Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ski-o suit design

I need some input. I'm designing the US ski-orienteering race suits. I think I have the pattern down, that I want to do, but I'm stumped on colors. Below are five jpgs (pardon the atrocious photoshop-drawing skills... hopefully you get the idea), with variations on blue and white. What I want to know, is, which color scheme do you like best, and, should it say US SKI-O or USA SKI-O instead of just USA?

sweet. Thanks.

I'm obviously being quite productive.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Spring Break... err... conference

I feel like I'm on vacation right now. In reality, I'm in Norfolk, VA, for this big all-staff conference of the whole Eastern Region of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), with different people giving different talks on different stuff, which is all fine and good and mostly quite interesting, but I'm only giving a short (5 min) presentation at one talk in the last session on Friday. So, I'm not exactly stressed about this. Especially since I already have my talk down pat, and there are so many "networking" opportunities, which really mean free food and booze, and I like all the people I work with. The "dress code" is business casual, and this being TNC, about 15% of the folks here are in blue jeans. My boss went and got a new pair of sneakers for this, I was impressed.

So, Cheyenne and I got here around the same time, and we're rooming together (I know, having a roommate on a business trip is weird, but we chose to do this), so that worked out. They overbooked the flight down here, so we both took the bump and a $400 travel voucher (each), got to Norfolk by 2pm, wandered around for a while, got ice cream, ate a lot of sushi and drank lots of sake. Not a bad day for a Tuesday!

We also got a sweet room up on the 23rd floor, we both walk in, look at each other, and exclaim, "I've never stayed in a room like this!". See below for the view.

So, after the sessions today, and the "networking" cocktail hour, the whole eastern region of the company (some 600 staff) head to the barbeque. I see a guy in a sequined tuxedo, and somehow this doesn't strike me as strange. It strikes other people as strange, though, but then we realized he was part of the band. A word on this band. Their name is "Right On". They play '70s music. They're wearing sequins and shiny turquoise pants and the keyboard dude is wearing knee-high, sparkly-gold, platform high-heeled boots. I was thinking to myself, these guys are ridiculous! Then I thought some more to myself, and I realized, the only way you'll ever get a bunch of work people to dance is to have the band be more ridiculous looking than a group of hippies and lawyers mingling and sort of bouncing up and down in their best "white guys can't dance" moves. It was great, Cheyenne started the party and soon we had the whole Eastern Resource Office (my office) out on the dance floor. Not something I thought I'd ever see... but smiles all around, so it can't be bad!

Have I mentioned, I love my job?

Cheyenne checking out the workstation in our sick hotel room...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Coyote Hill MT Bike race

Last year, I raced at Coyote Hill, and it was my first mtb race ever, and I cried for most of the race, which is the first (and last) time that has ever happened. I remember being deathly scared on the downhills, and crashing a lot, most memorably off one of the bridges... it was not a pleasant sight. I finished, dead last, and I knew I had to do that race again. Vengeance!

So I showed up again this year, having not ridden any sort of bike in any sort of while, and I had just enough time (in an Alex sense of time) to preride the course. Off I went, and I got to the first scary drop thing, and I thought to myself, "Ha. I couldn't do this last year without whimpering, look at me go now!" and then I crashed, and whacked my knee pretty hard, and had to sit down until I stopped hyperventilating. I managed to get a lot of leaves and dirt and gunk between my tire and my rim, but I didn't notice this until I was on the start line, when I frantically yanked it off to wipe it out and got it back on and myself on the bike all in time to start. So, I decided that I was just going to ride my bike today, I would crush any competitive spirit within myself and just have fun out there.

I didn't completely succeed in not feeling competitive, because my HR was at like 175 on the start line... Then we started moving and I rode my bike and felt much more relaxed. I moved up on the road to just behind the 14 year old kid, with one girl way up the road already and an NEBC girl just ahead of the 14 year old. I decided that I didn't want to be behind little 14 year old, because she might be nasty good but she might not be, and then I got stuck behind an NEBCer going down the hill. I thought I was cautious, but compared to this gal I'm just CRAZY on those downhills... finally she bobbled and I got by. By now the first girl was out of site, and I was riding in no-man's land for a while, wondering when somebody who actually knew how to ride a bike would catch up to me. I ran down the first scary drop, into some twisty trail that seemed to be pretty new, and then some uphills where I kept bobbling and a girl in green caught up. She got around me on one of the wide uphills, but she was making some terrifying noises on the downhills, and while I know how that feels, I wasn't feeling full of sympathy, so I snuck back around her, just in time to run down the second scary drop, where I got heckled by Colin and Linnea for not riding it.

I owned the bridges this year, instead of them owning me, and then the course went uphill for a while and I wasn't having fun, I was out of breath and my legs were tired and it felt like there was an oven where my head used to be, but then lap 2 started and I started having fun again. There were three moments on lap two when I distinctly remember thinking, "this is FUN!" I think all races should have moments like that. I was riding alone, catching the occasional guy, but no idea how far ahead the next girl was, and not sure I wanted to know, since then I would feel compelled to catch her. It was hot out there, and I could feel the beginnings of a bonk happening, but then I finished, and it felt nice to stop riding. Ended up 2nd, which was kind of a surprise, because I'm supposed to be the person who can't ride technical courses or hills, and this was a real mtb race, with rocks and roots and hills and things, but hey, I'm not complaining. It was a super fun course, and I stayed upright! (except in the warm up). That is generally a goal of mine...

Colin, Thom, and Linnea all had good races (thinks me) and all ended up third. I didn't see where Rachel ended up, but she looked fast out there. George was riding sport, and I actually saw him on one of the switchbacks and was like "GO GEORGE!!", but he said he didn't hear me.

That boy just never stops talking... you'd think if he were racing, he would shut up and pedal faster...

I can make people smile when I cheer!

The fastest guy on one gear...

Friday, May 23, 2008

I was thinking the other day. Talking about various junior skiers with other coaches. We have some kids with a lot of potential, who just aren't that fast yet, and we have some kids who I never thought would be able to go as fast as they can. It's a club skiing program, I guess it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things how fast you go on your skis, unless of course you're obsessed about it like I am. I've always wanted people to say, "oh, Alex Jospe? I know her. Yeah, that girl is just immensely talented". Not, "eh, shes just a hard worker". What is talent, anyway? Lucky genes? How come my brother was a varsity runner within two days of being on the cross country team while it took me a month to be able to run three miles without stopping? I guess I'll take work ethic over pure genetic talent; you learn to work hard and it applies to all of life, but still, you can't be fast without some of both.

Despite all this talk about hard workers versus talented people, I've come to realize that I like doing the hard work. Rollerskiing in a thunderstorm is a far preferable way to spend my time than watching tv. Whether or not I am ever super fast, I have made this sport into something that I want to do my whole life, although maybe not at this level. I like rollerskiing, hill bounding, skiing in circles at Weston. And if I can just somehow share that enjoyment of this work, these kids are going to keep skiing.

At the strength workout with CSU last night, Hannah's mom came up to me, and told me that Olivia, one of the girls at the practice on Wednesday, had told her - "That was so much fun! I can't wait to do it again!" Now THAT is the attitude I'm trying to cultivate!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The few, the brave

Or maybe dumb. Four of us at the girls-only-no-boys-allowed CSU practice, and it starts to rain. Normally these kids don't ski in the rain, which seems silly to me, so we just kept skiing. Then it started to thunder. I asked the girls if they felt uncomfortable to kept going, but they were fine with it, so we just carried on. I'm glad we did, because the light after the storm was absolutely gorgeous. It is too bad my camera is on the fritz and I can't seem to find whatever setting it thinks its on... maybe it took one too many a ride in my back pocket with no plastic bag...

Nobody got struck by lightening, but there might be some sore chickas tomorrow.

There is nothing better than coming home to the smell of rising bread. therapeutic, as they say.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Colgate Graduation

such a good view of the stage.

Most schools have a plan for where to put their graduation if it is raining. Colgate claims to have a plan, also, but they only put it into action if it is thundering. You can guess where this is going. We sat in the rain for two hours watching my brother graduate, which is great and all, I'm glad he did it, but I didn't need the rain thing. I stupidly didn't bring a rain jacket (is that why it rained?), but I had an umbrella. Alas, they made us put down the umbrellas. My grandfather spent the whole time in the car, and we all left as soon as Tif was done, which was too bad, because we didn't get to hang around in the sun and take pictures of him and his friends afterwards like I had been able to for mine. My grandfather put it well -- "They should have failed half of them! There are way too many names here!"

Anyway, rainy ceremony aside, it was a good weekend. Saturday Christophe's band played, and although they'd had to set up in a hurry and the sound wasn't quite right, it was a good show, and I was glad to see them before they disband as they all go their separate ways. They're on itunes, go download the music. Sonic Symposium. I recommend "dungeons and dragons" from their latest cd, or anything from the first one. "King of pop" is good.

I brought my bike, and we went on a sweet ride sunday morning. I almost killed a goose that was sleeping on the road, but we escaped unscathed, and then the weather fouled up just in time for graduation. After that, we drove to Williamstown, because my grandfather went to school there and wanted to see it. We had a great dinner, heard some wonderful stories from him, and then bolted out of there by noon so he and my uncle could catch their plane back to London. A packed weekend, but a good time, and great to see the London contingent.

Farms near Colgate. Pretty riding fo sho.

we found a dirt road. It went up. A lot.

Quietly watching us ride by.

stormy light while riding in williamstown.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Life is not exactly blog-worthy recently. Trying to catch up on stuff after missing a week of work, on a rest week for training, not doing any weekday racing or other fun adventures. I won't be racing this weekend, either, as my brother is graduating from Colgate, so I get to sit and watch lots of people cross a stage and hopefully recognize which black-robed figure he is. I'd like to bring my bike, though, if the rain holds off. Then at least I'll have a sweet garmin pic of someplace that is not Boston.

I'm into the third week of the ski year, and although it has kind of taken a while, I'm starting to get pretty motivated. Starting to remember what it feels like to go hard, to get sore, to remember that every workout has a purpose. I finally finished summer waxing skis... last night. Winter has been officially put away!

Monday, May 12, 2008

West Rim Trail, PA

About two weeks ago, my ski buddy Randy called me up. His brother Rick needed a female instructor for a week-long backpacking trip with a group of highschoolers with learning disabilities. Was I free? They were leaving from Rochester, a Monday through Friday affair, so I found myself back in my [new] car heading west, with minimal knowledge of what to expect.

I apologize ahead of time for the long post.

The Pine Creek Gorge- the West Rim trail follows the edge of this gorge for most of its length.

Our first stream crossing of the day, Reed tries to keep dry feet.

The river at campsite #1 in morning light.

More wildflowers.

Your faithful leader, in her funny pants. One thing about the spandex, though, is that it made the kids feel a helluva lot less self-conscious about themselves. One of the girls was even lamenting that she wished someone had told her about spandex, since her jeans were rubbing.

Faithful leader #2, DJ. DJ was a really interesting guy, and extremely experienced at leading kids into the back country.

A beautiful little trillium.

DJ catches a salamander.

Beautiful Pennsylvania hardwood forests. The leaves were still pretty bare at the beginning of the week, but they were leafing out significantly by Friday.

The campsite Thursday night. A little slice of heaven.

Three intrepid explorers joined me on a trip down to the gorge. The water was surprisingly shallow, and warm.

Looking up the river at our Thursday night campsite.

Day 1
I meet DJ, my co-leader, in the parking lot at the Howard Norman school. I instantly like him, he has a quick smile and an easy manner, and he’s led many groups of highschoolers into the woods before. We go into the gym to meet the kids, three girls and five boys. They’re quiet and unwilling to share anything about themselves as we gather in a circle to get to know each other. Six seats for passengers in the van means two kids get to ride with me in the truck, and Elliot and Sarah get the short straw. They’re not too pleased about this, and the ride is pretty awkward as I try to draw them out of their shells. We stop at a rest area for lunch, and most of the kids rush to the vending machine to get sodas. Elliot finishes his Pepsi and kicks the empty can on the ground, walks off. I pick it up. “Hey Elliot. You dropped something”. “Oh. Yeah”. No apology, no acknowledgement that he did something wrong. I let it go.

The trail starts with a gradual downhill along a river, and the leaves are just starting to leaf out. Beautiful country, open hardwood forest with all the little wildflowers showing us their beautiful faces. The connector trail meets up with the West Rim trail, and starts to climb. I’m caboosing, and Sarah has fallen back from the group a little. Up ahead, the kids are all bunched up, almost knocking each other over they’re that close. Sarah stops after we’ve gone maybe thirty feet uphill. “I think I’m going to pass out”. “Ok, lets take a little break and catch our breaths”. She doesn’t look comfortable, she is starting to hyperventilate. We take off our packs, sit down on a log, and Sarah starts to sob. “I should never have come! I don’t belong here! What was I thinking? I don’t belong here!” I try to talk her through it. Explain that it gets easier as you go, try and get her to notice the birds singing, the plants flowering, the sunshine on dry rocks. She stops crying eventually, and we fix her pack to be more comfortable. She is so skinny that her waist-belt doesn’t go small enough, so we tie a sweatshirt around her waist first.

Camp is in a steep-ish river valley. We camp on a floodplain, with the girls on one side of the river and the boys on the other. We explain to them all about peeing and pooping in the woods, get lots of groans, and hopefully get the point across. We have one boy scout in our group, and he has a lot to learn about low-impact camping. He seems bright, though, and gets the concept. We set some of the boys on making the fire, and give them one match to light it. The girls are struggling with their tent, we let them fight it for a while before giving them some hints.

Dinner is burritos, I fold while DJ fries them on the skillet, and they’re met with appreciation. Whoever planned the menu did not anticipate how much hungry teenagers need to eat, though, some of the boys are obviously still hungry. After dinner and dishes we sit around the fire, which they did indeed light with just one match, and talk about a rose and a thorn from the day. Pretty much everyone found the walking to be a thorn. Roses varied from eating dinner to making the fire to stopping the walking. Good thing they didn’t sign up for a hiking trip or anything.

Day 2

I wake early, after a deep sleep by the babbling brook. It is cold and somewhat damp in our little valley, but it’s dawn light, my favorite time of day. I head out for a run, towards where we started yesterday, and reach the start point in twenty-five minutes. Leaping over rocks and dodging trees by the narrow trail, I am struck by how much easier this is for me than it is for these kids, who spent hours traversing the same gently sloping hills. I feel alive, in tune with my body and with the world around me, and the birds’ singing just adds to my feeling of belonging. I pity the students for only seeing the drudgery of the task, because out here is where I am most at peace with myself, and I wish I could somehow share my love of this whole shebang.

I get back to camp, and DJ is up doing some tai chi, so we share a peaceful moment over hot chocolate while we wait for the sun to reach our valley and the students to wake up. We’ve gotten them all up by 8am, and watch bemusedly as they try to take down their tents. Breakfast is egg sandwiches, of all things, but they’re delicious, and definitely worth the extra time. We only have three miles today, but most of the kids are just as intimidated by three miles over the whole day as three miles in the afternoon. I don’t tell them that I already ran six.

We move out, I’m in front at first, and the trail starts with a long gradual climb. All the grades on this trail are so gradual, it is the perfect trail for beginner hikers. It is maybe 20 minutes to the top, and I move as slowly as I can at a consistent pace. The group spreads out up the hill. At the crest I pause, and instruct them to get some water. I don’t let them take the packs off; too much momentum is lost through constant sit-down breaks. We re-group, and then head out along a beautiful ledge. I am thoroughly enjoying the spectacular views, and we stop for lunch at an overlook.

After dinner that night, we go back down to our overlook where we ate lunch. Nobody is complaining, and we sit in a circle and talk about the day, the long day coming up, a rose and a thorn. DJ tells them that they will have to find ways to make tomorrow’s hike enjoyable, otherwise it will just be six miles of hell. I can see that some of them think that it will be six miles of hell no matter what. I hope that I am not near them at the end of the day tomorrow. Walking back in the dark, DJ and I start talking. He hiked the AT many years back, but this terrain reminds him vividly of going through North Carolina and Tennessee, and I can tell how much he misses living on the trail. I start to realize that if it weren’t for his kids at home, this man would live on the trail. It is on the trail, outside in the elements, that the true color of someone’s personality comes through, and I like DJ’s color. I am glad to not have to deal with these emotionally imbalanced students alone.

Day 3
Wednesday dawns hot and buggy, and there is tension in the air. They’re nervous about the long day. DJ and I decide to push about a mile further down the trail, due to concerns about water at the first site and concerns about the length of Thursday’s trek. I take the front of the group so that DJ can wash up a bit and stretch his legs to catch up, and we slowly wind our way uphill through an upland hardwood forest. The trees are starting to leaf out, but they provide no shelter from the sun yet, and it is hot. We stop after about a mile, where the trail hits the road, to jog around someone’s property, because the jackass wouldn’t grant the trail access through his property. DJ has caught up, and we let the kids string out a bit up the road. Sarah is doing alright, but she is still very in doubt of whether she can do this trip. She actually has a nice, steady pace when she gets going, but she still stops a lot. The three most mature boys obviously want a faster pace, but the younger boys and the other girls are hurting.

The trail heads back towards the gorge, with another gradual uphill. I am caboosing. Sarah trips on a root, many tears ensue. Alicia drops back and hikes with us, she looks whipped. We’ve gone two miles. We cross a stream, lunch will be at the overlook just over the hill. DJ and I switch positions, I lead the fast boys to the top and we wait for everyone else. Sarah looks exhausted. I get Mark to help me strip some sticks to spread PB&J’s, and the kids wolf them down. The jelly won’t seal, so I let Lee eat the rest of it. Lee is very ADHD, maybe that wasn't a good idea. He is a good kid, though, helpful and cooperative.

The afternoon part of the hike looks like it will be difficult; mostly uphill. Mark and Dan want to know if they can lead. I tell them they can lead, and explain to them that leaders can’t just be the strongest hikers—leaders have to be able to look out for the whole group, hike at a pace that is sustainable for all, and think about everyone, not just themselves. They nod excitedly and rush off down the trail. I exchange looks with DJ. We sigh and set off. Anthony and I hike together for a while. He is the youngest of the group; he looks like he could be in sixth or seventh grade. I can tell that he has not yet matured socially, and definitely not physically, but he talks excitedly about going to football camp this summer, how he walked around the soccer fields to prepare for this trip, and the longest hike that I’ve ever done.
“How far have you ever hiked in one day?”
“I did twenty three miles on something called the presidential traverse last summer”.
“Twenty three miles? That’s really far! Were you tired afterwards?”
“Yeah, all I could think about was ice cream by the end”.
“Are you tired now?”
“No. Not really”.
“I’m tired”.
I don’t want to tell him how much uphill is coming.

Partway up a gradual hill, Anthony and I catch up to Mark, Elliot, and Dan, the three “leaders” of the afternoon. We wait for Lee and the other two girls to catch up, and let them take a breather. Reed looks kind of pissed, Alicia just looks tired. No sign of Sarah, but I know she is with DJ, so I'm not worried. We start out again, and the boys are doing a much better job of regrouping often, although they stop too much. I hike with Lee for a bit. He says he runs XC and track, so we have a common thread there. He is training for the Philmont boy scout trip in the summer, and he tells me all the details of the trip with a boy scout's enthusiasm for getting an opportunity to play with fire.

We get to the top of the plateau finally, and roll into the first proposed campsite. No water, so it's just as well that we decided to keep going. The group has gotten pretty quiet, even Mark, who is the general noise-maker in this bunch. I can tell they are pretty whipped, and just want to be done walking. Sarah is looking like she is trying to keep tears under control, I want to tell her to be brave, little piglet, but I don’t know if anything I can say will help. We keep walking and hit the second campsite we’d agreed on. No water here, either, the gully is dry. There is a trail down to the gorge, though, and water will appear in there eventually.

Now that we are in camp it is time for me to go get the truck from where we started and hike in with the rest of the food. There is a bike stashed in the woods, Rick put it there, so I am going to find the bike, ride back to the truck, and drive back up here. I empty out my pack and start off. I jog up the road, my pack feels funny bouncing on my back empty. At the trail, I go fifty paces in and fifty paces north. Thick mountain laurel here, but there is a sort of deer path that I can follow, and I figure Rick probably took the bike down it. Then I see a wheel sticking up. Ah, good. Car switch complete, I hike in with all the food for the next couple days.

Everyone is crabby, low blood sugar, tired. I search for Wednesday’s dinner, and I find it. Ramen and beef jerky. I start passing around the beef jerky, and get some water boiling for ramen. Once everyone has food in their bellies they’re much happier. It is raining on and off, so we instruct them again to tighten up their rain flies and get everything under tarps that they don’t want wet. Some of the kids do what we say. Some don’t. I go to bed early, leaving DJ to get them into their tents by 10. We have another five miles tomorrow, but it should be mostly downhill.

Day 4
I wake up to rain pattering down on my bivy sack. At least it is dry inside, but I feel a little claustrophobic in the bag, so I get up. DJ is up, also, and we string up another tarp. We get some water going, and we see some movement in the tents. It is peaceful in the rain, after the near meltdown yesterday. He asks me about NOLS, and we swap stories for a while. The hot chocolate with a coffee bag combination is good, warm, and the rain is starting to slow down as the students slowly crawl out of the tents. I am happy, feeling peaceful and ready to take on the day, but the kids are grumpy. Most of them got wet last night, because they didn’t go and tighten up their rain flies. Packing up takes a while, but finally they’re ready and we can eat some oatmeal. Turns out, most of them don’t like oatmeal, and I have to practically spoon feed the girls to get them to eat anything. The rain stops as we start walking.

The woods have gotten a lot drier, we are up on the plateau now, a little way from the gorge, and the beautiful open hardwood forest has been replaced with a dryer forest of mountain laurels and birch. I pick a wintergreen leaf, crush it up and stick it in my gum, and my thoughts are tinged with a fresh minty flavor. It is pleasant, and we get the kids thinking positive again as they walk. We’re making good time since the trail is mostly downhill or flat, and we get to our lunch spot pretty early. Sarah has been doing very well, the tears per mile today is at zero, and she leads the group for a while. We spend a while eating lunch, as usual there isn’t enough, but I have one twinkie that we have a contest for. DJ explains how to throw a rabbit stick, and we try to knock down the targets. Elliot gets the twinkie, and he is delighted. I haven’t seen him excited about anything other than food since I’ve met him.

We carry on after lunch, and I give the kids a little room as I caboose. It is a beautiful day, and we stop on an overlook to appreciate the views. DJ and I decide that it is time for a little solo hiking, since we’re only a mile or so from the campsite for the night. I go out first, to catch them as they come in. It feels good to hike at my pace, stretching my legs out and feeling alive and part of the forest. I come around a bend and I see a vista stretching away from me, so beautiful it literally takes away my breath for a second. It doesn’t translate well to the pictures I am trying to take on my camera, so I take a picture with my mind so that I can look at it whenever I want. I carry on and then I turn another corner and come into the little valley where we’ll camp. It feels like a slice of heaven, with little waterfalls and pools and glades and sunshine. I can’t help but smile.

The students trickle in one by one, and I ask them what their favorite part of the solo hiking was. Most liked the overlook, some liked getting into camp, some liked walking alone. Nothing can shake my feeling of peace, here with the giant trilliums and the babbling brook. DJ comes in last, and I can tell he has been walking thinking about his time on the AT, he has that relaxed, happy look on his face. We set up camp and I bring a group down to the gorge. Eventually it is time to go back up, but we have no packs on, so it is a quick walk. After dinner, they’re talking about a tv show. I express my ignorance and my age.
“What is ‘House’?”
“Duh, it’s a tv show. You can’t ask ‘what is House’ around a group of highschoolers, you’ll get killed”
“Sorry, I don’t have a tv”
Eight heads swivel towards me in shock.
“What?!? How do you live? What do you do? How can you not have a tv? Do you at least have internet?”
They’re shocked. The idea that someone can lead a happy life without a tv is impossible for them to conceptualize, and they don’t know what to think. For someone who has grown up attached by an umbilical to the tv, it is a horrifying concept to be without one, even for a week.

The campsite is perfect, I wish I could stay here for a week. The trees are leafing out pretty well, now, I am amazed at how quickly the hillside can get covered with green beeches, instead of being able to see right through them like we could at the beginning of the week. Tomorrow is our last day out, and I am sad to be leaving the woods. DJ and I spend a while by the fire, letting the kids stay up a little later, filling out evaluation forms for each student. Some of the students really grew during this week, and discovered a lot about themselves. Sarah especially got a lot stronger, mentally. I just hope that they can take some of the lessons they’ve learned about themselves here and apply them in the real world, the one with tv’s and internet.

Day 5
I wake up around 6am, get a hot drink and some oatmeal with DJ, then head out to shuttle the truck to the van. It is peaceful this morning, the birds are still singing, but they are subdued. As I drive the truck back to the van it starts to rain, gently. It is a quiet, farewell rain, and I accept it and feel grateful that these woods are getting some water. I meet the kids as they are cresting the hill; we had hoped to have a final circle but they are just anxious to get out, to have their showers, their fast food, their movies. Hopefully we kept them out at least long enough to truly appreciate those things they appear to be missing. DJ and I exchange a glance. We both would prefer to stay out here. But our other lives are calling.

We stop at Arby’s for lunch. The kids are loving their fast food. I am quiet. I miss the wildflowers, the taste of wintergreen, the sound of the birds. I drive the truck with Lee and Dan, and Dan starts to open up a little as I ask him about his go-cart racing and his rally racing. He says his father is the NYS rally champion, a factory driver for Volvo. Dan is obviously very into this sport, and I am glad to see that he has a passion. Lee is going straight to a track meet, so we talk about the events he runs. The kids are a lot more comfortable now than they were at the beginning of the week, and I am glad to be part of the transformation. We get to school, de-issue gear, and they walk off. Like that, the slide back to highschool students again is complete. I think they’ll be back, though… they just don’t know it yet.

DJ and I go our separate ways. I have three hours to kill until I am meeting Jess. I head down to Mendon Ponds, and I sit in the sun with my book. The birds are out, and the breeze whispers in the trees. I still feel at peace with myself. I am still on woods-time, the hectic nature of my normal life has not yet caught up with me. I close my eyes and appreciate life for all it is. I am thankful I could go on this trip, be one of the people taking these kids out of their shells, and help them with life as they know it and showing them what else there is.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


(It has started. Saturday roll in the rain...)

Back in Rochester for a night. Its a strange thing, I'm staying with Jess instead of at my parents' house, since they're in Hawaii. (You say conference? I say yeah, right). Anyway, I drove on over here in my nice new car, made it with all four wheels still rolling on the pavement, and immediately put together my bike to go ride at Dryer. Dryer park is awesome, if you're in the Rochester area you have to go check it out, it is all singletracky wonderfulness, which is just exhausting. I mean, normally I'm tired and beat up from riding over rocks and falling on rocks and banging my shins on rocks, but today I was tired from wrestling my bike over short punchy hills with not enough speed, all the while not crashing into the trees. It was an epiphany, now I think I understand why Linnea is always telling me to stand up, and I understand why mountain bikers are so much more buff than roadies. I also think that riding singletrack for three hours is way more tiring than riding at a place like the Fells, which is like 1/4 singletrack, simply because you have to concentrate. Or, I have to concentrate, maybe good riders don't have to bother with that. And while we're on the topic of me thinking (a rare event), I decided that long-distance driving, like going from Boston to Rochester, with only two cd's, is good mental training for OD training sessions on a loop trail. And should be avoided as much as possible.

This one was my favorite trail. It was like riding a roller coaster! My pictures didn't come out great, though, and I didn't take a shot of the sign that said: "Black diamond: steep drops, tight turns, gulp!" I love that they put the potential reaction of the rider on the trail name...

Does anyone else feel like putting a bike in the trunk of your car is sort of like having a person back there? Or am I just weird and connecting a little too much with my bikes... ?

Jess took me out to a great Ethiopian dinner, and tomorrow I head south to the West Rim trail, near Wellsboro PA, to see how far I can stretch my patience...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Another reason I love my bike team

We have wireless in the shop. I hear there is also wireless along the NYS thruway, so I'll probably post again tomorrow =), because I can!

I felt like posting the maps from the two sprints last wednesday; I find it kind of fun to look through it and figure out how I would have gotten to the controls. As you can see it is somewhat of a trail running course, but the scale is like 1:5000, so its pretty quick between features, meaning that you have to think on your feet.

If you print these maps out, you can go play on them, since this is located at the Fells. Go north from Medford along rte 38, and park behind the highschool. The start is from the back of the parking lot. Good times...

Next week I'll be leading a week-long backpacking trip in PA (Have I mentioned that The Nature Conservancy is AWESOME to let me take this sort of time off??), leading eight 9th-graders with learning disabilities on their first trip into the woods. I'll try and take lots of pictures and hopefully I won't be wishing I'd brought some hard alcohol with me... this is why I'll be on the NYS thruway tomorrow, the trip starts and ends in Rochester, so I'll get to hang out with Jess and ride my mtb at Dryer park. I'll try and take pictures of that, too, because Dryer park is freakin awesome.

Time to go play with bikes... and make sure I know how to set up Ed's bivy...