Wednesday, January 18, 2017

In memory of a once in a lifetime friend ~ November 10, 1968 - January 18, 2008

Pete Roux second climbing on "Gambit" in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado.
Photo courtesy of Roland Fortin.

If the Old Boy could see us now. What would he say? As the years have gone by, the tidal sadness of losing a great friend ebbs and flows on a regular basis in my world. It's certainly been a cause of much PTSD and anxiety at times when I get too deep in thought or have those visions of him getting plucked off the mountain after his fateful last climb. I have come to control this over the years and can keep it in check for the most part and maybe, this year, on this day, I may be in the best spot of life than I have been in many years in terms of dealing with these emotions. Lots of good things going on. Look at Pete's face in this picture. Look how pumped he was to be on this climb. Lots of life's lessons were learned with friends in the mountains and on the rock and ice cliffs. Today I celebrate the life in Pete Roux's years on this earth. Thanks, Pete, for being a once in a lifetime friend.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

In memory of a once in a lifetime friend ~ November 10, 1968 ~ January 18, 2008

Pete Roux, high up on the Kautz Glacier, Mount Rainier, 6/13/07.

"Then there was silence, hiss of the slide soft hushed. The mountains lay, stood, reared like creatures that dream lovely in sunlight: ebony, silver and silk just as before.
But I loathed them, trembling and sick, for you had gone.
~Wilfrid Noyce

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Baxter State Park - North to South - On A Bike

Twelve photos of bicycle travel sixty five miles from Shin Pond Village
through Baxter State Park on a bicycle.

Luxury Bike Packing

The start from Shin Pond Village. Dan here rested and ready for the southward journey.

Matagamon Gate, Baxter's North Entrance.

 Photo credit: Dan Blickensderfer
Some pretty sharp early climbs with superb gravel.

 Photo credit: Dan Blickensderfer
We took a little food break here.

Then there was more gravel. This is one sweet road. 
The bikes were rolling so good.

and this one!

 Photo credit: Dan Blickensderfer
We had some scenic vistas. Double Top Mountain in view.

 Photo credit: Dan Blickensderfer
You guessed it, more stellar gravel.

 Photo credit: Dan Blickensderfer
The road narrowed and the view was grand.

 Photo credit: Dan Blickensderfer
The steeds, having done the deed with zero mechanical issues.

The ride. 64.1 miles - saddle time 5:18:21 - 3,766 feet climbed.

Maine North Woods Gravel Grind

the Crossah' at Rum Brook on the Logan Pond snowmobile trail. 

For this edition of Sparky's Ride Blog, the planning began 12 months or more in advance, initially as a slow churn in my brain and a somewhat one-way trip, since at the time my main goal was only that I wanted to ride my bike through Baxter State Park.

For those who are not familiar with BSP' wilderness tote road, that is fifty miles of one sweet gravel road, covering some of most beautiful terrain the State of Maine has to offer. While the planning was in process, I began to consider the approach, at first, compromising a bit and thinking that I would just ride up the tar road on route eleven to Sherman Mills and then make my way to the north entrance of Baxter via Shin Pond Village, then Grand Lake Matagamon. As I spent countless hours studying over my Maine Gazetteer and my snowmobile trail maps from machine operated travels in this area, I couldn't help but wonder what was under all that snow I've ridden on. Was it a beautiful gravel road I envisioned it could be? 

Zooming in on the land tucked between towering Mount Katahdin, Baxter's eastern border, and the East Branch of the Penobscot River, I quickly discovered the Katahdin Woods and Waters recreation area is a vast chunk of land encompasing 100,000+ acres. I had ridden the outer fringe on my snowmobile two winters in a row, so a lot of it was familiar to me for sure. It was what I hadn't seen that lured me in like the powerful magnet the North Woods of Maine does to my nature seeking soul. This beautiful land mass is destined to be donated to the United States National Park System in 2016 as Maine's next National Park. It will be one hundred years of the system, so quite interesting timing for a nature celebration.

A few months have gone by, it's now July 2014, wanderlust has begun to invade my brain and the urge to visit northern Maine is beyond my capacity to contain without getting something on the calendar. My first objective was to rally other hearty gravel road grinding souls to join in on the fun. Naturally, if the lovely Stephanie hadn't wrecked herself earlier in the spring, she would have been right there, though I did have great encouragement from her to 'get out of town' and check it out! A good friend, Blick, became first out side of the bubble to get the word and before knowing anything about what he was getting into, he was on board, I think he actually had subconsciously predicted it would be part of his cycling schedule for this summer. Cyclist, Climber, and incredible human, Todd Ringelberg, AKA TR1, was notified and I know he was right along side the whole time, only in spirit form. After talking the talk on facebook and trying to interest others in joining it was narrowed down to just Blick and I. It couldn't have been more perfect!

 Mount Katahdin from the Loop road, Katahdin Woods and Waters.

I had three weeks or so to pull together this trip. My main worry the whole time was navigating through such vast and remote wilderness, so much of my focus was on route choice. I figured I should email the land managers, as the website indicates interested folks should, and I got a quick reply saying the area was large and remote with no actual bicycle route through and the terrain was ONLY for the most experienced back country travelers. I replied back with a brief, but lengthy resume of experience, which led to a reply from Susan Adams revealing several contacts from others who have traveled exactly as we intended to. I first spoke with Matt Polstein, president at New England Outdoor Center in Millinocket. I caught Matt on a mobile phone while in the grocery store food shopping for a guided rafting trip. I've rented snowmobiles from NEOC in the past and I was quick to tell him that, hoping to just get in the door right off. He provided me with just what I wanted to hear, giving me even more confidence about the trip. I also exchanged a few emails with Larry Johannesman and Fred Michaud who both work for the State DOT in various capacities. Both have ridden the area on bicycle and they too provided me with great resources and information. I also emailed a bunch with a fellow named Eric Hendrickson. I never did catch up with Mark or Susan Adams in my scouting or on our trip, but thanks you two for the contacts and information you provided. You can see what lengths I went to before even attempting the route. 

Blick ready to ride, game face and gear loaded. He's mumbling "Let's go already!"

We parked our cars near Abol Bridge off the Golden road, actually in the Baxter State Park winter campers parking lot. Our first leg would be the Old State road to the southern entrance of Baxter where we had to sneak off the tote road under the closed gate leading us on the Logan Pond snowmobile trail. That's really where it started for me, no more cars or people!

Team KKotRC Plaid in the North Maine Woods - Logan Pond Trail

I had scouted the first two miles of the Logan Pond trail the day before, but the further we got the more remote it seemed. The road was a trail in spots, but very rideable on a cross bike, even loaded up with a rear cargo rack and gear. That did make it a little more technical and fun. I wish I had taken a picture, but at one point the trail was so grown in that I looked back and could only see Blick from the shoulders up as he was riding the trail. It was a funny moment etched in my memory. We had been warned about the bridge that was out going over Sandy Stream, but we were able to walk across it and avoid the detour I had previously ridden on the snowmobile last winter. That's where all of a sudden a human appeared, and he was riding a bicycle! Who would have thought we would see anyone else out on a bicycle. I think he first complimented us on our matching plaid Krempels King of the Road jerseys, then we talked about how he was staying at a nearby camp and had been riding these logging roads for a few days. He was just Texan out riding his bike and enjoying the wilds of Maine. 

This is where the road became a little bit better in true gravel form. I recognized many sections, just lacking the snow cover I was used to. It was a dream coming true to ride here on two wheels.   
When the road went up hill we started reaping the benefits of our efforts with spectacular views of Mount Katahdin.

A familiar spot! The Staceyville road.

From here it was a mix of light Jeep (or Subaru) road and great going gravel. There were a few descents I took like a mad man, just praying I would not flat a tire. One final sharp downhill and we were on the Whetstone bridge over the East Branch of the Penobscot River.

I've been here a couple of times on the snowmobile and it's a beautiful spot. After some snacks and water we we're off and headed up the East Branch road which runs up the west side of the Penobscot River, East Branch.

The Crossah bike at Whetstone Bridge.
Blick's bike came in well under the posted weight limit, but he may have just crushed the speed limit descending to Whetstone.

From the Whetstone bridge, we turned due north and slightly west onto the East Branch road. The further we rode, the more incredible the wilderness became, truly only human power can get you in these parts. A few miles up, we had our first stream crossing, off came the biking shoes. When this land was purchased by Roxanne Quimby, all of the old snowmobile and atv bridges were pulled and the land was left to remain still and calm. This was and still is the cause for some controversy among groups of folks who, in my opinion, just don't really grasp the fact that it's her land and she can do what she wants with it. As an outdoor type, now seasonal motorhead, I can understand both sides, but ultimately it comes down to respecting her decisions. Her motivations for buying and gifting this land to forever be preserved and protected for people to enjoy far outweighs the lack of ability to ride through on a motorized vehicle.

Just a few miles further north and we were tip toeing across the decomposing bridge spanning Wassataquoik Stream. It was pretty high up off the stream and definitely crumbling under our feet, but I'm typing this blog, so we didn't fall through.

A little snack break and we were off again, riding bikes! Our next obstacle was a rather deep stream crossing at Owen Brook which drains into the Penobscot. This is a funny moment in the ride, but when we first arrived here, I thought we were hosed. The stream crossing was deep and I really wasn't interested in swimming with my bike and gear. We started looking for alternate ways of crossing, which included some super thick bushwacking. I made it across, several clicks east of the actual crossing and then back again to get Blick and retrieve the bikes. So here we go through the thicks just below the beaver dam. I got my bike across and turned to help Blick, when I hear this. "Hey dude, dude, can I get a little help here?" Just a few feet more and I see Dan, just about up to his waist in thick moose bog type mud and sinking, while also telling me his feet were not touching the bottom. I think I said a couple of funny cuss words like maybe "Holy Shit Dude" and we both laughed and laughed after getting him out of that mess. He was pretty well covered in mud. We both rinsed off in the stream once we emerged from the woods. This would be another 'should have taken a picture' moment of the trip.

One other image forever stuck in my mind, and you'll have to take my written word for it, but we were riding fairly close together when I see above in the trees a huge bird get up and fly from one branch to another. When the bird landed again it rapidly turned around and looked down at us, it was the most amazing owl I have ever seen and his look down upon us was incredibly powerful, so much so that I think he looked right through me! He was completely curious and followed us down the trail for a while, but that look I will never forget.

Riding Bikes on the International Appalachian Trail

After many miles of a tree covered old logging road with many waterbar ditches where they pulled all the old bridges, we merged with the IAT. It was pretty cool getting to this point, but Blick and I were running low on water and the day was fading beneath our wheels. We decided to alter the trip to our first 'bail out' option and head toward the suspension bridge which would get us to Bowlin Camps, the closer we got I started to recognize this section because I had been through and up to Lookout Mountain on the sled last winter. Secretly I was saving the water filter I had carried all this way for absolute desperation and only if we really needed it. Come to think of it, we should have used it, but I hadn't used it in a very long time, so I was slightly paranoid it wouldn't protect us and the lure of Bowlin Camps made me push Blick, out of water at this point, a few more miles since I thought that we would be able to just get some good water there. 

We made it to Bowlin! Photo credit Dan Blickensderfer

Another familiar spot on the trail, the suspension bridge leading to a CLOSED Bowlin Camps. What's that I hear, someone hammering on wood back behind that garage? Yep, it was one of the caretakers working away. I think he was quite surprised to see us on bicycles and even more surprised to hear where we had come from, on bicycles. We asked for water and he was kind enough to set us up, even offering up ice cubes for our bottles. I was getting pretty tired and running low on water wasn't the best choice I'd made. We filled up and went down to the river to soak our heads and cool off for a bit before riding off up the gravel access road. Eleven miles later we made the Grand Lake road running east to Shin Pond Village, but it was another 14 miles before our stop for the day and it really, really hurt. I was so exhausted and depleted of energy when we got there, but that didn't matter, we had hit 90% of goal and made it to Shin Pond in time for dinner. I'll have a coke, cheese pizza, cheese burger and fries. Blick - "I'll have what he's having."

Post publish special request picture of me (and my manliness) totally bonked.
Photo credit - Dan Blickensderfer.

Thanks, Dan, for one of the best bike rides I've done. All you suckers who wished they had joined us better be prepared for 2015. Thank You, Terry and staff at Shin Pond Village for accommodating us on this trip. You guys have a wonderful spot, with new possibilities for business with the soon to come National Park. I wouldn't hesitate to stay with you again and plan to this winter for some sled fun. To Sparky Blog readers, this is probably one of the longest thought out and written posts ever, thanks for suffering through.
Part two, the recovery ride through Baxter State Park coming, but might be more of a photo essay instead. 

                                                                                             A screen shot of our ride.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Life in a Bubble

Reality is, we live in a bubble. No matter what you do in life, we're always at risk. We drive in cars with a lot of unique people on the roads, we might ride a motorcycle, bike, snowmobile, we might climb mountains or fly in planes. Financial risk? Maybe some of us travel to a foreign countries. It's just a start of the risk list. There is risk with everything we do. 

Seriously, think about it. Apply your life here.

For us, we have traveled miles and miles of roads or trail on bicycles, 55 mph descents by bike on Middlebury Gap in Vermont, no problem. One thousand foot cliffs of rock or ice? Yeah, I've been in a few of the spots and the view is better than from the bottom. 

Sometimes you head out on a bike ride and almost eat shit in a real technical section, or you do eat it and bounce up relatively unscathed, but other days you nail a spot of difficulty with absolute precision. How gratifying is that! Outside, you smell the flora in the air, see wildlife or beautiful vistas. Life is an adventure. Play safe, ride hard, live, love, be free.

Bubble mending in process. Send good energy. Remember Killington and the broken leg? The things you do in a time of one's need is really what it's all about.

Not sure what all this means, but that really felt good to get out.

Stephanie Jacques, Acadia National Park, Oct 6, 2013

Saturday, January 18, 2014

In memory of a once in a lifetime friend ~ November 10, 1968 ~ January 18, 2008

Pete Roux peers out at the view just below the summit of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains 11-18-07

Rest in Peace dear friend.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Northwoods Traveling

Hi-Ho, off we go to the expansive and vast Maine North Woods. Three Million plus acres of forest and timber lands, a massive commercial working forest with public access controlled by North Maine Woods Inc., who also manage and care for over six hundred campsites throughout. With hundreds and possibly thousands of miles of gravel roads, it has become a goal of mine to drive through and see these lands and since I have started riding a snowmobile, it's added a new twist to scout out areas where I can ride and link up roads and waterways for long adventures and amazing back country travels. I like to drive, so I don't really think too much about spending 10-12 hours behind the wheel traveling these roads and taking it all in. If only we were able to ride bicycles in this area, wow how amazing would that be? Sadly, unless the forestry industry completely pulls out of the NMW or the landowners, management and public users can come to some agreement on how to charge for and allow expanded access for other shared uses like cycling, it's unlikely I or anyone will ever be able to ride these roads. I can only think the Maine North Woods would certainly benefit from the added economic benefits of expanded multi-use access. 

On this trip the main goal was to get to the St. John river at Red Pine campsite. My trusty copilot Mike always secures his spot quickly, so the planning began. We had started an email thread about where to go, what to see, so I really started developing a good driving plan. I had traveled with my Uncle back in my teen years and we had been to a place called Spider Lake off the Churchill Dam road, so I set this as our first nights camp. I methodically summed up that we should head in at Oxbow and travel the Oxbow road for scouting Libby Camps main entrance as well as campsites along the way. We arrived at the Oxbow gate and we were warmly greeted by Lisa Sherman, gate operator and self proclaimed writer. She was a spit fire of a woman, with an amazing wealth of knowledge on where we had told her we intended to travel. She had quite a few opinions on the way things run in the NMW, good, bad, interesting and funny. I probed and pleaded to her my thoughts on allowing bicycles into the NMW, but as per above...that's a negative on the topic. 

Lisa had warned us about commercial traffic within the first six miles of the Oxbow gate and to be careful, but as we were talking with her at the gate house most of the workers drove out, including the foremen, so she predicted they were done for the weekend. We didn't see any log trucks, but only minutes from the gate, in one of the operations zones, we were greeted by our first 'mud hole' of the trip. That was a deep one, but we got through and rolled on. A few miles down the road we spot two big cow moose running off into the forest, yup, Maine. 

Munsungan Falls at the headwaters of the Aroostook river. Munsungan Falls campsite is also at this pretty little spot. 

We stopped off at a few campsites to scout for future journeys and just in case it's a not to be missed spot. From the Oxbow road it was a few clicks north and east on the Pinkham road and then a left hook back north and west on the Pell & Pell road. Off Pell & Pell is a beautiful little campsite on Chase Lake, which was where we had to clean up the fire pit after some careless visitors left their paper plates and plastic forks, including a few other pieces of trash in the fire pit. I plan on ranting about this nonsense further down the post.

Yes! Camp for the night.

After a little more than 500 miles of driving from Kittery, Maine, it was nice to get out of the car and set up camp. Eating was a second priority and we started with the warm up course of veggie chili, homemade from my lovely wife Stephanie. It was so.damn.good as camping food usually is when you are miles and miles from civilization. 

Does this fire look like a kitty?

We also brought kayaks and since we were camped at Spider, we paddled there. It was a cold morning and probably the coldest conditions I have paddled in, but dressed appropriately we were fine. Spider had a lot of rocky shoreline and not many options for popping out of the boat. From the campsite we paddled out left around the cove we were in. This went on for a bit then between a couple of islands for a little shelter from the winds, then we kept paddling up the inlet from Upper Portage Pond before getting into a little ice jam. 

Winter's icy grip is showing early. Spider Lake ice - Maine North Woods - 10/25/13

Just so some of you who may not know can get an idea of where the heck I was, here is some of the GPS track from my Garmin Connect account. I started it about 8 miles after the Oxbow gate, then it stops at Kelly Brook Campsite. I would encourage every Mainer to visit even the smallest part of the North Maine Woods. It's amazing to me to be in such vast wilderness.

We had around 45 miles to drive before getting to our next camp spot for the night at Red Pine. A few notable spots along the way included Churchill Dam on the Allagash Waterway, Clayton Lake, yup, that place far and away where the weather reports come from and as always Mike was calling out landmarks and side roads like the finest Rally Car Co-Pilot would. Arriving at the junction of Realty road and the Ross Mountain road, I choose to take the road less traveled which actually wasn't too bad, a few rough spots, but the Subaru Forester was handling everything so far extremely well. After making our way through the hardest sections, we actually kept joking that we would get to within feet of the destination and would be forced back by an overflowing beaver dam, stream or washout of the road, but we rounded the bend at the site of the former bridge to Daaquam and then it was the sign officially for Red Pine Grove campsite. 

The Red Pine Airfield along the St. John river

Arriving at Red Pine, I proceeded to blast down the airfield to the opposite side. I see how they could land a pretty large plane here, it's almost a mile long and fairly wide, but probably not wide enough for most commercial airliners. 

The Dubie is not the fastest vehicle out there, but I did get up to 70 mph before backing off for a taxi into the campsite.

Just a little rant...

I'm an outdoors person, whatever it is, riding bikes, hiking, climbing, snowshoeing or skiing, snowmobiling, camping you get the point. What I am not is a hunter, but I have complete respect for hunters who like to enjoy the outside and their sport, or thrill of the pursuit of game or the benefit of feeding your family. What I can't really understand is how some hunters, bird hunters in this case, can be so ruthless and gross. As I pull into the site we decide would be ours, it wasn't ideal and there were other folks who had a camper set up just a few cells away. I noticed what looked like a dead bird on top of the tarp pole over the picnic table, sure enough as I walked over for a closer look it was a dead grouse and they had just left it, so carelessly in an area one would camp out and perhaps make a meal. How unsanitary! A little further away was the headless body of another bird who had been skinned from the spine and neck up, lower body still intact and full of feathers. To say we were disgusted was an understatement and I sort of felt let down by the complete lack of respect for wildlife and other folks who also like to enjoy these areas, so and we decided to at least check out the river then move on to another campsite. Ok a little more ranting about people who leave trash at campsites? What is wrong with you?

The beautiful St. John river, so peaceful and unaware of the crudeness man can relent upon nature. 

I recently started reading Nine Mile Bridge a book of a woman's journey to teach school and live in the woods of Maine for three years, so part of our plan was to try and visit the site of the former bridge. Since we were headed away from Red Pine, I went against Mike's voice of reason and decided to make the effort to possibly set up camp at the site there.  Off we go, left turn on the Thibodeau road due north when all of a sudden the road just dropped to the valley floor and this...

14% grade on either side of an amazing gravel road - gravel riders dream.

Another view a little closer to the valley floor. 

At the top of that hill was another man made road cut through a valley just like this one. I was in absolute awe and thought about riding bikes, but the closest I'll get could be a winter snowmobile ride if it's not plowed....hmmm...

Getting close to wrapping this one up, but not before we get into the epic part of the trip and since it was a close one, no pictures were taken! We took a left on East Nine Mile road heading for another spot on the St. John river. We figured it was about 8 miles to the end and we soon put the easiest miles behind us passing Nine Mile Bruce's house just before the road narrowed to two tracks and some taller grass up the center. I noticed his door was open when we went by and if he saw us he must have chuckled thinking two things, we'll either be back to visit needing a tow truck or he'll see us turned back having come to our senses. The road description above, how it narrowed down to two tracks and tall grass up the center is just the kind of road I had wanted to travel on in the MNW, which we had done, but this one was getting technical and difficult and I kept going against my better judgement approaching every difficulty with optimism and confidence. We actually got out to walk as we had in other sections in our travels and I quickly announced I thought I could get through it. Back in the car and down the trail, one obstacle at a time, into the mud hole I had walked alongside and probed with a stick, suddenly it became deeper under the weight of the car and we got close to getting stuck, I even heard a few bumps and grinds from something hitting the earth and I though it couldn't possibly get worse until I began a drop off three sets of small logs that eased you down a steep incline and I hit my trailer hitch at the bottom, I kept trying to ride the high side of the double track since it was much wider than the contact patch of the Forester, but due to the muddy conditions the tires wouldn't hold the line and I kept getting sucked in and very close to bottoming out the undercarriage of the car. Not good to rip critical parts out of the car and have to get a tow truck to get us out. With my heart rate accelerated we quickly scout out an area to perform a five point turn. With the fresh scent of clutch coming from the air vent I quickly became only determined to get the heck out of there and fast! I turned the beast around and arrived at the mud hole. Mike got out and guided me through a different line which apparently was deep and from his perspective everything appeared as if we'd be camping right there...stuck in the mud! I am happy to report the scent of burnt clutch quickly went away and we just left the area, not even considering parking the car and taking a hike to the river, what now turns out to be a regrettable lack of thought, clearly disturbed by the muddy holes we encountered on East Nine Mile road. Someday I'll get there and be redeemed, maybe from the official Nine Mile side of the riverbank, I am always thinking about another woods road drive.

Just a couple more pics from the woods of Maine. 

Cold fall morning light on McNally Pond, along the Realty road, North Maine Woods

The mountainous view from the western shore of Pratt Lake.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mount Washington Hill Climb 2013

Welcome and thanks for reading!

Before I get to the race details, it's been a busy couple of months. I ended the month of July going from a 12 Hour race in Vermont, to one of my favorite ares of the country, Boulder, Colorado. I had an opportunity to see the band Rush in Denver with my Bro from another Mo, Rofo. So I conveniently scheduled some "work" appointments and the timing was perfect to introduce some new products. Roland and I planned to adventure some as well, so I stayed on a couple of extra days. We rode mountain bikes at Heil Ranch in Lyons and the super cool trails of West Magnolia in Ned. Most notable on this trip was getting to the summit of Quandry Peak at 14,265 feet.

On the summit.

 Roland Fortin climbing the Ponderosa Loop, Heil Ranch, Lyons, CO.

As I lead into racing up Mount Washington, I'll start with my descent off Quandry Peak.
It had only been people and way too many dogs on the summit, but in my left field of vision I saw a Raven flapping wings to get a lofty swoop around the summit, he was vocalizing loudly and made a pretty close pass, as he rounded the peak I was trying to grab my camera, when he wildly flew down the edge of the mountainside and disappeared into the vastness of the Rocky Mountains. Roland told a tale at a memorial service we had for our friend Pete Roux in Huntington Ravine on July, 18, 2008, six months to the date of his plunge down Odells Gully. He told the group that when you see a Raven in the mountains, it's the spirit of climber in the afterlife. After the Quandry Raven flew away, I said to Ro, You know what that was all about, right? We agreed we had just been visited by our dear friend. It might sound corny to some, but we believe.

When I committed to racing Washington on my bike every year after the MWARBHC back in 2009, I had only quietly dedicated my personal suffering on race day to my friends memory, but as I learned about the Tin Mountain Conservation Center's fundraising beyond the entry fees paid by all the riders, I was motivated further to help the cause more publicly. I tell the tale every year when I send out my emails for your donations and you always respond. This year was the biggest year for our contribution to the overall goal. The total is still being tallied, but I believe we will be around $1700 or so all said and done. The story I tell is real and motivations pure. Thank you to all my sponsors and well wishers, it all means so much to me. 

Good Energy on the Hill. Photo and artwork by Stephanie Jacques.

Fast forward to the 2013 event, I had set the bar last year with a 1:15 finish, but my fitness to date was less than last year and race day weight +3 pounds. Having ridden the practice ride back in July (just for fun) on the heels off one of my biggest training weeks of the year, I felt confident I could match the time again or come real close. I recorded a very unofficial 1:19 moving time with a couple of stops to take pictures. The rest of July was super busy with work, travel, play and life in general, so my training was fairly minimal, but fun at the same time.

Steph and I - 230 miles into our biggest training week ever before the climb up Lincoln Gap, Lincoln, Vermont.

The day I registered for the Hill Climb, I had also committed to punishing myself the very next day by racing the New Hampshire 100 miler mountain bike race. Thankfully I came to my senses around the first of June and downgraded to the 100 kilometer event. The stress of tapping such energy in one big weekend is not something I will do ever again as I type and reflect. Mount Washington is much more of a priority and important personal journey to dilute the hill climb mission with another event.

Serious mental mistakes & one minor mechanical fault -

Race day eve, I forgot my heart rate chest strap sensor for my Garmin at home, this would not be good for my psyche. I train by my HR numbers old school style and it works for me. Not seeing this data would have me relying on how I would feel while climbing, which was below possible effort. As it turns out, I was too cautious to throw myself in the red zone and post race analysis of my speed mile by mile, it shows I turned my second and third fastest times. I was immediately distracted on the first pitch when I threw my chain off the front chain ring. I stopped, dismounted, told myself not to panic, got the chain back on and got back on the bike. This was an amateur 'Top Notch' mistake and one that will hopefully not happen ever again. I was distracted out on course worrying about the NH100k, I was distracted by my lack of ability to turn the wick up and settle into a groove at my possible power output. These mental blocks were costly in time and energy. My finishing time was 1:20:29 and I thought I had blown the top notch status. I later learned that you need to be within the 1:20 and below 1:21, so I will be starting in Top Notch again in 2014 with a goal of 1:18:08.

Coming into the seven mile stretch. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Jacques

More excuses? Okay, it was windy and cold. The winds were blowing at 25-30 MPH with higher gusts and it was the windiest conditions I have felt while on the bike. The 42 degree temperature wind chill did not help and when I crossed the finish line, even with the fleece blanket the volunteers wrap you up in, I was freezing instantly. Add the sweat layer, soaking wet jersey & shorts, I was shivering and borderline hypothermic. Thanks to Arlon's wife Peg who helped me find our car when I was clearly in tough shape.

This year when I registered, I inspired friends of mine to also jump on board and tackle the hill for their first time on the bike and I was glad to be able to share such a rare weather day and see them all do so well. Nice ride up the rock pile, Arlon, Rich and Bob. Hope to see you next year! 

I am grateful to have had shared this day with very special friends Ann and Rob. Ann was married to Pete Roux when he was killed. It must have been a little difficult for you to be back on the hill, but I know time heals our wounds especially when we know we're being watched over and there is much love and support that surrounds us. My longtime friend Johnny G was at the start, other than genuine friendship, we share a common loss, Johnny's good friend Tom was swept to his death in 1991, in the very same gully as Pete.

Finally, I couldn't have done any of this without the ongoing support of my incredibly beautiful wife, Steph. Thank you so very much for being you and loving me. She tirelessly rang the cowbell to the point of blisters for all the ambitious hill climbers. I love this picture!

A Steffie selfie in the wind with her hair flying free.

Sparky, over and out.