About halfway up the climb, my toes went numb.  Wiggling them in my boots was like rattling little frozen vienna sausages around in my sock.  They felt disconnected, green beans dancing in a freezer bag.  The moon was a tiny smear of lard in the night sky, a crescent that was barely there, but the stars and moonlight lit the forest and cast dark voids between the oaks and elms.  My generator light was barely on. I was climbing so slowly that it was running mostly on reserve power, and when I cut across the road to lessen the pitch, it flickered out entirely.  The dim beam caught Chad, who was standing on the side of the road, on the edge of a spring that looked more like a dark oil slick, slowly gurgling out of the ancient crumbling rock face.  His hands were clasped in front of him, voice carrying over the percolating spring, giving thanks to the water that seeped between his feet. The man never donned a jacket, just a fleece and some Carhart pants that he hand waxed and some wood shop safety goggles.  It was about 10 degrees out, and the temp was rapidly dropping.  

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The primary road was paved and clear but the fire road climb to the camp was loose and snow covered.  The snow obfuscated the terrain, hiding tire trashers beneath benign looking drifts of docile powder.  Loose rock chunks and slick snow: we all eventually took to our feet despite big tires and low gears.  We parked our bikes against a willing oak, the wind picked up, biting through our thin riding gloves and light clothing.  Hands went painfully numb.  We stashed our bikes (average weight, loaded, 75lbs) at the foot of a steep and loose pile of rocks, held together with lichen, mountain laurel roots, and gravity.  The path to the camp went straight up the remnants of a geological feature, so old it can not be measured by the human experience.  It was a hands and knees job in the summer but now, in early January, with a heavy pack, numb feet and hands, it was a whole ‘nother bag of worms.  About halfway up, Tracy’s sleeping roll slipped out of her hands and tumbled down the rocks, bouncing and twisting through the air, only coming to a stop at the field at the bottom of the incline.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  It could have easily been a person, smacking and rolling from rock to rock.  

Back in town, it was Saturday evening.  The bars were filled.  The restaurants packed despite the chill.  At home, people curled up to binge watch dubious TV shows.  Dinners came out of ovens and microwaves.  We pitched our tents in a wind insistent on launching our tent components into the dormant mountain laurel.  I got mine up, sort of, and loaded it with my sleeping bags and mats.  Tracy’s fingers had become so cold that she could not operate the clips to put her tent together.  We had to collaborate and use our combined remaining dexterity to finish the job.  

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There used to be a fire tower here, this was a great vantage point to look out over the rolling woods to spot smoke.  It’s a high spot, exposed to the constant battering of the wind and rain.  The fire tower was guyed out with huge steel cables, leavings of which you can still trip on with a dim headlamp.  It’s a place to visit, not to live, but it was our home for the night.  We expected temps to drop near zero.

Why be out there?  To answer that, you have to know why you are anywhere.  And to know why you are anywhere, you need to first ask the question:   Why?  Everyone has their own reasons, but I think many folks don’t actively seek out understanding why they are anywhere at all. They just are.  We were out in the cold wind, huddled around a smoky fire, not talking. Drinking hot stinging nettle and cinnamon tea laced with cheap bourbon, because we had asked the why and we were seeking the answer.  Finding and understanding nature and its sublime power is important.  To understand our place in the world, we must more deeply understand our world, and recognize how small our place in it is.  

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I wrote this in my tent, late at night, as my candle lantern swung around, the tent poles gently bent in the wind.  

It’s hard to talk about why you wanna go freeze your bits off in the woods when you could be at home with a hot cup of tea and some warm slippers. But life is often lacking in perspective. We spend our days with faces buried in work or social media or faux friendships and really we just need to remember that the world keeps turning and seasons keep changing and that being outside in that world is the reason to be. It’s between 0 and 7 degrees out right now and I can’t feel my left foot. The wind is beating across the tree crowns like semis on a turnpike. A whoosh and a roar and the snow spitting across the lightly flapping fly. Freezing is important. Discomfort is important. Being alive is more than just Netflix and heated bathrooms. I can’t exactly pin point why I’m here. But I am. And I’m glad of it.  

As a parting note, here is a recipe, in anecdotal form, that we accidentally concocted on our trip. It was born out of necessity and availability, and it was perfect. This is don’t freeze your bits off food. Caution: Don’t try this on a warm night while car camping.  

After deep frying some tortillas and cheese and pork jowl in the fat from a pack of bacon, we had to get rid of the giant vat of fat somehow…. here’s our camp fire recipe for Gravel & Grind Signature Zero Degree Taco Surprise: take ten corn tortillas. They can be store bought. Fry up a pack of good bacon over some coals. Eat it all but leave the pool of fat in the pan. Dump in 20 slices of Pork Jowl and lightly fry. Leave the jowl stewing in the fat. Add a tortilla, dunking it in the fat then tossing on some good cheddar. It’ll be all shifty slidy but use the force and it’ll be ok. Before you do all this, boil water for an hour before realizing you forgot to add the lentils and rice. This is important. Make the lentils and rice. Half cup each. Bob’s Lentils and Goya yellow rice with the MSG packet. Prepare roughly as recommended. Dump lentils and rice on tortillas. Grab. Eat while scalding hot. Cover expensive gloves in bacon juice. Repeat as needed. Serves 3 hungry folk.

Go ride.  Ask why, then answer yourself with an adventure.  

 


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Who:  Gravel & Grind    Contact:  james (at) gravelandgrind (dot) com   301 682 2651

What:  Coffee Outside Ride and Social.

Where:  Gravel & Grind HQ and the Frederick Watershed

When:  August 14th     Social  11-2    Ride  2-8ish

Why:  Because dirt roads, coffee and steel bikes are 3 of the best things in life.

How:   RSVP on our Facebook page or, shoot us an email.  The ride is free, but we need a headcount.  Bring a Bridgestone or Rivendell or a few, if you want to show off a collection of them.

More details:

-Free street parking on Sunday

-Ride will be hilly and challenging, but not insanely hard.  There is a mountain to climb though.  Dirt roads, maybe a stream crossing.  35ish miles

-Gear list:  Bike, riding clothes, a mug/kettle/stove/coffee brewer if you have one.  At least bring a mug, or buy one here at the shop.  We have some rad ones.  Bring a tube for whatever wheel size you have.  head and tail lights are a must, bright enough to descend a steep road in the dark.  200 lumens minimum for the headlight.  400 is better.

-We’ll hang at the shop and drink coffee and nerd out on bikes for a few hours (get here between 11-2) and leave around 2 for the ride.

 

 

 


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The Michaux Scrambler was a lump of butter balanced on a hot thin wire of made out of stress. Weather reports varied wildly day to day. We called the ride a ‘go’ with a fairly favorable weather report, ordered all of the food, then the next day the weather forecast called for hail and severe storms. Awesome. We searched around for some valium, couldn’t find any, so we just drank lots of coffee instead.

Dawn on Saturday: deep azure sky, clouds made out of cotton balls, warm air… After a monster climb followed by coffee outside in a meadow, followed by another monster climb, we heard from a guy wandering around on the road that the weather was about to turn into a bucket of mud. As Mike and I waited at the top of the climb, we saw the sky turn to a putrid liquid lead color. The wind slackened. We hastened to retrieve our rain coats, and barely got them on before the drops started in earnest.

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The riders plowed on, undeterred and undaunted by the storm, fenderless riders looking like they had been in a mud eating contest that had ended badly. Lunch was spent under tall pines, huddled around a wet but effective fire, munching on huge damp sandwiches. Despite being borderline hypothermic, we had to descend off the mountain, cold air whipping at soggy rain gear.

The weather broke, and we headed deeper into the woods, cruising old fire roads, smooth and slick dirt roads and some rocky snow mobile trails. After climbing one more big chunk, we bombed into the valley, back to camp, only to immediately get hit with high winds and driving rain. Riders hunkered down under lowered EZ ups and chugged beer that we rescued from the stream cooler.

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Tired but diligent volunteers Mel and Kelley whipped up an awesome dinner of sausages and veggies and fire baked cobbler. We passed around a bottle of Buffalo Trace as Dave played his Dobro and sang traditional songs.

Sunday morning was spent degrossing the bikes, getting the grit out of drivetrains and pads. We drank copious amounts of coffee, ate sausages and yogurt and fruit and headed back out. The first climb was a true soul crusher, with no end in sight. Luckily, it was followed by another even harder climb, on loose terrain, that had many riders pushing their bikes. Rewards quickly followed, with a 5 minute burning fast descent down a groomed ATV trail. Rewards are always followed by punishment though, and we spent an hour and a half climbing back up after the amazing descent.

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Lunch was a rushed affair in a gravel parking lot, original plans foiled by ‘the man’ and time. Day light was running low, and leg strength was being slowly depleted. A quick reroute past a sparkling reservoir and over a dusty dirt road found us back at camp before 6pm. We broke camp and went home to sleep for 12 hours. Or at least I did. 12 and a half, really.

We had a blast putting the event on. We’ll do it again next year, but differently. It’ll still be rad, hopefully more rad. If you rode, look for a survey soon about what you liked and didnt like. If you took cool pictures, share em. If not, Jay will have a full album on flickr soon that we’ll link to.

All pics here by Jay. Catch all the rest of ’em at his flickr stream, here.  John, who rode as well, also has an album worth checking out, here.

-James


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Traveling with a group means compromising.  One starts with a plan and remolds it as the trip unfolds.  Our recent 2 day tour was ambitious, 100 miles with winter gear over the course of two travel days and two nights.  No proper resupply points for food.  Riders over packed: Matt aka Dude-Riot had a 115 lbs bike the first night.  That’s insane, way too much weight. All of the bikes were afflicted by some degree of over-loading.  I packed minimally but still went up the mountain with 70lbs of gear, food and water.  We trimmed the trip’s course as we went, reimagining it as it unfolded, one eye on the setting sun, one eye on how much juice was left in our legs.

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Riding from Frederick to Michaux, I quickly realized I had forgotten our cue sheet, so we had to navigate by memory and luck.  I felt my way to Fort Ritchey, where we stocked up on greasy gas station food, and then we headed into Michaux.  The state forest is vast, covered in 84 miles of dirt roads and countless fire roads, old logging cuts that dive off into deep shadowy woods.  We picked a random fire road, ungated and ancient, miles short of our original objective.  The road diverged, we choose poorly and the double track lane petered out into a deer path.  Backtracking, we picked the alternative turn.  A decent but not amazing camping spot was found, well off the dirt road and tucked behind some evergreens.  While riders started to wander to the camping spot, I walked through the woods, having sighted a boulder pile that showed dubious promise of topping out at an over look.  The group ditched the bikes and headed up the pile, the sun breaking through the trees at the crest.

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Dude-Riot lead the way, and pushed on past the false summit, sensing that we were close to something more sublime than dark tall woods and crispy piles of brown leaves.  He shoved through milkweed and briars and emerged into a golden meadow on a peninsula of rock.  We scouted the meadow: an old grass covered forest road ran thru it, and there was a fine spot to build a fire.  The chance discovery of the meadow was seen as a sign: we had to move the bikes here and camp for the night.

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In the morning, we consulted an online topo map.  Google maps doesn’t track fire roads or double track: you have to call upon hand drawn topo maps to locate yourself in the real woods.  The topo map shows us the way out, a faster, easier exit than our hike and shove and spin to find the spot the previous day.  We’re gunna see if the USGS people will let us sell Topo Maps of Michaux and the Watershed and maybe Green Ridge.  They’re wonderfully detailed, easy to read once you know what you are looking at, and inspirational.

 

All of the great images in this post are from our friend Jay Divinagracia.  Find more of his work at Jayd.net


Fall is the most fleeting of seasons. It’s burst of color a final explosion before the land plunges into a world of abbreviated days, muted grays and biting winds.  Don’t spend it inside, eating bonbons and drinking pumpkin flavored coffee.  We’ve compiled three local rides that start in the city o’ Frederick and head out into the country.  They are not your typical rides, and they avoid the main roads that Frederick cyclists use.  Less traffic, more scenery.  Some of ‘em have pretty big hills.  For all of them, we recommend a roadish bike with fat tires and low gears.  Anytime there is gravel or dirt, exercise caution, especially when descending.  With all of these rides, we’ll post up a cue sheet at the end of the ride description so you can go rock it out just by printing the cue up and clipping it to your bars.  No Garmin needed.

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“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”

― Edward Abbey

Dig on our very full events calendar, thru the end of October, here:   https://gravelandgrind.com/basketful-rad-stuff/

People often make the mistake of thinking we sell retro bikes and equipment.  They see waxed cotton and steel and leather and think:  Luddite, retro grouch.  Canvas and lugged steel and leather bits are the old guard, there are new, lighter weight materials out there to make things out of.  The thing is, these materials are often not used because they are better.  They are used because they are cheaper or more available.  Aluminum tubing didn’t take over from steel because it was lighter or stronger.  It’s cheaper by the foot, and can be welded by a robot. Robots are cheaper to pay than skilled welders. (On a side note, carbon production is so cheap that Trek is predicting it will be used on it’s lowest end mountain bikes inside of 5 years… that means carbon fiber is really really cheap)  Aluminum’s lightness was a happy marketing side note.  When aluminum became the material to have for a bike in the 1990s, there was talk of low weight and stiffness, no talk of dentability (aluminum is much weaker after denting, steel is virtually unaffected), repairability (it’s not, unless you have a heat treating oven), longevity, or failure mode.   When cordura became the defacto pannier material, it was not because it was better than waxed cotton, it was because it came in colors, was easy to source and relatively easy to sew.  It wasn’t as repairable, durable, waterproof or beautiful.  It was available, cheap, and easy.

Often the keys to current problems lie in the past.  Think straw-bale housing, composing toilets, rain water catchment, passive solar… I’m off on a slight tangent but the root concept is the same.  We buy lots of disposable plastic stuff: clothing (ever darned a fleece jacket?), bags, shoes.  Few people buy shoes that can be resoled, or if they can be resoled, few people do it.  Fewer people buy bike products based on how easily they can be repaired or how good the product will look in 5 or 20 years.  We try to only stock things that can be repaired, patched, reriveted.  Hand in hand with that concept is the question of how do things age and wear.

The nut of all this simple.  Canvas and leather don’t make good choices because they happen to be vintage looking materials, but rather because they are durable, repairable and age well.  50 year old canvas fly fishing bags look great, broken in, maybe slightly patched up.  They gain beauty thru usage.  Beausage, a Rivendell Bicycle Works term, makes a ton of sense.  Well oiled baseball gloves, broken in leather saddles, the wood trim on an old canoe, all gain increased beauty thru usage.  20 year old nylon panniers look faded, the plastic water proofing is peeling, they are ready to hit the trash can.  I’ve seen 190 dollar saddles with synthetic tops and foam look terrible with a year’s worth of riding and sweating in them.  Faux white leather stains to yellow.  Torn synthetic saddles, even the nicest ones out there, look no better than a W-mart saddle when torn.  Scuffed and crashed on leather saddles just look like they have a story to tell.  Scratch a leather saddle and there is just more leather underneath.  Going along with all of this is simplicity in design.  Check out the Frost River Panniers in the picture above.  They tie onto the rack, and use sticks as lid tensioners.  No proprietary hooks, no bungees to wear out, no bolts, no plastic.  The worst thats gunna happen to these is your knot could fail, but really, if you know a square knot, you’re set.  Simple systems are easier to repair in the field, and that means you spend less time in a bike shop and more time on your bike.  Solid materials mean that you worry less about failure, and when something fails, you can fix it easily and affordably.

I think we are at a point where durable, responsibly made stuff shouldn’t be considered retro.  It should be considered forward thinking, future conscious.  Repairability isn’t sexy, but it is smart.  It should be the 4th R in Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  We’re not a luddite shop, we’re futurists.

There’s lots of good events coming up here at the shop, but one we’re really excited about is the Classic Bike Show and Swap at the end of September.  Here’s the gist:  Come check out a bunch of cool classic bikes on display, peruse cool swap stuff, check out our yard sale bikes and gear, and afterward, head out for an easy townie ride.  Attendance is free if you are not selling anything.

Details:

What: Classic Bike Show and Bike Swap
Where: Gravel & Grind
How Much? Attendance is free, but if you want to sell a bike, show up with 5 bucks. If you want to get a space to sell goods, get in touch with us soon, and for 10 bucks you get a 8’x6’ space. No tables or anything, you are on your own there.
When: Swap and Show 9-3 on Sept 27th. If you are displaying stuff, please be at the shop at 8. Group casual town ride at 4.30pm, after the swap.
Contact: gravelandgrind@gmail.com to reserve a space.
Other stuff: the shop will be blowing out old frames, handlebars, weird tires, bar tape, and more. Also complete bikes. Great deals to be had. Road bikes from 47cm to 62cm.

Bring a classic or classically inspired bike to show.  Also/or bring some old parts or old bikes to sell.  We have less than 10 spots available to sell stuff, but the space is cheap and generous: 10’ wide by 6’ deep for 10 bucks.  If you are selling a bike, not stuff, spaces are virtually limitless, so just show up with a bike.

We’re not really gunna list what’s available at the swap until it happens, but know there’s plenty of cool stuff, lots of it brand new.  We have a big  ole bin of yardsale stuff, everything from wheel sets to tires to handlebars to books.

Head to our Facebook events page to say your coming, or email us if you want a parts swap spot.  https://www.facebook.com/events/519002968261967/

 

Some pics from last weekends ride in movie night.  We rode to a secret woodsy hang spot, and watched a good movie with gobs of popcorn, candy that gets stuck in your teeth and those terrible barrel hug drinks from when you were a kid anything that made your teeth hurt was good.

Our new Rivendell Bicycle Works Sam Hillborne Demo Bike.  It’s big, a large 58, with bars up high like a 60 would have.  We built it with a typical Gravel & Grind build kit: strong Mavic rims, Sugino cranks, Nitto stem and bars, wide range gearing.  It can clear 38mm tires and fenders no problem.  Riv bills it as a country bike, meaning dirt roads, trails, normal roads, light tours.  For those who are curious, the double top tube is about frame stiffness.  Come test this guy out.  We usually have an Atlantis here to check out too, in a 56.


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Let’s start with a S24O primer.  A S24O, aka a sub twenty four hour overnight is just that.  A camping trip that takes under 24 hours to complete.  The short time means you can knock em out over the weekend, or on short holidays.  A more traditional bike tour takes lots of planning and time to execute.  The other hip phrase for these trips is ‘swift campout’, but we’re curmudgeons, so we’ll stick with S24O.  Frederick is more or less surrounded by great camping, some cool dirt roads, and random opportunities for adventures.  This list is by no means a complete one, we left out Greenbriar State Park, Michaux State Forest, private camp grounds, and other stuff that I can’t remember right now.  These are a few starter ideas, places we have been to a number of times and like.

We rent touring bikes and bike camping gear.  All you have to provide is food and clothing!  

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Here’s a quick look at our events calendar from now thru the end of October. Mark the heck outta your calendar!

Note!  For all Gravel & Grind rides, assume you are gunna get muddy, dirty, wet and possibly covered in dust.  Always bring a helmet, lights (really good bright ones for long rides) and food if you get hungry during a ride.  Rides are not operating on any normal schedule, i.e. we don’t promise to be back by any given hour, ergo don’t schedule anything else for that evening, cause you might get home at 11.  Most shop rides start on a Sunday when the shop closes at 4.  Exception here mainly is the customer camping trip and the demolition derby ride.

Sept 13th Townie Ride Theme TBD

Sept 20th Ride to Orchid Cellar Winery, Drink some good wines and mead and get a shuttle home.  Tickets $25 bucks ea.  Capped at 10 people.  Email for Tickets!  info@gravelandgrind.com

Sept 22nd: Ride to the Frederick Fairgrounds for demolition derby, funnel cake, deep fried whatever and a smashing good time.  If you want to go do this, come in soon and give us 25 bucks so we can buy a block of tickets.  Never been to a derby?  Like watching cars smash into each other for no go reason?  You should come out!  Meet at the shop at 5!

Sept 27th Classic Bike Show and Swap at Gravel & Grind followed by a group townie ride.  This is gunna be fun.  We hope to make this an annual thing.  Rules of engagement posted on Facebook soon, but mark your calendar… we’re gunna be blowing out tons of stuff yardsale style that doesn’t really fit in with our evolving bike shop concept.  Bring a cool vintage or classic or classically inspired bike to show.  Limited vendor space to sell old bikes or cool gear, but we have about 10 table spaces worth, at $10 ea.  Contact us if you are interested…

Oct 3rd Customer Camping Trip.  Destination currently unknown, but it will be fun, probably kinda hard, but short mileage wise.  Limited spots.  Some sorta cost, but it will be reasonable.  Like $25-$35 with no rental stuff, and $100 with rental bike and full camping kit.  Interested even if no firm plans are made yet?  We only have 10 total spots, and only 6 rental bikes, and 4 spots in a tent…  so let us know asap…. even before we get details out.

Oct 4th No Shop Ride

Oct 11th, Bikes Books and Beers Town Ride.  Meet at the shop at 4, ride around town, stop at a few places for adult beverages then head back to the shop for a book swap and BYOB hangs.  Books should be vaguely nature/adventure/cycling themed.  Bring at least one book to swap!

Oct 18th Dirt Road Ride, Sub 60 miles.  Meet at the shop at 4.

Oct 25th Town Ride, Coffee Outside theme.  Meet at the shop at 4.

Oct 30th: (note the date change!!)Big Gravel & Grind Party, Alley Cat Scavenger hunt bike race.  Also probably a haunted house in our building, good music by DJ Two Teks, and more…  Cost TBD, details coming in early Oct… Mark it!

Last thing, and we’ll have more about this later but… We are happy beyond words to announce that we’re now a Rivendell Bicycle Works dealer.  One of 9 in the country.  We’ll be selling select Riv items, including some frames, grips, bags, books, and more.  Rivendell has profoundly influenced our thoughts on bikes, riding, camping and life in general.  We could not be more proud, excited, and happy to be a dealer.  Stay tuned on this, details are still developing, but it’s official and stuff will be rolling in next week.  Check out Rivbike.com for more info about the brand.


Rattlesnake Run, Michaux State Forest, PA

Rattlesnake Run, Michaux State Forest, PA

We headed up to Michaux over the Memorial Day weekend. We piled into cars like circus clowns, overloaded bike racks and tossed bulging panniers in cargo carriers and headed out up winding north Frederick roads. Parked at a friend of a friend’s house in Blue Ridge Summit (Thanks Pat!) and found our way into the woods on Rattlesnake Run, a buffed out dirt road with slow churning ascents and wicked, bike shimmy inducing descents. De’von, new to the touring thing, was descending so fast that I had to sprint to catch him and get him to slow down. Sketch. The road, as our rides oft do, turned vertical, and we started a long winding climb through mountain switch backs. The spot I had scouted was taken, so we kept climbing, reaching the crest of the mountain and turning up a super steep bit of single track, which plateaued in a broad green meadow.

Tents went up fine, and Dan the Younger didn’t fall outta his hammock, but Larry worked like a maniac trying to inflate an air mattress that had it’s dump valve open, which, although it resulted in a great dance step routine by De’von and Larry as they were working the air mat foot pump.
Fire: big, plenty of down wood for fuel, perfect rock fire ring. Tracy brought skewered lamb and bacon wrapped dates, David brought 3 good cheeses and bread, John brought Brauts and Dan brought Buns and De’von brought cake and Alyssa brought S’mores and Eric brought tuna steaks…. man. There was a ton of food, all good, all rapidly consumed. Later, the stars broke, and a crescent moon drifted among spartan clouds.

In the morning, strong french press coffee, seeds and nuts and broken camp. We cruised a short piece down the mountain and filtered some water in a brook off some narrow singletrack. A few hours later we emerged back at the car, having stayed mostly on dirt roads and mostly in some lovely shade.
Michaux is a fantastic place to get a ton of exploring done. 30 miles north of Frederick, it’s an untapped wilderness laden with streams, ponds, lakes and mountain passes. It’s like a huge Watershed. Get out there. Go hit it!

We now rent touring bikes, touring gear and provide cue sheets for rides like this. Reserve one or 4 today!

Shoving bikes up the final 300 yards to camp.

Shoving bikes up the final 300 yards to camp.

One of our fully equipped touring bikes with fenders, racks, and super low gearing. Our rental Nemo Tents are in the background.

One of our fully equipped touring bikes with fenders, racks, and super low gearing. Our rental Nemo Tents are in the background.


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Pavel.  Rick coined the term a few weeks ago, and sorta gave it to us.  Most of Maryland is bereft of dirt roads, but we’re lucky enough to live in the epicenter of them.  Any given ride is really going to be a mix of pavement and gravel or dirt, no matter how carefully you pick your route.  Hence the term Pavel.  We like it.

 

When Rick gave Tracy and I a shout and asked us to come ride his stomping grounds, I was a bit apprehensive.  The area of rural roads and deserted mills and overgrown graveyards is loaded with secretly difficult climbs.  It’s a well known almost fact that the best roads and the most scenic views are the hardest to get to.  I’d been off my bike since June due to a foot issue, and so I knew my legs would be weak, even if I was generally healthy.  Maybe I’d done 50 miles, total, since June.  Basically nothing.  But Tracy and I headed out anyway, meeting Rick in the little town of New Windsor, Maryland.

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