Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Back to the Soil

Memorial Day has passed, May is done, and June is here in all it's green and leafy splendor.  The weather has finally got to the point where I'm not worried about it snowing overnight (I jest  - kind of).  We've had beautiful weather lately, with temps in the 70's and 80's, and the occasional thunderstorms to remind you that the world doesn't conform to your schedule.

When I went in for a doctor's appointment in January and found out that I had packed on fifteen pounds of Christmas fat I decided that I was going to try to step up my riding when the weather finally decided to cooperate.  So when the pavement started to show through in March I tried to get out as often as I could, and to make those rides a bit longer than I would have in the past.  The result was that I pedaled over 200 miles in March, and then went over 200 miles in April as well.

I have no illusions about riding 200 miles in a month - as far as great bicycle accomplishments it's pretty far down the list.  Heck, there are people who ride over 400 miles non-stop in one race, so me riding a measly 200 miles in 30 days isn't that big of a deal. 

So when May got going and I kept on riding on a regular basis it was no surprise when the miles started to add up.  Early in the month I headed a little bit west to the small town of Garrettsville and made my first trip on the Headwaters Trail.

Headwaters Trail entering Mantua.
This is a nice crushed stone trail that runs about 8-1/2 miles from Garrettsville to just past Mantua.  Most of the trail feels pretty remote, with plenty of woods and marshes alongside.  Some of the scenery is really beautiful, and gives an excellent example of the varying terrain of the headwaters area.  This little waterfall is near the trail, and with a little bit of rain provides a bit of natural music for your ride.


The town of Mantua, near the other end of the trail, has an interesting, if small, old downtown.  I really liked the old grain elevator with the slate shingle sides.

Downtown Mantua.
This historical marker lies beside the tracks between Garrettsville and Mantua.  It's just a small reminder of the local history that is forgotten all around us.

Besides making two end to end trips on Headwaters Trail, and a couple of long rides on the Little Beaver Creek Greenway, I also put in a bunch of miles on the Western Reserve Greenway, my local trail.  It may be the straightest and flattest of the rail trails in our area, but there is enough to see if you open your eyes.

Fox pups near Western Reserve Greenway.
These two fox pups were part of a litter of at least four that I saw in a group of den holes within 20 feet of the Greenway paving.  They've been there for over a month by now, and are getting big enough that I'm starting to wonder when they'll be leaving the den.  Then there's the guy below, who was on the trail up north in Ashtabula County.

Another trail user - this one is even slower than me.
There are some really beautiful spots on the trail up in Ashtabula County.  The old railroad bridge over Rock Creek has a great view of a unique little waterfall after a good rain.  And the little rest area north or Rock Creek is very peaceful - a good place to stop and catch a breath and a drink of water.
Ashtabula County bike trail rest area.
 But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and when you're in the right frame of mind you can find it all around - even in places you've been a hundred times.

Sunset at the wildlife observation deck on Western Reserve Greenway.

So after three weeks of riding the rail trails (still waiting for the mountain bike trails to firm up enough to ride) I was surprised to see that mapmyride was showing that my monthly mileage was already over 200.  With such a strong start I was thinking I could get my highest monthly total yet - and with a bit of a push over the last weekend I managed to bring my May riding total up to 301.5 miles!  Once again, in the big picture that isn't much of an accomplishment - but to me it does mean something.  I'm not sure I actually lost any weight, but I feel better which is makes it worth it.

The mountain bike trails at West Branch State Park finally opened up over Memorial Day weekend.  Word was that they were still a little bit soft, but good enough to ride.  Last weekend I had a short window of time and headed out to give them a try.  I rode for an hour and a half, and was pleased to see that the trail was in good condition.  The local mountain bike club, CAMBA, had also done some great work with new trail reroutes at a couple of areas. 

But the thing that made me feel best was the fact that I was riding great.  I'm never a fast rider, but keep up a consistent pace that allows my sketchy breathing to keep up with the demands of the trail. But I rode the first half of the ride, at least a couple of miles, without a dab (putting a foot down).  The hills were still tough - but maybe not quite as tough as I remember them.  And when I was out of time I still felt like I had a good deal of energy left.  I'm attributing all of this to all those pavement miles earlier in the spring, building up my legs and my cardio, giving me a small improvement this year over last.  And at my age I'll take any improvement that I can get!

In news besides bicycling, Diana and I spent a bit of time together including a quick trip up to Lake Erie at Ashtabula.  I always enjoy the lakeside, and it can be a fun trip getting up there.

Lookout - a selfie!
Ken has made it through another year of school without going nuts (or driving me nuts).  The school band got its marching program together and made their yearly excursion in the Memorial Day parade.  He's getting better and better on his sax, to the point where it's fun to listen to him practice now.

Ken is the sax player near center, above the brunette clarinet player.
I've been out and about on the weekends with Dave, getting out on the back roads and seeing some sights out in the boonies.

Possible micro whitewater just outside of Youngstown??!?
This month I plan on letting the mileage totals take care of themselves while I focus on spending some quality time riding shorter miles on dirt.  So I wouldn't be surprised if June's total mileage was below 200.  But that's okay - mileage totals aren't why I ride.  FUN is why I ride!

Fight Entropy!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Carry On

Sure enough, it DID snow after my last post.  We had actual accumulation of snow on one day, plus some stray snowflakes a couple of days later.  But now that we're in May, I feel it may be safe to declare that winter is actually gone for a couple of months, and we can get back to the business of spring.

Good thing too.  Seems like people around here were getting slightly squirrely from over-exposure to winter conditions.  Lots of people kind of had a wild look in their eyes, like they were pretty close to either doing something crazy or heading south in search of a more hospitable climate.  After being lulled into complacency by several years of mild winters with comforting mid-winter thaws, this year was like being slowly crushed to death by an indifferent glacier.

And so I've really been enjoying getting out.  The weather has been warm enough that its mostly been enjoyable to get out and ride.  That means getting used to not packing extra layers of clothes to bring along - just in case.  And it also means that I've ridden a couple of times with in shorts and t-shirt, which feels amazingly free after wearing three layers for the last five months.  But we have had enough rain coming at regular intervals to keep the mountain bike trails pretty soft for the most part.

I did get to head out to Quail Hollow State Park, near Hartville, Ohio, for a ride a couple of weeks ago.  My brother Matt and I have been getting out on the weekends and we took a trip hoping that the trail would be dry enough to ride.  We found out that much of the trail was in good condition, but there were some new wet areas that had been damaged by too much traffic while wet.  One major surprise was that the boardwalk across the meadow is now a boardwalk across a marsh.  This area had always been susceptible to moisture, and had turned to mud under use - which was why the boardwalk was installed in the first place.  But after the wet weather it looks like it might be morphing into a small wetland area.

Matt on the boardwalk at Quail Hollow.
So the trail wasn't in perfect shape, but at this point in the season we were happy just to be able to ride on dirt singletrack.  A couple of laps were enough of an early season ride to leave us smiling for the drive home.  And it's a good thing that we did get out and ride then, because the timing of the rain since then has kept the trails too soft for riding.

The paved trails have been fine though - they're like that as long as they're not covered in snow! I got in another night ride out on the Little Beaver Creek Greenway, which is quickly becoming my favorite paved trail.  I got to the trail a little while before sunset, so I quickly got on the trail without mounting the lights.

The Leetonia trailhead.
The weather was warm enough for a pleasant ride as the sun started to set.  As I passed through the Franklin Square area the evening light turned copper colored, giving the trailside scenery a warm tone.

The route 558 trailhead at Franklin Square.
By the time I'd passed the Teegarden Covered bridge sunset was over and dusk began to dim my surroundings.  It was beautiful riding alongside the creek and hearing the soft sound of moving water.  By now I had the trail pretty much to myself, and I took a short break to relax and enjoy the dusk at one of the trailside benches.  It was still early enough in the season that I wasn't being attacked by mosquitoes, so it was a nice opportunity to rest and listen to the spring peepers.

Dusk by the creek.
By the time I made it to the outskirts of Lisbon and made my turn around it was starting to get really dark.  Since my night vision seems to work pretty well and there was no one else on the trail I continued on for a while.  Eventually I stopped at a trailside bench and hooked up my lights.  For this trip I used two lights, more than I really needed.  It only took a few minutes to get everything hooked up, despite the fact that I had to jury rig one of the battery pack mountings with an emergency bandana.

Lights ready to go!
Once I got back on the trail it was easy going for the last couple of miles.  My lights provided a huge amount of illumination that picked out everything ahead of me - even the woozy opossum that wandered onto the trail as I approached and raced ahead of me for a short spell.

Plenty of light!
Besides riding at Little Beaver Creek Greenway there were several rides on my local trail, the Western Reserve Greenway.  Besides riding the local section I made a couple of trips onto the Ashtabula County section, up around Orwell.  The trail is just as nice up there, though it doesn't seem to get as many people using it. 

Approaching Orwell, with the trailhead by the blue building.

Once you get north of Orwell the trail gets pretty quiet, and it's easy to spin out the miles in peace.  Along the way I saw that someone with property along the trail had set up a maple sap collection system for making maple syrup.  Clear tubing tapped into each tree and ran downhill, collecting sap from other trees as it made its way to a plastic barrel.  I also saw a new kind of rule breaker (to me) on the trail.

Horses are only allowed on the grass verge of the trail, not the pavement.

 After riding over 200 miles last month I thought I'd try to beat the total for this month, but it didn't happen.  So on the last day of the month I looked at my monthly mileage and saw that I was less than five miles below the 200 mile mark.  It seemed like a shame to not at least try to get to that milestone.  Despite the rain I gathered my gear and headed out to the Western Reserve Greenway to put in some miles.

This time there were no other cars at the trailhead - apparently no one else was eager to get out in the driving rain for a nice bracing ride.  After putting on my rain shell I headed north into the wind and rain.  At first I was more or less miserable, but as my metabolism warmed up I started to enjoy the ride, and once the rain began to lessen I was glad to be out.

The trail was empty of people as I headed up towards Bristolville.  Motion in the trees to my right caught my attention and I watched as a sopping wet Barred Owl flew out of the woods and crossed the trail only 25 feet in front of me.  It was so close that I could see the wet feathers stuck to his hooked beak.  Then just another hundred yards down the trail a rabbit darted across the trail.  Of course rabbits run around the trail area all the time, especially in the evenings, but this one caught my attention.  It looked like it was carrying something in its mouth, and I kind of doubted that it was food, so I quickly braked and u-turned to where it had darted under a bush.  After a moment I could see it in the brush, sitting stock still to avoid detection.  And in its mouth was a tiny baby bunny, all curled up smaller than a ping pong ball.  Mama rabbit held her ground for just a moment, then bounded further into the woods, vanishing into the shadows beneath some tree roots.

That kind of made my day.  It's always nice to see nature carrying on the way its supposed to.  And I finished the month with 205 miles.

Morning sunlight on spring fields.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Looketh Over There

Time has passed, and according to the calendar on the wall spring has sprung.  By now we're almost 3 weeks past the end of winter and we're finally starting to get some weather that is somewhat spring-like.

But we've regularly had temps down into the 30's at night, and when I was out last weekend there were stray snowflakes drifting down out of the sky with the thermometer reading 36 degrees.

The oldest trick in the book - call it spring and it's going to snow.  Older than books even.  And I'm not convinced yet that we're not going to have this oh-so-funny prank pulled on us this year.  I still look out the window when I get up in the morning with a sneaking suspicion that everything is going to be covered with a layer of white.  It will definitely be a while before I believe winter is gone this year.

That's fresh snow on the Western Reserve Greenway on March 25.

As the seasons start to change I start looking forward to changes in the things I can do outdoors.  We've had a temporary pause in our trail building efforts, since the area we're working in has a tendency to hold water in the spring.  But I think I'll be heading out that way this weekend to see if the dirt is starting to firm up yet.  It doesn't have to be dry enough to ride - just dry enough that we don't sink in the water and mud up to our shins.

Another one of the things in flux this time of year is the bicycling destinations.  During the winter its more likely that I'll be riding on pavement - rail trails or the road.  And as the weather warms and dries it allows me to get off the pavement and get back to riding singletrack in the woods.  This change is starting to happen now, but most of the trails are still not ready for bicycle traffic.

But with the snow pack starting to diminish in March I was lucky to be able to get in quite a bit of pavement riding - my total for the month was just over 230 miles.  That meant a bunch of rides on the Western Reserve Greenway, and also quite a few rides on the Little Beaver Creek Greenway.

Open trail on the Western Reserve Greenway.

Little Beaver Creek Greenway, and the creek with some water in it.
Active rail line next to the LBCG trail brings commerce from Youngstown.
Another rail trail, one that I checked out in March for the first time, is the Stavich Trail.  It runs parallel to the Mahoning River from Lowellville to New Castle, PA.  This is another great ride - one that has curves and hills - and even some lumpy pavement on the Lowellville segment.  It joins the other transportation arteries in the valley as it heads into Pennsylvania.

From the left - road, Stavich bike trail, railroad, gravel maintenance road, and Mahoning River.
The trail is another that parallels an active rail line for a part of the way.  In the two hours I rode there were 6 trains - but they go by fairly quickly and the trail quickly quiets again, with only the birds and wind for company.  And there does seem to be quite a bit of wildlife out this spring - they must be as anxious for a good meal as I am for a good ride!  Since the beginning of March while riding I've seen dozens of turkeys, a whole bunch of deer, beaver, opossum, trumpeter swans, and about a million squirrels.

I've also taken the bike to work so that I could try to get over to Mill Creek Park and get in a little bit of a ride during lunch.  Turns out that it takes just over 15 minutes to get there, so I'm limited to less than a half hour of riding.  But I just discovered that if I head out parallel to the river that I can get to the Stavich Trail parking area in exactly 10 minutes, so I can get in 40 minutes of riding during lunch.  So I'll be doing that on nice days this year for sure!

East Cohasset bike road in Mill Creek Park, Youngstown.
Last Saturday I took advantage of the recent rains and headed east into Pennsylvania with my kayak and bike for an adventure at East Sandy Creek.  I always enjoy the drive into the Allegheny valley and choose a back road route for the best scenery possible.

My car with boat and bike, parked at Kennerdell overlook above the Allegheny River.
After verifying that East Sandy Creek was at a level that I'd be able to paddle I stashed the kayak in the woods and headed back west to the Belmar trailhead for the Sandy Creek Trail.  I left the car there and got the bike ready for the ride back upstream.  The first notable feature is the old railroad bridge, high above the river, that was renovated for the trail.

Sandy Creek Trail bridge at Belmar.
View of the Allegheny Trail bridge over the mouth of East Sandy Creek.
The trail is always an enjoyable ride, with a mix of rocks, woods, and creek that keeps the scenery interesting.  The builders incorporated five old railroad bridges in the lower run, each with views into the creek valley.

Sandy Creek Trail scenery.
East Sandy Creek from one of the trail bridges.
The trail also goes through a .3 mile long tunnel that has been rehabbed in the last couple of years.  Now it's a fairly easy passage through the dark - before it was a wet mess, complete with piles of bricks that had fallen from the roof.

The west portal for the tunnel on the Sandy Creek Trail.
A little further upstream and I got to the area where I'd hidden my kayak.  I hauled the bike in and started the change from biking gear to boating gear.

Leaving the bike, and getting ready to get in the boat.
On the bank, ready to put-in.
The creek was a little bit high from the rain.  East Sandy Creek is one of those creeks that has a fairly narrow range of water levels for paddling.  If it's too low you're in for a miserable day of scraping over rocks in search of a deeper channel.  And if it's too high the rapids start to wash out and the fun level drops appreciably.  But it was the first paddling trip of the year, and I was satisfied with what I got.  My camera stayed in the dry bag for the entire paddling portion of the run, so there are no shots from the creek, other than at the put-in and take-out.

At the take-out. The creek runs into the Allegheny River just out of frame to the left.
After finishing the run the third part of the East Sandy triathlon begins - the long carry from the creek back to the Belmar trailhead.  It's about 3/4 mile and includes the climb from the Allegheny Trail up to Sandy Creek Trail.  Seems like I'd forgotten just how little fun this part really is...

Looking up at the Sandy Creek Trail bridge, from the Allegheny Trail.
'The Cardiac Climb' - time to carry the kayak up the 66 stairs.
Taking a break on the carry back across the high bridge.
It was a great trip and I had a good time, though it took most of the day and left me feeling way more tired than I expected.  Still, I had plenty of energy the next day when my brother suggested we take our mountain bikes down to the trails at Bavington, Pennsylvania and see if they were dry enough to ride.  I was glad to take the chance, and was pretty sure that there would be at least some sections of rideable trail.  When we got there we found that the trails were almost all dry enough to ride, though there was considerable trail damage from some inconsiderate equestrians.

Matt at Bavington.
This was the first non-snow mountain biking of the year and it was SWEET to get out and spin some miles on the dirt.  All the rail trail riding had my legs feeling good, and my breathing was up to the challenge.  The Bavington trails are a great destination for riders who are looking for an intermediate trail without the crowds.

Quality singletrack!
The upcoming weekend looks like nice weather, but Sunday is Kenny's Boy Scout fundraising dinner, so there will be extra demands on the schedule.  But I hope to get out at least one day and get in either a mountain bike ride, a long rail trail ride, or a kayak trip. 

If it doesn't snow that is.

The natives are restless.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Give Me Patience

Each of the four seasons is theoretically 1/4 of the year and should therefore last three months.  This year we've got more than our share of winter, something that is probably pretty obvious to anyone living in the Northeast.  It started being winter sometime in November, even though the calendar says that winter doesn't start till after the middle of December.  So we've had half of November, all of December, January and February - and now it's March and I'm still looking out my window at snow.

Lord, give me patience.

Patience to wait out the days as the temps slowly start to warm and the snow shrinks and finally vanishes.  Patience to wait out the 'mud season' so that the trails will be firm enough to ride.  Patience to wait until the conditions are finally just right for a great mountain bike ride, or whitewater kayak run, or maybe even a backpacking trip.  Just take a deep breath and relax - that time is definitely coming soon.

But I've been trying to get out and do what I can to get some fresh air and exercise.  I've been doing quite a bit of trail work this winter, cutting new corridor to finish up the phase 3 trail at North Road Nature Preserve.  Last summer we built a section of trail through the mature woods that line the creek.  This is a beautiful area, and pretty easy to make trails through, as the canopy keeps the undergrowth down to a reasonable level. 

Flagging a new section of trail in the more mature woods.
But in the fall I started working in an area with a much younger woods, and another area of dense scrub.  This stuff is HARD to build trail through - I call it 'the most work for the least return'.  Thankfully the distance through this scrub is not that long on this loop, so a couple more work days should at least let me cut the corridor all the way through.  Then as the weather improves and the ground eventually dries up we'll be able to start getting the stumps out and filling in the low spots.  We hope to finish this trail loop by early summer, and spend the rest of the year improving the existing trails and possibly adding a new trail extension.  Even though these are beginner level trails, it is absolutely a GREAT thing to have a mountain bike trail less than five miles from my house.

I headed out a couple of weeks ago to try and get in a ride on the rural roads in northern Trumbull County.  The roads were clear of snow, but any place that I was legally allowed to park was still covered with 8" of soft snow.  So that pretty much ended that days riding before it even started.  But by last weekend there had been a few days where the temps got above freezing, so the snow cover had lessened, and I had hopes that I could park in one of the rail trail parking lots and get in a road ride from there.  It was still mostly snow covered, but clear enough that my little car could get in and out without too much trouble.

Oakfield parking area, Western Reserve Greenway.
It's pretty easy to make a route up there that follows roads with almost no traffic.  I think I usually see an average of one car every 10 minutes (and mistrustful me, I usually pull off the road to let them pass).  There are some interesting old dead ends in the area, too.   Here's one I followed till it reached the edge of the wildlife area:

Don't shoot swans.
The road surface wasn't exactly easy to ride on, but if I wanted easy I could always sit on the couch drinking beer.

Some of the dead ends get very little traffic this time of year, so the snow is easier to ride than on the road above.

Very quiet back here.
And sometimes you can find a bike accessible route on roads that haven't seen car traffic in years and years.

Bridge closed - except to stubborn bicyclists.

Occasionally these dead ends require a bit of hike a bike - especially in the areas with unbroken snow - but its all good.

Hike a bike territory.

But I always end up back on the pavement, heading back into farm country. 

Smooth riding!
I have Friday after lunch open for riding again this week.  And with temps forecast to climb today and tomorrow I'm hoping that this chest cold that developed yesterday gives me enough wind to still get out and ride.  If not - patience...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Grind

It's been a while since I posted anything here - since November in fact. I believe that's the longest gap since I started the blog. But in my defense, there just hasn't been a lot of fun stuff to write about lately.

The holidays are through, and that's a good thing. I'm not a big holiday type person, and I'm glad when the blatant commercialism and worship of well-packaged crap is over for another year. We had a typical Christmas, even though it's harder to make it happen as Kenny gets older and leaves childhood behind. Still, he was more or less happy with what he got and I guess that's enough.

The main thing on my mind lately has been winter. This won't be news to anyone who lives nearby, but this winter has been unusually tough. We've had wintry weather since the end of November, with a colder than normal December and January. The mid-winter thaw that has been such a wonderful reset the last several years just didn't happen this year. We've had just about constant snow cover, and way more than normal days with temperatures below zero. Usually I pride myself in being able to deal with winter and still do the things that I enjoy, but when the thermometer gets down to single digits or below I really have very little desire to be outside.

Between the snow and the frost heave (also known as 'needle ice') on the trails there hasn't been very much mountain biking this winter. I've managed a couple of trips out to West Branch, but the trail conditions each time were less than ideal. With winter riding you expect it to be way harder, so it was still worth the trip - but its not something that I want to do that often. I've also headed over to the nearby North Road Nature Preserve to ride a couple of times in the last two months. These are the mountain bike trails in town that I've been working on building for the last three years. We're a small group of volunteers, so it's taken us that long to build three miles of trails. They're basically beginner type trails, with no real hills, and very few rocks or roots. But they're only a couple of miles from the house, and by riding a complete circuit in either direction I can get an hour of riding in the woods - and that is a good thing.

Beside Mosquito Creek on the North Road Nature Preserve trails.

I've tried to take advantage of the rail trails this winter too.  I've done a few rides on the Western Reserve Greenway - until I overestimated my skills and underestimated the ice cover, which resulted in the hardest crash I've had in a couple of years.  It's been over a month and the road rash is still healing.  I also got in a couple of rides on the Little Beaver Creek Greenway, which has to be one of the best around.  So far this winter I caught it with just a little snow, with a lot of snow, and in the middle of a blizzard.  But the trail is great, with curves and mild hills, where many of our NE Ohio rail trails are flat and straight.  And the scenery along the Middle Fork of Little Beaver Creek is hard to beat.

The Teegarden Bridge alongside Little Beaver Creek Greenway.

And just to show how far this winter weather has pushed me - I've been out riding on the roads several times.  Usually I don't like to do road rides - as a million mile plus driver I've seen way too many idiots at the wheel to place my trust in a random motorists talents.  But with singletrack unrideable, and the rail trails covered with snow packed down by illegal snowmobilers (and boy does that make me mad), the only choice remaining has been on the roads.  I do realize that I'm lucky to live in an area that has easy access to sparsely travelled back roads - seeing a car every ten minutes is about the average up there.  But I now ride with a rearview mirror and almost always stop when I see a car approaching from behind to make sure I'm not about to become another statistic  (go to crazyguyonabike.com and check out the "Sweet Rolls" tour journal for a sad story about this - and take a minute to leave some words of encouragement in their guest book too).  But it can be a lot of fun on the back roads in Amish country.

Gravel road riding between snows in southern Ashtabula County.
Riding through the old farm country can be very pleasant.  The terrain is mostly flat, and since I ride my mountain bike the road surfaces are always good enough.  As I spend more time on these back roads I'm picking out the best spots for to string together to get a nice road loop that I can access from the rail trail once the snow melts.

Old fashioned quality building.
The trick is finding the balance between traffic and snow cover.  Too little traffic and the snow doesn't get worn down, too much traffic and it's not safe.  So sometimes I choose the lesser of two evils, and ride on roads that are maybe a bit more snowy than I'd like.

Snowy, but not quite TOO snowy.
So I endure, just like everyone else.  The days are getting longer at over 2-1/2 minutes of added daylight each day.  Spring approaches - eventually.  I wait for the weekends, when I have time to ride in the daytime, and hope that the weather will at least minimally cooperate.

In non-bicycling related news, there have been a couple of developments.  For one, the firm that I work for has gotten two big jobs in the last couple of months.  When the recession hit the competition in our field got pretty fierce for the few remaining jobs, and we've gone over five years between big commissions.  But we recently won the contract on the biggest building we've ever done, and another big job not long after that (and another one that looks very promising coming up).  So that means some of the pressure is off about paying the bills etc.  I'm very thankful to the partners in the firm that we managed to stick it out through the lean times, and keep on pushing ahead towards recovery.

Another interesting happening is that I was appointed to the Trumbull County Metroparks board.  One of the retiring board members, familiar with me through my work on the North Park trails, nominated me for the post, and in December I was sworn in.  I have no illusions about the job - things happen slowly, and progress has to be planned carefully.  But I think that we have an amazing county park system for the population we have, and am excited to be able to be a small part of continuing the improvements that we've seen in the last ten years.

With the calendar heading towards spring, and the inevitable return of warm weather, I'll probably be way more likely to get out and ride.  Which means that I won't be likely to go another two months between posts.