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Friday, February 26, 2016

THE LEGEND OF THE WHITE SQUIRREL, Vol. 6: REBIRTH -- February 26, 2016

 With my new found sense of self worth, and a new sense of confidence in myself , White Squirrel emerged again in the fall of 2010.   The team; however, had a much different make up, which, over the next three years, would evolve and change even more.  

Between 2010 & 2013, Billy Graves, Pete Lobianco, Chris Keller, Tim Sindlinger, Kevin Hardy, and Dave Raymond were, at one point, members of Team White Squirrel -- French Creek State Park, July of 2010
In September of 2010, I entered Team White Squirrel in the Wildlands Adventure Race at Blue Marsh Lake with the expectation of having fun...and winning the race.   We had five experienced mountain bikers and an accomplished marathon runner on our team.   I realized in earlier races, that just having a team of good mountain bikers was not going to win the race...we needed runner.  Pete was that guy.  Two of my former brother-in-laws, Kevin & Billy, were with me...and so was Chris Keller.  I don't know where to begin with Chris....I think my wife puts it best.  When you look at Chris all you see is kindness.  He is, from what I've experienced, an amazing husband, father, family man, and friend.  He also is one of the best damn mountain bikers I've ever met.  White Squirrel was definitely back!  

Pre-Race fun.  Chris Keller, Billy Graves, David Raymond, Kevin Hardy, Pete Lobianco -- September 26, 2010.
Looking back on it, this race was special to me for so many reasons.  I felt good and I felt happy.  There is no substitute for that feeling...and it was nice to finally experience it again.  This race was also one of the muddiest races I ever participated in.  I remember arriving that morning and noticing that the lake looked as if it had just been drained.   I've seen this before at Lake Redman.  The surface looks as though you could walk across it...but trust me...you can't.  I moment I saw it I said to Chris, "It's going to be a muddy mess today!"  We moved fast that day and worked well together.  Really well.  As a team we pushed on through whatever suffering and punishment that Butch Ulrich could dole out.  We crossed the finish line 3 hours, 35 minutes, and 24 seconds later and won first place in the Male 5 Man Team Division.  

Pulling Pete up the hill during the mountain bike iditarod -- September 26, 2010
I got sucked waste deep in the newly drained part of Blue Marsh Lake.  Thanks, Butch!  -- September 26, 2010
More team work -- September 26, 2010
First Place Male 5 Man Team P. Lobianco, D. Raymond, K. Hardy, B. Graves, & C. Keller -- September 26, 2010
For the next three and a half years, White Squirrel raced and performed pretty well...literally finishing first in 2011 & 2012 at Wildlands, making up some serious ground and finishing fifth in the 2011 French Creek Fling after suffering a horrible mechanical problem two minutes into the mountain biking section of the race, and three consecutive impressive showings at the Cushion Peak Adventure Race in 2011, 2012, & 2013.  The constant in all of those races, but one, was Chris Keller.  Like Kristian Hains before him, I found that he and I worked well together and raced well together.  I also began to include my family in a few of the races.  The Wildlands race, in particular, required a transition crew.  My wife, my father, my step-mother, Mary Jane, and my son, Alex formed the best transition crew ever!  Surrounded by my friends...my family...and doing the thing that I loved, made me feel so complete.
Team White Squirrel (Dave Raymond & Chris Keller) Cushion Peak -- April 17, 2011
Team White Squirrel Transition Crew (Robin Arnold, Alex Raymond, David M. Raymond) -- September 25, 2011
I love my wife, Robin, so much.  She insisted that I didn't have mud on my face during the 2011 Wildlands Race -- September 25, 2011
Dave Raymond of Team White Squirrel completing the boulder climb at Cushion Peak -- April 21, 2012
Butch with his bullhorn.  A common sight at one of his adventure races -- September 25, 2011
Chris Keller and Robin Arnold enjoying a post race victory meal after the 2012 Wildlands race -- September 30, 2012
Chris Keller and David Raymond.  Wildlands Adventure Race -- September 30, 2012
Team White Squirrel Transition Crew (Mary Jane Black, Robin Arnold, & Alex Raymond) -- September 30, 2012
David Raymond at Wildlands Adventure Race -- September 25, 2011
Butch overseeing the suffering that he is dishing out.  In the background you can see Team White Squirrel's transition crew:  Robin Arnold, Alex Raymond, and David M. Raymond -- September 25, 2011
Team White Squirrel (David Raymond & Chris Keller) at the 2012 Cushion Peak race -- April 21, 2012
David Raymond turning pedals at Cushion Peak -- April 21, 2012
Team White Squirrel (Chris Keller & David Raymond) getting pre-race directions at Cushion Peak -- April 20, 2013
Team White Squirrel (Chris Keller & David Raymond) at the conclusion of the 2013 Cushion Peak Race -- April 20, 2013
From the outset, I knew that telling the story of the White Squirrel would be difficult.  For me, it is a story of joy, excitement, and adventure....followed by despair, desperation, and searching.  But it also is a story of rediscovery, acceptance, connection, and love.  In the years since, people have asked me if I would ever go back and change anything...would I do anything different to avoid the heartache that I experienced.  The answer is always a quick NO.  Even though I do regret the way I handled some relationships, I wouldn't change it.   Those decisions, and the consequences of those decisions, have made me into the man that I am today.  

White Squirrel's last race was in 2013...for no other reason than the fact that we had all decided that we just wanted to ride our bikes.  That's what we do now.  Time with friends, on our bikes, having fun...that's why I started this blog in the first place...to share that experience with whoever felt compelled to read about it.  Thank you, Butch Ulrich, for your work organizing and putting on the races.  I had an amazing time and will never forget it.

I don't get to see Kristian Hains too much anymore.  He has young children and he, rightfully, spends his time with his family.  Last I talked to him, he had sold all of his bikes.  I sent a link of these writings to his wife.  She emailed me and let me know that Kristian had read them and liked them.  I miss him and wish him and his family nothing but the best.  Maybe someday he'll get another mountain bike and head out on the trails with me.  

Mark Lentz and I are still best friends.  He and I don't get to see each other as much, but we still ride together often and our friendship has only gotten stronger.   He would give me the shirt off of his back.  Thank you, Mark.

Tim Sindlinger has been my riding partner from the beginning.  As of this writing, he is at the tail end of recovering from neck surgery and should be ready to get back out on the trails with me by April.  

Mikey Nardelli, who I mentioned in Vol. 1, no longer rides.  We've maintained our friendship and we still keep in contact.  He's happy...and that's all that counts.   

Like Kristian, I don't see Glenn Medice much anymore.  I regret the way I handled our relationship the most.  Glenn is a great teacher, father, and husband.  Every once in a while he and I will run into each other in passing.  Our conversations are pleasant and nice.  I have nothing but fantastic and happy memories of our escapades together.  

Chris Keller and I still ride together...but Chris, like we all should, keeps family first.  Oh...and hunting.  I don't see him much during hunting season.  

There are others who I didn't mention in my White Squirrel series that deserve a lot of thanks.  In particular, Jay Zech.  He is the owner of Gung Ho Bikes.  The shop became a hang out and then a sanctuary for me.  Jay, without even knowing it, reassured me while I was at the lowest points that things would get better and offered to help in any way.  Thank you, Jay.  

Finally, I need to thank my wife Robin, who saved me.  I need to thank my son, Alex, who has been by my side since the day he was born.  And I need to thank my father who has always been there and who has loved me unconditionally.  I love all of you so much.  (That means you, too, Mary Jane!)

Life is a journey, not a destination.


David A. Raymond -- February 26, 2016