Juniata River Sojourn 2015.

Following last year’s unexpected weather events and resulting lake paddle instead of the planned river paddle, I think everyone was pretty excited to get back to moving water for the Juniata River Sojourn this year. It was time for the Frankstown Branch on the 3-year rotation cycle, though there were some changes to the previous itinerary for this section of water.

We used to do a couple days on the Frankstown Branch, then move over to the Little Juniata for a day, and finish in Huntingdon on the Mainstem. However, the nature of the Little Juniata is much different from the other rivers—it’s tighter and more technical, and is conducive to a shorter, more maneuverable boat instead of the longer recreational and touring kayaks that many people tend to bring on the Sojourn for the many flatwater sections. And so, as the new organizers of the event, Rothrock Outfitters decided to eliminate the Little Juniata day, instead extending the trip another half day to Mapleton.

Sojourn 2015 - upper section - 3

Sojourn 2015 - lower section - 3

Maps I made of the 2015 Sojourn route.

This year there were about 50 participants, mostly familiar faces, but with a few first-timers. Most people arrived Friday afternoon into the evening, in order to set up camp and hang out. The Sojourn is as much a social event as it is a paddling event, if not moreso, and the evening campfire is always a highlight.

I arrived at the Sojourn after work on Friday evening, after grabbing ice and some pizza for Evan and others who were already out there. As I was driving west on Rt. 22, I heard the storm warnings on the radio, and arrived at camp just before the rain arrived. Along with the usual suspects, I found two familiar faces I didn’t expect to see this weekend—Don, an old paddling buddy of the guys at the shop that I’ve crossed paths with a few times in the past but never really got to spend a whole lot of time with, and Luis, an old friend of my family who I haven’t seen since I was in high school.

I caught up with those I hadn’t seen in a year or more while getting cozy under an easy-up to escape the precipitation. The night wore on, the rain finally stopped, and we built a fire.

Mark goes at the hot apple pie under the blue LED lights we set up in the easy-up.

fire

around the fire people

Panorama attempts.

Panorama attempts.

The first evening was my favorite, mainly because I wasn’t tired yet. After a couple nights of too little sleep and days spent in the sun, I start to fade fast, and staying up past midnight becomes out of the question (I really wish I wasn’t one of those people who need a lot of sleep). But Friday night, I was one of the last to go to bed. I slept in the back of the yellow van, on the cushy bench seat that is the perfect length for my 5’3″ body. This spot has become a favorite resting place for events involving Big Yellow.
I awoke with dawn in the morning. It was still cloudy, but already warm. These next few days were supposed to be hot, humid, and stormy. The forecast was right, though the rain always waited until we were off the water and setting up tents to grace us with its presence.

van wake up

Waking up.

don setup

These flowers had fallen overnight, covering a group of kayaks.

These flowers had fallen overnight, covering a group of kayaks.

big yellow

Because of our proximity to the Lower Trail (by proximity I mean we were right on it), a rails-to-trails project connecting our put-in with the campsite and beyond, sojourners were encouraged to bring bikes to ride to the put-in while the outfitter shuttled their boats and gear. There only ended up being 6 of us that took advantage of this opportunity, despite the easy ride.

Jeff and I brought our fixies, which were super fun on the flat trail. The comfortable pace was a fast one, and we just cruised along, chatted, and tried to avoid hitting chipmunks that would often dart into our path.

riders

jeff fixie

fixies

The morning went smoothly—there were no vehicle issues (which tends to be a norm on any sojourn), and we actually put on the water on schedule (which never happens). The water was low though, and it did take us longer than expected to reach the lunch spot at Williamsburg, and subsequently to finish at the end of the day. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as that infamous day on the Little Juniata years ago, when it felt like all we did was walk down the river and pull boats off of rocks.

jodi mike penni jenell

many boats

coming down rapid

jeff don

boats at lunch

smiles

wenonah

bridge

That evening, the rain held off for the most part and we got the lawn games out. Life-sized Jenga was a huge hit! I actually got to set up my hammock, which I’d just found after spending a year thinking that it was lost forever (it somehow ended up in Houck’s truck on the sojourn last year), and spent the night in it without getting rained on. It turned out this was the only night of the trip I could do this, so I’m glad I took advantage of the opportunity.

tony hammock

evan

mark blue

evan blue

hammocks

Sunday was a hot one. The water guns came out and swimming commenced. Some swims were intentional, others were not. But at least when it’s hot out, those unintentional swims aren’t so bad either. put in

tony surf

Tony tries out the new Jackson Karma RG that we got in at the shop.

water fight

Water fight!

evan guide

fronta

As soon as we pulled off the water at Edgewater Acres, our camping spot for the night, it began to storm, and it never really stopped for very long. We watched lightning flash over the cornfield as we downed cans of Perpetual IPA. Later that evening, I joined in a tasting of Penni’s homemade wine, which is a sojourn tradition. The dandelion was delightful, but the banana not so much.

On Monday morning, we had a lot of flat water paddling before portaging the Warrior Ridge hydroelectric dam at lunchtime. There is a path to make the portage relatively easy, but it is muddy, rutted, washed out, and in need of some TLC. We are in the process of trying to fix it up a bit, and during the lunch break, sojourners helped to clean up some of the trash along the path while we carried train after train of boats.

trash muddy portage

cool

Cooling off.

evan board

We ended up in Huntingdon, and after beaching boats at Riverside Park, there was a swarm of people back to the water for a dip. Later that evening, we all headed over to Rothrock Outfitters for an open house, and Boxer’s Cafe for food and live music by Nick Miller.

floaters

beer

My sojourn experience ended on Monday night because I had to work elsewhere on Tuesday, but the group paddled another half day to end up in Mapleton to complete the journey. Next year, we’ll be starting in Mapleton and heading all the way to Duncannon.

For more info on the Juniata River Sojourn, visit the Rothrock Outfitters website.

Moss balls.

Alright, so what’s a moss ball?

carissa big ball better It’s a plant that is removed from its container and instead wrapped in dirt and moss. Its more proper name is kokedama, a Japanese word which translates to “moss ball.” Imagine that! The practice of gardening in this manner started in Japan, and then spread across Europe and to the United States. I first heard about it from my friend Alicia, who actually had a get-together last night to make these balls of moss. It’s a rather simple process: First, choose what plant you’d like to use. We were making specific mosquito-repelling balls, but you can plant just about anything in this manner! I chose to use a citronella plant for mine, since I’ve been wanting one anyway. pre twine Remove the plant from any container it may be in, and wrap the topsoil in sphagnum moss that has been soaked in water (you simply need to grab a bucket, fill it with water, throw the sphagnum moss in, and you’re set to go). Then use some twine to secure the sphagnum moss in place. Don’t overthink this step—random patterns will do. Tie it off and you’re set to start your next layer. twine raylenepack it Next, grab a handful of peat moss, dunk it in the water (the same bucket as the sphagnum moss is fine), and add it to your ball. Completely cover the layer of sphagnum with a layer of peat moss. It may have a tough time sticking—try wetting it more and be patient as you pack. Once you have a layer of peat moss completely surrounding the ball, it’s time to add the final layer, sheet moss. Cover the ball once more, and finish it off with another round of twine. Remember to leave a section of twine with which to hang the ball. And, you’re done! post twine look To keep the moss ball moist, dunk it in water for a few minutes once every week or so, depending on the climate. You can bring them inside in the winter, just make sure there is something under them for when they drip.

Here are some more articles I found on the topic:

Bloom Magazine

Gardenista ball bike

A-rattling we will go.

I’d been to Rattling Creek, in Weiser State Forest, a couple months ago, and absolutely loved the rolling singletrack punctuated by fun rock gardens that the area offers. So, when some of our friends decided to head up that way again, I didn’t hesitate to tag along.

Lately, I haven’t been wandering too far from home. I’ve been busy with work, enjoying just spending time at our still-kind-of-new abode, and instead exploring new places close by. And so, despite the fact that Rattling Creek is only about 2 hours away, I looked upon this day trip with a childlike enthusiasm. We were going on a road trip.

This enthusiasm was heightened by the fact that we’d be making the drive in my friend Brent’s 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon, which he’d just fixed up with a new engine and is a seriously cool fun-bus. And so, at the crack of dawn, the Vanagon came rolling up my driveway and Brent, along with Brendan and Jake, came spilling out with cheerful greetings and excitement mirroring my own. We all piled in, and were off, over the mountain to Big Valley and then onto Rt. 22 east.

vanagon

We met up with a couple more friends, the Mongolds, at a picnic area parking lot in Weiser SF, where they were jamming to some bluegrass tunes, as per usual. We gathered up our riding stuff, switched out pedals (Brent had forgotten his SPD shoes, so the Mongolds were able to bring a pair of flat pedals for him to ride), and started out climbing some gravel doubletrack.

Most of the trails we rode were the same as last time I was here, but in a different order. We started in the middle of the trail system this time, rather than on one end, so it broke up the uphill a little more (last time, it was mostly uphill for the first half and mostly downhill for the second), and the long downhill section was in the middle, not the end.

Shortly into the ride, we stopped to check out the hang glider launch at the top of the mountain. Brendan took this opportunity to replace the tube that had been giving him trouble (not 15 minutes into the ride, he got a flat), and I took the opportunity to take pictures.

fixing

the view

grassy black & white

grassy

grassy tammy

naptime

brent black and white

close flowers

After the hang-glider launch, we headed out the ridge along the aptly-named Rock’s Ridge Trail, which features a number of cool rock “bridges” of sorts that are fun to play on. We spent time at each of them, trying and re-trying to clean the line, in most cases successfully. I did get a couple scrapes out of Rock’s Ridge Trail, both of which happened in totally unimpressive ways (i.e. the ol’ clip in and fall over trick). But hey, it’s been at least a month since I’ve drawn blood while biking, so I guess I was due.

tam tam rocks it

jake rocks it

steffie tam tam

the line

tam tam yeah

After the rocks, it was all downhill for a while, on Rattling Creek Trail, which winds down the mountain and ends up at its namesake stream. The trail was so much more grown in than last time we rode here, and the mountain laurel was in full bloom. The pink of its flowers contrasted with the lush green of the surrounding forest made for a beautiful sight.

mtn laurel

tam smiles

At the creek, Jake decided to jump in, and the rest of us splashed water on our heads and faces to cool off in the heat of the day. Jake also attempted to catch some of the small fish we saw swimming around, but with no luck. We continued on our way, deciding to do a small extra loop that we hadn’t ridden last time on Rugged Trail, across the highway from the main trail system. By the time we completed those 3-ish miles, I was starting to get pretty exhausted, and it was time to pay for that nice, long downhill on Rattling Creek Trail. It was mostly uphill back to the car, with some pretty technical sections. I could tell I was getting sloppy, my lack of riding over the past few weeks becoming evident. But we made it back to the vehicles, and we determined that parking at the bottom of the downhill was indeed the way to go—get the uphill and more technical stuff out of the way when we’re fresh, and save the downhill and the stream for last.

jake jumps in

splash

catching fish

steve tammy

After the ride, we hit up the Carsonville Hotel for burgers and a couple brews before piling back in the Vanagon for the trip home. Another great day of riding with great people.

Dirt Fest 2015.

Another Dirt Fest has come and gone, and, as usual, it was a big blur punctuated by highlights. It was my third year helping out with the event, and it seems as though every year I become farther removed from the participation aspect and more closely intertwined with the organization and making-stuff-happen aspect of things. That’s what happens when you’re in bed (literally) with the organizer and Dirt Fest King, but I’m totally okay with it. There’s no way I’d be able to just sit back and relax and not do everything I could every moment of the day to help out. And besides, I don’t want to ride the Allegrippis during Dirt Fest anyway—I get to ride the trails every other week of the year when there aren’t two thousand other people out there.

Just because I work the event doesn’t mean I don’t have fun. Working with a great crew of volunteers (who are also all mostly my good friends) is awesome. The people-watching at the Fest is pretty fascinating. And at the end of each very long day, we head to the Dirt Rag tent and eat some of Elizabeth’s amazing pizza and hang out just like everybody else.

This year’s Dirt Fest went fairly smoothly, with only minor hiccups, injuries, and complaints. As usual, there are things to improve upon for next year, and that will never change.

Here’s a rundown of the week, mostly in photos:

The first pile of stuff is dropped off where the registration tent/HQ will be.

The first pile of stuff is dropped off where the registration tent/HQ will be.

We drive around, put out signs, scope out the campground, and other preliminary setup stuff.

We drive around, put out signs, scope out the campground, and other preliminary setup stuff.

IMG_3876

Tuesday evening packet-stuffing party.

Wednesday night volunteer meeting.

Wednesday night volunteer meeting.

We found these super classy vessels on the houseboat that we're staying on for the week.

We found these super classy vessels on the houseboat that we stayed on for the week.

People who make things happen.

People who make things happen.

Playing with fire.

Playing with fire.

We aren't kidding.

We aren’t kidding.

One of the coolest changes/additions to Dirt Fest was the use of solar power via Zero Fossil Energy Outfitters.

One of the coolest changes/additions to Dirt Fest was the use of solar power via Zero Fossil Energy Outfitters.

They brought a cool trailer with an attached solar array.

They brought a cool trailer with an attached solar array.

And had these nifty little cell phone charging stations set up throughout the event---all powered by solar!

And had these nifty little cell phone charging stations set up throughout the event—all powered by solar!

Beer canoe stuffers.

Beer canoe stuffers.

IMG_4006

Git yer cup!

Git yer cup!

Tyne and the Fastline, Thursday night's entertainment.

Tyne and the Fastline, Thursday night’s entertainment.

Thursday night of Dirt Fest is always my favorite—before the masses arrive, before it all gets crazy, before I’m so sleep deprived that I don’t even want to hang out and drink beer anymore. This time was no different. And as always, the funky bikes came out and Elizabeth Klevens manned the pizza oven and created her sinfully delicious pies that were usually gobbled up within seconds of them hitting the table.

IMG_4027

The tall bike is always a hit.

IMG_4036

The bucking-ball-crusher.

IMG_1859

Lee Klevens is the only person I’ve ever seen successfully ride the reverse-steer bike—with a beer in hand, no less.

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Two of my favorite people.

IMG_4034

Brent is the tall bike master. As the week goes on, he becomes less clothed.

IMG_1861

The beautiful pizza-maker at work:

IMG_4048 IMG_4039

And Friday morning, we all had to be up way too early to greet the influx of Dirt-Festers pouring in. The expo opened at 1, and the Fest was in full swing.

IMG_4058

Jake found the chalk.

IMG_4076

Daily schedule-writer.

IMG_4072

Thank goodness for coffee!

IMG_4062

Wabi Sabi sushi was back—yum!!!

IMG_4066

These folks are pretty great.

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Salsa booth. But not the kind you eat.

IMG_4091

Sometimes men ride bikes in bikinis and tag along for the chicks ride.

IMG_4099

Dave & Rebecca learned a valuable lesson about campers and parking them on muddy roads that weekend.

IMG_4104

Jeff—always a treat.

IMG_4108

Daniel was a lifesaver when it came to fixing the jerry-rigged cash box.

IMG_4114

Brent entertained the masses with his walrus impression.

This Dirt Fest map was also the debut of my map-making business, AlpackaMap.

This Dirt Fest map was also the debut of my map-making business, AlpackaMap.

On Sunday morning, it rained and everyone left. Also, Evan made a rain suit out of a trash bag. And made himself look like a Transformer.

On Sunday morning, it rained and everyone left. Also, Evan made a rain suit out of a trash bag. And made himself look like a Transformer.

Sam Thillen came to Dirt Fest!

Sam Thillen came to Dirt Fest!

Things are a little soggy.

Things are a little soggy.

Sunday morning, it poured, most of the scheduled events were cancelled, and everyone poured out of the campground. By the afternoon, only a few of us remained, and it was time to celebrate another successful Fest. We hung out at the Dirt Rag tent, took a ride to the skills park, paddleboarded and swam.

Maurice and Evan.

Maurice and Evan, the two who made it all happen.

Stay fuzzy, my friend.

Stay fuzzy, my friend.

The shorts came out!

The shorts came out!

Carissa & Ellis.

Carissa & Ellis.

Leftover beer=first world problem.

Leftover beer=first world problem.

The sun sets on another successful Dirt Fest.

The sun sets on another successful Dirt Fest.

King & Queen. He deserves the title of King; I just got really lucky.

King & Queen. He deserves the title of King; I just got really lucky.

Bikepacking Rothrock State Forest & Big Valley.

Though I don’t do it nearly as often as I’d like, every time I leave on a bicycle with everything I’ll need to spend the night packed in my panniers, I just have this good feeling of excitement and adventure and utter peace all at once. A couple weekends ago, I went on my first bikepacking trip in nearly two years with a group of friends. We didn’t go far—just up into the State Forest close to home, and back the long way through the next valley and over the mountain—but it was an experience that’s left me jonesing for more, and I reminded me how much I love to travel by bicycle. Though I ride all the time, it’s somehow a different experience and vibe when you’re going for an overnight. It’s very freeing, to have all that you need on your bicycle, and nothing you don’t need (well, sometimes I still pack things I don’t need, because I’m still a bikepacking rookie, but you get the point). We left after work on Saturday from our house, and after a short warm-up stopped for dinner at a local grocery and sandwich shop. Since we were leaving rather late, we decided to save time by just eating on the way to the campsite rather than hauling extra food for dinner. A burger and root beer later, we were on our way again, pedaling along with the sunset as a backdrop. IMG_3448 IMG_1643 IMG_1642 IMG_1653 IMG_1676 We rode without lights most of the way, even when it grew dark. It was a little-traveled route, and with eyes adjusted to the dim light, we could see just enough to stay on the road. It was a bigger climb than I remembered to Penn Roosevelt State Park, but it went quickly, and before I knew it, we were choosing a site and setting up camp. We spread out our tarps and sleeping bags and hammocks, and built a fire. We stood around its warmth for a couple hours as the temperature dipped, then crawled into our respective cocoons for the night. IMG_3500 IMG_3481 IMG_3504 IMG_3514 IMG_1682   IMG_3520 Morning brought another beautiful day. The sun shone through the pines as we pedaled our way out of Rothrock State Forest along the gravel roads leading out Coopers Gap to Big Valley. The roads had just been re-graveled, so the surface was loose and washy, making for a sketchy descent, especially with extra weight on the rear of the bikes from all our gear. In Big Valley, we hopped onto Back Mountain Road, which would take us south until we reached Allensville Road, our route back over the mountain to our house, where we had begun the day before. The valley was warm, as it had been heating up in the sun for hours while the other side of the mountain was still cloaked in shadow. We quickly noticed peculiar ruts in the middle of the road, formed by the hooves of the horses belonging to the many Amish who reside here and travel throughout the area. IMG_3521 rutted IMG_1742 IMG_1745 IMG_1728 We spread out a lot, and for much of the morning, I was mostly pedaling alone. Every now and then someone would catch up with me, or I would catch up with someone else, or the whole group would stop at an intersection for a quick snack break, but it was a lot of just me and the farms and the big blue sky. IMG_3526 IMG_3539 The weekend was warm, and it seemed like overnight, flowers began to bloom and trees began to sprout small, light green leaves. The green that everything seems to be this time of year is my favorite color, perhaps because it reminds me of new life and the emergence from the cold depths of winter, which seems to be welcomed more and more every year. IMG_3567 IMG_3562 IMG_3570 IMG_3576 IMG_1790 IMG_3581 We found a spigot in Allensville, where we filled up on water before the long climb ahead. I hadn’t ever biked up the mountain from this side, but I’d done it plenty of times coming from the other direction, and I knew it would be brutal, especially laden with panniers full of gear. But it turned out to be easier than I thought. Not “easy,” but I didn’t stop or walk the bike, two things I thought for sure I’d be doing. I was pleasantly surprised at myself. IMG_1796 IMG_1795 IMG_3590 IMG_3591 At the top, Evan, Jake, and Caleb cheered me on. I sat down on the side of the road and joined them to wait for the next rider. When we all had made it, we walked out to the hawkwatch platform and hung out for a while before descending the mountain into Martin Gap. These roads had been re-graveled too, and my hands began to hurt from gripping the brakes so much and holding onto the bike as I tried to control it on the washy surface. I released the brakes for a few seconds, to give my hands a rest, and it was then that I hit an extra deep patch of gravel and went down. I slid on the gravel for a few feet. I got up to get myself off the middle of the road, and everything hurt. My arm and knee were bloody, and I was covered in dust, but aside from surface injuries I was fine. I continued riding out after taking a minute to catch my breath and let the initial shock and pain wear off. Luckily, we were almost home. IMG_3605 IMG_3606 IMG_1817 IMG_1826 In our driveway, we said our goodbyes and I headed up to the house to clean my wounds. It had been a great weekend, and we had been gone less than 24 hours. And yet, we still packed a lot in and had plenty of fun. We need to do this more often.

Paddling Stone Creek. 

Stone Creek is a small stream that runs parallel to the main road that runs from our house to town. In the summer, it’s usually tough to navigate all the way down it in a boat due to the many shallow spots. But a couple weeks ago, all the rivers and streams were running high due to rain combined with a large amount of recent snowmelt, and we figured this was a good opportunity to attempt the 17-mile section of the creek from our house to the town of Huntingdon.

A group of us met early at our place, clad in neoprene and drytops. We hiked with our boats across Rt. 26 and put on the creek by 9am, a whole day ahead of us to figure out just what was in store. I had never paddled any of Stone Creek—I had only done a very small section in an inner tube quite a few years ago, and all I remember from that experience is a lot of walking.

Luckily, this experience ended up being a lot different. Never was it too shallow to paddle through, and we only had to portage log jams twice in the 17-mile stretch, which was a lot less than we expected.

It was a chilly day, but the sun offered some reprieve from the cold breeze. We stopped often, to stretch, snack, check out interesting things onshore, and visit friends who live along the Creek. The trip ended up taking about 7 hours in its entirety, and it was a great day on the water.

Here are some pictures from our journey:

getting started

along the wall IMG_1059 IMG_1137 IMG_1173 IMG_1184 IMG_1190 IMG_1202 IMG_1272

IMG_1288 IMG_1289 IMG_1292 IMG_1295 IMG_1303 IMG_1324 IMG_1334 IMG_1349 IMG_1368 IMG_1373

Sunshine and skinny tires.

Sunday was the first really warm day of the season, with temps souring into the 50s and barely a cloud in the sky to boot. Luckily, it was also my day off. Trails and wooded areas were still pretty well packed in with snow and ice, so it was a fitting occasion to break out the skinnier tires and drop bars and put some miles in on some central PA back roads.

I was joined by a few friends—the Raders, usual riding companions, and Jeff, one of my longtime best friends who is currently trying to make his way out of winter hibernation. We hung out in the back parking lot of the shop for a little while, messing with layers and pumping up tires, basking in the sunshine that seemed like such a rare treat after a winter of clouds and cold.

We decided on a direction to head, and began pedaling. Soon, we were out of town, cranking past fields and farms, battling the occasional headwind.

We passed through McConnellstown (Mactown), and I admired a run-down, overgrown old building. I thought about stopping for a picture, but decided against it. The rest of the group was already moving along. We hopped onto the main road briefly and then were back in the middle of nowhere, alone with the cows and silos. We passed a car or two here and there, but for the most part, we had the asphalt to ourselves.

We kept a leisurely pace, stopping a lot, taking pictures, chatting. Jeff discovered a perfectly good coffee mug by the side of the road and just couldn’t resist picking it up and stuffing it into his pannier. We looped back to Mactown, forming a lollipop, and ended up stopping for a break at the run-down old building I had so admired earlier. I took a picture this time. We munched on beef jerky and energy chews before heading off in a different direction than before, through Hartslog Valley to Petersburg.

It feels as though this year, I am more excited for spring than I ever was before, despite this winter being considerably easier than last. Our house was warm (enough) when we got home at the end of the day, and we didn’t have to fire up the woodstove just to cook dinner. Our walk to the house via the snowed-in driveway was considerably shorter. And, Evan and I had plenty of our own space to be cooped up in, rather than 120 square feet of a tiny cabin. But somehow, this past month has been mentally difficult, and I’ve been ready for this thaw for a while now.

As we pedaled along, I thought about how great it was to be outside without a jacket and still be warm, how easy it felt to just ride along and not spin out every few feet from the slippery snow, and not have to push the bike up every hill. It was a delight to not have giant ice balls around my cleats, and a million layers around my body.

Yes, I’ve been a little sick of winter. It happens every year. And then, every fall, I’m excited about the first snow. It comes with living in a temperate climate, with changing seasons. I enjoy the variety, and though perpetual sunshine and warmth would be lovely, I know it would soon get old. But for now, I’m more than ready for it.

We rode past the river, its distinct odor reminiscent of many a day on the water, then through Petersburg and up over the mountain back towards town. We thought about doing a longer loop, but decided against it in the essence of time and other commitments. At the bottom of the hill, we stopped at an intersection to reconvene, but Jeff never showed up. My phone dinged, and it was a text from Jeff. He had a flat. He told us to go ahead, but we couldn’t leave a man behind, so the rest of us chugged back up the hill to find Jeff all the way at the top, changing his tube. A few short minutes later we were all back on our way, down the hill again.

The last few miles to town were rolling and easy. Back at our cars, we talked about the ride and shared a few sips of whisky before going our separate ways for the rest of the day. We had ridden almost 40 miles—and I felt a lot better than I thought I would after the past month of not doing as much physical activity as I should. I always forget that riding in the snow takes a lot more effort, and every spring, I’m pleasantly surprised that I’m not as out of shape as I thought I was. Always a good thing!

I don't think it's quite warm enough for these yet, but Jeff does.

I don’t think it’s quite warm enough for these yet, but Jeff does. And yes, he knows they’re mismatched.