Monday, December 28, 2009

Mike "The Man" Patrick

Found out pro Mike Patrick had a brain hemmorhage last week. He's out of critical condition and slated to enter a rehab in CT next week. Mike is having difficulty speaking and moving his right side.
Please direct the power of healing/love/prayer to Mike. He'd love to hear from us so please contact him at or via snailmail at
Mike Patrick c/o Joan Cousins 60 Broad St. APT 2h Milford, CT 06460
Mike is a fighter so you know he is motivated. Let's give him a hand.

Plunging Through

Over the Christmas holiday I managed to shoot some ice biking videos and edited down a nice little clip. Hey here it is now.... - four guys cruising Stumpfield Marsh and the surrounding flood control area in Hopkinton. Ric, Mike and Mike's son Brent and I rode a couple of hours on the day before Christmas, nursing warmth from the last rays of bright sun under blue skies. The surface was textured by the snow which fell when the ice formed, making a nice rumbly buzz from the studded tires and drifty corners when taken a bit too abruptly. Cold flat ice makes for the most traction, with bumpy ice coming in a close second and soft bumpy ice coming in third- the studs break away when cornering and the bumps make for less of an overall surface area of the tire's contact patch. We had soft bumpy conditions and Mike made good use of his shorts with hip pads as did his son who used his tailbone instead. Clever. Natural. Youthful.

It was a spectacular day on the ice. Which makes for a nice little segue to Saturday's ice ride.

The day after Christmas, Mike, Brent and I ventured out onto a certain local lake- buzzing along- excited about making our way the length of the lake and then over to Turkey Pond and it's marsh. Mike sometimes rides head down and when he does, I know I'll be struggling to keep up. When Mike put his head down this time I could see he'd be in trouble. There was a light snow falling and so the ice should appear uniformly white, right? A line of dark spots on the lake revealed another type of ice, ice with water on it.

I yelled to Mike as I slowed while scanning left for safe passage. Mike zoomed on and - accompanied by a classic cracking sound - watched while his front wheel plunged through, followed by his bike and 'heck, might as well go for a refreshing swim' Mike. Brent, naturally alarmed, ran to the edge - ignoring my yells to stay away from the edge and then, realizing he was in full "go" mode, to lay down on the ice to spread his weight. He didn't heed either and a second later was grabbed by dad and pulled in. Double the fun!

So we went from a nice ride to a swim and then from having two bikes and two guys to link together and form a chain to reach our cold water swimming expert, we had two guys swimming, two bikes, a lot of water and... Brent popped out of the water, just like a cork. Not long afterward Mike was out and I had retrieved his bike by extending another, hooking the bars through a wheel to pull it in.

In my jersey pocket that day were a set of Polar Picks, used by ice fishermen and ice sailors to drag themselves out when and if they break through ice. Just having received them as a gift the day before, I could have slid them to either guy as a plan B. They appear to work great, and have retractable spikes that afford the swimmer traction to climb out over wet slippery ice. (Caution! - the things sink. Put them in a place that's easy to access too, but don't let go of them if you take them out in an emergency. The mfg says to put them through your jacket sleeves and have them dangling but I can't imagine anyone doing so while biking.)

We cruised back and I made up some coffee while Mike thawed out in a hot shower. Later I went out solo, sticking to roads and the known thick ice on Sewall's Pond.

I had to wonder what some unknowing hiker, who may have seen the hole in the ice, thought. Maybe something like "nice day for a swim" or "Call 911!" or maaaybe
"More chlorine in the gene pool please." Silly bikers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sparklies in the Night

The shift to riding at night is one that I anticipate with some uncertainty each year. Will someone with the same consistent zeal for riding come through this year, joining me for the adventure? Will the trails be naughty or nice? Will I ride and play in the dark with abandon, caution thrown to the wind until I hit that patch of ice before mounting studded tires - only to feel the bike disappear from underneath me- with that hard hip hit that aches for a week?

So far I have been out for 7 or 8 night rides and been joined for three of them. Some are sweet, but mostly the social rides involve many stops for light issues and head issues. The chaos is expected. The good time with my buds and accompanying sluggish nature signals the time to downplay the virtues of speed and constant rolling - the solo times offering the chance to ride end to end without a stop. Alone, I unbridle my fitness, become comfortable with the myopic 8 foot radius of vision - and the darkness that blankets me when I stop, go silent, and turn off my light to breath in the night, the woods, the calm.

Last night I did the drill- hustling home after leaving work a bit early, rushing to dress and get out the door, and the anxious ride to meet the guys in time. Nearly always, the more I rush, the more I wait when we come together. It is a force of nature, complicit in reminding me the world turns as fast as the world turns, no matter how much anyone speeds up or slows down. Rushing and waiting come together in neat packages, just like order and chaos.

We rode out to Mast Yard which is accessedvia no more than 1/2 mile of road and then onto railroad bed and a joiner trail system known as Lehntinen Park or "behind the kayak place", or the Snowduster's trail which holds the essential nature of the ride. It combines several seemingly independent systems built for different purposes- snowmobiles, trains, hiking, barge tow roads, mast tree harvetsing - that mell together when we ride... for biking.

At the lot where I met my buddies, a tree-tall shadow man called out "You guys ride up by Runnells Road?" "Yep, we do." A hand extended out of the dark and we met one of the land owners that open their gates to recreation- a godsend for all of us who use land with little regard for the owner's perspective, yet we openly receive the gift to us all. He simply asked us to keep an eye out for anyone going by his house under construction. Another figurative bridge built between biker and the community.

During the ride we passed through about 2 inches of crunchy snow with some sections having been shielded from the storm beneath hemlocks where bare ground quieted the otherwise noisy crunch of our tires. We passed through a couple of sections of woods - briefly- that were like the sugar coated images in past cards and of National Geographic where on top of the snow that had fallen, crystalline sparklies had formed during the past day or so of cold. In one of these sections, sparklieswere seemingly suspended in the air. Mike and I remarked upon it but the others had ridden right through them, self absorbed or altered in some other way to miss the kiss of unique beauty. Each sparkle was multi-colored producing a prismatic illusion. Science explains the mechanism, experience notices the mystery. Both areas were down low and next to meadows so cold air from radiational cooling must have caused the phenomenon that evoked wonder- or vice versa.

3 hours later I rolled back up to my door and noticed a slight shift- that time had passed, that something about the driveway, the house, and me had changed. Not sure what- but different and right and a bit more worn in a natural way.
Riding at night. Welcome back.