Why ride a bike when you can carry it?

hike a bike

Sometimes while exploring we find trails we can’t ride. But we keep going, because that’s what exploration is about. I’m becoming a lot more adept at carrying my bike. I figured out a new technique today—grab the chainstay instead of the top tube. My arm is then in a more natural position and doesn’t tire as fast.

It’s the little things that make an experience that much better.

We hiked up a ridge, along it’s spine for a ways, and then halfway back down before we found consistently-ridable trails again. Some sections on top were rideable, but Evan crashed hard on the rocks, as did Jared on his way down the mountain. Neither was seriously injured—it was a lucky day.

To Shingletown and back.

Evan and I have Wednesdays off together now. This means long bike rides.


We finally got another set of hubs for the Powderkeg tandem. Hopefully, the new Chris Kings will solve the issues we’ve been having with the rear hub getting torn apart by the amount of force that we put on that bike. We’ve gone through two rear hubs since June.

Evan rebuilt the wheel with the new King, and we decided to go for a long ride last Wednesday.

We left the house a little later than planned. We had to get the tandem ready to go again—put the wheel back on, find a saddle to stick on for me since I had to give my demo Brooks back, etc. But finally, we were ready.

We rode through the familiar roads of our valley, past farms and cows and silos. The temperature was perfect. As we began the climb up the mountain, I mentioned in passing that my saddle was giving me issues. I’ve been having a hard time finding a good seat for the tandem. I end up sitting down on it way more than I do on my other bikes—normally, I’m up and out of the saddle all the time. We stopped to look at the map. Evan questioned if I would be okay for the longer ride we had planned. If I was already in pain… And we didn’t pack that much water… And, he said, he knows how I get when I run out of water…

I looked at him like he’d lost his mind. Of course we were doing this ride. I stewed inside for a minute. I am much better than I used to be about the water thing. I’ve learned to drink less during the ride and more before and after. He didn’t realize that though.

We climbed and climbed.

It seemed like the gravel road went on forever, and we’d never reach the top of the mountain. I was starving. All I wanted was the packet of tuna we had stashed in the frame bag. It was too soon for that though. We weren’t even halfway.

Finally, we were at the top. The ride down seemed so short, and then we were on a flat road, motoring along. Doubts began to creep in. Maybe I wouldn’t make it. It had been a long time since I’d done 50 miles. It’s not that far, I know, but despite the fact that I’ve been riding most days of the week, they’re usually short rides. 10-20 miles.

We crossed the highway and jumped onto the powerline trail. This would be cool, Evan said. We navigated the ruts and hidden rocks, but lost it on a pipe barely sticking out of the ground. I fell into a thorn bush. I was having trouble adjusting to being on the tandem again, and I was annoyed. I wanted to be in control.

What’s wrong? We’re riding bikes, Evan said. Very true. I looked around. This was pretty damn cool. Who cares about the saddle sores and rumbling belly. I took off my shirt and popped a bite of Clif Bar. My mood instantly improved. We were riding bikes, together. The doubts disappeared. Of course I could do this. I’d ridden farther than this before, when I wasn’t as strong. This should be a piece of cake. My bottom hurt less. I smiled. Every long ride can have rough patches. I’d gotten through this one. Time to move on.

rothrock sign

The powerline trail led us to an incredible vista, where we finally downed that tuna packet and split a beer. Then it was a mix of riding and walking down the trail to Shingletown. Navigating the rockiest trails proved to be a little difficult on the tandem, so Evan did a lot of pushing while I speed-walked behind. The ferns were changing colors, and shades of yellow abound. We hadn’t seen a soul all day, aside from a guy trimming the side of the gravel road back on Kepler, when my mind was spiraling into negativity. We climbed out of Shingletown on a new-to-us trail, and caught a glimpse of another rider in the distance. But then he was gone.

The trail spit us out onto an overgrown road. The grass became entangled in my pedals and chainring, not effecting performance any but making for a funny sight.

Then we were back on gravel, almost to the top of the same mountain we had climbed up earlier. But it was a lot easier to cross this time. Soon, we were bombing down the other side, miles and miles of downhill, all the way to the Whipple Dam Store, where calories awaited.

We stood in line amongst a bunch of college kids who appeared to be on a field trip. Root beer, chips, cheese, and candy in hands. All that for a little over $5. What a deal! We sat on the picnic table outside and devoured our feast of sugar and salt. Eating has rarely felt so good.

And we were almost home. Just a few more miles on familiar roads.

I made it.

My rear end was glad to get off the bike. My legs were tired, but felt like they could keep going. Sometime soon, I’ll find a saddle that works for me on the Powderkeg. We’re still in the process of figuring everything out on that bike.

I can’t wait to return to the powerline. There seem to be some new trails in place in the area, and I’d like to explore some more.

black and white


Raindrops on foggy glasses.

It was dreary and drizzly all day. Chilly, too. One of those days that reminds you that fall is not all crisp and clear and sunny. Sometimes it is wet and bone-chilling.

I originally planned to ride home from work. But the day was colder than anticipated. And I didn’t know it was supposed to rain. I waffled about it all afternoon. Waiting for Evan was an option, a more comfortable option. I didn’t bring a rain jacket.

But I decided to ride anyway. By 5pm, it seemed like the rain had stopped. I pedaled out of town. I felt strong. I hammered my way down Rt. 26, eager as always to get off the main road. My core heated up quickly, and I wondered why in the hell I thought I would be cold. I took my gloves off, shoving them in my frame bag. I turned my music up.

The miles on 26 flew by today. I’m getting faster. I made the sweeping right turn onto Murray Run. I could relax. It’s rare for me to see a car on this road. I stopped a couple times to take pictures of the changing leaves. It began to drizzle again. Oh well. It would probably stop soon.

I made it to the top of Murray and bombed down the other side. Several deer jumped out in front of me. I slowed. The rain began to come down a little harder.

More deer. This time, I had to nearly stop to keep from hitting one. They’ve been crazy lately, jumping out right in front of cars. And bikes, apparently. I always see their glowing eyes lining the street at night as I’m on my way home from work at the bar. Driving home at 1am is like running the deer gauntlet.

I decided to take the more direct way home, hopping back on Rt. 26 for the final couple miles. It was pouring by this point. I was soaked. But I didn’t even care. I was so glad that I rode by bike.

Don’t let the weather hold you back.

In the spirit of exploration.

Fall is just about here. My favorite season, for so many reasons—the crisp air and clear skies, warm days and cool nights, the turning of the leaves, and, probably most importantly, the end of the busiest season for those of us in the business of outdoor recreation. Fall means I get to go on adventures with Evan on a regular basis again. It means longer rides and exploring new territory.

The shop is usually closed on Sundays, except for in the summer. Yesterday was the first Sunday it was closed again. So we went somewhere we’d never been before.

John, Brent, and Jake joined us, John surprising us with muffins when we met at our house. We decided to park at Reeds Gap State Park, where we would begin and end a 25-mile loop of entirely new-to-us trails and fire roads. I shivered as we milled about, donning our bike clothes and airing up tires. This would be the first time I’ve had to start a ride cold in a while, with the exception of when I was at altitude in Colorado (more on that still to come).

But we warmed up quickly. Right off the bat, we were climbing and then hike-a-biking up a mossy gorge. We pushed our bikes for what seemed like a long time, but the surroundings were so pretty, it was hard to complain.

ferns john

party ride uphill resting mappage

john brent brent jake red group orange evan orange

Eventually, we emerged back on the dirt road, and climbed some more, all the way to the top of the mountain on High Top Trail. It began as a rough gravel road and climbed steeply for quite some time. I strained my way almost all the way to the top, but lost traction in a rut and walked the last little bit. All the way at the top of the mountain, the 4×4 road turned into overgrown singletrack.

The trail was pretty rocky in most places, and many of the rocks were obscured by the vegetation growth. Clearly, this was not a well-traveled path. We wondered how long it had been since anyone even walked this trail, much less biked it. There were many sections that were unrideable due to both the sheer number and size of the rocks and the plants covering them that made it impossible to pick a line. We walked a lot.

But the sections that were rideable were awesome, and after the first mile or so of frequent hike-a-biking, most of the rest of the trail was navigable with decent technical skills.

jake explore

lost in leaves

rocks everywhere rocks log jake rocks 2 john rocks 2 brent moss h moss john moss

snack break out of the rocksjohn rocks

After 3 years of riding regularly, I finally feel like things are clicking when it comes to picking my way through the rocks, something we have plenty of in Central PA. I remember how much I used to get off my bike and walk. Lately, I’ve been riding entire trails in Rothrock without a dab. It’s such a good feeling, to see tangible progress. And riding is more fun when I can actually ride through and over things instead of walking.

I impressed myself yesterday. I made it through many of the rock gardens we encountered, no problem. I felt like I was floating. Not to say it was easy, but I could tell that I was getting it. I finally feel like a good mountain biker.

h working on cleaning

h black and white

jake rides green evan rides green john rides green

High Top Trail gave us the best of everything. Rocks, roots, moss, pine needles. Really technical sections and pretty smooth sections. Aside from the first overgrown, super rocky section, there were only a couple other significant sections of trail that required dismounting our bikes for a longer period of time.

High Top Trail turned into Thick Mountain Trail for a few more miles, and then we descended off the mountain via the chunky, rutted dirt of Old Lancaster Valley Road. Everybody else flew downhill, but I took my time. I wasn’t in a hurry. I caught them at the bottom, where Brent was fixing a flat.

brent smiles lightning bolts

old lancaster

We hopped on the hard road and took it all the way back to the park. It was easy pedaling. I was a lot less tired than I expected. Our ride didn’t include that much climbing, but all the rocks and technical sections and hike-a-biking used to wear me out a lot more. I put my bike in the highest gear, pedaling hard for a while and then coasting. Evan rode next to me. We talked a little, but mostly were quiet, just admiring the scenery and enjoying the moment. I was happy that we could share this experience. I’ve missed us riding together.

And I marveled at how much I’ve come to enjoy this type of riding. Total exploration, not knowing what’s up ahead. Possibly pushing or carrying your bike up things and over things. Maybe finding great trail, maybe not, but almost certainly finding cool spots you’d never have gone to otherwise. I used to like it, but it also frustrated me. I wasn’t as strong, and I wasn’t as good at riding on stuff other than relatively smooth trail. And so, I used to walk a whole lot more. Now, I love these kinds of rides. Luckily, there’s a whole lot more to explore.

i cleaned it

Nailed it!

Colorado bound.

At the beginning of this month, I returned from Colorado. I was gone for 10 days—not so long, but longer than I’ve been gone since Japan 2 years ago. This trip was spurred by an invitation to the annual Singletracks Editorial Staff Meet-Up (I write for Singletracks.com) in Salida, Colorado. The idea was basically to ride, hang out, and spend face-to-face time with people that I normally only interact with via email. I decided not only to go hang for the weekend, but to make a longer trip of it. I decided to drive out, find places to ride along the way, and visit a friend in Boulder before heading to Salida.

I rented a car—a first experience for me. It was a little Hyundai Elantra hatchback. 35-40 mpg, a great cross-country tripper. I somehow was able to fit all my stuff in the back, 2 bikes included. The cost of renting a car (which was significantly lower than I expected) was well-worth the peace of mind that came from not driving my own vehicle. My Ford Ranger is nice enough, but has 220,000ish miles on it and really didn’t need me to put 4,000 more on over the course of less than 2 weeks. And last time I drove across the country I had more than my fair share of car troubles. So a rental it was, and I was more than happy with it. Thank you, Enterprise.

Everyone thought I was from New Jersey.

Everyone thought I was from New Jersey. Not the case.

I headed out of Huntingdon on a Monday morning—a few hours later than originally planned, but I was on vacation, so what did it matter? I drove southeast, through West Virginia and into Kentucky. The mountains of West Virginia are beautiful. There was nothing but trees for hours. I stopped at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky briefly. I had originally thought I’d get a late afternoon ride in here and then spend the night, but I got there too late to do much of a ride, and I didn’t feel like doing a night ride alone on trails I didn’t know at all. So I kept driving, finally stopping for the night at a State Forest in Indiana. I didn’t bother to set up my tent, just spread my sleeping pad and bag on the ground and laid down. I awoke early, jumped back in the car, and continued my drive.

I stopped at two places to ride in Missouri on Tuesday—Binder Lake, near Jefferson City, and Swope Park, in Kansas City. Binder Lake was fun—fast and flowy. Though I only drove through the outskirts, Jefferson City seemed like a cool place, and I wished I had more time to stop.

Binder Lake.

Binder Lake.

Binder Lake trails were sort of reminiscent of Allegrippis with less climbing.

Binder Lake trails were sort of reminiscent of Allegrippis with less climbing.

It was a mix of forests and fields.

It was a mix of forests and fields.

Spiky plant.

Spiky plant.

Arch views.

Arch views.

I also stopped at Swope Park in Kansas City, where the riding was supposed to be killer. It was. I was thoroughly impressed with how technical the trails were in the middle of a huge city and in the middle of the flatlands of the Midwest. Unfortunately, my ride at Swope was cut short by a mechanical—I lost an alternator bolt somewhere along the trail. I didn’t notice until my rear tire started rubbing. When I stopped to investigate, I saw that the bolt was missing, and my heart sank. I kicked myself for not bringing a spare. And, because I didn’t want to ride on it and potentially further damage pieces of my bike, I walked out of the trails. I kept my eyes on the ground, a slight sliver of hope remaining that I would miraculously spot my missing bolt and I’d be able to continue my ride. No such luck.

Swope Park.

Swope Park.

So, I packed up my bike with intentions of going to a bike shop to buy a new alternator bolt as soon as possible, and set off to find a much-needed beer. I ended up at Martin City Brewing Company, where I downed a couple IPAs and a delicious wild mushroom pizza before heading out of metro area for the night and grabbing a hotel room in Kansas. I had wanted to pretty much camp the entire way to save money, but I was tired, and things were pretty desolate. I wanted to sleep in a bed. So I sprung for a room, passing out immediately. I woke up shortly before 7am, and hit the road immediately.

martin city beer

martin city pizza

I liked to start my day of driving early, grabbing coffee at a gas station to start my day and driving for a few hours nonstop before the heat of the day began to set in, making me tired and irritable. Despite the air conditioning in the car, the heat of the plains was penetrating.



more flat

I stopped at Wilson Lake, Kansas to check out the Switchgrass mountain bike trails. After heading to the park office to grab a map, I set off on a short loop that wound through bluffs above the lake and switchbacked to the top of the aptly-named Lone Tree Hill. The Lone Tree provided the only shade on my ride, and the midday heat certainly had a noticeable effect on me. I stopped often and took pictures, as the dry, prairie landscape was so different from what I was used to, and was surprisingly photogenic.

switchgrass switchbacks2

switchgrass trails

switchgrass bluffs

switchgrass trail switchgrass rocks switchgrass rocks 2 switchgrass plantsswitchgrass tree spiky plants switchgrass lone tree hill lone treeswitchgrass markerswitchgrass landscape

After the 6-mile Hells Creek Loop, I’d had enough of the heat, and I was eager to get to Boulder and hang with my friend John for a couple days, so I hopped back in the car and continued west. I finally crossed into Colorado, and was subsequently surprised at how much of the eastern part of the state is flat plains. I saw a storm in the distance, and a few raindrops hit my windshield, the first rain I had seen since I left Pennsylvania. But most of the storm was passing to the north, and soon it was sunny again.

colorado farm the coming storm sunflowers

I arrived at John’s place just as he was returning from the grocery store, and he greeted me with a warm hug and a cold Fat Tire. It was good to have company after so many solo hours on the road.

Berries, splashes, giggles.

The day was clear, sunny. Warm, but not too hot. Friends arrived just as I was finishing up my morning coffee. Brent, ready to go as usual, in all his cycling garb. Jake, still clad in the flannel that he slept in, the alpacas running down the hill to greet this strange-looking, long-bearded, plaid creature. And Jalon, stumbling up the driveway, styrofoam coffee cup in hand, still half-asleep. 10am was apparently too early for him on a Sunday.

We set off for Rothrock State Forest in two cars, bikes hanging off the tailgate of Brent’s truck. All Salsas. “All we need’s the chips,” remarked someone. I don’t remember who.




A road closure caused us to take the long way around, and we were nearly an hour late meeting Allison in the parking lot. Luckily, she didn’t mind. We rolled in, smoke pouring out of the hood of Brent’s old Chevy from a power steering fluid leak. He laughed it off.

We began. A slow, rocky uphill crawl to the top of the ridge. I was tired, still recovering from the illness that’s plagued me for the past two weeks. Sickness in the summer sucks. It’s been going around lately, it seems.

I asked Brent multiple times if he wanted to pass me. He said no, he liked my pace.

But despite my burning legs, my technical game was on. I cleaned my only unconquered rock garden on the Tussey Mountain Trail. Success felt so good.

jalon log

nut buster

jalon gets it

The berries were thick on the ridge, spilling onto the trail, the thorny bushes scratching our arms and legs. Jake stopped to clear some of the more gnarly ones, and Jalon took the opportunity to forage. We joked about stories we could tell people to explain our bloody scratches. Maybe we were attacked by a gang of bobcats.


Jake took us to what he called the “Toilet Bowl,” a circular cutout in the earth. We rode circles inside of it. It was dizzying, but so much fun.



We continued, down the mountain this time, on one of my favorite trails. It was sandy, mountain-laurel-lined, with a number of small drops. And at the end, a perfect stream crossing.

We stayed at the stream for a while, riding back and forth, giggling. I felt like a little kid. It was impossible not to laugh from pure joy. Jake rode wheelies. Jalon somehow fell over in the middle of the stream.



jake goes down

water play

water play 2

brent splash h splash

Soaked, we coasted to the car our way back to the car, and stopped for ice cream on our way home.

Tandemonium on the Lower Trail.

This past Sunday, Evan’s parents visited us for the day. We took bikes to the local rail-trail, the Lower Trail, where we were joined by my parents, who decided to try out a tandem bicycle for the first time.

Evan and I rode our new Salsa Powderkeg (more on this bike later), and my parents borrowed our Santana touring tandem. I wasn’t really sure how they were going to do, or if they’d like it. I know I was pretty skeptical about the whole tandem thing at first. I thought I’d get frustrated not being in control, or not being able to see ahead of me. I do sometimes, but I definitely like going tandem a lot more than I thought I would.

My parents seemed to like it too. At least they said they did.


We rode from the Alfarata trailhead to Williamsburg and back, with an ice cream stop in Williamsburg with money that my dad found in his backpack. Thanks, dad!

On the way back from Williamsburg, Evan’s mom got on the back of the Powderkeg with him, and I rode her bike.

I’ve been on the Lower Trail so many times growing up that it’s not a place I frequent very much anymore—I generally seek more hills and rocks—but it’s a great place to go with a group of mixed skill levels just to have a chill time and be outside. We all had fun, and the weather was perfect for it.