Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Now it feels like winter

We finally have snow - about 1/2" of it.  And though the temperature is below 20 degrees right now, the forecast says that it will be up in the 40's in a couple of days.  So there's no real hope that the ground will freeze up any time soon and transform the singletrack from soupy unrideable bogs into grippy, frozen trails o' fun.  The thing then is - how long will it stay cold before the snowfall gets deep enough that you can't ride again?  I'm usually good up to about 4" of loose snow, less if it's wet.  Last winter we had over 6" of snow for over a month, and it was a long, dismal time.

We had our Christmas festivities on Sunday morning.  Kenny got a bunch of stuff, and seemed to be very satisfied.  We decided he didn't need another THIRD video game system, but we got him some games.  And he also got a ton of camping and backpacking equipment, to prepare him for this spring when he'll be changing from Webelos to Boy Scouts.  He got a bunch of other stuff too - a virtual heap of toys and clothes.

Then around noon, after all the presents had been opened, my brother showed up.  And he brought a bike with him - one that my wife had bought for me without me knowing.  I'd looked at it at the bike shop, but was actually considering one that was much less expensive.  But now I'm the proud owner of a new 2010 Gary Fisher Mullet - super heavy duty aluminum frame, mechanical disc brakes front and back, killer Bomber DJ front fork - in short the best bike I've ever owned.

It's great to have a new bike.  I'd been riding my wife's Trek for the few rides around town I'd managed since the cervical collar came off.  It's a nice bike, but it's definitely a little bit big for me.  I'd thought that the solution to my broken fork:

was going to be taking the fork off of my old Trek 820 and putting it on the 4300.  But now I have this new super heavy duty bike, and I'm about ready to get out and ride.

And I mean on dirt.  Kenny and I went out for a ride around the neighborhood on Christmas afternoon, and I got a chance to check it out - jumping off curbs, riding down some hills, doing a couple of small drops.  It was nice to get out and ride a little (and it pointed out how out of shape I am after two months of recuperating) but it just made me want to get out on the trail.

I tried again the next day, going for a quick ride around town with an more of an eye for features.  I did a couple of ride downs, a short stairs, jumped off a 2-1/2' loading dock, rode over some rocks, caught some air off of some buckled pavement in a closed shopping center...   It's amazing how many things can be turned into features if you start looking for them.

And of course I've been wearing my helmet without fail.

I'm not TOTALLY stupid.

I've been working on a map project since I had my accident - a mountain bike guide to the Allegheny National Forest area.  It will include a large (24"x36") map that shows the concentrated singletrack areas and also the gravel forest service roads and the gated oil and timber roads.  Then for each of the singletrack areas there will be a smaller map (either 8-1/2x11 or 11x17) that will show the trails, topo lines, hazards etc.  The goal here is to provide something that will be useful not only for cross country riders who want to find a place to get in a decent loop, but to bikepackers who want to string together a longer trip with singletrack, ATV trails, gravel roads & jeep trails.  There's a lot of work to do, but I've got a really good start.  Makes me wish I could take the bike and GPS over there and start some exploring on my own.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last day of fall

Tomorrow the is the winter solstice - when the ship turns around and heads back from the dark towards the light.  The astronomy portion of the weather says that tomorrow will be 0 min 0 sec shorter than today, so I guess they're both tied for the shortest day.  And then on Friday there will be a few seconds more sunlight, and then more and more every day after that.  Never mind that it's the first day of winter - that I can deal with.

I spent four hours last night putting new pads on an alto saxophone for my boy.  It's been a long time since I've done that type of work, and I was a bit out on a limb, but it turned out good.

We've had another two day stretch of rain, and the creeks are a risin'.  The gauge on Oil Creek is cresting just short of 7 feet, so East Sandy Creek would be prime tomorrow.  And Slippery Rock Creek is cresting at above 3,000 cfs, so Bear Creek would be running tomorrow.  Not for me though - I'm out of vacation hours and have a pretty good head cold.

I did stop down at Mill Creek and look at the Forbidden Wave.  It was looking even better than last time.  I took a picture with my hat sitting on the block to give it scale, but that cut stone is a bit longer than four feet.

And here's my first attempt to post video on the blog - a short pan of Mill Creek at the wave.

You can see it's not a killer wave, but it would be nice enough to surf.  Next time I'll take a couple of pictures of the Marshall Street wave on the Mahoning River.  It's washed out at this level, but at a little bit lower levels it makes a nice wave - longer and wider than Mill Creek.  Just have to be brave enough to get out in that Mahoning River water (not known for it's cleanliness or pristine riverbed).

Merry Christmas to everyone - including the people in Germany, Russia, Romania and Ukraine that my stats page say are readers.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Back in the saddle

That's right, back in the saddle - just in time for winter to assert itself.  Kind of unfortunate, but such is life.

I'm back at 100% by now, with just a little bit of soreness in my neck.  But with the front shock of my bike pretty much trashed I needed to get something into the shop.

I took a bike in to Thumm's earlier in the week to get the rear derailleur replaced.  Instead of replacing the whole derailleur, the guys managed to just put in a few spare parts and get it back on the road for only a third of what I'd expected.  I also talked to them about taking the front fork off of my old Trek 820 and put it on the 4300 to replace the broken fork.  The consensus is that it would probably work, but I'll have to bring both frames in for them to take a look and make sure.  It would be nice to get some more use out of the hulk of the old 820, but I'm not counting on it happening till it's done.

They have a nice Trek Marlin 29er at the shop.  Disc brakes.  Green & black (my favorite color combo).  Sweet.  Really makes me wish I was able to get a new bike about now.

After I got the bike back I went out for a quick 8 mile ride around town.  And I did wear a helmet - something I hardly ever used to do.  I was glad to see that my legs felt just fine, and that I felt like I could have gone on for a lot longer when I headed home.

But I'm really kind of over riding around town.  Getting the crap knocked out of my skull made me avidly never want to repeat the experience.  And riding on the rail trail is an experience of its own - nothing to distract your attention, mindless focus on the pedal stroke with no challenge on the surface - about as far from the mountain bike experience as you can get.  When I do ride on the rail trail I find myself focusing on just speed and keeping up the fastest pace that I can.

And then there's the seat thing.  When you're mountain biking you're hardly in the seat - dealing with terrain demands a reactionary, dynamic position in order to overcome the different obstacles.  With that much movement your rear end doesn't spend the whole time on the seat.  But road riding, especially on a very uniform surface like the rail trail, lets you climb on the bike and just pedal, with no need to ever lift out of the seat.  For me at least, that extended seat time is where the worst discomfort of bicycling stems from.  If I go out and spend a couple of hours riding on the rail trail, I have to remember to break it up and not just grind out the miles.  Sometimes I'll take it off the pavement and ride a section on the grass, to remind me to get out of the saddle for a while.  Or just put in a mile standing up every five miles - that seems to help.  But really the whole thing is just a series of compromises - what I really want is to be on singletrack.

Saturday I went and did a little bit of trail work early.  It had snowed a bit, but the ground wasn't frozen so the work was limited.  I did dig out a bunch of little stumps from the tread, and then cut a bit of brush to extend the new corridor out further. 

I could tell that there was no way that any singletrack in our area would be rideable - it was saturated and unfrozen.  I thought I'd head out to West Branch, park at the Antisocial Acess Area and ride down Cable Line through the trail area and out to the end of the reservoir.  But I hadn't counted on the sheer numbers of hunters out this weekend.  I started seeing them as soon as I passed the park office near the dam - trucks parked on the side of the road with camo & orange clad guys carrying guns.  On the short one mile section of dead end leading back to the A.A.A. there were 17 trucks parked.  I figured there was no way I was going to be riding anywhere near that many people with guns, even if it was out on the road.

That kind of put a damper on the day, since the other area I was thinking of riding was also in a hunting area.  So I decided to head in to Youngstown and ride the road in Mill Creek Park.  There are two roads that are great for biking - one that was closed in one lane, and one that was totally closed.  I went out to East Cohassett Drive (the closed one) and rode around for a while.

It was pretty nice back there. It wasn't long enough distance to really be a ride, though I did extend it by riding off into the neighborhoods in a couple of places (but it can be pretty shady back in some of those streets for sure).  You can tell that it doesn't get much use.  It would be an excellent place for a mountain bike club to come in and build some trails - a place only accessible by bike or foot where there isn't any other activity.  I may float another letter to the Park and see what they think.

The one place where the roads from the neighborhoods dead ended on Cohassett I rode up past a big beautiful abandoned old house. It was surrounded by old spruce trees that had to be a hundred feet tall.  On the way back past I noticed there was a flock of about a dozen turkeys in the back yard, slowly going through the tall grass in the lawn as they moved back towards the park.  Amazing that the neighborhood is that empty, but that seems to be Youngstown in the 21st century.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

December's Essence

Fancy title for a blog post.  But after this weekend I'm thinking about the essential definition of December - cold.  This weekend we finally had the ground freeze, with temps in the low teens Friday and Saturday night.  I guess we're really lucky to have had such good weather so far (virtually no snow yet) but the temps are starting to lower and the inevitable is sneaking up on us.

I took off the cervical collar for good last week on Monday.  My neck was pretty sore at first, after 6 weeks of relying on the collar for support.  But after three or four days of wearing it an hour on and an hour off the strength returned enough that I felt comfortable without it.  So now I have another medical appliance to put up in the top of the closet with the rest of the collection.

I'd hoped to get out on my bike this weekend.  Saturday afternoon I had a little bit of time, and despite the 35 degree temperatures I thought I'd go for a short ride.  I got my helmet and pack together and went out to get on the bike.  I rode about 3 feet before it was obvious something was wrong with it.  I'd checked it out a day or two after I got out of the hospital and thought it was fine.  I must have been pretty heavily medicated to make that judgement, though I didn't actually get on the bike at that time.  But now that I got on it I could tell that I bent the hell out of the front fork.  The tire was way up under the handlebars, making it nearly impossible to steer, and my toes would hit the front tire when my pedal stroke brought them to the front.  So now I have four bikes in the garage and basement and every single one of them is broken.  I'm going to get at least one of them in the shop this week so that I can ride next weekend.

Kenny and I were on our own this week for trail work  - not another person showed up.  Of course it was 22 degrees, so that might have had something to do with it.  Anyway we decided to try to dig up some more rocks from our little cache in the gully.  We added another half dozen good sized rocks, mostly around 150 - 200 pounds, but with one backbuster that had to be at least 300 pounds.  We also rigged up the block and tackle to see if we could use it to help haul the rocks up the embankment.  It took a lot more effort than I'd hoped, and didn't work that well.  But if we can't come up with a better way to move them it will have to do.  I'll have to check with Bernie and see if he has a come along - that may be a better solution.

I went out to West Branch to walk around on Friday and on Sunday, and I went and did trail work on Saturday and on Sunday.  Then I went for a nice brisk 4.5 mile hike with my brother down Hell's Hollow in McConnells Mill State Park over by New Castle, PA.  It's just so good to be out of that damned collar, and I'm so glad to have been able to recover in two months from such a scary event.  I hope to be able to return to my previous habits, riding and paddling whenever I get the chance, but right now I'm still on the rebound and need to get body and mind together and ready to hit it again.  I hope to get a bike out on either the trail or road by next weekend.

Ten days till the winter solstice - and then the days start getting longer again.  That's always a major psychological thing for me - to see more daylight coming each day.  Of course it's also the first day of winter, so the bad weather is still mostly ahead.  But that's usually not too bad, and we seem to manage to find a way to have fun.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Kenny and I went to trail work this morning at 9:00.  It was below freezing when we got there, with a layer of frost on everything.

Nobody else was there when we showed up, so we busied ourself with the continuing job of cleaning the growth off of the overgrown road while we waited.

This road will remain closed, but we'd like it cleared all the way down so that we can use it as an access for paddlers to carry their canoes and kayaks back to the creek.  We'd like to put in two boat racks along the way, so that the long carry can be broken up with a rest at the racks.  So we need to get all the weeds off the top and cut back the brush from the sides.  Bernie took over the job once he got there and cleared off another 50 feet.

Kenny and I went on back to the corner back by the apartments and started digging rocks up out of the ground.  This is one of the few places on the property where we've seen any rocks, so I thought we should get as much out of the ground as possible before it freezes up. That way we'll have some work to do moving rocks to where they're needed when the ground is frozen and we can't do much else.

This is the first weekend that I've been able to do any work since I had my accident.  It's been more than six weeks, so I can start easing out of the routine of wearing the cervical collar.  I've been taking it off for an hour or two at a time to get used to it again, but my neck is kind of week from all the time being supported by the brace.  So I knew I'd be able to do some real work day, and moving rocks was it.  I did wear the cervical collar while I worked, just for the added sense of security, but there was no problem all day.

We started at a spot where there were several rocks sticking up through the leaves.  Most of them looked to be fairly small, but we'll take whatever we can get.  Once we got to work with the shovels, pick and rockbar we were both pretty surprised to see how big they actually were.  We worked on one 10' x 15' section of ground, and pulled out at least a ton of rock, much of it 100 pounds or bigger.  And though there were some big, roundish rocks, much of it was flat enough that it will make great armoring.  We worked for about two hours, and then walked the back of the loop, pulling up flagging as we went along.  We came across Bernie on the way, walking the trail with the backpack leaf blower and clearing the tread.  Even though there were only  the three of us this weekend we did manage to get a decent amount done.

By the way, I got an email from the new CAMBA president asking what was going on with the trails down at Beaver Creek, and suggesting that maybe they could come down and help with the trail work.  I did notice that CAMBA doesn't have any big trail project this winter (though they may be pitching in on the Cleveland Metroparks trail being built), so they might be able to get some members down there to work.

I got what I think is the best picture since I started doing my Picture of the Day at the beginning of November.

I'm pretty happy how this shot turned out, though I don't know if I've learned enough to be able to duplicate it.  But I do think that on average I'm starting to take better pictures.  Give me another ten years and maybe I'll be getting decent shots regularly.  This one turned out pretty good too, I think.

With this being the week that I'm starting to get away from the cervical collar, I'm thinking that next weekend I'm going to try to step out for a bit.  I'm thinking about an easy bike ride, but maybe some kayaking or canoeing would be nice - I guess it will depend on the weather.  But I'm glad that I'm almost over with this fractured skull business - it's not been ANY fun at all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Behold the Forbidden Wave!

I know no one wants to read a blog to hear someone complaining.  And I can't stand those people who complain about how cold it is all winter, then bitch about how hot it is all summer.  But I gotta say - I really hate the last half of November thru the middle of December. 

The sun comes up just before I get to work, and sets before I get off.  That's what really gets me.  Maybe I need a set of night vision goggles to wear.  Not that it would do any good this year - I'm still laid up with my head injury.

About that - the doctor said to wear the cervical collar for six to eight weeks.  Today is six weeks.  So TECHNICALLY I could take the thing off today and be done with it.  But I'm only going to take it off for sleeping at first, and try to wear it during the day for the full eight weeks.  We'll see how that turns out.  I'm itchin' to get out and have some adventures.

Had a LOT of rain here, with even more in western Pennsylvania.  This is rain following previous rain, so the ground is saturated.  And looking at the gauges, with more rain today - I can tell that Deer Creek will definitely be runnig tomorrow.  That's one of my favorite Allegheny gorge creeks - maybe THE favorite.  It's only about 3.5 miles run but has something like 24 class II to easy class III rapids.  I love this run and have paddled it a couple dozen times over the years.  And I've never seen another boater here, except the few times that I've brought someone else along with me.  I compare it with the dam release run on the North Branch Potomac - it's about the same level of difficulty and fun, but actually has more rapids.  And it has a pair of really cool surfing waves down near the end - deep, long ones that can give you a great ride, or grab you and kick your butt.

And here's the kicker - TECHNICALLY I'm cleared to go do stuff as of today.  So TECHNICALLY I could load up my car with gear and head over there first thing in the morning tomorrow before heading in to work.  I can not express the amount of frustration that doing the smart thing is causing me.  I am going to be going nuts tomorrow while sitting at my desk working, knowing that the creek is running and I'm missing it.

One more thing with there being so little daylight - it's hard to get any decent pictures if there isn't any sunlight when your only picture taking opportunities occur.  So I headed out to Mill Creek Park again today at lunch to take pictures of the forbidden wave at it's absolute best.

The forbidden wave is a great little surfing wave on Mill Creek.  It's usually nothing, but at the right flow it looks like you could have some fun.

It's got a cut stone wall along one bank at the picnic area, with woods on the other side.

This is the only whitewater creek in Mahoning County and it's closed to paddlers, on the authority of the Mill Creek Metroparks - even though only the state of Ohio has the authority to do that.  And if they see you paddling, they will call the police and have you arrested.  Pretty bogus.  Just another case of the man trying to keep a brother down.  Anyway, I promise this is my last post criticizing Mill Creek Park.

It looks like the weather is taking the turn towards winter this week.  We're going to have some snow flurries tomorrow (no, that's not a reason to stay home from paddling or riding) and it's going to be staying below freezing at night.  If that keeps on happening it won't take long before the ground freezes and trail work pretty much comes to a halt for the year.  Hopefully it will hold off for at least a couple of weeks so that I can get this neck brace off and do some work.

Man, I swear - I'm soooo close to heading out to go paddling tomorrow.  Must.  Do.  The. Smart. Thing.

EDIT:  I did the smart thing and went to work and am none the happier for it.  Such is life.

Friday, November 25, 2011


We had our Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday evening, since Diana had to work both jobs on the actual day.  So my mom came over and we had a big dinner - the things that we a associate with the holiday.  And my wife took Kenny for some holiday shopping on Thanksgiving night - this is what she associates with the holiday (too bad - don't we have enough other opportunities to be consumers?)

On Thankgiving day Kenny and I went out to the North Road Nature Preserve and spent two hours in the woods flagging the new trail.  It's great that we start to move into a more mature, open woods as we get closer to the creek.  There is a pretty good variety of mature deciduous trees back in there.

We also managed to run the trail right beside this ancient apple tree that's growing back in there.  This thing is awesome - it looks like some sort of ancient "wizard tree", all twisted and weird.  Very cool to be able to bring the trail that way.

We had the usual tough time trying to pick a line between the soft area and the refuse back there, but we did manage to get in what I hope is a decent line.  It moves us further towards the creek banks, plus it gives us access to one of the few areas that has a decent supply of rocks.  Once we get the trail done another 200 yards from the existing trail we'll be able to move our trail wagon down there and start moving some of the big rocks to the wet areas that really need them.

This is a picture from Mill Creek Park, the metropark for Youngstown, Ohio (where I work).

Look at that beautiful trail beside the creek.  Notice the fantastic quality of the stonework, originally done by CCC & WPA workers during the depression.  Then notice the "NO BIKES" sign - there are no trails open to bikes in the whole park, which is over 4400 acres.  And then look at the creek (the only whitewater in the county) - it's also closed to paddlers.  Closed to paddlers despite the fact that state law says that it should be open and that the local parks don't have the authority to ban paddlers from navigable waterways.

For some reason this attitude is big in our area - the parks are being PRESERVED for the PUBLIC, but they can't actually be USED by them.  So we have big areas of land (including a 900 + acre part of Mill Creek Park) that are totally closed to everyone.  And trails that you aren't allowed to ride a bike on (ask the guys up in Cleveland what they think about that particular position).  And creeks that you aren't allowed to boat on.  I've complained to these guys for 15 years, and there is no sign of them easing up.  There are no places to legally ride a mountain bike in Mahoning County, yet this huge park won't even open up ONE trail.  Ridiculous.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nine hours of light a day

The sun rises at nearly 7:30 in the morning and sets before 5:00 in the afternoon.  So it's mostly dark by the time I get off work.  The temperatures have been slowly dropping, but we're pretty lucky so far to have had a number of really beautiful days.  It's usually not the weather that gets to me anyway, it's the dark.  But we're only a month out from the winter solstice, so the amount of daylight we lose each day is slowing down and soon we'll be gaining light again.  Then it's just the endurance contest that is waiting for spring to come.

We had trail work day again this Saturday morning.  Bernie already had his bench installed at the junction of the entry trail to the loop.  He donated the materials, built it himself, hauled it into the woods singlehanded, and set it in concrete.  Heck of a job and it makes a great place to set and rest.

He's already suggested that he'd like to put in another bench, and we've looked at at a nice spot back by the crabapple grove.  He's already made such an impact on this project, and now he's going even further.  I really appreciate having a great guy like him associated with our project.

We also started laying the rocks on the tread.  There's an area that had a bunch of flagstone type sandstone buried in the dirt, so we dug out a bunch and moved it on down the trail.  This weekend Dave James, his son and another scout tackled the job with me.  We laid all the stone that we had stockpiled - one section about 25 feet long and then another section about 10 feet long.  I'll be back in there digging out more rocks, and we'll see if we can get another stockpile and then do another section.  Next week we may start on the real rock work - laying a path across the swale at the top of the trail loop.  We already have a ton or so of rock sitting there, along with a bunch of smaller stuff.  We may have to move some dirt as well, but it shouldn't be that hard to get a nice sustainable tread.

Took a bunch of pictures this week.  Got a couple of a the home of a disgruntled Ohioan in the boonies north of us.

Look at the beautiful brickwork on this old building in Youngstown.  They certainly don't do work like that any longer.

Took a few shots of the abandoned (??) church out by Silica Sands.  It looks like the steeple is starting to slip off the top of the building - much like that old church just north of Lickingville, PA.

I've been trying to take some shots at just after sunset, when the sky is getting dark but still has some light.

Northeast Ohio in November.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Trail work and campouts

We had another trail work day on Saturday, November 5 at the North Road Nature Preserve.  Quite a few people showed up to work - Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts, plus Bernie of course.  We got quite a bit done - enough that it's easy to hike the loop now, even if it's not all perfect yet.  I was limited to what work I could do because I'm still in the neck brace, but I did start flagging a new line for the trail to the creek that the park board approved last month.

After trail work, at noon there was a ribbon cutting held by the Trumbull County Metroparks.  The local politicians were there and we had a short ceremony.  Hopefully the Warren Tribune will be enough on the ball to get the photo in the newspaper soon - it's been a week and still nothing.  But it makes no real difference, we'll be continuing with our trail building as long as the weather cooperates.  Bernie and I were back out there this Saturday hauling rocks.  Can't wait till I'm back to 100% and can really get some work done.

Also had some bad news this week.  One of my old friends from way back passed on the news via my brother - his wife had a tooth pulled Friday and was found dead on Saturday morning.  She was only 43 and there were no signs anything was wrong.  It's just so devastating to see a young mother taken away from here son and husband.  Bill and Tony have been on my mind a lot this week.  I hope to stop and talk to Bill this next week after the hub bub dies down a bit.

And we had our first snow fall of the year this week.  Not liking that even one bit.

Kenny and I went down to Tomlinson Run State Park near New Cumberland, West Virginia to join Boy Scout Troop 101 for a campout.  The weather was great and Kenny had a great time with the boys.  That troop runs like a machine and the boys are really an integral part of what is going on.  We were both really impressed by the way they do things.  It got pretty cold at night, but we had enough gear that we both managed to keep warm.  I'm betting that this is the troop that Kenny chooses to go to next year.

Another couple of quick photos.  One is from todays drive with King Dave - someone failed to stop at the intersection and the tire tracks tell the tale.  The other is just a photo of the silver bridge at Mill Creek in Youngstown.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Time passes slowly

Well, it's been a slow (read: boring) week. 

I'm still wearing the cervical collar and it's about driving me nuts.  Imagine wearing a bucket on your head all day and you'll have some idea of what it's like.  Totally irritating, uncomfortable, restricts your vision (can't turn your neck to look to the side) - just a real pain in the butt. 

I went to the doctor earlier in the week for a progress report.  He didn't do a scan or xray or anything, just checked on how I was feeling.  He showed me a spine & skull model to pinpoint where I was injured.  The tiny jelly bean sized protuberances on the very base of the skull, where it rests against the top vertebrae, are where the fracture occured.  He said it was a hairline fracture with no displacement, which is how I managed to get away without having to have a steel halo drilled into my skull for two months.  Of course when you look at that possibility I sound like a cry baby whining about wearing a cervical collar.  He said I'll have to wear it for 8 weeks - so according to my calendar that means on December 13 I'm going to be able to take it off.  Oh, and I found out that when I was so irritated that the doctor never even stopped in to see me when I was in the hospital - he did come in and discuss the situation.  I was just so loopy from the concussion and the morphine that I totally don't remember it.

I've also managed to get a cold, which doesn't help the general situation.  A bunch of people at work were sick in the last week or two, so it's not really surprising but that doesn't make it any more fun.  And since I've been sick I've been having a TERRIBLE time sleeping at night.  It doesn't take too many nights of nearly no sleep before you feel like a piece of chewed gum.  I'm probably going to see if I can get some antibiotics next week.

My cousin Barb, who lives down in North Carolina now, is competing in her first Ironman competition down in Florida this weekend.  She's been training like a pro all summer and seems to be as ready as possible.  It's such a grueling event, and to have to be doing the whole thing with the crowd of other competitors - totally intimidating.  My hat goes off to her - total admiration for taking on such a challenge and facing it with such determination.  I'm sure she'll do great!

Kenny took the Picture of the Day for today.  I decided it's not against the rules, because I'm making up the rules as I go along (makes things a lot easier - I may start doing that for other stuff on a daily basis as needed).  I call this one "protecting the wounded".

Monday, October 31, 2011

North Road trail work day

Saturday morning was trail work day at the North Road Nature Preserve, and despite still being in recovery mode I really had to be there.  I might not be able to do much work, but I have the tools so if I don't show up then nobody else can work either.  And it was a good thing I hauled my lumpy ol' self out there - we had ten people total working!

Van and his son were there to earn some Boy Scout community service hours, along with two other scouts and three other parents.  Carol wasn't there (some Girl Scout event I believe) but her husband Frank showed up, along with my buddy Bernie.

I handed out the tools and showed the scouts what had to be done - raking and scraping, pulling weeds and hacking out stumps.  They started working at the end of the finished tread and kept on pushing it out further, with Frank working with them (he's been there enough that he has a pretty good idea what is going on).  I'd thought I would just rake the leaves off the finished tread, but Bernie had a great new backpack leaf blower that cleaned the wet leaves right off the tread in a heart beat.

So I scouted out the edge of the area bulldozed back in the '60's.  It's amazing how easy you can spot the edge of the excavated area, even with the woods grown in.  I did find one area where it looks like they got into a rocky, flagstone type rock.  Much of it is buried, but I still managed to find quite a bit of rock (small enough to pick up without worrying about injuring myself) and carried it to a stockpile on the trail.

By the end of the day the scouts had halved the unfinished trail length - a lot of good work from the boys.  One of the park board members stopped in at the end of the day to check on progress - I think they're pretty happy with our work.  It's so great to see new volunteers show up and work, especially in rainy, chill weather like we had.

After posting the picture of Kenny in his zombie soldier costume I thought it would be nice to have a couple of pictures of him looking a little bit more normal.

I may be a little biased, but he sure is a handsome kid.  We're pretty lucky to have such a good natured, caring kid - and smart, too.  Gotta count those blessings...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's not easy doing nothing...

I've found this out over the last couple of years, while healing from various injuries - doing nothing is not easy.  When you're used to being active, and want to be out there every day - laying around can be very difficult.  Here I am ten days into recovery and I'm already half going nuts.  Okay, two thirds going nuts.

I did manage to wait a week before going down in the basement and riding the stationary bike.  I was wondering how much worse it would make my head hurt.  Turns out that as long as I don't bob around too much that it doesn't really bother me.   The worse part (besides the boredom of riding a stationary bike in the basement compared to riding singletrack in the woods) is that the cervical collar is pretty warm.  It has a layer of foam over the inside to keep the plastic from digging into your neck, and that foam acts as a pretty good insulator once you start excercising and generating heat.

At least I had the forethought (read: luck) to ask for a second set of pads, so that I can change out the sweaty ones for fresh.  Then a quick rinse out with hot water and I'm ready for the next time.  I hope to be able to talk myself into riding the Basement Bike at least four times a week while I'm recovering.  Actually 7 days a week is more like what I should do, but I'll settle for four.

One other thing - injure yourself a couple of times and people start to treat you kind of like you're stupid.  As in "If you keep on hurting yourself and don't give up - you must be a moron."  I don't see it like that at all.  I've never been one to give up just because I'm not the best in the world.  As long as you really enjoy what you're doing - and can afford to keep on taking chances - then keep on pushing baby.  But this accident streak is starting to remind me of the that bad luck thing I had going back in high school - I think that one was four years long.  But I intend to become so ridiculously safety oriented now that another accident will be even more unlikely.  So this is it - the end of the accident streak.  No more.  No way.

Kenny was a zombie soldier for the Cub Scout Halloween party tonight.  I did his make-up myself and I'm glad to say that it turned out way better than I'd expected.  He was one of the scarier kids there, that's for sure!  He definitely looks like he has that zombie stare!

One more thing - I went to the Trumbull Metroparks Board meeting this afternoon, and they approved the next section of trail for over at North Road Nature Preserve.  We're pretty close to finishing the first part, and now we'll be able to move right on to the second phase.   Yeah!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Slippery Rock Creek

It was a beautiful weekend here, with temps in the low 60's and mostly blue skies.  The kind of weekend where you look out the window and wish you were out there on your bike.  Or in your boat.

But I'm grounded for a while to heal, so instead me and King Dave went for a little drive over to one of my favorite spots in western Pennsylvania, Slippery Rock Creek.  Over the last 20 years I've spent a LOT of time on this creek, paddling my kayak on the whitewater there.  The heart of the whitewater section is McConnells Mill State Park, where the creek enters a five mile long gorge.

Here's a picture of me surfing down there a couple of years ago.

But like I said, it's healing time now - no paddling.  My head is pretty much hurting all the time still, and the pain meds are too strong to use when you're out and about.  So we headed up to Cleland Rock, a "scenic vista" that's a bit away from the main part of the park, and is usually mostly empty.  There is a nice view down into the lower Gorge, with the fall colors showing across the valley sides.  But what I found interesting was the rock itself - and that's the Picture of the Day.

Even though it was only a short drive, and only lasted a couple of hours, it was good to get out in the air.  I have two months ahead where I won't be able to do much, so I'd better get used to it.  Maybe next weekend I'll be able to get in a little hike or something, or even go to supervise trail work.  Have to keep looking forward and have a positive outlook.

Kenny and I went out for a short walk on the new trail we're building over at North Road Nature Preserve yesterday morning.  The deer over there are using the new trail so much they're wearing in muddy spots.  Here's yesterday's Picture of the Day, showing Kenny's hand next to one of the bigger prints.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The accident - 2011 version

So I guess I have to at least touch on my latest accident, though I really don't feel like re-living it.

On Tuesday I got off work and headed home, picking up my two nieces, Jessica & Kayla, before heading home.  Once home I got my light on the bike and left Kenny and the girls so that I could go out and get in a quick ride around the neighborhood.  I've been trying to get in some sort of exercise every day, and it was nice enough to ride around the quiet suburban streets rather than sit on the stationary bike in the basement and ride.

I made a back & forth across the blocks, barely seeing a car on the road, knocking out some quick miles.  It was mostly dark when I came to the intersection at the top of our block - one of the few streets that I have to cross that actually has traffic.  I came down the sidewalk pretty quick to ride up over the grass strip and then out and across the road.  What I didn't see was that there was a fairly deep hole lurking against the curb on the other side of the grass strip.  So when I popped over the grass strip my front wheel dropped hard into the hole and I went over the bars.

Note:  I was not wearing a helmet.  This was wrong.  I've spent hours and hours and hours and hours wearing a helmet for kayaking and mountain biking.  I was wrong in assuming that just riding around my neighborhood would be safe and I wouldn't need a helmet.  You may roll your eyes with a totally appropriate "duh!" but I never even thought about it.  This was a LARGE mistake and cost me dearly.

It happened really fast.  I can remember heading down the sidewalk, but not the crash.  After that everything is really disjointed in my memory - flashes of images and sounds that don't connect to anything with blank spots in between.  When I went over the bars I landed on the pavement on my right temple and went unconscious.  Then I was laying on the ground and there were people around me, asking if I was okay.  I thought I'd just get up - my house was only a half block away - but I couldn't hardly move.  I remember a woman going back to her car and coming back with a child's sweat shirt to stop the bleeding on my head.  I got out my phone and called Kenny - told him I was in an accident and to get hold of Diana and tell her I was going to have to go the hospital.  Kenny did a good job - he didn't panic and got hold of Diana.  He and the girls heard the ambulance sirens and walked down the street to the accident site.  I don't remember seeing them, but they got my bike and pack and took them home.

Next thing I remember I was in an ambulance.  My head was killing me and I had blood all over.  The took me to St. Joseph's where people swarmed me like ants on sugar.  I don't remember any x-rays but they said they took them.  Next thing I new Diana was there, having taken off from work to find out what happened.  I had a big cut on my right eyebrow, and it turned out the doctor who stitched it up is the father of one of the Cub Scouts in the pack I help lead.  He put in 13 stitches - and I'd hoped that I'd be done and heading home.  But no....

The x-ray showed a fracture in the base of my skull, from all my weight coming down on my head.  So they loaded me in another ambulance and sent me to St. E's hospital in Youngstown.  There was an even bigger swarm of people waiting for me there - scary as hell.  After a more thorough examination they put me in a room for the night.  I'd fractured my skull  - not only across the base but around the orbit of my right eye.

They put me on morphine for the night, and I went out like a light.  The next morning I had an hour long MRI, which apparently showed no further damage.  Then I went back to my room and sat there for another day and a half - without ever seeing a doctor (except one who was interested in my sloppy left knee).  They finally let me out Thursday night and sent me home.  I went back to work the next morning.

And now I have to wear a cervical collar for two months.  That means I won't be doing ANYTHING - no mountain biking or road riding, no trail building, no kayaking, no camping, no hiking.  And that whole time I'm going to be thinking about what I should do when I heal.  This is my third serious injury from bicycling (though this one was pretty much a freak occurrence).  I'll be 49 in two months, and though I'm now in the best shape of my life I CANNOT TAKE THESE INJURIES ANY LONGER.  I'm not sure if that means that I'm going to be hanging up the bike or not, but I have a good long time to think about it while I heal.

Thanks to everyone who has sent sympathies and get-well wishes.  I appreciate it very much.  Though my head pretty much feels like a stomped pumpkin I'm doing okay and seem to have an easy recovery ahead of me.  It's just such a drag that this had to happen to me (again).  I guess that's what can happen when you're active.