This summer I had the pleasure to visit my family in Pennsylvania on two separate occasions. It had been about a year since I made back to good old Lancaster, PA so I had to take advantage of my time on the East Coast and do everything possible.
My good friends at Lehigh University and the Lehigh Valley Athletic Club made one of these trips possible. Thanks guys! When I wasn’t training at Lehigh, I was spending time with my family and also spending time outside hitting all of my favorite hotspots in the area.
I was fortunate to make it to my cousin Nicholas’ wedding in Doylestown. It was great to be there with the entire family to celebrate. Congrats Nick and Sheena! When I said, “the entire family,” you better believe Grandy was there in full force holding it down on the dance floor with me…she’s such a babe.
I left quite a few tread marks on my home trails at Camp Mack in Brickerville, PA. No matter what part of the country I’m in with my bike, I’m always really happy to come back to these trails that I know so well and tear it up! My first ride in Brickerville was a bloody one though. The trails were so overgrown with thorn bushes I came back looking like I got in a fight with a mountain lion, which would probably make for a much better blog post. The next day I came back with some giant scissor-looking hedge trimmers and exacted my revenge old school WWF style like Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. After cleaning things up a bit out there I was actually able to persuade most of the boys to come my way for a big ride. They were pretty impressed, more so with the trail system than with my trail clearing skills, but I never told them it took me 5 hours in the rain: C’mon, that’s a lot of giant scissoring! Well worth it.
Unfortunately, my last ride at Camp Mack was really upsetting; actually it was the worst ride I think I’ve ever had. Imagine riding on your favorite trails with your headphones blasting a “bike party” playlist while wearing a huge stupid grin on your face and all of the sudden you turn a corner and see complete devastation. The entire backside of the trail system completely wiped out. The trails I knew like the back of my hand were leveled. It looked like a huge dirty parking lot. I was completely shocked, and to rub salt in the wound, a fully loaded logging truck sped by throwing dust all over me. I stood tarred and feathered – not quite, sweat and dusted is more like it – and I thought back to all of the great times I had riding those trails and it hit me, I will never be able to do that again. At that moment I began sweating profusely from my eyes (not really sure what that was all about, probably just a reaction from the dust).
After talking to a few people and doing some detective work I found out that Camp Mack was having some financial trouble and had to sell some timber to stay afloat. On many sites it said, “Some trails may be closed due to clearing ‘dead trees’ in the area.” Clearly that was not the case.
RIP North Valley and Lost Valley Trail. Thanks for the great memories. You will be sincerely missed.
On a brighter note, I was able to celebrate my brother A.J.’s 30th birthday with him. He just moved back to Pennsylvania and is getting back into the mountain biking scene too so I took him to all the best trails in the area. We also shared the “Love Boat” at the local sushi spot for dinner. As you might expect, it was magical.
While we’re on the subject of my brother I might as well introduce you to Beck, his giant best friend. Beck is just the right mixture of Labrador Retriever and Husky thus creating a talking 120-pound bully. Blinded by the thought of whipping this dog into shape I decided to take him for a quick 10-mile mountain bike ride. This proved to be a big mistake. It happened to be 90 degrees, sunny and about 90% humidity, but I thought to myself, “There are plenty of places to get water on the trails and its always cooler in the shade of the woods.”
Just as anyone with a functioning brain would have guessed, about three quarters of the way through our ride Beck decided that laying down was a much better idea than running. I stopped and gave him some water, expecting it to revitalize him a little but I could see that he was finished and wouldn’t budge. At this point I decided that he wasn’t going anywhere so I made the call to leave him where he was and ride back to the car, load my bike up, get some water, run back to him and figure out how to get him home.
When I made it to the car I realized that the only shoes I had were sandals and that I only had half a bottle of water left. Things seemed to spiral downward pretty quickly, but I stayed calm and took off running back to find Beck. Just as I thought, I found him in the exact same place where I left him. He was excited to see me and wagged his tail a little, which was a good sign.
I gave him all of the water he could drink and then poured the rest of the bottle on him to try to cool him off. I had to move fast, so I forced him to get up and get moving and when he rolled over I noticed that there were ants all over him. At that moment I tried to think of a time when I was so tired that I didn’t care if ants were crawling all over me and then I realized just how bad of a situation this was. I frantically brushed the ants off of him and I pulled him a little further by his collar forcing him (in the nicest way possible) to walk. After a little while instead of lying down to rest he collapsed with stiff-legged grace into a patch of ferns. Now the panic really set in, and I knew I didn’t have much time to get him out of the heat.
120 pounds doesn’t sound like a lot of weight but when it’s dead, unwilling to be carried, dog weight I assure you it’s heavy as hell. My first method, which I’ll refer to as the “bridal carry” only lasted for about 100 yards before my arms gave out and I had to stop. I needed to find a new method so in a rage I picked him up and threw him over my shoulder. This time it wasn’t just dead dog weight, it was angry resisting dog weight. All of the sudden this big bully had enough energy to try to fight me off from picking him up. “Don’t you know I’m trying to save your life!?”
Despite the kicking and howling I kept him on my shoulder and started to get moving. He finally settled down and got into a comfortable position. Looking back, the comfortable position must have looked hilarious. I had him thrown over my shoulder with both of my arms clutching his butt and tail while his front feet stretched down my back and he rested his long, sharp dog toes uncomfortably in my waistband so he could prop his giant chest and shoulders up to see what was going on behind me. I ran, stubbing my toes on rocks with a hot, half dead dog on my back all the way until we hit the stream at the trailhead. I grunted and talked or sang to him the whole way to make sure he wasn’t going to pass out.
When it was all said and done I ran just a little over a mile in the woods with a gigantic white dog over my shoulder while wearing flip-flops in 90-degree weather. What a dumbass! We both collapsed in the stream exhausted for about 15 minutes and then made our way home. When we arrived home my mom and I filled up a plastic baby pool with ice water. He sprawled out in the pool completely content for the next 4 hours and watched me mulch my parent’s yard, which I completely forgot about. Hauling 10 yards of mulch with a wheelbarrow and spreading it through out my parents property was the last possible thing I wanted to do after that experience. However, there are worse things, and when I gave it some thought, getting dirty and being in the sun are a few of my favorite things. I was just relieved that I didn’t have to tell my brother that I killed his dog. That might be the worst thing you can get for someone as a birthday gift.