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Monday, November 7, 2016

PEDALING THROUGH PEANUT BUTTER

It's a term that Mark and I use when the trails get sloppy, muddy, mucky, or just all around difficult.  It's a term I also use on the road when I have to ride straight into a head wind.  "It's like pedaling through peanut butter!"  I can remember a ride, probably back in '08 or '09, when Mark, Glenn, Mikey, and I went to Blue Marsh Lake on a January morning...a morning that was so damn cold we really had no good reason to be there.  The temps were in the low teens when we started out.  It was so cold that I couldn't talk....I mean it...my jaw was so frozen I couldn't form words!  Funny thing about that day was, by the the time we were two-thirds of our way through the 30 mile loop, the temps had risen to a balmy 40 degrees.  Those trails that were frozen solid at the beginning of our ride were now a melted muddy mess. There's no such thing as a bad mountain bike ride...but I look back on the end of that ride and all I can think of is that, for the last ten miles to the truck, I felt like I was pedaling through peanut butter!  

Talk about riding through peanut butter!  In the 2010 Wildland's Adventure Race (which we finished first in the Men's division) Butch sent us riding, wading, and practically swimming through this mess.  That's one of my teammates, Kevin Hardy, behind me -- September 26, 2010

The 2009 Wildlands Adventure Race was probably the muddiest I've ever been while riding.  Again, this was Butch's form of punishment.  I was in between bikes at the time so I had to borrow Kevin's bike for the race -- September 27, 2009

Even though Blue Marsh Lake has been the sight of some of the sloppiest rides I've ever been part of...thanks in no small part to the "suffering" that my friend, Butch Ulrich, plans for the participants of his adventure races...we've pedaled though peanut butter in plenty of other places.  From West Virginia, to North Carolina, to Jersey, to Maryland, to the local parks in our home county, we've navigated our fair share of muck and mud.  Here are just a few of my favorite peanut butter pics...

Mark and I taking a break from riding Plantation Trail near Blackwater Falls, West Virginia.  What a muddy, wet, mess!  I think this was Mikey's idea.  Love you, Mikey! -- June 2007

Our bikes after riding Plantation Trail in West Virginia.  Many bottom brackets had to be replaced after this trip! -- June 2007


Back in my racing days...plowing though a horrible mess at Fair Hill, Maryland -- April 2008


The drive train on my brand new 2008 Specialized Epic looked way too much like Sasquatch after the Marysville Relay Race -- April 2009


It was a toss up for Timmy and I on how to dress for this snowy, mucky, muddy ride in Swatara State Park.  He chose shorts...I stayed with the longs -- January 12, 2013


Packing up after a mud fest in Patapsco Valley State Park, Maryland -- July 2, 2013


"My machine she's a dud...I'm stuck in the mud...somewhere in the swamps of" Michaux State Forest.  Yes....this IS the trail -- October 12, 2015

...and Mark navigated that trail! -- October 12, 2015


I even got mud in my eye at Marysville!  That always boggles me...how can I get mud in the eye with my glasses on?  -- April 2009


Matt, one of the newest members of our crew, is apparently one of the smartest.  He brings his own pressurized shower with him in the back of his truck.  He's not cheating...he's just creatively winning!-- June 21, 2016


There have been plenty of road rides that also were "peanut butter-like."  Times I've raced storms home...times that, no matter which direction I turned, I was riding into the wind...and one road ride, in particular, that I will never forget.  It was Easter weekend 2012.  My wife, Robin, and I had been dating for more than a year and  half.  She was away for the part of the weekend with her girls so I decided to take an ambitious road ride.  I've always loved the sugar cookies at the Historic Round Barn west of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania...so off I went.  Forty miles into a steadfast and obnoxious head wind with nothing but the thoughts of sugar cookies dancing in my head.  Forty miles of road cycling through peanut butter just to find out that the Round Barn wouldn't be open for the season for another two weeks!  Part of  me felt like the south end of a horse headed north...but the other part of me was pretty darn proud of myself for pedaling against the wind for that long.  I came home, that day, through the Gettysburg National Military Park and then stopped for lunch at a Sheetz outside of town.  No sugar cookies...but never had an MTO tasted that good!  


Yes, 40 miles riding into the wind and all I got was a pic of my bike in front of a "closed for the season" Round Barn! -- April 6, 2012 

Living in Manchester, PA, the steam rising from the stack at PPL Power Plant serves as my wind gauge.  -- October 2012


A Wednesday evening road ride with a good friend whom I don't see nearly enough, Terry Nace.  We barely managed to beat late summer thunder storm back to the vehicle -- August 4, 2010

As any of you who read my stuff know...and believe me, I never thought that anyone would ever take time to read what I write and I'm so appreciative and honored that you do...biking is, for me, a metaphor for life.  Currently, as I'm sitting on my couch writing this instead of teaching my students about the Constitution (on the day before the presidential election), I feel as though I'm pedaling through peanut butter.  My brain is a little fuzzy from the meds I'm taking (Mark called me yesterday and jokingly said that he could have had a more coherent conversation with Cheech & Chong!) and my back is pretty sore from my days old eight inch incision.  Life, like the trails we ride, can get muddied and messy and difficult.  Just last week I had my second back surgery in less than six months.  I knew that there was a possibility that this was coming...but I didn't  anticipate it so soon.  This one was a little more significant which, in turn, makes the recovery (and pain) more significant.  I now have four wonderful titanium bolts holding my spine together like an erector set!  Yep...I can literally say that I'm screwed.  I got to tell you though, Dr. Salotto was fantastic and the nurses (as well as everyone else who took care of me at Wellspan) were absolutely amazing.  They brewed me coffee in the wee hours of the morning and brought me all the grape Popcycles I could eat (even at 1 AM).  Heck my pre-op nurse was the mother of one of my current students.  Kind of makes me feel fortunate that my students like me!



I am so fortunate to have so many people around me to support me.  Starting with my wife, Robin (top left).  She is my rock and always by my side.  My daughter Emma Kate (top right), my son, Alex (bottom left), and Timmy (bottom right).  Actually, he's going in for surgery in two weeks...his second in a year.  I would be completely neglectful not to mention my father and Mary Jane who came and  spent the day of my surgery with me.  Thank you...and I love you! -- November 2, 2016

Currently the entire NMS 8th grade social studies department is out at the same time for surgery.  My friend, mentor, and partner in crime, Charlie Lenhart, had his knee replaced the day after my surgery.  He's been teaching one year longer than I've been alive....combined we have 66 years of teaching experience.  Get well soon, my friend! -- November 2 and 3, 2016


Just so my students didn't worry too much about me I sent them this pic letting the know that I'll Be Back as soon as the holiday season is over! -- November 7, 2016

So yeah...for the time being life is forcing me to slow down a bit...a hard thing for me.  Sitting still is not my style.  It's kind of like I'm pedaling through peanut butter.  But you know...even though some of those trails got messy and tough it never made me stop moving forward.  I always finished the ride and look back on those peanut butter rides as character building and, ultimately, pretty damn fun.  The healing has begun and before I know it (as long as I listen to my wife, my doctor, and my body) I'll be back on the bike riding with Mark, Timmy, Kristian, Glenn, and the rest of the crew feeling like a new man...actually, maybe better than new.  I have titanium in me now!  Even Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, didn't have that!  Let's see if the guys can keep up with me then!

Life is a journey...not a destination!


David A. Raymond -- November 7, 2016


So...with 4 titanium bolts holding my spine together I can proudly wear the awesome shirt that my nurses made for me!  Thank you so much for everything! -- November 7, 2016