity’, a Council Circle training workshop weekend, a map to the Putney Mountain trails, a poster that connected me with the Brattleboro Area Natural Building Group (I would later present at one of their meetings), a position on the town of Putney’s Conservation Commission, and lots, lots more. I also became more involved with the Timber Framers Guild – helping to organize a portion of the conference that was to be in Burlington the next fall.

Looking back through my archived blog and website (a very old, hand coded I read short entries of long hikes in the snow, skiing to Hamilton Falls near Jamaica State Park, snow shoe trips around Killburn Pond in Pisgah St. Park in New Hampshire, and general winter fun. I pulled the Yeti out for a few rides down to the dirt road portion of my road, and made first contact with the good folks at The West Hill Shop for an xc ski tune up and general scouting mission.


The Trek 520 got lots of love that winter. I used my spare bedroom as an office / bike room. I had it mounted in the trainer – I was building a base as I had plans of riding that summer all over Vermont, as well as commuting to work – so I could leave my truck parked as much as possible. I took some very cold and meandering rides in the early spring up to Saxtons River, through Westminster West, over to New Hampshire, and up Route 30 to Newfane. Riders of the VT 400k will know those names – my ‘formative’ years cycling in Vermont were on some fine roads in the southeastern corner of the state.


As spring ended I ventured up Rt. 30 from Brattleboro for my first ‘long ride’ on the LeMond. 50 miles or so, with a lower stem position that I was playing with in the trainer. Rt. 30 is pretty tame – wide shoulders between towns, slow speeds as you pass general stores, a flea market, a few schools, and an abandoned ski area as you follow the West River. It is generally uphill from Brattleboro – and I made the ride from Brattleboro to Townshend, just before the terrain pointed up to Stratton, a ‘regular’ ride. After some success with my new position on the bike, I took it to the shop to have the steerer cut and was introduced to the owners and lead mechanic, a meeting that would plant seeds for a friendship that would develop over my time in southern Vermont.

Somewhere along the way after about six months or so I started taking on more consulting work and I started talking about a more formal relationship with the folks I left at New Energy Works. We developed a plan for me to work to develop their New England market, with me acting as consultant, rain maker, network builder, modeler, and jack of all trades. I drifted away from my VT employer, although I still offered consulting support for the systems I setup. I began doing design, engineering and sales development for New Energy Works clients, as well taking on my own small projects.

I needed a place to work and meet the occasional client, as well as setup a laptop, some flat surfaces to review drawings, and a place to hang my shingle. I could not get high speed internet at my apartment – so I searched out some office space, and found a lovely location in ‘downtown’ Putney in the historic and renovated tavern. I called the phone number on the sign, and spoke with a guy name Peter (before he was Governor) about leasing the space. We came to terms, and I opened up a small office above the Front Porch Cafe and a small bookstore. I was across the street from the town pizza joint and the Putney diner, across the side street from the general store, and shared a parking lot with the town offices, a print shop, and yoga studio. All about 2 miles from home.



As I was developing New England clients, I was also ‘the single guy’ who liked to travel. I bounced around the East coast, down to Virginia, Pennsylvania, out to Kansas, and started to look at the Salt Lake City environs. I started to make regular SLC trips – I would fly on nearly empty planes in the ski off season from Bradley, and always try to book and extra day for exploring. I loved Park City and the surrounding terrain, and with trips becoming a regular occurence for business development, I even considered renting a cheap apartment in SLC – someplace to stash a bike, maybe some skis, and have a home base out west that wasn’t in a Holiday Inn Express. In the end breaking into the old boys network with an entrenched Mormon business culture proved just about impossible, regardless of how many architects and builders I would visit and develop relationships with.

Back East things were starting to move and work out on the business front, and I even broke my ‘singles streak’ of 2 years by somehow figuring out that I could meet people and began dating a woman I met in a Brattleboro bar. Yes, I know this should fall into the bad idea category, but I stuck with it for a bit, until I had enough of the randomness and the drunkeness and the partying and the helping to pay rent and the … pretty much all of it. I found clarity when I was pressured to make a choice between a nice bike ride or picking someone up at some random person’s house where they fell asleep (passed out) on the couch from the party the night before.

I worked out what the right choice for me was, and it had 2 wheels.

To be continued…

Little River Ski


A semi back country ski with Greg in Little River State Park, on my ~8 year old, long, skinny, straight, metal edged Karhu Pavo’s. ~6 miles, according to my rough trail sketch on TopoFusion we climbed ~1300 feet. Deep snow, steep trails (up and down), a sled dog team, coffee and lunch break… all good fun resulting in a sore body.


If I can get in better ski shape I have my eye on the Bolton-Trapps trail. Its been since 2005 since I’ve been out on my Nordic skis on a regular basis, and since 2005-2006 since I tele skied. Skills go away really fast without use. Need to correct that this winter, so long as the snow sticks around. I have some new skis on order – wider, sidecut, full metal edge Madschus Epoch with Voile 3pin cable bindings, anti ice tape and climbing wires. I’ll be using my Karhu boots (Converts I think) until next season – when I’ll try to snag some plastic boots used over the summer. Need to look at some winter sleeping gear… might have to expand my ‘overnights’ into the snow.