Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A FORK IN THE TRAIL -- March 29, 2016

There are moments in our lives when each of us makes life altering decisions.  We come to that proverbial fork in the road and choices are spread out before us.  I know this is true because I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person to wonder "what would have happened if would have _____ instead of _____."   I'm guessing that each of us can pinpoint at least five or six crucial moments when we made one of those decisions that set the course of our lives and would ultimately shape us into the person we would become.

Bedford, Pennsylvania.  Photo taken from the hilltop above Cumberland Road just west of town--2015
For me, one of those moments came in 1995 when I made the decision to leave my hometown of Bedford, Pennsylvania and accepted a teaching job at Northeastern School District in York hundred miles to the east.  I made a conscious decision to move (I had been offered opportunities in Bedford) because I wanted (and needed) a fresh start.   That one decision put in motion all of the events of the next 21 (and counting) years of my life.  That one decision...made by a 21 year old kid in 1995...led to thousands of smaller choices that, over the course of time, brought into my life new friendships, new interests, and new lifestyles.  

One of those choices occurred in the early fall of 1995.  For the first time I was truly "on my own."  I found out quickly that, when you are on your own, you better enjoy your own company.  I was looking for something to do.  I hadn't made many friends my age yet (most of the teachers in my new school were significantly older than I was) and I didn't know the area around me.  A lady who worked at school with me mentioned that there was a county park near my apartment and that it was a great place to take hikes.  So...I went.  It was my first trip to Rocky Ridge County Park....and what I saw changed my life forever.  

For my 6th birthday, in 1979, my mom & dad bought me my first real bike.  It was sparkly blue, had red handle bar grips, and a red banana seat.  I remember thinking it was a race bike!  1979
The only picture that I have of me on my first bike--1980
My mom & dad purchased me a blue Huffy Omni 10 identical to this one when I was in middle school.  I saw this bike chained up outside of the Amtrak station in Lancaster, PA. in 2015.  I left a note on the bike offering to purchase it but never received a call back.
I had never been a cyclist.  Sure, as a child I had  bikes.  I can still remember the first bike my parents bought for me.   It was sparkly blue and had a red banana seat.  When I was six, I thought it was a racing bike!  Later, in middle school, my mom and dad bought me a blue Huffy Omni 10...but, by time I got to high school, I was much more into football, socializing, and other things.   To be honest...I really wish I had that bike back.  So, it is reasonable to say, that when I saw whoever it was on those mountain bikes at Rocky Ridge on that fall day in 1995, I probably hadn't been on a bicycle in ten years.  I didn't care though.   I went home, pulled out the yellow pages, and found the closest mountain bike shop near me.  

The logo for Gung Ho Bikes when I purchased my first mountain bike.  It was updated in 2012.  
Jay Zech at Gung Ho Bikes
The decision to walk into Gung Ho Bikes (at that time located on White Street in West York) was a game changer for me.  To this day, I can still remember being greeted as I walked through the front door by Jay Zech.  For those who know Jay, he has a smile that can fill a room.  I think the thing that struck me the most was that he seemed (and all these years later I know he was) genuinely interested in getting to know me.  Jay is my longest continuous friend in York (the title of longest continuous friend belongs to my college roommate, Chris Lowe).  I cannot over state how important he, and the shop, have been to me the past two decades.   On that day in 1995, Jay let me try out a few bikes (which I thought was funny because I sure as hell didn't know anything about bikes) until I found something I was comfortable with.  I remember choosing a blue GT Timberline All suspension and platform pedals.  

My first mountain bike.  On that day, I made a choice that would forever alter a part of who I was.  On that day, I became a mountain biker.  On that day, I found a passion.  On that day, I found a constant.  On that day, I came to a fork in the trail and I began I ride that I hope to never finish.

Live is a journey, not a destination

David A. Raymond -- March 29, 2016

Looking out over York County from Rocky Ridge County Park -- March 13, 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Close your eyes.  Just for a a few seconds.  What images did you see?  Faces?  Places?  I see darkness...with flashes of light...mixed with images from the past.  Often I see images of my wife, my family, my mother (who we lost almost thirteen years ago)...but it is always the past...and never in color.  My mind has the uncanny ability to transport me to places I've been 5, 10, even 30 years ago.  It might be because I religiously take photographs and have them meticulously categorized on my computer.  It might be because those same pictures are set as the screen saver on my computer...endlessly recycling and taking me on random journey of my past.  Robin says that I'm her historian...keeping a record of our life together.
With my eyes closed...I can see the summer sun shining through the dense foliage in Michaux State Forest.
If you let it, your mind can be a dangerous place.  Often, it will dwell on things that are worrisome or the things that we perceive are wrong.  On the flip side, our minds are amazing filing cabinets filled with all that is good and wonderful with our lives.  My mind, in particular, seems to be able to transport me back to any mountain bike ride, at any point in time.  I can remember who I was with...what is around each turn...what is on the other side of the next hill...and how I felt at that particular moment.  I don't know why I can do it...I just can.  Maybe it is because of my love of history...maybe it is because of my acute sense of direction...maybe it is my love of mountain biking...or maybe, a combination of all those things.  

With my eyes closed...I can see the sun shining on the trails at Rocky Ridge County Park
With my eyes closed...I can see the mountain laurel blooming in Michaux State Forest
With my eyes closed...I see myself following Mark Lentz's signs of maintenance.
With my eyes closed...I can see a group of friends standing on top of a mountain eight years ago.
A week after having surgery on my back I am still managing to keep myself busy and occupied as I sit here on my living room couch.  I've been working on lesson plans for school, reorganizing files on my computer, and I have plenty of "nerdy" books at my disposal just waiting to be read.  But today has been a little difficult.  The temps have soared into the 70s...the birds are chirping...and the sun is out.  It's the kind of spring weather that is perfect for riding a bike...which, I know, I cannot do for a while.  I refuse; however, to let this get me down.  I've been given the gift of time to have coffee in the morning with my wife and enjoy her company and comfort.  I've been given time to sit and watch the morning news...and considering the horrific events that have just transpired in Belgium...I refuse to have a pity party for myself because I can't ride my bike.  All things considered, my situation is pretty good.  I hope that those people, who, right now are suffering through so much, have the same the ability that I do.  The ability to close their eyes and allow their minds to take them to good places...even if it is just for a moment.

With my eyes closed...I can see light at the end of the tunnel that runs underneath I-83 at the Lakes.

Life is a journey, not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- March 24, 2016

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A SLOW ROAD BACK -- March 20, 2016

The decision to have surgery on my back was not an easy one and not one that I took lightly.  Ultimately, I knew that, if I ever wanted to walk comfortably without pain again, I would have to have it done.  Over the course of the last year it had become difficult, if not sometimes impossible, for me do some simple things that I had always taken for granted...things like taking an evening walk around the block with my wife, Robin.  I think the hardest part of my decision was coming to terms with the fact that I would have put, not only my biking, but pretty much all physical activities, on hold for a while.

My wife will probably be upset with me for posting this pic...but this was the first "pain-free" walk that I was able to take with her for quite some time.  It meant so much to me -- March 16, 2016
I will admit that, in my head, I had set (what I found out was) some pretty unrealistic recovery goals:  I'd be walking around the block within a few days...I'd be back on my bike by the beginning of May....yep, considering that I can't bend, twist, drive, or lift for two weeks and considering that I can't go back to school for at least four weeks...those goals were unrealistic.  I understand now that this will be a slow road back to normal.  The great thing is that, according to Dr. Salatto, the operation (Right L3/4 Foraminotomy) went perfectly and, with proper care, should relieve my pain.  That means I had to change my mindset and change my goals.  It means I can't be stubborn and need to be a good boy and follow my doctor's orders so that I can get back to normal as quickly as possible.  

I started this blog in August with the purpose of sharing the stories of my adventures and the friends who are part of them.   It looks like, for the time being, that I'll be focusing on my friends and family...beginning with my wife, Robin. The one thing that I can't overstate enough is how much I love my wife. No one has ever loved me the way that she does.   Not only is she beautiful, successful, intelligent, and my best friend...she is also a worrier.  I don't mean that in a negative or bad way...I say it because I appreciate how she worries about me, how she cares for me, and how she loves me.  It's making this process easier.  The evening of my surgery, she and I took a walk around the top floor of the hospital. She and I hadn't been able to go for a walk for quite some time.  It was the best feeling in the world...I teared up.  

Written on the white board in my recovery room by my father -- March 16, 2016
My dad and Mary Jane made it just in time for me to be wheeled back for the surgery and stayed with me and Robin for the rest of the day.  As a kid, it was my father who took me to the emergency room each time I broke a bone...or just did something "boneheaded."  I can still remember him breaking into the closet in the ER at the hospital in Bedford and blowing up the latex gloves into "cow utter" balloons.  He has always made me laugh.  Both my dad, and MJ, are coming to visit  tomorrow to help "keep and eye" on me since Robin has to go back to work.  They're beyond awesome.  

My son Alex is one of the most amazing young men I know.  He takes honors courses at Northeastern High School, plays varsity baseball, competes in computer fairs, holds down a job at the local Subway, and still manages to be one of the most polite and level headed people I know.  He's my inspiration -- March 16, 2016
Three months ago I was visiting Tim in the hospital after his neck surgery.  Turn around is fair play -- March 16, 2016
Lydell stopped by the house yesterday to check in on me.  He made sure I was ok, gave me a nerdy book about Albert Einstein to read, and lectured me about listening to my wife and my doctor.  He knows me well.  -- March 18, 2016
My daughter, Emma Kate, has been over the past two nights to check in on me.  She's a senior at Kutztown University and is graduating in May.  I'm extremely proud of her.  These are some of my favorite pics of the two of us -- 2013
I think that Robin was pleasantly surprised with how well I did in the hospital.  I tried my best to be the perfect patient for her and for the nurses and therapists that took care of me.  They were amazing. I'm finding that it's harder at home than it was in the hospital.  I'm more tempted to do things...little things...that I shouldn't be doing.  I'd be lying if I said that my heart didn't drop into my stomach when I got home and saw my bikes hanging in the garage patiently waiting to be ridden.  A few weeks ago, Robin expressed concern that I would be bored.  I've made sure that I have plenty to do...books to read, lessons to plan for school, and even an online class to work on.  Oh...and Netflix.  I have Netflix.  I can only hope that this is enough...especially once the weather breaks, the birds begin to chirp, and the grass begins to grow.  
Let the healing process begin.

Life is a journey, not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- March 20, 2016

The bikes are getting a brake because they are two tired -- March 20, 2016

Sunday, March 13, 2016


I once told someone my biggest fear was that I would break a leg and not be able to ride my bike.  The thought of being on a couch (especially during spring or summer) would be enough to drive me insane.  To be completely fair...if I were confined to a couch for an extended period of wife would be the one going insane.  I'm not necessarily the best patient.  Well...I guess both she, and I, are going to find out.  

Soaking in as much as I can on what would, more than likely, be my last ride for a few months -- March 13, 2016
In the back of my head, I've always known that, considering how active I am, my body would someday, somehow, give out.  According to my doctor, the problems with my back aren't a result of anything I've done.   He just said, "Sometimes, life happens."  Life is funny like day you are buying a new mountain bike and the next day you are getting ready to have back surgery.  I think the hardest part of this for me is that, even though I can't walk or stand for more than five minutes without wanting to cry, I can still ride my bike without any pain.   The doctor says it's because my bike spreads me out and relieves pressure on my spine.   So, before my "procedure" on Wednesday, I thought I'd get out on my new Stumpy, enjoy the unusually warm March temperatures, and play on the local trails at the Lakes and Rocky Ridge.  

Enjoying the Lakes with Chris Keller -- March 12, 2016
Wrapping up our ride at the Lakes -- March 12, 2016
Chris Keller and I met at the Lakes yesterday afternoon for eight miles of single track fun.  We began with a ride across the dam, up trail #1, and then back down the goat trail...followed with our standard ride around Lake Williams.  We hit a few muddy and swampy sections of trail on the northwest side of the lake...but considering the time of year...I'm not sure the riding conditions could have been any better.  It was nice to spend time with Chris, too.  He's a busy guy and isn't always able to get out on the trails as much as he wants to....but it doesn't show.  He's one of the best riders I know.

Mike Alicea and I taking a break on trail #8 just to soak in the scenery -- March 13, 2016
This morning, my next door neighbor, Mike Alicea, and I hit the trails at Rocky Ridge County Park.  Our intention was to beat the rain that the local weather guys predicted for late morning.  We DID beat the rain to the parking lot...but by time we headed down trail #8 the drops began to fall pretty hard.  It was nothing to cancel our ride over, but it was enough to make the rocks (and there are a lot of rocks at Rocky Ridge) slick.  Half way through trail 8 I stopped just to listen.  There's something remarkably peaceful about hearing raindrops in the woods...just take listen for yourself!

Mike and I meandered thought the park for a little over an hour...the whole time I tried to soak in and appreciate as much as I could...knowing that this would be it for a while.   I know there's nothing to worry about.  I have friends who are battling much more than this.  I'll be okay.  No one wants to have any type of surgery...but I really want to be able to take an evening walk around the block with my wife without any pain.  To me, to be able to do that, is definitely worth hanging up my mountain bike for a few months.  

Life is a journey, not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- March 13, 2016

Saturday, March 5, 2016

SOMETHING NEW -- March 5, 2016

 I picked up my new mountain bike at Gung Ho on Thursday evening.  I had been anxiously waiting to get it for a while.  I really got my money's worth out of my 2011 Stumpjumper...the bike served me well...but after five seasons of hard riding, it was time to send it off to retirement.

My new bike, a Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Carbon 29 World Cup , took it's maiden voyage today at Swatara Gap State Park.   Mark and I headed up there this morning, figuring that after all the rain and snow the past few weeks, it would be the best place to ride.  

Picking up my new bike at Gung Ho -- March 3, 2016
Swatara never disappoints.  With 3,520 acres of forest and rolling hills in the middle of Swatara Valley, the park houses a series of multiple trails that loop and intertwine allowing you to turn pedals the entire ride.  Recently, DCNR created a new trail head and parking area at Swatara...which is a significant upgrade over the previous parking area (which had no bathroom areas).  Trout Run Trailhead is located exactly three miles north on Rt. 72 after getting of Interstate 81 at exit 90.  You can't miss the sign. 

Mark and I have been riding together for ten years now.  I'll admit that there have been plenty of times that I've been envious of some of the equipment and gear that he has....but today...not so much.  His new helmet looks like it would be something that a U2 spy plane pilot would wear back in the 60s.  I can honestly say that I'm not jealous. He loves it, though...and that's all that matters.  So...with my new bike, and Mark with his green fat bike, American flag scarf, and new "helmet," we set off.

My new 2016 Stumpjumper at Swatara Gap State Park -- March 5, 2016
We stuck to our time frame today and rode for a little more than an hour stopping only to make a seat adjustment on my new bike.  When all was said and done, we covered almost twelve miles with Mark leading the way.  My new bike, baptized with mud, performed flawlessly.  It was only proper to celebrate with a stop at the Jonestown KOA for some ice cream and coffee on the way home.  

Life is a journey, not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- March 5, 2016

David Raymond & Mark Lentz -- March 5, 2016

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


In high school, I was part of the track team.  To this day, I'm not quite sure why I went out for track in ninth grade.  I sure as hell didn't like to run and, to the best of my knowledge, no one in my family ever ran track.  But there I out of shape, 14 year old, mullet clad freshman at the first day of track practice.  I can only imagine the amount of eye rolling the coach, Mr. Bob Shank, must of been doing.  I wasn't motivated to be there in any way, shape, or form.  At one point, I must have told coach Shank that I wanted to try to throw the javelin...he acquiesced, no doubt to get me out of sight and out of the way.  

A 15 year old me competing in the District V Track & Field Championship -- May 1989
I would like to say that I picked up the javelin, instantly became a star, and gained the admiration of coach Shank...but life doesn't work that way.  I sucked...and there's no other way to put it.  I'm pretty sure that it came as a complete shock to coach Shank that I came back out for the track team in tenth grade.  With a year of maturity and a little weight lifting, I had some moderate success throwing the javelin...and I actually contributed to the overall points awarded to the team.  Slowly but surely, I began to fall in love with a sport that, just a year before, was nothing more than a way to kill some time after school.  By my junior year of high school, my best friend, Aaron Housel, and I were ranked as the number one and two javelin throwers in the district, coach Shank became one of my biggest fans ( and I one of his), and I was viewed by younger members of the team as a leader.  

A 17 year old me hanging out with Coach Shank a the District V Track & Field Championship -- May 1991
My love of track & field followed me to adulthood.  In 1995, when I was hired at Northeastern Middle School, there was a vacancy on the coaching staff of the high school track team.  I coached for ten years and then officiated track & field for five years.  In Pennsylvania, according the the PIAA, the spring sport season officially begins on the first Monday of March, my  mind, March 1 has always marked my unofficial start of Spring.  I no longer coach or officiate...but every year, on March 1, a switch flips in my brain.  No more snow (although the weather guys at ABC27 are predicting up to 3 inches on Thursday night) and no more cold weather (although it is currently 30 degrees outside).  I actually try to WILL it to be Spring.  

Thanks to Jay, Derrick, and everyone else at Gung Ho Bikes for making my bike ride ride like it was new -- March 1, 2016
My love for cycling has since surpassed my love for track & field...but sometimes riding during the winter in Pennsylvania can be downright impossible (unless you are a friend of mine named Clark).  Just after the Blizzard of 2016 pounded the east coast, I took my road bike to the guys at Gung Ho Bikes for a winter overhaul.  Four years of hard riding has taken a toll on my 2012 Specialized Roubaix and I figured that, since I wouldn't be doing any road riding for a while, this would be as good of a time as any to get the work done.  I took it out for a ride yesterday, March 1, for the first time since I got it back.  With temperatures in the 60s, Spring did not disappoint...and do you know what else didn't disappoint?  My bike.  I couldn't believe it.  Riding it was like riding a brand new bike.  Derrick, Jay, and the rest of the crew at Gung Ho replaced my drive train, installed new front and rear derailleurs, new brakes, and new bar tape.  My ride wasn't long...just an eleven mile jaunt around the neighborhood... but it was just what I needed (along with some Turkey Hill Black Raspberry ice cream) to celebrate MY first day of Spring.  

Life is a journey, not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- March 2, 2016