Thursday, December 26, 2013

Holiday Fun

The past week has been pretty hectic. Toward the end of last week, Cathy and I planned and hosted the Bikeway Source/Bell Lap Racing team holiday party. Nothing huge or super fancy but twenty plus folks all together for an evening of fun and food at our place. Good times for sure.

After that, literally the next morning, it was a matter of packing as much stuff as we could possibly fit into the truck and heading to Maine. We chose the truck over the van partially because of the load we were carrying and mainly because of the weather we were supposed to be facing. That weather would include snow, sleet and freezing rain to name a few. It is winter after all in New England so that is to be expected. The packing caused some stress as we had a tough time making it all work. In the end though we were able to get that which we needed and were soon off for the holiday vacation.

The weather has been a bit fickle over the past week. We have gone from temperatures in the teens frequently over the past few weeks to two significant snow storms to 55 degrees at the end of last week and freezing rain at the start of this week. As one might imagine, this poses challenges for riding bikes. Cathy and I had visions and plans for a multitude of winter activities carried forth from the great snow based fun we'd had just the week before at home. That included a couple of great times out in the woods on snowshoes, a really fun team XC ski in the local woods and even some fairly good snowbiking. Knowing that Bethel had good snow cover we expected a continuation of winter fun bliss.

What we were met with upon arrival however, was a bit less than perfect conditions. At first the only challenge was finding solid trail. The temperature was a bit above freezing all day and there had been some light rain. The snow, which had seen some sled traffic, was not really firm enough to ride everywhere and although we would have stretches of good, firm pack we also had long sections of slogging mush. We muddled through our first local ride in mashed potatoes and when we finally gave up and were headed home, we bumped into friends who invited us to join them for dinner at Suds. Evening saved.

We awoke the next day to temperatures still above freezing, though barely. The plan of Nordic skate skiing was abandoned given the conditions and we ventured north and up into Grafton Notch in search of better conditions and cooler temperatures. We found slightly more snow and slightly cooler temperatures but not cool enough by any stretch. The trails that were packed were complete mush. With that we took to the truck roads, in abundance in those forests. They were snow covered and icy in spots and certainly a little rough from the log trucks hauling timber, which at this point were running full chains on the tires, but it was good to be out and exploring something new. We rode for an hour or so and then hit a crest where the winds were bringing in really warm air. A storm was approaching that was supposed to bring rain and rather than continue on what was turning to muddy road, we turned back and headed out. Not a loop but still a good out and back ride.

As soon as we got home, the rain started and it continued off and on most of the day. By Sunday morning the rain had changed to freezing rain and everything was starting to get ugly. The ride Sunday consisted of a short attempt at riding the local trail, which had gotten slick in spots but worse, was deep slush pools in many other spots. We got more of the same on Monday though by then, it had started to freeze up in spots making some slick sections between the sloggy slush sections.

Christmas Eve brought really cold temperatures comparatively and everything turned to a skating rink. Glare ice as far as you could see. We loaded the fat bikes in the truck and headed to Vermont to my folks for the day spent with family. On the way we checked conditions and toyed with trying to ride in Lancaster, which was bare and had no snow at all, but decided not to. In Vermont we checked out our camp, which had about 6" of really crusty snow, and then headed to my parents for the day. We had a great time there visiting with family and eating lots of good things. We also received some wonderful and generous gifts. All too soon it was over though and time for us to make the trek back toward Maine.

We got home at about 7PM and and were reluctant to head out but Cathy being the trooper that she is, joined in on the fun. It was about 15 degrees and dropping so we bundled up and headed out to see what we would find. To our delight, some sleds had ridden the main trail and chewed the crust up enough to afford some traction with the bikes. The conditions were the best that we had seen and I dragged Cathy way further out than we had ventured thus far. We hit Rabbit Road at the point I'd said we would head back from but the road was sheet ice. We only needed to ride a couple hundred yards of it to get to Vernon Street but I suggested we continue to Irish Neighborhood instead. Reluctantly, Cathy agreed and we started up the climb. This section was great fun, narrow, gullied and bumpy, it absolutely stinks on a sled but was a hoot to ride on the bikes. The week had suddenly taken a turn for the better and on the long, cold and windy road ride back to town we actually saw some of the Christmas lights I'd promised Cathy we were going out to take a look at when I convinced her to ride in the first place. As a side note, there is a reason we don't usually ride road at night, when it is windy and below 15 degrees.

Christmas day we planned to meet up with our friends the Seibs for a ride and then Christmas dinner. In the morning though, Cathy and I had breakfast and then exchanged gifts. Once again Cathy gave me too many great presents as well as a beautiful photo of the sprint finish from day one of the Gran Prix of Gloucester this fall. Russ Campbell did the work and wonderful work it was indeed. I can't thank you both enough for the truly touching gift. Last year Cathy made me a picture book of memories throughout the year. That gift meant so much to me that I did the same for her this year. I came to appreciate how much work goes into such a seeming simple gift, when it took me three days and no less than ten hours to put the book together for her. Between planning a theme, selecting photos, formatting and editing them then doing layouts and wording. A work of love.

In the afternoon we met with the team Seib at our place and took to the trails. We had a great time riding on a crisp but sunny afternoon. We rode much the same as the night before but also ventured onto some other stuff. We found some very good trail as well that led us up to Mt. Abrams. Unfortunately, that was where it ended and we had to ride road down to get to other trails. Not bad though and well sanded over the sheet ice so nobody died. At the bottom the trail we took had not been broken since the ice storm. That made it glare. I couldn't go anywhere and when I tried letting some air out of the front tire, the core screwed out. Before I could plug the leak I'd lost all but a couple precious psi. I also left my leaking Camelbak, which had the pump, at home. Those tires don't roll as well with a flat I found as it was taking an extra 50 watts just to keep the bike moving. Still an excellent adventure. Back at home we all warmed up by the fire and gave the attention starved cats their due. Later we headed over to the Seibs house a few miles away and had a wonderful dinner. Christmas fun indeed and a great way to spend the day.

It is now snowing lightly and we are trying to decide what we are going to do. The attitude has been reset, what with a couple of really great days in a row. The outlook is bright. Maybe we will finally get the chance to skate ski. I still have a few days left in the year so inevitably, at some point, I'll head out for a ride.

Live is, great.

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