Always thinking down the road and cracking open the door to opportunity, fun and more adventures, I recently attended Adventure Cycling Association’s Leadership Training Course at the Mexican Hill Ranch in Richards Texas. This was an intensive four-day course covering how ACA runs it’s organized group tours. You can learn about the course by visiting:

My journey required a two and a half day drive to Richards from Rochester and I arrived earlier than expected. What I did not expect after passing under the gate

Welcome to Mexican Hill Ranch

Welcome to Mexican Hill Ranch

was the sight of a tent city filling the yard at the ranch.

Bubba's Tent City

Bubba’s Tent City

Bubba’s Pampered Pedallers were riding eastbound from San Diego to St.Augustine and spending a layover day on the ranch. I got to meet Bubba and Ernie, the owner of the ranch, and what a pair of happy guys! The ranch is just off the Southern Tier route and it’s certainly an oasis worth taking an extra day at. Ernie and Doris love all the cyclists coming through and Ernie has built wonderful facilities for us. Stop in and say Hi!


Bubba and Ernie

Bubba invited me to share dinner (and breakfast next morning) with his crew and I got to chat with a number of his riders. They were glad to be out of the dusty side of Texas and now about to enjoy the green of the Sam Houston forest nearby to the east. Bubba arranged to have a local artist and historian tell stories of local heroes that evening.

Local Historian

Local Historian

I learned of Frank Hamer who was once a Texas Ranger and later the City Marshall of nearby Navasota Texas. Frank’s moment in history came when he led a posse that tracked down and killed Bonnie and Clyde.

After Bubba’s group got on the road the next morning, I had breakfast in town and headed for Navasota to find sunscreen which I failed to pack for the trip. I met two Southern Tier riders on the way out, one of whom took the tip and stayed overnight at the ranch. In Navasota, I located the city hall where Frank Hamer’s statue stands in front of city hall.

Frank Hamer - Texas Ranger

Frank Hamer – Texas Ranger

My return to the ranch included a stop to shoot some local flora …

Don't Pick the Flowers!

Don’t Pick the Flowers!

Or these ...

Or these …

and fauna …

Expired Dillo

Expired Dillo

and a detour to Shiro where the historian mentioned one could find one of many banks that Bonnie and Clyde had hit. 

Busted Bank

Busted Bank

It wasn’t much, and neither was the town, looking like a ghost town in the making, but the ride was beautiful. Rolling countryside and 80+ degrees made for a beautiful ride of 53 miles by the time I returned to the ranch. I set up my tent when I returned to camp (I slept in the back of the Prius the night before)  and skipped eating any of the snacks I brought back from town for dinner. I might need them later.

Thursday morning dawned and once again,  and I headed into “downtown” Richards for breakfast, this time with Scott and Delinda …. two more early arrivals. The only place to eat is the Kottage Kafe

GREAT Breakfast!

GREAT Breakfast!

where for 7 bucks, I once again enjoyed the biggest breakfast on the menu! After breakfast, Delinda peeled off on her own exploration while Scott and I squeezed in a short 25 miler before heading back to camp, not wanting to be late for the start of the Main Event at 4:00pm. By then, the attendees  were gathering.

OK … now comes the “Secret Part”. To preserve the integrity of the course, we are all sworn to secrecy about the content of the course … and Arlen’s high school exploits. Nothing radical and no blood-letting, but if you were hoping to find clues to how to survive and thrive in the course, you won’t find it here. If you take the course, I promise you’ll learn a lot about ACA, and even more about yourself. Perfect!

But here’s proof this wild group had FUN too!

The Texas Gang!

One of our group, Roger, is heading westbound on the Trans-Am and Western Express routes only a week after the course. You can watch his adventure at “Bound for Berkeley“.

After wrapping up and seeing everyone off, Judi and I remained one more night at the ranch cabins

Cabins with Kitchen

Cabins with Kitchen

to head out fresh in the morning … Judi to Austin, and myself toward Blacksburg Virginia … the long way. I meandered through east Texas, Louisiana, Alabama (up the Natchez Trace), Georgia and Tennessee to reach Shady Valley Tenessee, just south of Damascus Virginia. Just before reaching Damascus, the crossroads of ACA’s Trans-America Trail and the Appalachian Trail, I ran into the Backbone, a ridge of rock that had a hole blasted through it for lumber trains to get in and out of the valley. Like most of this area, hiking opportunities abound.

Backbone Ridge

Backbone Ridge

On past Mount Rogers, I stopped briefly in Troutdale, a tiny community that we visited on our 2004 Trans-Am. The local church hosts cyclists and hikers in a bunkhouse on top the hill, and it brought back fond memories.

Troutdale Hostel

Troutdale Hostel

One last stop before home … visited and went riding with our buddy Linda in Blacksburg.

Afternoon Ride around Blacksburg VA

Afternoon Ride around Blacksburg VA

Thanks again Linda … see you at S-Lodge Weekend in Potter County PA!

Season Kickoff

My local club throws a party every spring to kickoff the riding season. Well, the season for most normal people anyway. Most normal people aren’t out tooling around in the snow and bitter cold all winter on fatbikes.

New Year's Day at the Beach

New Year’s Day at the Beach

We’re working on that!

But for now, we’re happy to see familiar faces not seen since the final leaves dropped last fall. We started this Saturday with a nice ride around the neighborhood – east side of Rochester NY – and transitioned to a pot-luck food fest before our Awards presentation. The awards handed out recognize achievements like high-mileage for the year, making the “1000 Mile Club” and most improved rider. The serious awards are mixed up by a number of humorous (roasting) awards to keep things fun!

But this year was a surprise for me. After a lengthy chat about the hazards of riding in the Rocky Mountains, mostly focusing on critters like black bears, grizzly bears and mountain lions … not one of whom I ever saw … the Prez called me up to hand me the Stone Saddle Award.

The Stone Saddle Award

The Stone Saddle Award

This award was created by the late Dick Burns, an icon in our club’s history, and is typically handed out each year on a rotating basis to a member who has done some kind of hard-ass cycling feat. I wouldn’t compare a bike tour on the Divide the equal of a doing a 400 mile / 24 hour cycling ultra-marathon like others have done, but I did see a lot of stones this past summer.

Close enough. Thanks gang!


Ride for Pride 2014

Have you ever noticed how many people start cycling just because they have a favorite charity ride they want to do … and then we got ‘em hooked? It’s our evil plot to take over the world by getting everyone riding bikes!

While Tee-El-Ar was out last summer punishing his fatbike (or was it the other way around?) in the Rockies, Karen was keeping busy with activities of her own back home. One of which was getting invited by friends to join a select group of cyclists in a fund-raising ride for the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley.  She had a great time on a really nice ride and got us BOTH invited for a repeat in 2014.

Ride For Pride 2013

Ride For Pride 2013

Naturally, we’re planning to ride our road tandem and we’re hoping for great weather because it involves a picnic as well.

Sterling Road Tandem

Sterling Road Tandem

If you’re in a contributing mood, please visit our page and help us reach our goal. Support love – support cyclists doing good things!

Are we lost again?

Are we lost again?

What’s With The Trail Names?

It started in 2007 when we did our first San Juan Hut-to-Hut on the Telluride to Moab route. We just took shipment of a brand new Ventana “El Conquistador de Montana” (ECdM) fully suspended tandem mountain bike in the fall of 2006 and just in time for our annual tandem rally. When we learned of the San Juan Hut Systems routes to Moab, we knew we were up for it.

We got to Telluride and on the first day out, the last stretch to reach the hut above Last Dollar Pass was a scramble, 300′ up a steep rocky jeep trail.

Jeep Trail to Last Dollar Hut

Jeep Trail to Last Dollar Hut @ 11,000′

Not ridable with a tandem and certainly not with a Bob trailer. So it became a shuttle process getting bike and Bob up there. After getting his bike parked at the hut, Todd came back to help with the process. His help dragging everything up likely saved me at least a half hour of work, and potentially a heart attack given the altitude!

Todd earned his trail name “The Sherpa” right there.

Trail names are a common practice among hikers on long distance trails like the AT and CDT. To some, it reflects a person’s desire to leave “The Real World” behind and fully immerse themselves in the experience at hand. One could debate which life is the real one, the one on the job or the one on the trail. In any case, life on the trail is an entirely different experience than sitting in a windowless office, cubicle, or factory floor. And, it’s an unalloyed life … eat, sleep, ride. You are a different person there, responding to different stimuli, different challenges and different motivations. Having a trail name helps delineate those worlds, those parts of yourself.

Todd has an earned name, traditionally as many travelers do. His is the most meaningful. Todd is one of your best bets, a great partner on getting through a tough adventure.

But Karen and I have taken names on our trips with Todd just for fun. On a tandem, everything is teamwork and Karen and I think lovingly of the bike as part of the team. Ventana calls our bike’s color “Grinch Green”; I guess after the Dr. Suess character and we call the bike “The Grinch” in conversation, so … “Team Grinch”.

My first tandem ever, a fire-engine red Fisher Gemini hasn’t been replaced by the cushy new ride. It’s a rigid frame, enduro style tandem that has seen a lot of mountain biking as far east as New Jersey and as far west as Arizona.

The Fisher Gemini

The Fisher Gemini

It’s not up to the task of ski slopes and rock gardens, but it’s an excellent rough road, rail-trail kind of machine. We decided it was the better choice for the Allegheny Mountains Loop since there’s nothing technical anywhere on the loop, road and trail conditions are within it’s service parameters, and it climbs like a single.

Hmmm … it’s Red.

It’s a Fisher.

“Team RedFish”.

That was easy.

But this “Tee-El-Ar” character? The person who did the Great Divide backwards against better advice? That too is a taken name, rather than given. It’s simply the initials to the phrase “The Long Road” (TLR) representing that person’s view of life, on trail or not, and given some texture to make people wonder where this character hails from. The answer is …  ___________________  (fill in the blank).

Historic Videos

Desperately working on migrating away from 90′s webtech, (aka HTML 3.2), I’ve uploaded more videos of adventures past to new Vimeo albums. I like how videos posted there can scale nicely to any device, thereby opening a slew of images and thought provocation to a wider audience. This saves work. I used to export video clips in different device specific formats and use device detection to deliver the correct file format. No more. Upload once and Vimeo handles it for everyone! Cool.

The newest video additions include two different adventures with “The Sherpa” whom you’ve met if you’ve followed the Great Divide series.

In 2009, Team Grinch and the Sherpa completed our second of the two San Juan Hut-to-Hut routes. In 2007, we started from Telluride, but in 2009, we started from Durango (Purgatory, officially) and made our way across the San Juans, the mesas and canyons of western Colorado, and over the saddle of the La Sals at Geyser Pass to Moab.

Catch-Em-Up Trail to Bedrock

The Sherpa on the job again

This was our second  tour on our Ventana “ECdM” … the El Conquistador de Montana … fully suspended, and pulling a Bob trailer.  The only thing we couldn’t ride was the “Catch-em-Up” trail that dropped us off a mesa right into the Paradox Valley near the Delores River, just outside Bedrock Colorado. That was a portage for everyone.

After getting to Moab via the Kokopelli Trail and Sand Flats Road, we headed back up the mountain to the loop road a couple days later and hopped on the UPS, LPS, and the main Porcupine Rim trail. We’ve heard that it has been done before on a tandem, and trying it was really Karen’s idea after she discovered a video by Mountain Bike Bill. WE don’t have a video … a little too busy with the eyes and hands while riding this … but some photos will be dug up and posted shortly.

Two years later, Team RedFish and the Sherpa selected Adventure Cycling Association’s Allegheny Mountains Loop for a summer break and used the start location to visit a long-time friend and cycling buddy. That adventure was as beautiful as one could imagine.


Looks a bit spooky out that way!

YOU should go do it. Really.

So, who’s “Team Grinch” and “Team Redfish”? Check the next post.