Sunday, February 11, 2007


Today was a trail work day at the new Raystown Lake trail project. The nested loop trail system is a collaborative effort between the US Army Corps of Engineers, IMBA, local bike clubs (RMBA, NMBA, LHORBA, and MBM), as well as other stakeholders (Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission, Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau, and Juniata College). The project encompasses multiuse trails of varying levels of difficulty for mountain biking, cross country skiing, trail running, and hiking.

The goal for the day was to use handheld GPS devices, clinometers, and topographical maps to ribbon the trail corridor as it had been previously laid out by IMBA trail professionals. The trail corridors had been designed on a computer and the GPS cooridinates, or waypoints, were downloaded into the handheld units. We would use these to keep us on the right "track". The clinometers were used to "shoot" the grade. They optically measure the % grade between two points. IMBA recommends keeping trail gradients below 15% up or down; however, the local soil composition assessment indicated that the soil may not support grades in excess of 10%. So we would attempt to stay below 10% in this area (making singlespeeders around the state rejoice).

At first, the work was slow going as Clark Fisher of Laurel Highlands Off-Road Bicycling Association (LHORBA) patiently showed us how to interpret the maps and use the equipment. Soon enough though, we were rolling along quite well. In order to work more efficiently, we split into two groups and started on a loop from both ends.
Each group had at least one person reading the trail cooridinates from the GPS unit, one person shooting grades with a clinometer, and two people wrapping ribbon around trees in appropriate locations.Aaron Hofelt from Nittany Mountain Biking Association in State College with a clinometer. Aaron organized the trail day today in an effort to get some work days in at Raystown before his local trails in Rothrock State Forest reopen and need maintenance.

Shannon Dolte (l) from the Raystown Mountain Bikers Assocation (RMBA) and Clark Fisher (r)from LHORBA - two seasoned trail builders.

In all, we flagged over 4.5 miles of trail in about four hours - taking a big chunk out of the trail sections remaining to be flagged. The next step for this section is to have a professional trail building team, like the IMBA Trail Crew, come in and build the trail using mechanized equipment. Funds have already been allocated for this stage. The entire trail system needs to be flagged by the end of March and there are still a few miles to go. Please post a comment if you would like to help out.

Clark's vehicle is proof that they are using way too much salt on the roads in PA this winter.

Of course Larry and I got a quick ride in after all the trail work was complete.

We are looking forward to riding here:
Provided we can secure adequate supervision.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ötzi & The Ice Ride

Yesterday, February 7th, it was around 8pm when Larry and I pulled into a parking spot off of Ridge Road. It was dark and cold - 9 degrees would be the high. At 9 degrees the snow has a squeaky crunch, the air stings your nostrils, your lungs don't ever seem to adjust, and all things rubber and plastic begin their slow transition into brittle solids.

Larry had been kind enough to lend me one of his lighting systems - which is a huge upgrade over the LED Petzl Tikka light I had duct-taped to my helmet. We had done a night ride in Caledonia last Tuesday with John Heisler and a couple of his friends but that was at a balmy 28 degrees, closer to civilization, and with a larger group. Two of us, here, at 9 degrees was a different story. As we got prepared for the ride, we both commented that mechanicals would be a bad thing; getting lost, worse; and an injury, well we would be like that man and his dog in Jack London's To Build A Fire which is to say: Totally Fooked.

Here is Larry preparing for counter-terrorist winter training at an undisclosed location deep in the Michaux State Forest.
Larry wanted to show me a new ride start higher up on the ridge in order to keep the ride a little flatter. We had been burning in Connector Trail in Caledonia for weeks so a change was welcome.

The trails were riding really nice. This is one of the Ditch trails coming down off of Ridge Road.
Uh Larry, I have some bad news.....
Yes, it happened. A flat, a thorn puncture to be precise. I channeled some of the old DC bike courier mojo to change a flat quickly. I had to resort to bare hands and pulling a thorn out with my teeth. My CO2 inflator didn't fill the tire all the way so I topped it off with Larry's fancy bike pump.
The pump with the plastic stand and rubber hose. Note in the next picture of his pump that fancy plastic stand is missing - all things plastic....break.

We rode up Lollipop - backwards and then over to Camp Trail (Heisler's name for it). Larry says that his front tire is also feeling spongy, but that he is going to ride it till the bitter end.
Here is a picture of the bitter end.

Yes, that is me in the front trying to thaw out my toes and Larry in the back changing his flat. I do have a really nice pair of neoprene booties; however, they were back at my house. I'm saving them in case I ever go on a really cold ride. My toes were stiff, long past the cold and painful stage and just into they don't hurt anymore but they don't move either stage. In my infinite wisdom, I had removed the insoles from my shoes so that I could wear two pairs of socks. What that really did was remove the only insulator between my feet, my metal cleats, and the icy cold air/ground.

After the second flat was repaired and my foot had thawed out a bit, we got back into the flow and had a great time finishing up Camp Trail. Larry rippin it up single speed style. We poked around a couple of more places, the Camp Trail Extension, rode a big rock, and then we spun back up the car on fire roads. In all, over two hours outside in single digit temperatures without windchill cutting fresh tracks on trails.

Our training program calls for very specific recovery drinks: lucky for us they were still in a liquid state.

As we were driving home I thought of that mummified man they found in the Tyrolean Alps back in 1991, Otzi. In 3300 BC he had wandered up to a pass and froze to death. Today, through the use of modern science and creative imagination, folks have written books about his life, his final days, where he lived, what was doing there, what he ate for his last meal. These books and stories are largely based on an analysis of the contents of his stomach and the few artifacts he had with him. Had Larry and I not fared so well, what would they write about us in 5000 years? Sure, the athletic musculature aside, they would assume we lived on fermented grain juice, were out on a winter hunt, poaching on our metal machines - and they would be correct.

Time goes by but so little changes.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Espresso Love

It has been a long time since the espresso has been flowing in the Mark home. My Expobar Office Pulser functioned perfectly for several years and then........ bam. I blew a pressure relief valve. We all know how clear hindsight it, right? Well before I was blessed with that form of vision I ripped her open and started poking around.

By the time I was done, I had damaged at least two parts. One, a hard to find, pressure-regulating diaphragm and the other a needle valve. My friend Chuck took the pressure diaphragm to his shop and crimped it back on. Kathy at tech support explained that I needed to descale the needle valve, reassemple, test, and retest until I have the pressure adjusted properly.

Turns out all I had to do in the very beginning was push a little red button to reset the boiler.

In the interim, approximately 12 months, Starbucks has been reaping the benefits of me not having a functional machine at home. Boy, are they going to miss me.

As of yesterday, I have the machine running perfectly again - churning out tasty machiattos, lattes, Americanos, etc. All's well that ends well.