Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Three Perils of Mountain Biking and Tips for Avoiding Them

After keeping you all in suspense, I’m sorry to report that mountain biking was uneventful and that I was awesome at it…or, something like that.  Honestly, although I had some concerns about trying mountain biking, I truly thought I was going to be really good at it.  I’m athletic and have good biking endurance from commuting and riding my road bike.  I was slightly off in my confidence and assesment of skills – just slightly…

The drive up to Raystown was per usual:  me as dj, a stop at Burger King for lunch, and meandering through a mix of quaint and sketchy little towns.

The always classy Breezewood Motel

By the time we made it up to the Susquehannock Campground (the primitive sites, instead of where we usually stay at Seven Points) on Friday, we decided just to set up camp, make dinner and hang around by the fire – no riding just yet.  So I joyfully sat watching the fire lick up the logs, sipping on my oh-so-tasty Avery IPA (hoppy, delicious craftbrew in a CAN), blissfully ignorant of things to come.  

Saturday morning, we swung over to Rothrock Outfitters to pick up my women’s specific bike. 

The folks at Rothrock are super chill and very friendly.  They tightened up my bike, gave me an extra tube, I signed a waiver and I became the proud renter of a Scott Contessa 50.  I will say, I highly recommend using these guys.  They also have kayaks for rent, camping gear, and even Ruff Wear equipment for your adventure dogs!  Plus, their shop is pretty cool and is just 15-20 minutes from the campground in Huntingdon, which is worth checking out itself.  

Back at camp, it was time to set sail on my maiden voyage.  My initial concern with mountain biking was the tree roots and rocks on the trail.  Ryan assured me that you don’t really notice them and you just kind of pop over them.  I was skeptical.  But, after riding on the road by our campsite to make sure my seat was adjusted properly, Ryan had me “off-road” through our campsite.  I quickly saw that rocks and roots were of no concern and I was now feeling unstoppable with my one major concern now pushed aside.  Silly…

Peril #1 – Speed

As I very quickly learned, so many mountain bikers like the trails at Raystown because of their “flow”.  I just thought this meant the trails were smooth.  Basically, it means that the trails are built in such a way so that you can build speed and momentum and rarely pedal.  To me this meant I was stuck in a maze of rocket boosters propelling me toward trees and off of cliffs at warp speeds.  Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but let me explain my fear of speed…

I got my first big girl bike for my 5th birthday.  I had picked it out and was super excited.  But, once I got the bike, I was terrified to ride it.  Without the safety of my training wheels there were too many unknowns.  How was I supposed to balance the bike, steer and pedal all at the same time?  Wasn’t I bound to crash and get hurt?  I would not get on the thing – how could my parents even buy me such a unsafe gift?  Finally, my mom gave me a deadline.  If I did not ride the bike by then, she would sell it to another little girl that would.  So I pouted for a week, waited until the last day, got on the bike, started crying as my dad jogged along side of me and just like in a movie, tipped over as soon as I noticed he was gone.  I was like this with lots of “daring” acts – rollerblading, water slides, cliff jumping, etc.  Not exactly Evel Knievel.  

So, back to the mountain biking…the first trail we were on was ok, but was enough to get me a little nervous.  I felt much more out of control then I would have liked.  Then we went onto the hydroloop.  This loop was complete with a lakeview.  Lovely for those who aren’t worried about falling off the trail and tumbling down into the lake, but for me it just increased my anxiety.  I was on my brakes practically the entire time trying my best not to pick up any speed whatsoever.  At this point, I learned that using the rear brake caused my bike to fish tail a little bit.  Usually this wouldn’t be that problematic, but at my slow speed fish tailing combined with roots and rocks made for a little bit of a challenge.  So, I started using my front brake…(a hint of foreshadowing here).

Then we hit the doe trail – my favorite!  It was flat and mellow and everything I thought mountain biking was going to be.  I pedaled and was in control of my own speed.  It was a nice bike ride through the woods and it was awesome!  The trail was punctuated with a couple little rock gardens that I actually was able to navigate and was really beginning to like this. 

The doe trail connected to another and we wound our way to a nice scenic overlook, where we stopped to take in the view, take a little break, and snap a photo!  This was just like hiking, but faster!  I could get into this.

At the overlook

Then came berry trail…

The berry trail had overgrown thorny bushes that snagged at your skin and pulled and scratched as you rode past.  I have many little scraps from these and I couldn’t help but think that this was the dumbest thing ever and nobody could think this trail is fun.  It just got worse…a set of rollers.  These rollers were downhill and I was going way to fast for my own liking.  I couldn’t stay completely on the brakes so I had to pump them.  Then it got to a point where I couldn’t really control my speed at all and I caught air off of one of the hills. I panicked, slammed on my brake (the front one) and caused the bike to buck me off into the thorny berry bushes.  This leads to mountain biking lesson #1 – do not slam on your front brake because you will get bucked off.

Scratches from falling in the bushes

Unfortunately for me, I’m a slow learner and I bucked myself two more times after this.  On one such occassion, I landed against a log.  I have a lovely bruise on my back to remind me of why you should not ever jam on the front brake.

Peril #2 – Feet Positioning

For a little while, we hit some parts of the trail that “suck” – climbs.  I liked these parts.  Although they are a lot of work, I was in control of my speed and direction.  During some of the climbs, I would get a little squirrely and the bike would start zig-zagging up the hill.  Ryan gave me mountain biking lesson #2 – keep your eyes three feet ahead of you and your bike will track straight.  Genius trick that worked like a charm!  These parts I did fairly well on. 

As we kept riding I was feeling more and more confident.  Then came mountain biking lesson #3 – keep your pedals level with one another.  Even when I ride my road bike, I usually ride with one foot down and one up when I’m coasting.  I took this same stance to mountain biking.  Well, what happens when you do that on mountain biking trails is you catch your pedal and/or foot on the ground, a rock, a root, etc.  Lucky for me I only hit the pedal and it just startled me.  You can really, really hurt yourself doing this so DON’T.

Ryan ripping around showing me how it's done - level pedals!

In addition to keeping your feet level when you can, you should also keep your feet on the pedals.  Seems pretty obvious, but trust me, it isn’t always your natural inclination or the will of whatever physics is going on.  I was not using clip pedals for very obvious reasons, so I had flat pedals and tennis shoes on.  On a few occassions my foot slipped off of the pedals.  Most of the time it was just an annoyance, but once it caused me to slip off the bike.  Luckily, it was just on a climb.

Beyond the things out of your control, there is also fear.  My fear came into play during the banked turns, or berms.  While experienced people will say they are fun and easy and your bike will naturally go around them, I say that they are horrific.  I rode through two or three and was convinced I was going to wipeout, so I took my feet off to brace myself or to try to cushion my landing or whatever was going through my mind…I don’t know.  Well, Ryan informed me that if I kept doing that and did fall or catch my foot on a root or rock, then I would break my ankle or leg.  So, do not do this either.  Keep your feet on the pedals and level.

Feeling good despite 3 falls (feet still not level...)

Peril #3 – Shit Happens

After three falls and a handful of close calls, I was still a little shaky on this activity.  Just when my confidence was getting up, I would fall again or almost fall.  Then toward the end, I decided to go for it.  The last set of rollers were pretty level, instead of downhill, and the turn at the end seemed gradual and easy to make.  So, for only the fourth or fifth time all day, I completely let off of the breaks and rode through the entire section.  I was gaining speed, pedaling right off the jumps, and genuinely having fun and loosening my death grip on my handlebars.  Then, before I knew what happened, I had wrecked HARD and was lying face down half on the trail, half not.  WTF?!?

After Ryan helped pick me and my bike up, he showed me where the trail washed out and why I had wrecked.  I took only the tiniest bit of solace in the fact that there were tread marks from where other bikers had clearly done the same thing.  Still, I was in too much pain to really care that much.  This lesson I call shit happens.  There is not much in way of tips for avoiding this.  Everyone wrecks at some point.  It may be something you did, or it might be a fluke thing in the trail, or an animal stepped in your path or whatever.  Unfortunately, my wreck had some very mean consequences…

I scrapped the hell out of my elbow, which continues to throb even as I type this.

War wound

Different shot of my arm

Then, I must have hit my thigh on my bike or something because I have a scrape across it which is surrounded by a bruise bigger than my hand.  It hurts to walk or touch – you’d be surprised how much you touch your thigh or rest things in your lap.  It sucks.

Giant bruise on my leg

I also managed to smash the area right below my lower abdomen.  I have a nice cut there as well, and what cut would be complete without a bruise?  Don’t worry, fist sized bruise there as well. This one really hurts.  No movement without it hurting.

Overall, I still enjoyed my time mountain biking and had I only ridden on the beginner’s trails, I would have been fine.  Also, if you aren’t pre-disposed to be a speed-fearing spaz, you won’t buck yourself off.  Really, I should have only wrecked the last time.  Still, even just that one time, well…especially that last time, was a tough fall and I am definitely still feeling it.  If you do go, which I would still encourage most people to do, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Start on beginner’s trails and work your way up
  • Try not to let fear get the best of you and don’t over think things
  • Do NOT slam on your front brake or you will get bucked off your bike
  • Keep your feet on your pedals and level whenever possible
  • Look three feet or so ahead of you to keep your bike tracking straight

The night was spent nursing my wounds with some cold beers, delicious burgers, Ibuprofen and ice.  There was no way I was riding in the morning, so Ryan went out on his own and I cleaned up camp.  After returning my rental bike, Ryan and I explored Huntingdon a little bit.  We were going to go to Boxer’s Cafe, which is supposed to be awesome, but it was closed on Sundays.  We’ll have to get it next time.  

We drove around a bit, passed Puff convenience store (specializing in cigarettes) and then decided on pizza!

We had some tasty mozzarella sticks before moving on to a truly delicious white pizza with garlic, cheese and tomatoes courtesy of the Original Italian Pizza.

Great pizza... and cheap beer to go!

It was certainly a much better choice then the strangely named restaurant at the campground marina, which has mediocre food and bad service.  However, hilarious slogan of “what would life be without memories”.

With bellies full of pizza, we decided to rent kayaks and paddle around the lake for awhile. A safe and gentle activity for my sore and recovering body.

Until next time…

Mountain biking/mother nature – 1, Heather – 0


Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Camping, Cycling, Food and Drink, Travel


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Redemption is not spelt P-H-I-L-L-Y

First, let me just apologize for my delay in posting – super busy week!  So, last weekend was our trip to Philly.  We got a little bit of a late start on Friday because I had to finish some things up at work.  Still, we got packed up rapid-fire and hit the road.  Ryan had just updated his Garmin and was feeling like we could maybe trust it so it was leading the way.  However, instead of keeping us on 95, it took us onto a random highway-the Pulaski Highway-for a little while.  Talk about sketchy.  In addition to ramshackle buildings and sketchy motels, we passed a place called Russian Love and even a seedy adult video store complete with viewing rooms.  Ryan made the executive decision to get back onto 95 – good choice!  We figured out later that the Garmin was on shortest distance instead of fastest route.  Anyways, we stopped for a quick bite at Burger King (mmm…Whopper Jr. with cheese!) and were getting settled in our hotel in no time.

Our timing was perfect as the rehearsal dinner was just finishing up.  Adam, Dre, Mike and Ashley met up with us at the hotel and we walked over to Fado to meet up with everyone else.  We had our own section of the bar with our own waitress who was FANTASTIC!

Adam and our server

She served all of us thirsty clowns very quickly, was really friendly and didn’t spill one drink despite having a very packed space.  I was impressed.  But, perhaps I should back up and explain who all these guys are before I start mentioning them.  When Ryan first moved to Virginia he was really into BMX and started hanging out with a group of guys that to this day remain his best friends – the Capital Crew.  Mike, the groom, is part of this group, as well as Adam, Mike, Paul and Lance.

Paul, Adam, Mike, Mike, Ryan and Lance

And they all brought their girlfriends – Dre, Ashley, Christina and Kristen respectively.  We all had a great time out at Fado and stumbled back to the hotel full of merriment and wanting to continue our celebration.  So, we went to the hotel bar, Elephant and Castle, and partied there until bar close.

Next step was to take it up to our rooms.  Unfortunately for us, the Crowne Plaza and a panty-doning old hag had other ideas…

I will readily recognize that we were all a little buzzed up from our night out and I will say that I’m sure we were a little loud when we came in.  However, within 15 minutes of our arrival the disgusting lady across the hall opened her door in her underwear to tell us that we were too loud and needed to be quiet.  I apologized and told her that we would try to keep it down.  Her reply, “you’ll trrrryyy?!”  I said yes, I will go inside and tell everyone and we will try to keep it down.  She told me I was being rude to which I countered that she was being very rude.  I explained that we were there for a wedding, we had just gotten in and that we would try to be quiet.  I couldn’t really get all of this across to her because she slammed her door shut.  Within a few minutes of that, security came up, said they had 3 complaints about us and if there was one more the police would be called.  I’m sorry, but this is absolutely ABSURD!  Three calls in that little of a time span says nothing.  Give us a chance to get settled in for crying out loud!  Also, what kind of unhappy selfish person calls the front desk over 15 minutes of noise, knowing full well people are there for a wedding?!  Unreal.

Adam went down to smooth things out and explained the situation again.  He also was sure to tell them that he would never stay there again.  I agree!  In their defense, they did say that the people who called were regular customers – flight attendants that stay there all the time.  Still, come on!  Additionally, the parking at the Crowne Plaza (for hotel guests) is $36/day.  DO NOT STAY AT THE CROWNE PLAZA in downtown Philadelphia!  Yes, it is convenient and it is slightly cheaper than the surrounding hotels, but don’t do it!!!

The next morning we woke up with a serious mission – Cheesesteaks!  We all piled into two taxis and headed over to Pat’s.  Both Pat’s and Geno’s (which are across the street from each other) are set up the same way – a carry out place with outdoor seating.  When you step up to the window, you better be ready – this is the one place in Philly that is fast, very fast.  A giant wooden sign next to the window explains how you should order.  First is “wit” or “wit out” which refers to the onions.  You also have your choice of cheese.  I went with provolone while others went with cheese whiz.  By the time you are done paying, your sandwich is ready, in all of its drippy, greasy goodness.  Make sure you grab LOTS of napkins.

One of Philly's very few redeeming qualities

After breakfast, we wandered the streets of Philly to digest and take in the sights.

After a little exploring, Adam, Dre, Ryan and I went to Love Park to see the LOVE sculpture.

Congrats on your engagement! (They got engaged a few days after this photo was taken)

Then Ryan and I grabbed some Starbucks and wandered over to Rittenhouse Square to people watch.  We found an open park bench and took a seat.  Some street musicians were playing and tons of people were out and about.  Ryan nudged me and I looked over to see an old lady on the park bench across the walk from us.  She smiled at us as she poured a little vodka into her cup.  At first, Ryan and I laughed because we thought it was funny that an older lady was spiking her coffee.  Then we slowly started to piece together that it was not a case of a hilarious elderly lady getting it in, but instead a likely homeless lady just getting plowed.  Pretty sure there was no coffee in her cup – just the vodka.  She also had old, crusted vomit on her shirt and pulled out a partially-rotting tomato to snack on.  Ryan was about to throw up his cheesesteak looking at her so we moved and sat on a rock wall to take in some less disgusting people.  The one positive thing was the red bull girls came around and gave us free red bull.

By then, it was time for us to get back to our room and get all gussied up for the wedding!  The wedding was at the Hotel Palomar and it was short, laid-back and personal.  While the room was being switched over for the reception, there was an open bar and hors d’oeuvres downstairs.  We also occupied ourselves with the Polaroid guestbook.  And of course, took some group photos.

Christina, Dre, Me, Kristen and Ashley

The reception followed in the same vein as the wedding – beautiful, laid-back and personal.  Although I just met both Mike and Christine, I can tell that all that mattered to them was celebrating their marriage with friends and family.  Seems so simple and what any wedding should obviously be about.  But, too often people get wrapped up in things that don’t really matter in the end.  Mike and Christine didn’t seem to at all.  They even embraced the fact that our table was going to be rowdy and perhaps a little unruly.

Our own handmade table placement card

Overall, my opinion on Philly remains the same – dirty, slow, smelly.  Not my favorite east coast city for sure.  However, like so many things in life, it’s more about who you are with then where you are or what you are doing.  Despite all the shenanigans and antics, or maybe because of them, you won’t find a better group of guys then those in the Capital Crew.  Us ladies aren’t so bad ourselves I might add.  Plus, the happiness and excitement surrounding Mike and Christine was incredible.  All the best to both of them!!!  So Philly, while you and I still have our differences, you did provide us with a really great weekend with some very good people.

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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in Food and Drink, Travel


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Not Without Its Charm

As a person who likes to look at the positives in life, sometimes to the annoyance of others, I recently was reminded that I am right and that there is always something good, even in the strangest of circumstances.  A couple weekends ago, I traveled to Everett, PA.  “What in the hell is in Everett?” you ask.  So did most of my friends and colleagues.  My boyfriend and I just wanted to get away somewhere close by to do a little camping, maybe some kayaking and just relax.  I was also thinking that we could do some wine tasting along the way.  So, I went to, which is a really helpful website by the way, and found a campground that would fit all of these things – The Woy Bridge Campground.

First of all, Woy Bridge?  Just saying the name made me feel like a six year old with a lisp or Elmer Fudd.  But, sites were only $20/night, kayaks were $12/day and the sites were riverfront spots.  So, to Woy Bridge we would go!  Making a reservation proved to be a challenge.  When you dial the number from the website, a woman who sounds like my great aunt from smalltown Minnesota instructs you to call Bill at a different number.  Seems sketchy, but a lot of small campground use host campers.  Hint to anyone who wants to go to Woy Bridge – here is Bill’s number 814-977-2845.  So, after calling Bill a few times and getting his voicemail, we decided to chance it and just drive up there.  (The day of our drive we did eventually get a hold of Bill to find out that, happily, there would be a site for us!)

After a pleasant drive, a stop at Sheetz and some Sirius radio with yours truly as the featured dj, we were getting close to Everett and nearing the part of the drive when we would need to use a detour.  The Woy Bridge website kindly noted that a bridge was under construction and gave detour details.  However, we got all sorts of turned around.  We meandered through farm country, cutting through the odor of cowpies, for about 20 minutes until we finally found the gravel road we were supposed to turn down.  It was, as the website had described, “located between a house trailer and a farmhouse.”

We checked in with our host camper – an ancient looking man who moved at one pace and one pace only…his own.  It was not so much that he didn’t have the physical ability to move any faster, but that he did not care to.  He methodically checked us in and we were on our way.  The first couple sites were a bit creepy.  People had been staying there so long that some of the campers didn’t even have tires on them anymore.  Awnings, tables, adirondack chairs, pop-up showers, tiki torches, large grills and even family welcome signs rounded out many of these sites.  I was starting to think this was more of a crazy, backward living community than an actual campground.  Still, when we got to our site it was GREAT!  It was directly on the river, had tons of space and had a giant stone fire pit.  With little fanfare or fuss, we set up our camp and then promptly set out to go to a local vineyard.

Briar Valley Vineyard – Walking into Briar Valley, there is not much going on.  However, nobody was there, the tasting host was very friendly and the tasting was $2.  If you only taste 2 or less wines, it’s free.  One glass in, I realized I had not gone to the bathroom the whole road trip and really needed to go.  I was dumbfounded to find out that there was no public bathroom and that I could go across the street to Burger King to use theirs.  So, we took a tasting time out to visit BK.  Despite that ridiculous detail and that it was not the typical tasting atmosphere  – think outdoor seating, cheese/meat & cracker trays, and maybe even some live music – the wines were pretty good.  One stood out as unique and delicious – The Lemberger.  We bought a bottle to have with our buffalo burgers later and it was absolutely tasty.  I would stop in just to take a quick taste of it and buy a bottle!

Lemberger from Briar Valley

During our bathroom break, we noticed a store that was called On eBay.  After describing to Ryan the store from 40 Year Old Virgin (he hasn’t seen it), we decided to pop in for a look.  This was not at all what we thought it was going to be.  Instead of a collection of eBayesque items that are random, unique, interesting, fun, bizarre, etc. this place was more of a thrift store meets Marshalls.  Metal shelving units held old-looking houselhold items (not vintage….outdated) and countless duplicates of the same boring castaway shirts hung from the clothesracks.  We were in and out in minutes.

Back at camp, Ryan (my boyfriend) had a stare-down with a crazy old lady who was either our camp host’s mother or wife (maybe both?) and dealt with two yippy chihuahuas in order to gather our wheelbarrel of firewood.  We made it back to camp, sat down by the river Coors light in hand and just relaxed.  A raging fire, some buffalo burgers and a good bottle of wine was exactly what we had in mind when we set out for Everett and it is exactly what we got.  Overall, I would definitely say that the Woy Bridge Campground, and Everett, PA as a whole, is definitely not without its charm.

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Posted by on August 19, 2010 in Camping


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