Tuesday, August 27

Hunter Mountain Hiking Trip

I'd been bugging Erik all summer for a hiking trip and finally we had a day free two weekends ago to take a trip out to the Catskills and climb Hunter Mountain. Since it would be a day trip we could pack light with just some snacks stuffed in our CamelBaks. We ended up driving Erik's motorcycle out to Hunter since it's way more gas friendly than his jeep. It was about a hour and a half drive to the mountain and it was still quite chilly, but I'd pick chilly over boiling any day of the week.

When we finally made it to the DEC parking lot at Notch Lake I was pretty frozen and ended up leaving all my gear on for our walk to the ranger station at Devils Campground. We paid the 3 or 4 dollar fee for motorcycle parking and headed back to the lot to get suited up.
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The first part of the hike was probably the best part because there were some rock formations you got to climb over and hoist yourself up. After about a mile the path mellowed out and you basically ended up zigzagging up the mountain through a beaten path. I can't say that this was the most exciting hike up a mountain and sadly on the way up there were no views of anything...just a lot of trees. It was a pretty cool and dry day and I ended up keeping all my layers on the whole time. I had borrowed one of Erik's thermal long sleeve shirts and paired with my over-sized hiking pants I looked like I had just rolled out of bed. Actually my pants are so big and baggy that we realized they actually fit Erik perfectly so I gifted him them after the hike. I'll be spending some cash at Eastern Mountain Sports later for sure.

The hike up was pretty uneventful. I had raced in a time trail the day before so I was a bit sore but nothing hurt too badly. We took our time on the climb and if a group caught up to us we just pulled off the trail and let them pass. We both share the same thoughts on hiking luckily in the fact that we just want it to be quiet with minimal people noise. There's nothing worse than a loud group chattering away the entire time, so we always happily let people pass to ensure that our hike remains peaceful.

We made a two stops up on the way for snacks. Erik had packed individual serving packs of trail mix and since I am highly motivated for snacks I was easily entertained awaiting the next food stop. It took us about 2-2 1/2 hours to hike to the top of the mountain and once we were on top we had to climb a fire tire to see the real views. 

It's funny, I don't consider myself afraid of heights. I've gone on all the roller coasters at Ceder Point when I was younger and flying doesn't bother me. However, as I climbed the stairs of the tower I found myself with a death grip around the railings. About half way up looked back and was a bit concerned at the rate I was going up. Basically the girl who runs up stairs two at a time was one step away from crawling up them. I couldn't even look anywhere but the stairs I kept telling myself that it was no big deal and it was a very sturdy structure. Thankfully I didn't chicken out and was able to climb the entire tower to see the views. 

I'm not sure why I felt the need to climb the mountain with my cycling sunglasses on my head. Maybe I had grand plans that involved finding a mountain bike to descend the other side of the mountain down the ski slopes or something?
At least I didn't look too terrified in the picture, that's always a plus. Of course anytime we moved I swore I could feel the whole tower move and I maneuvered around the little room so cautiously that Erik couldn't help but laugh. I would barely stand next to the window because obviously I'd fall out. It's funny how you just assume heights don't bother you and then you're completely terrified.

After another snack we made our way back down the mountain, but we took a different route from the way up. I'm pretty positive there is nothing worse then going down a mountain, especially if you're super cool like me and can't feel the bottom of one of your feet. I constantly have to look at my foot planted on the ground and hope that it's in a study spot. Luckily Erik knows that my pace down will slower than a snail so he doesn't rush me at all which is nice. He even found me a pretty sweet walking stick which oddly made a big difference...maybe it was all just mental?

The only downfall to taking a different route down was the fact that we would have about a mile walk on the main road back to the motorcycle. After hiking a mountain there is nothing more boring than walking along side the road.

By the time we were done it was around 4 and I was starving. Luckily Windham is near by and Cave Mountain Brewing was open so we more than made up for our work with local beer, a soft pretzel, sandwiches and a slice of deep fried cheesecake. I'm pretty positive one of these days Erik is going to need to roll me out of a restaurant!

Even though we both agreed that this wasn't our most favorite hike, we still enjoyed the day and for NY the weather was unbeatable. I wouldn't say the hike was too challenging but it was tough enough to leave me sore for days and unable to sit and stand easily too for a while.

Thursday, August 22

The Best Summer Vacation

Maybe I should have titled this post : That Time I Did All The Things On My Summer Vacation but then again what fun would it be to read about everything we did. We took 4 days off from work Thursday - Tuesday, at the beginning of August and loosely planned a bike trip through the Finger Lakes. Erik was in charge of the bikes and the route and I was pretty much in charge of the itinerary and the most important aspect of the trip, in my mind at least, where we would eat.

When coworkers and family members caught wind of what our vacation consisted of I was usually greeted with laughs and a quick reply of "Seriously?" Apparently peoples idea of a vacation weren't what we had planned.

The route Erik planned was roughly 250 miles and would span over 4 nights and 5 days. Erik purchased us each a set of panniers for the back of our bikes which would carry the majority of our things. Erik would also be carrying a large pouch on the front of his bike that would carry smaller items, maps and anything else we might need quick access to. We packed lightly but Erik estimates that our bikes had about 20+ pounds of stuff on them.

Unfortunately I only have pictures from before we left my house and after we got back. It rained the morning we left, hence our beautiful attire. Nothing like starting your trip and being completely soaked within 30 minutes. It was about 60 degrees that day and I started to get quite chilly. Luckily once we reached our first stop, Skaneateles, the sun was out and we were able to dry some stuff out while we ate lunch. We stopped at Dougs Fish Fry and split a meal because no one wants to bike another 25 miles after eating a massive meal.

Erik was still recovering from his Hardcore 24 bike race so we took it easy on day 1. Luckily it stayed dry all the way to Fillmore Glen. Since it was the middle of the week we did not need to make reservations for the campsite and were able to bike it and secure a spot. Of course the park employees got a kick out of our biking trip journey and we very interested to hear all the detail. I had assumed that alot of people travel like this around the area, but apparently I was wrong.

After a quick trip back to town for supplies (and wine) we settled in for the night. Erik made a potato dish with some spices and cheese and we had fresh corn on the cob charred on the fire. We also had some wine and chocolate for dessert.

It became pretty apparent that our packing light plan which had no room for pillows was a not so bright idea. We grouped together all of our clothes and bundled them as a pillow but I spent the whole trip longing for a pillow.

Day 1 Stats:
Miles: 47.1
Elevation: 1760
Ride Time: 3:09:05
Calories Burned: 1330

The morning of Day 2 Erik attempted to make pancakes on our little butane stove but it turned into some weird pancake scramble dish with syrup. Maple syrup makes everything better so I can't really complain. Our plan for the day was to make our way to Geneva where we had reserved a room through Airbnb. After a morning of some big climbs we made our first stop, Man in the Moon Bake Shop. Fresh turnovers and cookies, and coffee for Erik, were the perfect pick me up that morning and fueled our way into Aurora for a early lunch. We stopped at the Fargo Bar and Grill where we had eaten previously with my parents so we knew they be a quick and tasty lunch spot. After lunch we continued our way up north and then west towards Geneva.

We made our way up to route 5 near Montezuma and hit traffic. Of course it also started to pour during this time too so that made things a bit tricky. Erik switched on my blinky light and I prayed no one would drive into me. The wind picked up and a thunderstorm popped up, but we pushed on. By this time we were already soaked so rain wasn't a issue. I started to wish that Erik had fenders for his back tire just so I wouldn't be constantly splashed with water though.

Once we hit Seneca Falls the sun came back out and we made a slight change to our plans so we could visit Sauders Store. Sauders is a pretty popular Amish/Mennonite(?) store that had a massive bulk food section. We loaded up with sour gummy worms and continued towards Geneva. Of course our awesome planning meant we had a address of the house we were staying in but didn't have actual directions there. Luckily we were able to find it eventually.

Since we only brought one cycling kit each we were so excited to be able to wash our jersey and shorts. However, we quickly realized after searching through the house that there wasn't a washer or a dryer. I ended up washing some of our socks in a sink but sadly they never dried.

After much needed showers we put on our nicer outfits and headed out for dinner. We ended up at the Red Dove Tavern where we enjoyed local brews and small plates. After dinner we walked to the movies and saw Two Guns and then stopped quickly at Wegmans for bagels for the next morning.

By the time we got home we were both exhausted and quickly were asleep. I'm sure having real pillows that night helped too.

Day 2 Stats:
Miles: 56.1
Elevation: 1,873
Ride Time: 3:43:33
Calories Burned: 1,557

The morning of Day 3 we were up around 7. We had breakfast and were out of the house by 8-8:30. We headed south towards Watkins Glen and enjoyed the scenery as well as a nice tailwind behind us. Route 14 along Seneca Lake was probably one of the nicer bike routes plus it had some great views. We stopped along the way at a parking area and enjoyed some chocolate for a snack and a few gummy worms. We continued on towards Watkins Glen and about 4 miles out hit a detour which luckily didn't reroute us to far off course, but did lead us right up a hill. Descending into Watkins Glen is tricky thing. The shoulder disappears and traffic flies past you. The road was plagued with bumps and pot holes and the whole time your averaging 30+ mph. Once we safely arrived in town we found a spot by the water to relax before grabbing lunch at The Wildflower Cafe. We've eaten here a few times and there beer is pretty amazing plus their food rocks. After loading up on beer, food and dessert we wandered town for a while and grabbed some groceries and wine.

Our plan for camping that night was pretty iffy. We climbed out of Watkins Glen and continued up 414 along the other side of the lake which I will just call the way less bicycle friendly side. We only had about 10 miles or so until our camp destination but traffic and the steady climb made it challenging. Our plan was to camp at the Blueberry Patch in the Fingerlakes National Forest. Erik, however, neglected to inform me that once we turned off 414 we had a 2-3 mile climb up one very big hill. This was probably my lowest point of the trip, and I was just not enjoying climbing with the extra weight. My body was hurting and I was miserable. I was also stressed because we had no idea what camping at this site entailed. Luckily when we arrived we were pleasantly surprised to find a pretty normal NYS campground. The only difference was that there was no running water or employees. Basically you looked for a site that was unclaimed and then paid 10 dollars and stuffed it in a locked box. The campground only had about 10 sites so I'm glad we got there early to secure our spot.

We were able to find a large amount of wood and were able to have a nice fire that night. Erik cooked chili for dinner and we had some weird but surprisingly tasty almond/fruit cookies. Plus we had the standard wine (Erik picked a sherry that night) and chocolate.

We explored the campground a bit and found the fanciest outhouses I had ever seen and a giant blueberry patch with ripe berries. Despite no pillow I slept straight through the night...I'm guessing it was the sherry.

Day 3 Stats:
Miles: 47.9
Elevation: 2,524
Ride Time: 3:19:59
Calories Burned: 1,737

After a oatmeal breakfast we made our way up Seneca Lake a bit more before heading over towards Cayuga Lake. We had a pretty tough headwind so I ducked behind Erik and just tried to ride his back wheel. About half way to lunch the weather turned from sunny and blue skies to storm. We quickly pulled over and through on our rain gear and continued through the rain. Luckily it didn't last for long and we were able to hit blue skies.

Lunch was a planned stop at The Copper Oven where we enjoyed some very tasty pizza. I also enjoyed a glass of wine from the attached winery. Cayuga Estates happens to be my favorite winery so I was pretty darn happy. After a long lunch we continued on towards Ithaca and we passed the only other bicycle tourists we'd see on the trip.

While I really enjoy Ithaca as a town, I really hate the traffic there. Making our way to Green Grocery where Erik picked up spices for dinner and then to Wegmans was pretty interesting. Luckily people in that area seem to respect the space of bicyclists. We camped overnight at Buttermilk Falls State Park. The climb up to the campsite was a tough one but after the previous nights climb it wasn't all that bad.

Erik cooked a great meal of curry vegetables and we had a side of Naan. Of course the night ended with the usual wine and chocolate...and maybe a cookie or two.

Day 4 Stats:
Miles: 55
Elevation: 1,671
Ride Time: 3:29:17
Calories Burned: 1,504

Day 5 was our last day and we had no plans on where to go. We could take the short way home, about 25 miles, or the long way, about 50 miles or so. We choose the long way but within 5 miles we hit a issue leaving Ithaca. The road we planned on taking didn't allow bicycles so we ended up going up through Cornell which if you know the area is just all hills. We also hit a ton of construction too but after a hour or so we were out of Ithaca.

We made our way towards Marathon and had hoped to grab a early lunch along the way but after 30+ miles we hadn't stumbled across any diners. Finally we hit marathon and were beyond starving and enjoyed grilled cheese. My real interest was dessert though but once we ordered I was sadden by the fact that we had to split the last piece of blueberry cake. I'm pretty sure my biggest calories consumption during this trip came from baked goods and so to realize that we had to split the last piece of dessert in a whole diner was so depressing.

From Marathon we went north back towards Homer. It was pretty evident that lunch was lacking in calories because I was starting to fall behind. At one point I got in a fight with a bee and Erik didn't notice so he continued down the road and I looked kinda crazy hitting my stomach trying to get the bee out of my shirt. I had a great idea to stop at a bakery in downtown Cortland but our mini detour towards it was unsuccessful since it turned out the bakery was sadly closed. After some construction through Cortland  thanks to the main road being completely torn up, we finally made it back to my house. Oh and yes, in those pictures I am wearing arm warmers. Arm warmers in the second week of August.

We both grabbed showers and changed out of our disgusting gear so that we headed towards a early dinner in town. It was so nice to wear anything other than that jersey and shorts. After 5 days in the same smelly outfit I would have been happy wearing a plastic bag though.

Luckily my town has a pretty good pub that has local beer and tasty dessert. After a beer, pizza, guacamole and a piece of banana cream pie the size of my head our journey was really over.

Day 5 Stats:
Miles: 53.6
Elevation: 2,091
Ride Time: 3:53:09
Calories Burned: 1,608

Overall we held up pretty well over the trip. If I could change anything for the next trip I'll definitely be bringing a pillow or some kind of pillow like object. I'd bring a warmer blanket too. I'd invest in travel sized things like sunscreen and a brush because my full size stuff just took up space.

I thought we did pretty well in keeping the trip pretty inexpensive. We camped all but one night which kept costs low so our main big purchases were food. I thought I ate alot of food and was convinced I would gain about 10 pounds on the trip. Turns out that wasn't the case. Don't worry, I'm sure I more than made up for any poundage lost during that week.

My left calf hurt a bit, but I think it was just because I wasn't used to carrying extra weight on the bike. Whatever it was cleared up within a few days after the trip ended and I was back racing the following weekend. Honestly, the trip was awesome. I can't wait until we go for another bike trip next year.

Total Trip Stats:
Miles: 259.7
Elevation: 9,919
Ride Time: 18:06:02 
Calories Burned: 7,736

Wednesday, August 14

Recap: Bike MS 2013

Per usual life gets in the way and the recap I should have written about 3 weeks ago is just coming out today. You probably know the drill though, life > blogging. Anyways let's get this recap started.

The day before Bike MS I spent the day at work while Erik spent the day on a long training ride (120 miles). He had left at 10 PM Thursday night and got back to his house early Friday morning. It was his last real training ride before his Hardcore 24 mountain bike race, but more on that another time. Erik had the day off and met me at my house after I got out of work. After installing my birthday present and loading our bikes we were off. Well, after a quick stop for some much needed caffeine at Tim Hortons we were off.

We had about a 1 1/2 -2 hour drive and when we finally made it to Penn Yan we were starving. Trying to find someplace to eat in a small town at 8 oclock at night is no easy task, especially if you're a vegetarian. Of course Erik, who will eat anything and everything, is always to please and we ended up at some bar eating greasy food. As someone who eats pretty cleanly 90% of the time eating a plate full of greasy food probably wasn't the best idea. Luckily my parents had arrived earlier in the day and were able to grab our room keys for us and when we finally got to campus we found my parents hanging out drinking Yuengling in the common area with some other volunteers. After catching up with them over a beer (beer is a carb - carbloading?) we headed to bed. I can't say sleeping on dorm beds is my preferred method to getting a restful sleep but you take what you can get I suppose.

After a night of probably not enough sleep it was 6 am and we were up getting ready for the day. We made our way outside where we were greeted with overcast conditions and a bit of rain. After downing some more carbs, this time in bagel form, we finished grabbing our gear and we lined up for the start. At 7:30 we were off. The orginal route for the century this year was actually around 94ish miles...about 6 short that the full 100. I had warned Erik that we would be riding a solid 100 at least and would bypass the finish and continue on until we were actually finished. 

As you can see from the graphic below we went above and beyond our 100 and ended the day with 107.5 thanks to one very wrong turn. Around mile 14 we picked up a rider, Larry, who was out by himself for the day. Larry decided that he was going to try and ride with us for the day and we were happy to have company along the way. Of course, shortly after having Larry join we took the wrong loop (we were supposed to go down it, just not until mile 55 or so...) and hit a nice downhill section and had the wind at our backs so we were flying. About 6 miles in we realized we were going the wrong way and so we were forced to back track back up the hill and into the wind. You can see our mistake outlined in the orange box below.

I was certain the extra 12 miles or so would lead to Larry hating us and probably going his own way, but he was happy to continue on with us surprisingly. Larry who was about 60 years old kept joking that we were making him ride faster than planned, but in a good way of course. 

The extra 12 miles meant a lot of the riders had passed us so we did a lot of passing for the next 15 miles or so as we made our way back to the front of the pact. This is a charity ride so you have a lot of people at different levels on bikes and I usually try to encourage people up hills or encourage them when they look like they are having a rough time. For the most part people were friendly but one guy was not a fan of a chick passing him and gave me the nastiest stare as he tried to speed up and pass me. I of course found this pretty funny and was easily able to push up my effort a bit and roll by him quickly.

We only stopped at rest areas this year and kept our stops pretty short. Basically it was a chance to stretch quickly, refill bottles, and shove some food in your mouth. Unlike last year were I only consumed gels I only ate about 2 this year and spent the rest of the time snacking on real food, like bananas with peanut butter and fig newtons. While the weather remained overcast most of the day it was pretty windy and humid. I drank about 5 full bottles of Nuun/Gatorade/water and was still dehydrated when I was done. 

Around mile 78 or so we hit our last rest stop and the weather was turning quickly. The wind picked up significantly and the skies turned dark. We helped the rest area pack up some of there things so they wouldn't blow away and then took off. As soon as we hit the route again it just started down pouring with a nasty headwind. I tucked in behind Larry and just focused on keeping my bike on the road. It was probably about 70ish degrees out at this point and getting smacked in the face with freezing cold rain sucked.

After a awesome downhill section back into Penn Yan we were back in town and had a quick ride back to the college. About 1 mile out I went to bump up my gears so I could sprint to the end and the cable that basically lets you shift (i.e. the shifter cable) broke. My chain dropped to the smallest ring, which on a triple, is SMALL and I was forced to spin like a madwomen to the finish. 

Even though it's not a race, I was happy to be the first woman back. My mom snapped this picture of us at the finish. I was quite surprised how good I look after riding that long...I could have probably used a brush though.
We were able to get cleaned up back in the room and then meet my parents once their volunteering shift ended and head to the dining hall for dinner. Last year we had a great catered meal out on the lawn, but this year it was in the dining hall and dinner was iffy. Of course, my appitate after a long ride usually dissapears so maybe I'm not the best judge of food for the evening. We slipped out early during the speeches and said our goodbyes. My parents were heading home and Erik and I were heading to a nearby state park for a little camping. 

Overall it was a great way to spend my 25th birthday. The night ended with a bottle of wine, baguette, cheese, fruit and chocolate. In the end, who can really complain with that?