Monday, February 25, 2008

Bicycle Photo Essay

I must make these.

There looks to be something terribly wrong with this picture.

Apparently, I was wrong, and this is more common than I thought
Families that bike together, stay together

I will spend the rest of my life looking for this bike at yard sales.

Make mine a double

Make mine a double

Add this to my list please.

Life is way too short list

With the advent of long gray string of hair that is growing directly up (not with, really up) from my head I decided there are a few things I really need to do this year. It is a short and not comprehensive list.
  • Ride my bike some sick distance (that would be a century for me)
  • Lobster crate race (see my previous post for more info on this)
  • Enter more mountain bike races this year (last year I was at two)
  • Go on vacation
  • Bowl a 205
  • Finish five road races this year

A little eclectic, but manageable. I'll keep you posted of course.

Friday, February 8, 2008

What you should have done

Jump a little

Scrambling up the side of a granite quarry for a jump into the deliciously cold waters below sounds easy- until you are there, with your toes gripping the edge of the cliff and you look into the black abyss beneath.

“Man, you’re all set. Just make sure you jump out so you miss the ledge down there. The water’s wicked deep.”

You’ve heard all the calls to do it, the recommendations on how to do it, the where to land, the where not to land. It doesn’t seem to make any of it better. It doesn’t seem to calm your racing mind, your pounding heart. The smell of cigarettes and sun block mix together to create the potent olfactory mix that you know best as summer.

Suddenly smoking sounds really good, hell, drinking sounds even better. But maybe that is not a good mix- drinking and jumping off a forty foot cliff into the black water of a quarry. All you can think of is stupid little things.

You should have left the cat more food.

You should have told your brother to take your dog for you.

You should have bought those stupidly expensive tickets to see the Sox.

Made up with your friend, had a second helping of ice cream, gotten up and danced on the hood of your truck at the drive-in, watched less TV, gone biking more.

Pain shoots up your ankle as the icy water envelopes around you and you surge back up to the surface. You dinged your foot on the way in. But that is okay, because you should have done this. You should have done this all along.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

These would make for some mighty fine camping

I think they glow in the dark too.

Gear that just sounds funny

  • I am supposed to smear this where?

    Cat Crap

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Who is that Wonder Underdog Anyway?

My truest sidekick, the one that can really keep up best with me is Misty the Wonder Underdog. Yup, while she may be in her civilian clothes here, she really is a superhero dog.


Let’s start with the basics. What we know is part mystery, part factual since we got her from a humane society in New Hampshire. We picked her up when she was one and half years old and she had obviously recently had puppies. Her paperwork shows that three months before that she had a litter of nine puppies (I wish I knew where they were, because I would love them), been transferred from a Tennessee shelter, adopted once and brought back. Her breed was listed as hound mix at the shelter, but from various research, I can say she is most certainly part German Short-Haired Pointer and another type of hound mix. I also think she is either blue tick or American or English hound as well.


Can you believe someone actually gave her back to the shelter? They said their other dogs were too aggressive to her.

So now you know that she speaks with a Southern drawl and is right around two years old. She loves other dogs so much it is silly, cats too. She literally gets happy to see the cat when we walk back inside. She is extremely submissive. When she sees another dog coming on the trail, she will crouch down real low (some people think this is a sign of aggression when they see it) and say hi. Other times if she is up ahead I will find that she has lied down on the ground until the other dog approaches.


She stays with us when we hike, although once on the top of Mt. Wonalancet she kept going and we thought we lost her forever. She is learning that come means come and what sit, down, and stay mean.

If you ever happen to meet her while she is out doing superhero type things-saving kitties from trees, and rescuing small children- you will find that she seems like a mild, confident dog. This is a big change for her because when we first got her she was a big scaredy cat. She was afraid to get in cars, couldn’t sit in the back seat, afraid of bridges, water, loud noises, sudden movements, just about anything. We really tried to follow what the Dog Whisperer on National Geographic suggestions and not reward the behavior we want to change. Instead, we literally ignored her when she was scared. We walked confidently with her over bridges (on a leash), brought her around things she was afraid of (and we didn’t pet her and say don’t be afraid), in fact we brought her everywhere and that helped.

She had mange when we got her. Sounds nasty huh? It is just mites and none of the other animals got it from her.

When she is a civilian she rolls over frequently for belly rubs, will do anything for a treat, and never ever barks.


As a Wonder Underdog she has climbed a fence well over 15 feet tall, escaped from small open windows, and expertly handles all terrains.


As she would say, “it’s all in a day’s work ya’ll.”

21 Miles in a day, 21 Miles in a day, take one down..

Crashing through the snow with each step I thought about how much I despised coffee with sugar in it. Smashing my shin repeatedly against the icy crust of the snow, I thought about how much I hated having to go to work on Mondays. Falling into a snow covered dry stream bed up to my waist and I started to wonder why was even putting myself through this.

It seemed like well concocted idea when my friend and I were discussing it in her well heated living room. Hike 21-miles in one day, because it was there and we could. Sure it was the dead of winter and the start of a cold snap. Sure it wasn’t just 21-miles on a nice level road, but instead 21 miles up and down seven assorted peaks. Why couldn’t we hike it now with it covered in two plus feet of snow and only a skimpy 8-9 hours of daylight in a day? We weren't deterred.

At 4:30 in the morning we left the comfort of our warm cars at the trail head, powered up our headlamps, finished off our coffees and headed off on this one way 21-mile throughway along the Wapack Trail in southern New Hampshire. We decided to keep it as light as possible and not bring snowshoes. From the small sections we had scouted the week before, the trails were previously packed by snowmobiles. Things were looking great with the temperature sticking around the high teens.

We began our decent down Watatic Mountain just to see the sun rise through the trees. Things took a sharp turn at around 10:00 when we discovered that the little used middle portion of the trail had yet to be broken. Already approximately five miles from our cars, we figured we would soon hit a section that had been packed down. I’m sure we would have too, but the snow conditions had crusted the snow top with just enough ice so that you would almost not crash through and then--smash-- you would. With each step our shins nailed the hard ice. We couldn’t keep this up, it had taken us twenty minutes to cover less than a quarter mile. We needed to bail.

And bail we did, down the side of some little known foothill. We managed to get cell reception to call our ride and arrange a pickup five and half miles from our car and 15 and half miles from our goal.

Sidenote: While I didn’t manage to complete the Watatic Trail in one day on this particular outing, I did manage to with a male hiking partner of mine that same winter. Ironically we didn’t even have to take our snowshoes off our packs.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Piper Peak Picked up Misty

Sunday we managed to sneak up Piper peak next to Belknap Mountain in New Hampshire. We have managed to keep Misty completely off of iced over mountain tops this winter, since we are a little unsure of how she will handle it. Although none of these photos show the ice well, there were many good patches that she scrambled right over. I guess dogs from Tennessee are pretty adaptable.

Misty on Piper Mountain

Skirting the top were one-sided ice trees warning us of which way the wind likes to come in.

Piper Mountain

Piper Mountain

Misty was quite sure that we should continue onwards even though her doggie treats were heading back down.

Piper Mountain

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Outside Entertainment

Build your outdoor entertainment repertoire. Nothing is worse than listening to French Canadians sing bad Beatles songs till 2 in the morning. I know this from experience let me tell you. Build your skills by starting here:

Five minute mysteries: These never last for only five minutes and I think the only reason they are called five minute mysteries is because it takes less than five minutes for the person to tell you them. Basically someone tells you the mystery and then you can ask as many questions as you want but they can only give you yes or no answers. They can become very addictive.
Here is one that I snatched from this great site:

Question: A man lives on the twelfth floor of an apartment building. Every morning he wakes up, gets dressed, eats, goes to the elevator, takes it down to the lobby, and leaves the building for work. In the evening, he goes through the lobby to the elevator, and, if there is someone else in the elevator (or if it was raining that day) he goes back to his floor directly. However, if there is nobody else in the elevator and it hasn't rained, he goes to the 10th floor and walks up two flights of stairs to his room.

Answer: The man is a midget. He can't reach the upper elevator buttons, but he can ask people to push them for him. He can also push them with his umbrella.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Outside Etiquette

Not the seasoned Mountain Girl quite yet? Well have no fear, you are at the right place. Us Mountain Girls aren’t just a bunch of hairy smelly hics. No sir. We’ve got class. Here are a few outdoor etiquette tips. Feel free to add your own. We’ll post more as they come along.

  • If you are the first up at camp boil enough water for everyone.

  • Spray your toothpaste water rather than spitting it. Do this by pressing your lips hard together, and blowing air out at the same time. Sound effects often help—sort of humming seems to work too.

  • Share your gu. Then make sure the wrapper is safely tucked away.

  • Never let your dog pee on someone tent- no matter how loud they were the night before.

  • When passing the guys mountain biking yell out “on your right” or which ever side you are passing on. Try to avoid passing them on bridges or over rock gardens as they have a hard time watching us and watching the trail too.

  • Try not to look directly at people with your headlamp on.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Get Inspired

Things to read, sites to visit, for when you can’t quite remember what the sun feels like on your skin.

Rocky mt

This great photo is from the 2007 Rocky Mountain Bicycle catalog. Their bicycles are fierce and handcrafted in Canada. I would love to have one of their meaty mountain bikes, but for this next season I will be sticking with my Jamis. Inspiration barrels through me every time I look at this photo.

Title Nine carries all the best brands in for active outdoor ladies. Even if you aren’t in the market for some new kicks right now, get on their mailing list. Their catalogs are so inspiring. They’re filled with real women athlete profiles actually getting out their with Title Nine products.

Horny Toad is my favorite clothing brand. Their style is fun and stylish with an active cut and fit. I have only 9 pairs of their yolo cargo shorts, four of their skirts, and five of the their pants for work. Their catalog is excellent too. Last year they highlighted new sports like hedge jumping. Can’t wait to see what they wrangle up for this season.

Thoughts On and Off Cycling

I am splattered in mud from head to toe. My comfy padded cycling shorts are now so soaked they have become a diaper. Inside my socks I feel the gritty crunching of sand between my toes and my head is itchy from the tiny pebbles that have weaseled their way in under the ventilation system of my helmet and all I can think about is t-shirts. Yes, t-shirts. About an hour into this ride my mind drifted away from the burning in my legs and lungs and wandered onto the idea of designing my own line of humorous bicycle t-shirts. Coming in sizes for both men and women, I would have a mountain bike line that would say things like “If you can’t walk it you can ride it!” For group leaders there would be shirts saying things like “Why are you all following me?” And my favorite “What state are we in?”

I love it. And in this euphoric state of mind brought on by pedaling too many miles alone and eating a few too many Little Debbie’s, it seems like a real winner. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? I am really on to something here. I can talk with so- and- so, and get them printed cheap, and maybe sell them in my local bike store.

Many people claim that they come up with their best ideas in those few peaceful moments between sleep and wakefulness. In fact I have had a few of these moments myself, but they occur more frequently when I am on my bike. Yup. Cycling has brought me to new avenues of thought. Instead of just zipping down fifth, I’m taking the side streets and arriving at little hidden parks that I never knew existed. Sure sometimes I am absorbed with bike things while riding, like admiring the tread on my front wheel as it spirals around. I like to think that my greatest brainstorming moments come while zoning out to the hum of two wheels on pavement. I’ve solved answers to riddles, I’ve thought up theses to term papers, and really clever things to say next time I have a disagreement with my boss- all on the seat of my saddle. Sometimes this distractive thinking while riding has gotten me lost on backroads I should know and once in a while I have been known to go through stop signs, but for the most part they are the most therapeutic moments of the day.

Long bicycle trips produce even more fruitful thinking. Even when I am riding with other people I find that eventually we all reach that state where it is just easier to pedal then to try and spit out words. So far I’ve invented: really cool clips to put over clipless pedals for rides to the supermarket, an endless tissue supply that can be unfurled one handed by pressing a button, and a helmet visor that extends to various lengths.

My productive thinking doesn’t always occur right away. Usually the first ten or twenty miles spent with my fully loaded bike I am thinking many things that have nothing to do with inventions and are laced with swears. My legs are stiff, my camelback doesn’t sit right and I have to constantly blow my nose. Then after a few hours spent pedaling away I start to forget about immediate discomforts. I forget my constantly lengthening list of things to do and my mind drifts. Sometimes I develop recipes and since I am burning thousands of calories when I create these recipes they tend to be unhealthy. I dream of eating Italian cookies by the handfuls. I think that next time I make chocolate covered strawberries I will see how chocolate covered chocolate tastes.

That gets me thinking, which as we all know on a bike can be dangerous, I wonder what my boyfriend dreams up while he is riding. So I ask. He of course answers that he doesn’t know. Then a few moments later he says, “I think about food. I think about what a huge meal I’m going to have and how good it’s going to taste.”

“I know, I think about that too. But what about after that, like after you have thought about every kind of food you are going to eat. What do you think about then?”

“Well, actually sometimes I think about writing a movie.” He finally says. He then elaborates and describes to me in detail specific scenes. Obviously he has put a lot of thinking into this. Fascinating. And I thought he was thinking about the Red Sox game he was missing.

Next I decide that I will bicyclo-analyze a little boy I watch occasionally. When his brother is off at school we often go on bike rides near his house. We ride for a half hour and I ask him, “Hey Matt, what are you thinking about.” He is five and a very giggly boy. He gives me a little giggle and says in one big breath, “Well, I am gonna get this really cool bike. That is fast with rocket launchers and I will shoot by David on my bike. And he will be so mad that he doesn’t have a rocket launcher bike.” So I am not the only one dreaming up big crazy ideas.

For now I just keep riding waiting on that million-dollar invention moment. I pedal away nearly every day for an hour or two. I take long weekend rides for several days with friends and I let my mind drift. Last weekend on a ride in Vermont I devised a line of unique “grocery bikes” that have all sorts of baskets and hangers to hold bags of food. Perfect! Why hasn’t anyone else thought of this before? I can open my own store in Europe and sell them by the hundreds. By the time I get home I realize the complexities of designing bikes and running a business are things that I have no idea how to do. For now I am thinking of working on getting my boss to let me ride my bike while working. My theory is, if my thoughts are most productive on my bike- why not go with it?

I’ll start by working on that one.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fix-It Girl List

Imagine this, you're just about to reach tree line on Mt Madison in the White Mountains. The day has been absolutely gorgeous and the weather has been perfect. You even saw a moose! You have been the picture of perfection today- bringing just the right amount of water, having the tastiest trail snacks, saying smart snappy things to fellow hikers. Then a sudden shower whips through. Your handy $200 Gore-tex jacket suddenly isn’t so waterproof anymore and you are soaked. So much for being prepared right?

Well the good news is that I have broken everything at least once and have found some pretty good ways to fix things. So try these ideas out.

Fix #1 Your waterproof jacket isn’t so waterproof anymore

If you have only washed your jacket once or twice, or even worse, not at all please try this out. Washing your jacket regularly is crucial to keeping it around for many years. Even if you have neglected it and not washed it, using washing it could help revive the water repellency. I cannot rave enough about how good NikWax products are for reviving your gear. Use the Techwash to wash your jacket in the washer, follow the directions as to how much, etc. and be prepared to be surprised. My jackets came out looking brighter (all that build-up) and had a nice finish to them that I can only describe as being shiny, or thicker.

I’ve also tried the NikWax TX spray (they have a wash-in version) that adds DWR (Durable Water Repellancy) back into your jacket. This had a slightly chemical like smell to it, so definitely use it outside, but overall I was very happy with the results. You can also use this spray on nearly all of your other gear sleeping bags, tents, backpacks. Both REI and EMS carry these products.

Fix#2 You smashed your backpack’s buckle in the car door

This one is easy, but you would never know this until you do it. You can buy the buckles. Just measure the width of the strap and that corresponds with the size buckle to buy. Try EMS, REI, LL Bean.

Fix#3 Your camelbak looks, smells, or feels slimy, stinky, and nasty

Camelbak sells a whole slew of gear to wash out your bladder. Simple old denture overnight cleaning tabs will do the same thing. I have sometimes used a few tablespoons of bleach with water and left overnight too.

Fix#4 You have a small hole in your new down jacket

Gotta go with the Tenacious Tape here. It is clear so there is no need to search out the right color. Make sure you cut it in a circle versus a square and you won’t have to keep pushing down the little corners all the time.

Fix #5 You cut the bottom of your Gore-tex pants glissading down a mountain

Use the same technique as in Fix #4 but use a Gore-tex patch instead.

Fix #6 Your tent floor is delaminating

McNett Tent Sure is a super heavy duty sealant that should help reshape your floor. Be sure to always use a ground cloth and always, always, always dry your tent out after use.

Fix#7 Your double walled tent has double walls of mold

Yikes! You didn’t quite air out your tent enough did you apartment dweller? Well I know how tough it can be. This trick really does work, you may need to do it multiple times if the mold is really bad. Mix 1 cup (part) of lemon juice with 1 cup (part) of salt and slather your tent in it. Let it dry out in the sun and rinse when completed. Use your good sense here to rinse thoroughly and reapply if needed.

I’m not going to get into the wonders duct tape can do for your gear right now, that would need a whole post to itself. I’ll keep posting other fixes as I come across them. Feel free to share yours.

Now get out!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How to Pee Outdoors like a Lady

Yup, you just read the words pee and lady in the same sentence. This is a topic that you don’t hear about often on the ladies end of things. So let’s start with a few simple facts. The first is you should be peeing outdoors. I have been out hiking with many friends who say they “just don’t have to pee” and that is just plain scary. If you don’t have to pee there is a good chance that you are not drinking enough water. It is time just pee ladies and here are some tips:

1) Be prepared to walk. While guys think it is alright to do it right on the side of the trail or behind the tent, we cannot. For one, get some class right? Nobody wants to see the yellow snow on the side of the trail. For two, you need front and back coverage. Being a lady means you have to truck it way off the trail to find privacy.

2) Find a tree. Preferably evergreen as these always have good branch coverage. If not, anything wider than you are.

3) What to wipe with. Most ladies choose the TP for obvious reasons the only downfall is you must either bury it, burn it, or carry it out. Other options include leaves (no poison ivy please), snow, ugh or rocks I’ve heard. I think the top choices are as follows: leaves, snow, TP, and I don’t ever want to try rocks.

4) If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you are going to increase your chances of being caught with your pants down. Best thing to do? Joke. Say something like “oh look there is a bear.” This will cause the other person to leave in a hurry rather than just stand there apologizing.

Now get out!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Attention Mountain Girls...

...You should read this blog if...

  • Don’t mind being covered in mud after a bike ride so long as you are looking good in a bike skort.

  • Run a mean sub- 25 minute 5k-- in pigtails.

  • Don’t mind dollar sized blisters, hang-nails, and grimy, stinky feet so long as your toe-nails are painted red.

  • Find that when your mind starts to wander during an endless meeting you are counting the peaks you’ve summited, the number of times you’ve had frostbite, or the rock garden you are overcoming on your next bike ride.


  • Find you gravitate towards pink bikes, pink helmets, pink backpacks, and pink socks.

  • While other girls have purse and shoe fetishes you have a waterproof jacket and backpack fetish.

  • You are a better cook on a propane/isobutane camp stove than on a state- of- the- art four burner chrome range.

Mountain Guys--stayed tuned. You should read this blog if you have or want a Mountain Girl that will kick your butt and look good doing it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Mud, Sharks and Lobsters Oh My!

Need a goal to help you get out this year? Try out one of these really out-there races and events. There is nothing like testing your fitness, while participating in an event that makes you laugh, fall down, or suffer. I’m aiming to do all three this year laugh, fall down, and suffer that is.

1) Nimble legs, quick footwork, and ability to survive New England ocean temperatures are the only prerequisites you need to participate in the Maine Lobster Crate Race. Your goal- make it across 50 strung together, partially submerged lobster crates. After years of spectating this sport, I’ve noticed the trick is to never slow down, it wouldn’t hurt to lose a few pounds either.

2) Not sure if you could survive a prison break? If you’re an experienced open water swimmer (and who isn’t these days?), try to break from the most famously impossible to escape prisons in the Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim. Dangers are drowning, shark attacks, and painfully cold water.

3) Sick of hanging up your bike for the winter? Well keep it out—all winter-- and get yourself invited to the Iditarod Trail Invitational Mountain Bike Race. You’ll have to spend a lot of time competing in other winter races and work your way up to this. But what is a little frostbite compared to a lifetime with love handles?

4) Costume up for this insane, fast moving, packed, sure to knock you out of your canoe River Rat Race from Athol to Orange Massachusetts. The New England thaw has chilled up the water and makes it faster moving than it will be all year. Don a costume if you choose and prepare yourself for a dunking. When I competed in this several years ago- I flipped my boat before the race even started!

5) There is nothing sexier than mud smeared across your buddy’s sweaty face. Find your most physically fit biking and running friend and jump on into the mud at the Muddy Buddy Mountain Bike Race.

6) Show the guys what a lady you are by kicking their butt in the Timberman Short Course. 1/3 mile swim, 15 mile bike, 3 mile run.

7) Take your little hairy friend (no not your boyfriend) and try out the XTreme Air Dog Competition.You can either throw a toy out for them to jump for or they can jump for the bumper, suspended in the air before falling into the lake.

8) Show off your engineering, art and athletic skills all at once while taking part in The Great Cardboard Boat Regatta.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Bringing Sexy Back

Product Review- Ruffwear’s Cloud Chaser Soft Shell Jacket

Yup, that’s right technical dog outerwear that is bringing sexy back. Don’t scoff right away at this $75 Cloud Chaser Soft Shell by Ruffwear for your outdoor dog. I too, originally thought the price tag was far too high for a dog jacket. I mean come on right? The truth is, if you have an active short haired dog, like our hound/ German Short Haired Pointer mix, weather around or under the 20 degree mark really puts a hamper on their outdoor fun. Misty shivers in this type of weather even when jogging. The thought of leaving her behind when she could be running, sniffing, and gallivanting up the mountain with us is just not part of the equation.

Misty running

Misty Looking over Squam

Instead she gets to look slick, sexy and athletic in this snug fitting weather resistant soft shell. She has relentlessly tested it in the truest of elements- climbing in the White Mountains, running in rain, daily walks through Nor’easters. She has stayed dried underneath thanks to the DWR (Durable Water Repellency—can you believe it is now available in dog jackets?) and it seems to provide just the right amount of warmth for running and hiking in temperatures in the teens. The inside of the jacket is a soft brushed fleece like material, that keeps her warm without bulk- so she can still feel a good scratch and rub on her back.

Misty Running 3

I believe she should actually be in a smaller size because the jacket is a bit long for her with extra room in the chest area, but she manages just fine in this. The jacket is fairly easy to get on, but takes a moment longer than your typically clip around jacket as this piece actually has “sleeves” for front arms and a side zip. So while it does require a little bit more patience, it is completely do-able considering that when you are sliding this type of jacket on your dog you plan to be in the elements for a while.


Another nice feature of this jacket is that it has two side stripes on that are actually reflective as you can see from the flash in the photos. So winterize your pup in this excellent technical jacket that will make them look-oh so sexy. Just don't let them wander off too far on their own, because they might just go home with somebody else!