Thursday, August 29, 2019

Land Locked Again

I am not sure why I keep going back to Land Locked. It is just painful and a wee bit outside my newbie box. I am, however,  a glutton for punishment, a long time sufferer of stupid man syndrome, a pig headed fool who refuses to let a few trails in the woods defeat me, and a a typical example of masculine middle age misconception.
Anyway, Heather saw a post of the NEMBA FB page - I refuse to participate in FB's predatory business practices and general toxic void, but am glad to benefit from other's decision to do so - that there was going to be an "easy" ride at Land Locked. I was a little desperate for a ride - or really any outside adventure - so I jumped at the chance.
Aside from the fact that even an "easy" ride at Land Locked is on the very edge of my box, I also was not driving our tiny, deluding our selves into feeling better about driving a monster truck, non-toy transport capable, car. I "knew" that I could fit my bike with its giant 29" trail tires into the sloped back of a car that can barely fit four adults.... When reality hit, I discovered an old strap-on back rack that has been living in our garage, unused, for close to a decade. It was a sign... I could turn the Ionq into a toy carrier!!! It was a lose fit and one of the pads rested on some glass, and the top clips were secured under the glass lip of the hatch, but the bike held and I could get to the ride without going on the highway.
The ride started out great. The pace didn't seem too fast, the guy leading the ride had an inhaler.... Then came the rock wall. We were all warned about the wall. A few people walked the wall. I was going to conquer the wall.... It didn't look big. My front tired cleared it as planned; the back tire cleared it over my head. I'm not certain what happened, but the ground was pretty soft. Eyewitness accounts say that I was a little too far forward and that perhaps I didn't have enough momentum to keep the front tire moving after it hit the bottom of the drop on the back side of the wall....
This was 20 minutes into the ride and, aside from a little bit of pain where I jammed my hand into the ground, I was fine... No reason not to keep riding....
For a while the riding was great. The trails were flowing and I was in a groove. The pace seemed fast, but comfortable. I was shifting for the uphills with no problems, clearing obstacles like a pro, making tight turns, and nailing switchbacks. It was great fun.
About half way through the ride I did misjudge the distance between two trees and clipped one side of the handlebars. The unexpected turn a rapid deceleration was more embarrassing than painful.
Then we hit Milk Crate.... I was less pooped this time than last time, but it was still rough going. I made more of the gnarly turns and quick up downs. I'd say I managed to ride 90% - OK maybe 80% - of the trail without walking. There was one turn where I totally missed the line. I went too wide and couldn't easily make the turn, so I jammed my foot into the ground to force the bike back into the trail.... It hurt, but you don't need a heel to ride....
After Milk Crate, I thought we were done. I knew I was just about out of gas. I forgot that the only way back to the parking lot from the end of Milk Crate was across the Three Bridges.... The bridges themselves are not so bad - well except for the section where there is a very narrow passage between two trees in the gap between two of the bridges. It is really the hills that hurt. It was getting dark; I was feeling tired; I made the gap, but not on a line that I believed would get me across the last bridge.... So, I stopped and walked the bridge.
That was my breaking point. I was totally in my head at the bottom of a series of fairly steep climbs with some rough switchbacks and out of gas.... Fortunately, the sweep for the ride was patient and encouraging. I walked the first short climb and got back on the bike. I sucked wind the entire way up and out of the woods, but I made it - not certain that my heart was not going to just quit on me before I could get back to the parking lot for some pizza - but I made it.
The ride back to the cars was mostly down hill on mild terrain, so that was a nice chance to rest. When I got back to the cars, I had recovered a little. I had enough energy to eat some pizza and be social. Which was better than the last two times I had ridden Land Locked.... I was not certain that I hadn't done permanent damage to my heel, shoulder, or heart, but that didn't really matter. I improved and had fun doing it.
Maybe next time, I will find someone to go at my pace. Better yet, I'll just keep getting better....

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Kid's Ride 2

I cannot say enough good things about how NEMBA runs their Kid's Ride Series. The leaders are great. The encourage the kids to push themselves.
Today was Bug's second kid's ride. She wasn't really sure about going because she gets nervous riding with new people particularly when I am not right with her. The kid's rides are organized so that the kids ride in a group with the parents trailing, so essentially the kids are riding on their own. She was also a little worried that the trails would be too hard for her.
The ride was right by our house and we had already done a bunch of the trails, so that made her feel better. I also reminded her that if she goes on three rides, she gets a tee shirt.
We went out with the middle skilled group. The advanced group was mostly older kids who had been riding for a while and wanted to shred. The beginner group was for kids that had never mountain biked or were on balance bikes. The middle group was huge.
It didn't take long for our group to split into sub-groups. Just after leaving the main field in front of the community gardens there is a bridge. We had more than one rider become a walker. After the bridge, there was a small be steady incline that further broke the group down. In the end, I think our initial group split off into three groups.
After the sorting, our group picked up speed and headed out along the Greenway. The kids all did great. There was some walking here and there as we came upon obstacles or surprisingly steep inclines.
At stops, I checked in with Bug and she seemed to be enjoying herself. Her biggest worry was not that the trails were hard; she was more concerned that kids in front of her kept getting hung up on inclines and making her slow down....
We made a stop at the bump track. The kids enjoyed riding around the track, but no-one really got the idea of bumping around the track. I cannot bump around the whole track either. I still need to peddle to get around...
After the bump track we headed way out the Greenway. We went out past Avalon and Walnut Street to the long bridge that leads down to the soccer fields. It was as long and difficult as some of the adult beginner rides I've done this summer.
The thing I learned was that going slow requires a lot of skill. When I'm bombimg along the trail, momentum makes getting over things easier, it makes missed shifts a little less terrible, and it magically stabilizes the bike. Balancing and speed changes are a unique challenge.
Towards the end of the ride, a few of the younger kids started running out of steam. There was one boy who was a super trooper. He was ridding a 16" BMX rig with a single speed that looked like it weighed as much as he did. Going out he tried just about everything. On the way back he walked a lot more. He still gave everything the old college try, but he was fading. His persistence was impressive.
The enthusiasm of the kids and their excitement after conquering a challenge is great. I know Bug feels better about herself after completing a ride. Now she really wants that tee shirt....

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Relaxing in Maine with a Touch of Grief

This is our third year going to Mt. Desert Island and we still love it. Several of the families we talked to kept saying that every year they want to go somewhere else for vacation, but end up right back at the same campground. I figure why mess with success when it comes to a week of relaxation.
We have plenty of other opportunities for excitement.....
Our first two days were very chill. We got our camp site all set up the first day after a leisurely drive. The second day we hung around the camp site for most of the morning. In the afternoon, we did a really nice hike across from Echo Lake. There were some pretty steep sections, but the views were spectacular. We also started our "Handstands in ME" photo collage on the hike. There is no place where Bug will not try a hand stand.
Monday, our third day, started out nice. We made our usual run up to the Gathering Spot for pastries, coffee, and daddy-daughter chit chat. Then the cat sitter called....
Alex, our cat, had been up and down since the winter, but nobody really knew what was wrong with him. At first we thought it was just asthma and put him on steroids, and he bounced back. Then as summer wore on, he started getting more and more picky about his food and generally just slowing down. He'd do great for a while; then not so great. We were planning on having some more testing done after vacation, but it seems like he had other plans...
The sitter said he looked pretty bad and that he needed to see a vet ASAP. She would take him, but one of us would need to come home and fill out the final paperwork.
After talking it out as a family, we decided that we would leave the camp site set up, all drive home to be with Alex, and them come back the next day. Bug was adamant about wanting to be there for Alex even knowing that he was likely not going to make it. It was a somber drive.
About halfway down, the vet called and confirmed what we already knew. He was in a very bad way; she could probably give him some drugs and stuff to perk him back up, but that would just be a short term fix. We let the vet know that we were on our way and wanted to be there when he passed; she said she would make him comfortable until we got there.
We told Bug what was going to happen when we got to the vets. She was sad, but resolute. She and H spent the rest of the drive making a mural of all the things we loved about Alex.
The vet had a nice room set aside for saying goodbye. There is a little couch where we all sat together and held Alex. He looked comfortable, but definitely weak. When we were ready, the vet gave him the shots and he drifted away.  We all had a good cry. Yes, even me. I reminded Bug, that pets who are truly loved never die.
After we finished at the vet, we went home to put some of Alex's things away. We didn't want to keep it hanging about.
Before anyone could think too much about it, I made the executive decision to drive back to the campground that night. H was skeptical, but didn't up much of a fight. I figured that if we lingered we would never get back. We would sleep in, then we'd be all mopey and drag our butts until it was after lunch, and we'd miss two full days of our vacation. That is not what Alex would have wanted....
It was the right decisions. Bug passed out in the backseat and we go back to the campground before midnight.
We woke up on Tuesday ready for pastries, cold brew coffee, and fun in the sun. After a bit of planning, we decided it would be a biking day: we would catch the shuttle into Bar Harbor, take the bike express to Eagle Lake, ride out to Jordan Pond House, then reverse course. Plan in hand, we packed up our water bottles, threw some snacks in a back pack, hopped on the bikes, and headed up to meet the shuttle into Bar Harbor.
When the bus arrived we started loading the bikes on the racks only to find out that the shuttles cannot accommodate standard 29" MTB tires.... We're not talking fatty tires, just plain old 29" tires.
So, back down to the camp site to make a quick swithcheroo on our toy transport set up. We moved the bike racks off of the trailer and onto the roof of the bus. It was harder than I thought it would be. The bus is super tall and wide. Getting a bike in the middle was quite the trick. An hour latter we were on our way....
At the trailhead, H had me ask for help getting the middle bike down. It is nice to have an extra hand and not risk banging up the bikes.....
Bug and I enjoyed our new wheels on the trail. The added suspension was cushy and I hardly noticed the extra weight. We did make sure we stuck with H up the hills. Last year we just went around Eagle Lake; this year we decided to extend the trip over to Jordan Pond. It was a nice extension. The trail was mostly level and the scenery was nice.
It was easy to tell when you got to Jordan Pond. There was a throng of bike and people milling about taking selfies and chilling.
We made our way over to the actually Jordan Pond House just to see what it was about and ended up staying for some popovers. It really is all that. The popovers are deliciously lite and airy. The jam and butter was a perfect match. The outdoor seating was lovely and our waiter was delightful. It was a perfect little break in the middle of our ride.
The ride back is mostly down hill. Kenzie did have to stop a few times to wait for us. For the most part she did really well. With the new wheels, she can zoom. I empathized with her. My new wheels really wanted to zoom down the trail as well.
We had help getting the bikes back on the car, but not getting them off at the campground. Fortunately, no bikes were hurt (or any buses).
The next day was our annual Mt. Gorham hike to collect blueberries. It is always a nice hike.
We parked at Sand Beach and walked up past Thunder Hole hoping it was thundering. We had no luck on the thunder; all was quite at the hole.
The Gorham trail is easy and we made quick work of it. We did get a few nice hiking handstands to add to our collection. H and Bug worked harder looking for berries than they did hiking. They scoured the summit and got a nice haul. The hike down was also pretty uneventful. The only hard part was trying to convince H to let Bug and I do the Beehive trail.... Maybe next year....
Back at the campground Bug wanted to try paddle boarding, so she and I rented a pair for two hours. At first, Bug was not too into it. I think she was a little scared and a little cold. It did not take too much prodding to get her to try some backbends and handstands on the paddle board. Once she realized that she could manage that, she was all in. She spent more time doing tricks than paddling, but that was OK. I got to paddle and she had fun. What is vacation for if not for having fun.
Thursday was a family kayaking day. After pastries and puttering around, we set off down Sommes Sound. It was a little windy and Kenzie got chilly paddling the sit on top, so we only made it about a mile or so before hauling out for lunch. After some snacks and a quick swim, we headed back to camp. First we went looking for some Ospreys. Bug and I had seen some when we were paddle boarding. Today they alluded us.
On the way back to the docks, Bug saw some of her friends and wanted to stop. So, I stopped with Bug and H continued back. H deserved some down time. Bug and her friends set up a fancy restaurant on the rocks while I practiced my boat control skills and generally goofed off on the water. Then the kids asked for on water entertainment, so I did a bunch of rolls for them.
Thursday night was the Stars over the Beach presentation in the park and we always try to go and see the show. Last year it was cloudy and you could hear the thunder coming in from the mainland. This year the full moon and fog made star gazing less than rewarding. The rangers did their best and told some good stories. Even when the sky does not corporate, laying on the beach listening to good stories with the gentle tide in the background is a nice way to spend an evening.
Our final day was set aside for Diver Ed. As expected it was a fun time on the water. Ed is goofy and educational. Getting to spend a few hour out at sea is a bonus.
Driving home was bittersweet. While we were happy to be heading home, we were sad that vacation was over and that home was going to be empty. It will take a while to get used to not having a giant fuzz ball wandering around the house.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Pushing it Past the Limit

Over the last few weeks I have been pushing the the edges on the mountain bike. I did a "mellow" intermediate ride at the Land Locked forest last Thursday and then did a "hard beginners" ride there tonight.
Land Locked is a great place to ride, but I learned that my fitness level is still pretty poor on both rides.
The Monday night beginners ride has been great at building up my skills. There was nothing at Land Locked that I could not handle. Although there is a lot more at Land Locked to play on than there is in Belmont. That part made me feel good.
The Monday night rides are also good for building fitness, but not enough to really build it up to the point needed to do long rides without a lot of stops.
Back in June when I was riding my road bike to work a couple of times a week, I probably had a pretty good base. Now, after a month of only riding once a week, my old body has lost all of that base.
On the Tuesday night ride, I was lucky enough to find a two women who were looking for a slower pace. It gassed me pretty good and my bike computer told me I was overreaching. I felt pretty OK afterwards though - aside from my normal "Oh my god I'm gonna have a heart attack" anxiety.
Tonight though, I had no such luck. The ride leaders did not set a hard pace and did a great job making sure everyone was doing OK. I was doing fine for most of the ride, or so I thought. I knew I was pushing myself, but not too hard. Then I hit the wall.... We did this section called the milk crate and I nearly keeled over. Then there was more uphills...
At one point I just had to get off the bike and just rest awhile. The ride leader was really great and stuck with me and helped me stay positive. Some how I got back on and hobbled back to the cars.
My bike computer told me I was overreaching and congratulated me a new max heart rate of 194... I'm 50 and 220-50 is definitely lower than 194.... I wasn't having chest pain or dizziness or any more than normal shortness of breath, but I was wiped.
Somehow, I managed to get the bike back on the roof and after a little rest drove home. I am still in the "Oh my god I'm gonna have a heart attack" phase, but without any real symptoms.
It is just one more reminder that I am getting older and need to remember my limits. Oh and that I should exercise more than once a week.....
Fortunately, I'm vacationing next week and cannot be lured back to Land Locked. I'd like to say I have learned my lesson, but it was a ton of fun.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Carter Notch Hut Hike

Once a year, we do one AMC White Mountain Hut. We started doing these hikes six years ago with the goal of having Kenzie and her Grandpa Bob hike into all of the AMC huts. The plan was to start easy and work our way to the harder huts as Kenzie got older and more capable. In our fantasy world, Grandpa Bob would not really age - or if he did he would still be able to tackle any mountain we could possibly throw at him.

Last year, we saw the first signs that he may not be able to complete all the huts. We hiked up to Greenleaf Hut on the Bridle Path and it was a bitch. Grandpa Bob did great, but it was a struggle. I actually think he managed the hike better than I did.
This year, we talked Grandpa Bob into doing Carter Notch Hut. It is a longer hike than the Bridle Path, but is not as steep. He seemed excited, but a few weeks before we were to leave he called and canceled. His depth perception and balance are not what he would like it to be. He is 81 after all.
So it was a bittersweet trip this year.
The grandparents did meet us at the trailhead and hiked about a mile in with us. Once it started getting steep and rocky, they turned around.
The hike to the hut is all up, but it a fairly gradual incline through a nice pine forest. The trail goes along a brook with some nice places to stop. We had lunch on some rocks on a water fall. There was not much in the way of views though. The tree cover was too thick.
Cater Notch Hut has the oldest hut structure still in use. The main lodge was built in 1914 and is still the central point of the hut. The bunk house and bathrooms are in separate buildings a short walk away. The bunk houses are relatively new and spacious. The main lodge, on the other hand is quite cozy.
Somehow Kenzie always manages to find someone her age to play with on these trips. This time it was two girls who were doing a day hike to the hut. The girls did a bunch of rock climbing and cave exploration in a near by feature called the Ramparts. The Ramparts looks is a giant bolder field that looks sort of like a giant baby left its legos just laying around. Then the girls went for a swim in the vernal pools near the hut.
After the girls left, it was time for dinner, the naturalist presentation, and bed. Hut dinners are always simple, but hearty affairs. This year it was Thanksgiving in August. I am always amazed that the cru can make such great meals in the middle of the mountains.
Kenzie got up bright and early to fill out her junior naturalist book so she could get her sixth straight patch. Fortunately, she was pretty quiet and I got to sleep until like 6:30. I was up early enough to hear the cru sing the wake up song. The two girls singing were the best I heard at a hut. They had the harmonies down.
Breakfast was oatmeal, bacon, and pancakes; just what one needs to fuel up for a longish hike.
The hike out was pretty chill. Save for the short climb out of the notch, it was all down. We stopped for a quick swim near the trailhead to cool down. The water was cold.
After our hike, Heather wanted to show us the Joe Dodge Lodge, the new Pinkham Notch Lodge, which she visited often when she was a kid. The new lodge is pretty posh. You still have to share communal bathrooms, but the sleeping areas looked very comfortable. The old lodge had a nice cafe where we got lunch. The sandwiches were top notch.
We will finish our mission of visiting each of the Huts with Kenzie, but it looks like we will not be doing them as we had hoped. Grandpa Bob wants us to keep doing it, and I'm sure he would love to be able to do it as well. Hopefully, he will still come and start the trails with us and we know he will always be with us in our hearts.