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Kick Off to Summer!
June 06, 2011

How are you kicking off your summer?

Some pals and I pegged the fun-meter for more than a few hours yesterday. It was a savory combo of extreme and subtle that I think you'd appreciate.

The weather was perfect -- skies clear and warm but not too.

So RadNord, Dave, Gary, Mark and I all made the time.

First, we biked around the lake next to Dave's house. Then we canoed around it. Then we chowed down. But the glory is in the details.

The ride was about 15 miles of glorious singletrack. It offered views and challenges of all kinds -- something for everyone. Some of our guys are really skilled, so it was neat watching them clean tricky obstacles like double logs, waist-high, or sizeable teetertotters. Then there was the over-the-axles swamp crossing. And the long pitch of hunkering low under autumn olives while bumping over muddy side-slope roots at the edge of another swamp, water on one side, prickers on the other (and above). I'm talking about a possible line along the muddy roots that was about 4" wide, with water 3" to the right and the main shrubbery 6" upslope to the left, spreading out 3 feet above the ground -- now wend your way smoothly through that. You're riding thru the rootbulbs, basically, of these nasty bushes at the edge of the swamp. I'm not very good at it, but the challenge was special. It was almost doable. I could see cleaning it someday. Maybe. Our pace was brisk but no-drop. The route was scoped and pre-cleared by our host and it included several super-tasty sweep-twisting descents. Add in plenty of wacky stories along the way. Plus quiet time on the big uphills. It's just a slice of heaven. Right in Dave's back and side yard.

I also had the thrill of finding out that two changes I made to my old mtbike basically turned it into a new bike all over again: I installed a fresh pair of new-type small-knob tires and I installed a set of Specialized Bodywork paddle-type grips. I used to have oldschool big-knob tires -- I had to inflate 'em to 40psi to not pinchflat. The new tires have more casing and can handle 30-35psi fine. They were great! They were ROUND and cornered so smooth and rolled so fast. I never slipped on any uphill. So for hardpack you don't need big knobs. My old MB1 is rigid so I need all the cush I can get. Small knobs let you get more cush. My old grips were tattered and nasty and certainly gave no cush. My hands would be in pain for part of every ride. The new grips worked SWEET. I'm thinking of swapping out my sus-stem/post and putting the old light stuff back on -- might not need that floppy stuff any more. So very happy on the bike side. (Some of the pals say they prefer the small-knob Hutch Pythons -- they have a kind of connected center-line. Gary has a carbon full-sus bike that I loved when I test-rode it. He said I probably only preferred it coz it had Pythons. That's how much he loves those tires.)

Then we had a beer and shuttled our boats down the hill to the lake and paddled and swam for an hour or so. We all did perfect canoe dismounts. -- You push yourself up in the air then flick your boat out from under you and fall on your back into the cool, dark lake. Ahhhh... Then we lolled in our lifevests and admired the huge, crystal-clear brilliant green oaks lining the lake against the blue sky, and had an in-water beer. Then we all got back into our solo boats, mid-lake, even with some style.

Something we'll do next time is bring mask-and-snorkels and do an aquarium tour of a lush connector stream between two lakes. The current is full of lush and swaying plants...and fish. All kinds of fish shimmering here and there. A big bass. A big dogfish. A big catfish. A bunch of bluegills. We wanted to get in with them and "muskrat" along with the current, gaping at the scenery as it undulates on by. Who needs the Caribbean?

After canoeing, Dave, who is unstoppable as a wildwoods cook, whipped up a special batch of beer-battered bluegill tacos with chipotle cream sauce, which we et up on the deck, with another beer. ...Do you hear me? -- Bluegill tacos!

Cheers, guys! ...And, thanks, Dave!

I have a hunch that this kickoff party is going to last longer than just one outing.

I haven't had mint juleps on the lawn yet. An 80 degree evening is coming up soon, I know.

Another sign of summer is that Cousin Jon has started showing up again now that it's getting hot'n'muggy. He loves going swimming at our local lake. The kids love coming along. He rides up to the house after dinner. "Going swimming?" Henry likes to swim if Jon is going, because they can talk about Strange Science. There's an ice cream stand next to the lake. And one of the bars now has a roof deck (but, DARN, kids can't go on it, so, so much for that). Sometimes we ride bikes out there. Neighbor kids come along. We ride fast. I captain the tandem and give a kid a break from riding their own bike for half of each leg. Of course, nobody rides their own regular bike. We make sure everyone is on Fast Road Bikes, with narrow high pressure tires and light frames. The kids fly when they're set up right. We ride the 5 miles to the lake in no time. But we're hot when we get there! And hungry for ice cream after swimming a half hour!

Local club road bike rides are kicking into high gear, too. We live within a mile or three of FOUR hot rides. And some new pals are starting to show up -- a trend which we might be able to parlay into beers afterward. I even put the bug in the ear of one of the riding-wives of doing an Urban Ride on Fridays, to see the city and catch an outdoor deck beer somewhere. She agrees that life shouldn't all be pace-lines. Don't you know it! ...I have to fan these flames.

My raspberry patch isn't "in" yet, though -- so there's another Rite of Summer to achieve.

So how are you doing? What's your breakthrough to the joy of hot weather?

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