On the Couch After the Sugarloaf Fat Tire Festival

IMG_5716“If I was a cell phone, I’d be at eighteen percent right now,’ mumbled John as he lay sprawled on the condominium’s couch as thirteen Bubbas settled into a much needed retreat after I logged 15 miles on the snow covered trail here at the Sugarloaf Fat Tire Festival.

It was a horror show driving here.  A greasy snow storm that ended up dropping ten inches of wet thick snow on midcoast Maine added two extra hours to what was normally a two hour ride. Numerous cars and trucks were sliding off the road.

Jacknived trailer truck
Jacknived trailer truck
We witnessed a very scary episode of a car going through a red light and doing a 360 in an intersection coming into Augusta on route 17.

But today easily made up for our afternoon of fight or flight tension yesterday.  The day started at 11 degrees, with a relatively benign wind that hovered in single digits all day. The warm point of the day was at 28 degrees. Although this may sound cold, it is primo. Winter biking is best on frozen surfaces that are not slick. Today’s conditions made for fast riding on a surface that was easier to roll on than in the summer, with far fewer rocks or roots to get in the way.

I am positively giddy about riding 15 miles today.

Strava is a GPS-connected app that I use to track my outdoor activities, be it biking, walking, hiking, or backpacking. The flyby feature is really interesting. Here’s the Strava flyby of today’s group riude.  It is a virtual video game that depicts us Bubbas riding our bikes. Check it out and chuckle.

Here are some representative photos of our adventures today:

Vendor Alley
Vendor Alley
We started by checking out he even’s hub.  One of our local shops, Sidecountry Sports had a strong booth representing their services.

Then we meandered down from our condo to access an initial ride on broad, groomed, packed, and very fun trails.  IMG_5713 2

 

Here’s a very short video clip of part of the trail:

Later, we got onto the Narrow Gauge railroad bed until we had to ramp big-time uphill to the Stratton Brook Hut.

It was a climb of approximately two and a-half miles. I have enjoyed staying at these huts. Their food was not overpriced, for what they have to do to get the raw materials there into in the winter. Service was great. Overnight price are reasonable.

At a few points, I had this view of Sugarloaf:

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Lots of wood and stone, flanks the communal rooms of the Stratton Brook Hut.

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Ian , Buck ,and Andre sipping complimentary free coffee.  They are sitting in front of a crackling fire.

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If you do make a visit to this hut on a bike, be sure to opt for taking Oak Knoll trail down. After all the effort to make the climb you need to enjoy descending two and a half swoopy singletrack down. 

There was nothing left when I rolled back uphill to the condo.  The first thing that I did when I finished showering was to hit the couch with John.

Later, came the day’s stories.  They go on and on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You gotta like slush and mud to be biking in Maine right now

It’ is not even winter yet, but it’s much more challenging to get outside and bike and hike in Maine right now.
First, we’ve already had two major snow storms that have resulted in serious downed limbs, branches, and even whole trees laying across our usual wooded trails.
One November storm was so brutal that we lost our electricity for five whole days. That’s what happens when you have gale force winds pushing against trees rooted atop soft ground that had not even shed their leaves. The weight of twenty inches of wet sticky snow accumulating on the branches makes the trees top heavy, resulting in uprooted messes toppling like pick-up-sticks across the countryside.
A week ago Andre, Buck, and I headed over to the Rockland Bog on snow shoes to clear out some of the usual riding loops that we have been favoring for the past twenty five years.
We all packed small saws that are surprisingly efficient at slicing through even larger trees that lay across the trails, but there were several behemoths that we left for the big boys on their snowmobiles to dispatch with their chain saws.
Here’s Andre using his snowshoes to stay on top of a particularly despicable half frozen mass of broken up ice partially frozen in nasty mudded-up water.

Andre atop ice
Andre atop ice

Sometimes there are no decent go-arounds, and you need to just work straight across, through the ruts and mud.

No place to tip over
No place to tip over

Thank God there are even a few bridges that we can cross. This is not a place to slip into the water, either on foot or a bike .

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Andre and Buck considering foot placement

Just before we got back to the cars in the lot along the Bog Road, we decided to just go around this particular nasty tangle of downed branches, and yes, normally we are in the habit of being able to ride right through this stream and along the path ahead.  Not going to happen.

Almost on the Bog Road
Almost on the Bog Road

Two days later, we three went back in, along with 5 other cultural iconoclasts. The Bubbas in the Woods have been stuck in a rut of sorts,  for a few decades now. We have these group rides on Sunday morning, and also Tuesday and Thursday nights, year after year- for decades. Incredible but true.  This past Tuesday night, it was pitch black at 5:15 PM, the temps were in the low 20’s, and much of what was soft and mucky was now frozen solid and slippery.

I had charged up my Turbocat handlebar and helmet-mounted lights for the event, my first night ride of the fall season. And yes, I realize my ancient Turbocat system is now old history, and after the ride I realized it would be way cheaper for me to upgrade to a Magicshine LED helmet light than to buy another replacement lead-acid battery that was acceptable way back when.

I also hope not to fall, so just in case, I wore my Fox padded shorts underneath my tights to prevent a broken hip or tailbone ( Right,  Lincoln Jamrog ?).  A recent Men’s health magazine article  about winter fat-tire biking, The Winter Sport That Burns 1,500 Calories an Hour, helped explain why I was a hurting unit just a half-hour into Tuesday night’s ride.

It was ridiculously tough going for me- churning through snow, mud, half-frozen water, and trying to see the path through partially fogged up /frozen safety glasses.  Here’s a map of the 7.5 miles that I somehow managed to finish on Tuesday night:

Bog Ride.  Green dot on Bog Road.
Bog Ride. Green dot on Bog Road.

Here’s a pic of the Hawk, taking a quick break in the middle of a particularly wet piece of the Bog ride.  The darkness at the bottom is black pools of water , interspersed between elevated hummocks of land and mounds of solid ground with trees somehow surviving in there.

The Hawk usually churns right through everything
The Hawk usually churns right through everything- not tonight, though.

It’s what we do, and I’m actually looking forward to my next ride in the dark with these guys.

I’m hoping that my new Magic Shine headlamp works it’s magic on my performance out there!

White Bike / Cold Darkness

Last night seven fat bike riders covered 11.3 miles at a quick pace over the super compacted snowmobile tread in Lincolnville. It was a loop trip, guided by Jason and Ian, with the Stevens Corner parking lot at Youngtown road as the base.  The ride went clockwise, up the big climb to Bald Rock, then over to Cameron Mtn, and down to the center.  From there out to Coleman Pond and then back through a  frozen swamp.

The ride
The ride

It was 11 degrees when I reached the house at 8 PM.  My hands and feet hurt from the cold.  I have to remember to use chemical heat packets for my hands and feet the next time I ride in this cold, which should happen Friday.

Some of the features of this ride were:

First, how surprisingly rideable the surface was.  It hasn’t been this good this winter.  It should stay good, with the eastern US now locked into a cold pattern , where frigid temps are expected until mid-March.  Warm is good for the soul, but bad for us winter bikers.

Second, it was a gas to have this much fun riding so close to my home.  My new trend is to stay close to home and have local adventures .  The feeling of careening down over a smooth track from Cameron mountain and gliding over a rock garden that makes up the trail in the summertime was unique.

Third:  The bizarre experience of riding along over the top of Coleman Pond was both unsettling, and exciting.  Our little lights put a weak glow into the darkness, and added to the mystery.

And oh, what a deep sleep.