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Saturday, January 30, 2016

SURVIVING SNOWMAGEDDON--January 30, 2016

My sixteen year old son, Alex, said that he had never seen anything like it.  The last time I had seen something on this scale was in 1996.   No one living in the Northeast missed the blizzard of 2016.  According to the local weather guys, last weekend's storm ranks 4th worst among all Northeast snowstorms.  When I woke up on Saturday morning and saw the snow on the back porch piled up chest high... it became pretty clear that this was no ordinary event.   People will be talking about it for years.  It also became pretty clear to me that, for the time being, my cycling would be put on hold for a while.

Surviving Snowmageddon.   Took a ride to NMS on my 2011 Stumpjumper -- January 26, 2016
I spend Saturday hunkered down with my wife and my son.   A lazy day of watching movies and eating crock pot food.  By Sunday morning, the storm had passed, the sun was out in it's full glory, and the shoveling began.  On Monday, more movies and Netflix.  By Tuesday, I was going stir crazy.  I just needed to get out of the house.  I wanted to ride my bike...and not just spin in the garage.  I put on an old pair of jeans & an old high school football jacket (that has somehow survived for 26 years), pulled my Stumpjumper off of it's resting place in the garage, and headed out for a quick ride around the neighborhood.  The quick ride ended up being a snowy seven mile ride to Northeastern Middle School and back.  Not very far, but considering the conditions, it was satisfying...and it was just what I needed to beat my blizzard blahs.  

Life is a journey, not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- January 30, 2016

Wishing I was in Arizona right now -- January 16, 2016











Monday, January 25, 2016

THE LEGEND OF THE WHITE SQUIRREL, Vol. 1: FRIENDS

I learned about the White Squirrel in August of 2008.  That year I spent the last week of July doing some nerdy history stuff at George Washington's Mount Vernon.   I left Alexandria, VA and, instead of heading back north to Pennsylvania, I drove to Brevard, North Carolina.  The previous year, my friends, Mark, Glenn, Mikey, and I spent four days mountain biking near Blackwater Falls, West Virginia.   On the way home from that trip we began to plan what we would do the next summer.   Mark steered us towards Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina.  

This post card of the "White Squirrel" was purchased in Brevard, NC in 2008.   The mask was added by Kristian Haines--2008
Mikey didn't make it on this trip (his responsibilities to his little ones kept him at home)....but Kristian did.   Mark, Glenn, and Kristian picked up my mountain biking gear for me before heading out of Pennsylvania.  They ended up beating me to the campgrounds in Pisgah National Forest by twelve hours.  By time I got there, they had the camp set up, and my bike "for sale" at the campground gate.   

My green 2006 Specialized Epic.  "For Sale...or Trade for Russian Bride & Dog" -- 2008

Our campsite in Pisgah National Forest--2008

Camping with Mark Lentz is easy.   He won't let you do anything.   I've learned a lot over the years from camping with him.  All I had to do when I got there was unpack, set up my one man tent, and get ready to ride.   Mark had already mapped out our first ride.   Back in those days, I didn't have a Garmin to track my routes...but, from what I remember, our ride that day was hot, humid, and seeming uphill forever.  I can't even begin to tell you exactly where we rode...just that we accessed the trails from near the campground.  I remember finding a shelter near the top of the mountain and riding down the remnants of a pretty steep and washed out "trail."


Taking a break with Glenn--2008

Kristian & Glenn -- 2008 

Mark Lentz leading the way in Pisgah National Forest -- 2008

The real fun began the next day.  Getting up early, we ate breakfast, packed our gear into Kristian's truck, and headed to DuPont State Forest.   This ride was one of the most memorable rides of my life.   A day of exploration, mischief, some really incredible mountain biking!  Our ride that day began with a ride up Ridgeline Trail...possibly my favorite trail I had ever ridden.  More about that later.   We set out that day to ride the "slick rock" on the top of the mountain.  I had never experienced riding like this...no trail, just large flat rocks that went up and up. We paused near a group of wooden signs to take a photo and catch our breath.  


Riding the slick rock in Pisgah National Forest -- 2008

Riding the slick rock in Pisgah National Forest -- 2008

Mark Lentz, Kristian Haines, Glenn Medice, David Raymond in Pisgah National Forest.   My favorite group pic ever taken -- 2008

Our ride that day didn't end with the slick rock.   Mark was trying to guide us to the waterfalls that were in the area.   Along the way we encountered some pretty irritable park rangers, a danger sign here and there, and one pretty incredible stream crossing.  We were heading for Triple Falls.   A spectacular sight.   At the top of the falls there is a covered bridge.   If I remember correctly, the conversation went something like this..."do you think we can ride across the stream?"  For me, the idea of crossing that stream  at the top of Triple Falls was out of the question...but not for Glenn.   He put the front tire of his new 9er into the water and headed across.   We cheered him on from the bridge...and then egged him on to come back.   99% of way back across the stream and...down goes Glenn!.   My very first YouTube video!   


Glenn made it across the stream... 2008

he didn't quite make it the whole way back -- 2008



Riding to the bottom of the trail we got an amazing view of Triple Falls.    Beautiful -- 2008

I really wished I had kept better records of what we did, what we saw, and where we rode that day in 2008.  Somehow, we came across another set of smaller falls that were much more secluded.   We parked the bikes and went into "exploring" mode.  I remember it being incredibly peaceful and beautiful.  I also remember nearly falling to my death.  If it wasn't for Kristian's quick reflexes, who knows what may have happened.   He reached out and grabbed me before I could tumble down the rocks.   Sitting here writing this, I can't remember any particular conversation.  I just remember being happy.   Being content.   I remember just having a great time with really good friends.   


David Raymond, Glenn Medice, & Mark Lentz -- 2008

Mark Lentz, Glenn Medice, & Dave Raymond -- 2008

Mark Lentz -- 2008

David Raymond in DuPont State Forest -- 2008

Finishing our ride for the day, we headed back to camp.  That night we decided to drive to downtown Brevard to find some ice cream.   We ended up at Rocky's Grill & Soda Shop on the main street in town.  I can't remember anything specific about what I purchased or how good the ice cream was.   What I do remember is sitting outside of the shop with Glenn and just relaxing.   It almost seemed as though time was slowing down.  Kristian and Mark made their way to a toy store around the corner from the ice cream shop.  In the window of the store there were toy "white squirrels" everywhere.   It was the town mascot.  The store owner told us the legend of the white squirrel.   If I remember correctly, according to local legend, sometime in the 1940s or 50s, a carnival truck overturned in the area and a number of the creatures escaped.  Whether true or not...you will find plenty of white squirrels in the area. 
The thing that I remember the most about our trip into town that night was that the streets were shut down that night for dancing.  Yes, dancing.  Some local musicians came out and there were people square-dancing in the street.   Now that's cool.   


Sitting outside the ice cream shop in Brevard with Glenn.  Mark was distraught to hear the news that Brett Farve had just signed with the Jets -- August 2008

The next day...the final day of the trip...we rode some more.  If I remember correctly, we retraced a lot of our paths and had just as much fun.   On our last day in North Carolina we headed back to DuPont State Forest.  Again, we climbed up Ridgeline Trail...but this time we came to the conclusion that riding down this trail would be a blast.   We turned around and couldn't have been more correct.   One word came to all of our minds at the same time..."Again!"  We spend the next 3 hours climbing and descending Ridgeline Trail.   I had never ridden a trail that flowed as well as that one.   It was an incredible way to end a perfect mountain biking trip.


Top of Ridgeline Trail.  Glenn Medice, David Raymond, Kristian Haines, Mark Lentz -- 2008

David Raymond on Ridgeline Trail -- 2008

Mark and Glenn on Ridgeline Trail -- 2008

Kristian Haines on Ridgeline Trail.  The best mountain biking pic I have ever taken -- 2008

This definitely wasn't the last ride that Glenn, Mark, Kristian, & I would be on...but it would be the last big trip for the four of  us.   Eight years later, I am still friends with Mark...but have lost touch with both Glenn and Kristian.   I hate to admit it, but it's my fault.   I made some poor decisions in the months that followed that drove a wedge between us.   Mark and I went through a turbulent time and eventually came out of it even better friends.   I apologized to both Glenn and Kristian...but we were never as close as we were that week in 2008 (and I regret that deeply.)  I miss them.

The legend of the white squirrel, however, continued to live on...that's a story for another day.


Life is a journey, not a destination.


David A. Raymond -- January 25, 2016



Click HERE to see all the ride pics from that week in 2008 or go to ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM's website to check our all of our rides and pics!

Friends -- 2008

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A VIGOROUS BODY HELPS CREATE A VIGOROUS MIND -- January 16, 2016

Thomas Jefferson prescribed to the belief that a "vigorous body helped to create a vigorous mind."  Each day, with no concern of the weather, he would walk or ride (a horse...not a bike).  

"No less than two hours a day should be devoted to exercise, and the weather should be of little regard."

He actually believed that the colder and wetter the weather was, the better.  

"A person not sick will not be injured by getting wet.  It is but taking a cold bath, which never gives a cold to anyone.   Brute animals are the most healthy, and they are exposed to all weather, and of men, those are healthiest who are the most exposed." 
Thomas Jefferson

Overcast and 40 degrees.   Not a bad day for a January bike ride -- January 16, 2016
It's a pretty safe bet that Mr. Jefferson would be out riding or walking today.  As far as January weather is concerned, today's damp forty degrees is a significant upgrade over the ice box that we've endured the past two years here in south central Pennsylvania.  Now, I must admit, that unlike Jefferson, I do have limits, and I've been suffering from a small case of cabin fever the past two weeks.   My threshold for cold (usually about 25 degrees) and the persistent rainy weather has kept me off of my bike.  I've be relegated to spinning on my old 2009 Specialized Allez that have set up in the garage.  

My first road bike...a 2009 Specialized Allez, is set up in the garage so I can spin in the winter -- January 9, 2016
ALL TRAILS BICYCLE CLUB.  My office and hangout -- January 9, 2016
My wife, Robin was extremely kind to me when I moved in and told me that I could use the space in the garage for anything that I wanted.   It has become the ALL TRAILS BICYCLE CLUB... my office and summer hang out.   During the winter, I hook up a propane heater and spin while watching my favorite movies.  

Don't get me wrong...I'm fortunate that I have a place to spin in the winter...but nothing can replace actually getting out and riding.  I was especially excited to get out  and ride today because I was close to another milestone.  I needed to get at least 19 miles into today to pass 14,000 total miles ridden on my 2012 Specialized Roubaix.  

14,000 miles on my 2012 Roubaix -- January 16, 2016
Heading out through Manchester I had decided to take a couple normal routes, but in the opposite direction that I typically ride them.   It's amazing how something as simple as riding in a different direction can make ordinary scenery seem new.  It is also never ceases to amaze me how clear my mind is when I am riding.  I do some of my best thinking when I am on my bike.  My creativity soars.  I come up with most of my ideas and lesson plans for school while I'm turning my pedals.  It makes me wonder if Mr. Jefferson did his thinking the same way.  I can imagine him riding his favorite horse or hiking the woods surrounding Monticello...all the while coming up with ideas, thoughts, and beliefs that would, one day, become the foundation for a nation.  "A vigorous body helps create a vigorous mind."  I can buy into that.

LIFE IS A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION.

David A. Raymond -- January 16, 2016


Note:  All of the Thomas Jefferson quotes came from page 19 of THOMAS JEFFERSON:  THE ART OF POWER by Jon Meacham.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

THE KING'S BOTANIST - January 2, 2016

I can tell you, from experience, that very few people know neither who Andre Michaux was nor the contributions that he made to the United States.   Yet, one of my favorite places on the face of the earth bares his name...a forest in south central Pennsylvania that holds so much beauty...and for me nothing but good memories and experiences.   It is in this forest that I truly learned how to mountain bike.   It is in this forest that one of my best friends, Mark Lentz, taught me so much about nature and how to identify landmarks, both natural and man made.  It is in this forest that I always find happiness and peace.   It is in this forest that I proposed to my wife....and it is in this forest that she said "yes."  Yet, nobody knows seems to know who this man from France was.  

My 2011 Stumpjumper in Michaux State Forest -- January 2, 2016
Michaux State Forest has been my favorite place to mountain bike since Mark Lentz first brought me here in 2006.  It's shear size can be intimidating...but around each turn the opportunity for adventure and discovery awaits.  In 1785, a boat, carrying the royal botanist of King Louis XVI of France, docked in New York City.  The primary goal of Michaux's mission was to search America's forests for new species of trees that could be used to replenish the forests of France.  For almost a century, France had been engaged in a series of wars with Great Britain, which had stripped the best timber from the French forests for the building of warships.  Throughout the late 1780s and early 1790s, Andre Michaux traveled as far south as Charleston, South Carolina and as far west as Kentucky.  In addition to shipping American plants to France, Michaux also introduced new plants to America.  The mimosa or silk tree, Albizia julibrissin, the crape myrtle, Lagerstoemia indica, the tea plant, and the camillia are only some of the plants he is credited with bringing to America.  

The beauty of Michaux State Forest -- January 2, 2016
In the winter, the forest takes on a completely different identity.  The absence of foliage on the trees allows a visitor to the woods the opportunity to see deeper into the forest.   This was evident as Mike Alicea and I began today's ride.  As we climbed up Bendersville Road and turned onto the ATV trails we were able to see across the valley to the ridge that we would ride on the second half of today's adventure.  

Seeing though the forest -- January 2, 2016
I've always referred to the ATV trail on slate road as the "easy button."  A two mile climb up to the top of Piney Ridge.  On a cold day like today this climb was a great way to get our blood flowing and keep our fingers and toes warm.  By the time we reached the top of the the trail we had already climbed over 600 feet!  It's the nature of Michaux, though.   Everything is big.   Especially the climbs.  

Climbing the "easy button" towards Piney Ridge -- January 2, 2016
David Raymond & Mike Alicea in Michaux State Forest -- January 2, 2016
Flying down the back side of the "easy button," Mike and I crossed route 233 and spent the rest of our ride on the single track on near Mountain Creek...all the while, taking time to explore and look around.  My main goal was to make sure that Mike had an opportunity to check out the remains of Camp Michaux, a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp that, in 1943, was converted for use as a secret interrogation camp for enemy German and Japanese prisoners of war.   

Riding the single track on the ridge above Mountain Creek in Michaux State Forest -- January 2, 2016
This brown sign marks the entrance to Camp Michaux -- January 2, 2016
The remains of an old water fountain at Camp Michaux.  A self guided tour map can be downloaded in order to easily explore the area -- January 2, 2016

Less than a quarter of  mile down the road from Camp Michaux, Mike and I turned onto Dynamite Shack trail...a 3 mile stretch of single track that runs parallel to Tom's Run Creek and will eventually bring us back to the Furnace Stack area of Pine Grove Furnace State Park.  Tom's Run is a beautiful and pristine creek that wanders through the woods.  Following the trail next to the creek is the perfect way to either begin, or end, a ride at Michaux.  

Tom's Run meandering through Michaux State Forest -- January 2, 2016
The single track parallels Tom's Run for almost 3 miles -- January 2, 2016
I can't help but look and wonder at the magnitude of space and beauty each and every time I visit Michaux forest...and I can't help be be amazed at the variety of creation that envelopes me while I am there.  So, even though most people don't know who he was, or the contributions he made, I have a great appreciation for Andre Michaux and the forest in south central Pennsylvania that bares his name.   

Life is a journey, not a destination.


David A. Raymond -- January 2, 2016

Michaux State Forest -- January 2, 2016












Friday, January 1, 2016

STEPPING INTO THE NEW YEAR -- January 1, 2016

Happy new year!   With 2015 safely in the rear view mirror it's time to get started on all I want to do in the next 365 days.  All around me I hear people making resolutions for the new year...and I can't help but wonder how they will fit all the things they want to do into a 24 hour period.   Personally, I've never been one to proclaim a resolution for the new year.  I do set goals.   Most of the time they are mileage goals for my bike riding. This year my mileage goal is 2,500 all purpose cycling miles.   This would be an increase of almost 300 miles over what I rode in 2015.  I managed to get a jump start on that today by taking a short eight mile New Year's Day ride through the neighborhood.  But, I don't think a mileage goal is any more of a  true resolution than losing weight, working out more, saving money, or eating less ice cream (perish the thought!)

 I think...and I may be wrong...but I think a true resolution needs to be a mind set...a way of life.  Why would I choose one thing over another?   So, this year, I'm going out on a limb and stating my resolution.   This year I simply want to be a better person.  There...I said it...I want, in my eyes, to be a better person.  I want to be proud to be me.  I want to be stoked about who I am and what I stand for.   My theory is...if I am proud of who I am and if I'm the best possible person I can be...won't all those other things take care of themselves?   

Robin & David Raymond, Rocky Ridge County Park -- January 1, 2016
So, today, I started my day (and my new year) with my best friend..my wife.  After coffee and eggs we headed up to Rocky Ridge for a hike.   It wasn't long or difficult hike...but it was fun, relaxing, peaceful, and just...nice.   It was nice to be out in the frigid January air with the one person in the world who promised to be my partner through all that comes our way.  The one person who knows me better than anyone else...and loves me in a way that no one else ever has.  With her in my corner I don't know how I could possibly fail.  

So...here's to being the best "me" I can possibly be in 2016.  I'm sure that will also mean many bike rides and multiple scoops of ice cream...after all, I gotta keep eating right!

Life if a journey, not a destination.


David A. Raymond -- January 1, 2016