Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Fat Tire Revolution - Part 2

pour a cup of coffee and enjoy: My shiny new Univega Alpina Pro with it's 2.125 inch width tires, bear trap pedals that would shred your shins to pieces with one poorly executed bunny-hop. Big foamy grips, WIDE bars. A crazy seat post that would allow the saddle to slide fore and aft with it's own QR. I loved it but actually didn't know quite what to do with it...trail ride, yes, because that's what I've seen in photo's but what trails ? What is this thing actually capable of ? The possibilities were endless and there were no rules, no white socks and black shorts, this sport was not governed by some bureaucracy somewhere. Cut off jeans and T-shirts seemed perfectly appropriate, a pair of Nike Lava Dome hiking shoes to protect the feet. The only items left over from road riding was a set of crochet half finger gloves and my Brancale helmet which would have been worthless in a bad crash. ( could explain a lot of things ) Growing up in "rural" Connecticut the easy choice were dirt road loops around the reservoirs and we were lucky enough to have access out our backyard onto power company land. There were a multitude of trails underneath the powerlines crisscrossing all over town. There were no resources to check where the good riding trails were, every single trail was legal, no precedent had been set and boundaries needed to be pushed and then pushed a little more.

The confidence level grew exponentially, turns out the bike was far more capable than my skills. I found that I could ride down ridiculously steep slopes laden with deadfall and mud, climb up root covered slimy rocks. The bike was surefooted and a massive amount of fun, I was completely in love with floating along through a dense green tunnel, the sound of big fat knobbies rolling across dirt and the idea that we may have been the first ones down a trail on bicycles. Hikers ( at first )were far more astonished and intrigued when approached on a bike. Most couldn't fathom the possibility that a bike could navigate through some of this terrain. When you discover something this fun, it absolutely must be shared so I managed to convince my adventuresome, ski fanatic, wild Polish friend that he needed a ride. He picked up a Diamondback and became hooked immediately.
We would spend hours pouring over maps and finding out what trails might be worth exploring.
Branford Supply Ponds was our first real destination location, a huge plot of land filled with serpentine trails that seemed tailor made for bikes, fast and flowing with an occasional techy section to navigate through. Stan spent just about every winter weekend up in Vermont skiing with his family and developed a fierce passion for the place. He made the suggestion that we take the bikes to the North Country, the home of real mountains in the Northeast. We piled our bikes into the back of his Chevy Chevette and got on I-91 headed North. We landed at Killington Ski area 3 hours later, right smack dab in the middle of Vermont, got out our 15mm spanners and bolted the wheels back into the frame. By trial and error we found and connected service roads that lead to the top of the mountain. The descents were amazing, we'd pick some random ski trail that would connect back up with a service road but the down was so worth the long toil upwards. We were giggling like little schoolgirls by the time we reached bottom again, not to mention hands were cramped and numb from squeezing sub-par canti's for an hour or so. This became a bit of a habit for us one summer, every available weekend we'd make the trek North to check out and check off the biggies, Mt Snow, Stowe, Stratton, Mount Greylock in Mass. We even got in the renowned Mt Washington before bikes were outlawed on the autoroad with exception of the annual hillclimb affair. Coming down the road was an experience I hope I never forget.

Our most outlandish scheme was to ride the length of the Quinipiac Trail, a North-South route through Connecticut that started at Long Island Sound and finished at the Massachusetts border. We had it all plotted out and would ride the trail in pieces. To scope out one of the most Northerly sections we drove two cars up and left one high and backtracked to the trailhead. At the time I had a raging case of poison ivy and was covered head to toe in Calamine lotion. We fueled up at a Friendlys restaurant and left the trailhead at 2pm expecting about a 2-3 hour jaunt. We had no compass and no map, some water and perhaps a banana, I doubt either of us had a watch on. The trail was very decent, well used but a bit slow going with lot's of super steep hike-a-bike sections. The trail was easy to follow as trees were marked with a blue blaze every few hundred yards. By dusk we were falling way behind schedule and suddenly found ourselves on top of a ridgeline that had experienced a massive wind event. Tree's were laying every which way so not only were we clambering over deadfall but the trail markers were gone and it was losing daylight quickly. By dark we were thoroughly lost the trail was obliterated and couldn't be found. After "discussing" options we figured the best route out was to get off the ridge, out of the woods and find a road. Coming off the ridge was tricky, we emptied out into a soggy cornfield and tracked our way out to a dirt road which thankfully met pavement quickly. After a few more hours of getting our bearings we stumbled into our car. It was 9PM, a full seven hours later. All I could recall was exhaustion, bliss, and a full bag of chocolate chip cookies in the car that was gone in an instant.

Thanks for reading, in Part 3 the racing bug bites again


Greg said...

Unbelievable post, Shotty. You and I need to talk about our New England roots. Born and raised in Monroe, CT.

MOM said...

Just as well I did not know half of what you were up to...glad you survived...sure knew you were having a good time with your buddy :)

lortre said...

Hey Chris, great old photos, man you were ripped! Brings back great memories of my old Ross Mt. Saint Helens with bull moose bars and double rings up front.

Good to see you at Sand Creek race too. Keep up the ramblings, Shawn

Chris said...

Keller, for sure we need to meet up soon,

Mom, pretty sure you knew about this...perhaps not, we were always safe

Lortie...the ripped one is definately not me, but thanks anyway