Peak Bagging with a Sack of Chestnuts

It’s good to pare down. See what you can live without.  Ironically, most magazines that tout the concept of a minimal lifestyle implore you to purchase heaps of new stuff to attain a supposedly more modest method of living.  Real Simple is filled with this kind of nonsense.  So is the opposite minded “Backwoods Home Magazine” which urges readers to invest in various aparatus of dubious utility.  Sometimes its good to actually go minimal.  Figure out what you need to be comfortable, and bring a bit less.  Peak bagging takes this concept to its pinnacle, pun intended.  It’s the art of ascending a mountain as quickly and minimally as possible.  If that means free climbing, or leaving the bivy at home, so be it.  Extra food?  A change of socks?  Not applicable.  Think Jack Kerouac in the Dharma Bums.  Get some basic kit at a second hand shop, locate a zen poet, and start climbing.  But ‘comparisons are odious, Smith…” Collect summits, check them off the list, explore new lands, views, and take on fantastic challenges.  Return, knowing the land, taking your time: topographical awareness.  The minimal approach pits you against the terrain.  Stout boots, one set of clothes, and a modicum of safety equipment pare the experience to its core.

Kerouac tunes in

The Japanese have applied this hiking concept to a form of bicycle riding they call Pass Hunting.  Well, actually they call it something I can’t pronounce.  But the translation is Pass Hunting.  Like many things the Japanese are into, Pass Hunting is pursued to a point of obsession.  Special bikes are built at great expense, clubs are formed, snug woolen jerseys are worn.  The gist is: go around, find mountain passes, ride them, check them off a sheet, and submit the sheet to your friendly local Pass Hunting Club.  Win fabulous prizes at the end of the year, like a commemorative medal you have to buy, or a piece of paper with something nice written on it.

Getting high in France

The French are also really into this concept, and have similar clubs and pieces of paper with something French and marginally congratulatory on them.  In fact, the French and the Japanese are in collusion over this concept, as evidenced by the Panaracer tire named ‘Col de la Vie”, or the pass of life. Or something.

Maybe you know this already, but we’re into climbing here at Bike Doctor Frederick.  I’m not saying we’re good at it, but we like a decent suffer, and don’t mind debilitating leg pain, or seeing colorful, festive spots dance in our eyes from oxygen deprivation.  Physical suffering is best combined with exceptional views, pitches that would make a Sherpa gasp, and road surfaces best suited to yaks.  We’ve been testing the limits of gear, gearing, lungs and limb for a while now.

Now in Manly Pink

We reckon it’s a fine time to share the beauty of misery.   So we’re instituting our own Pass Hunter Club.  Consider this first warning.  There will be prizes, levels of achievement, spoke cards, and lots and lots of sumptuous pain.  We’re whittling down a list of climbs.  You won’t be a Pass Hunter until you have done ‘em all.  It’s basically a Frederick County thing, and everything on the list will be able to be knocked out by riding from home.  In fact, if you really want, you could strap on the extra lungs and rock it all out in one day of insanity.  We’ll have a cue sheet for that, if you want to try.  EPO not included.  Stay tuned on this one, it will be worth doing, and unless you have ridden every road in the county, this thing will take you new places.

Here’s some road names, just to get the little gray cells agitated:  Crow Rock.  Fishing Creek.  Middlepoint.  Frosttown.  There will be some corkers.  All told, over 15,000 feet of climbing.


harley road

Jay makes the cows quiver as he cruises up Harley Road

Last week we did some good local rides, ate a big heart stopper of a breakfast at Trout’s in Woodsboro, drank sub par coffee in Middletown, and ate some dirt.  It even rained on us, a bit, on the Thursday ride.  We convinced a friend to call in sick and join us for the ride, which is always a good thing.  The highlight of the week was clearly the X-mas lights ride, held in downtown Frederick.   I had to lead the thing, so I have no idea what actually went on, in the ride.  I was just off the front, saying: go left, go right, etc etc.  Sometimes I rang my bell.  So I’ll hand the reins (or the bars, or whatever) over to Mel, who was actually IN the ride, and might have more to say on the matter.  Actually, I just read it over, and she has loads more to say about this four mile ride.  Here it is:

Nothing say spirit of giving like a Carbon Madone Fixie covered in Walmart lights

With all traces of mental clarity gone for the day, I gather up the necessary accoutrements for maximum comfort and flexibility for the lights ride one December’s night: long underwear, fleecy things, multiple hats, and two types of gloves that offer varied amounts of dexterity. I put on my Bike Doctor windproof jacket. Yank the bike out the door. Turn on the four rear lights that illuminate the decorative wreath on the back basket in redundant Johnson fashion. (Hey what’s that mean?) I’m immediately feeling slightly warm in the humid Maryland evening.  I get to the Baker Park on time with a sense of relief and satisfaction to see familiar faces around the base of the Bell Tower. James’s rear rack is smoking, with Chestnuts on a slightly open fire. It’s a song yet to be written about a highly dangerous scenario never to be replicated again. The smell of earthy smoldering nuts permeates the air, soliciting much discussion and mastication.

Crossing the Carroll Creek Covered Bridge. Photo credit: Joe Whitehair

We wait for a few minutes for the stragglers. When the are none, the critical mass departs on bumpy grass to view the thousands of twinkling lights that await us. Jingle Bell Rock faintly sounds from “Dan the Younger’s” IPhone. Some pictures are taken. There is a warm and fuzzy sense of belonging, even with the people I don’t know. The ride is a slow one. What else could it be with about 35 people clustered together in one lane of traffic?

Having never roasted chestnuts before, I decided that a dubious grill mounted to a bike's rear rack was the way to get started. So I filled some cake pans with charcoal, Don BranDon coated the works with copious amounts of Denatured Alcohol, and we lit that baby up. Needless to say, I had a warm ride. Photo credit: Joe Whitehair

We cruise through dark neighborhoods lit by tiny lights strung up in various ways. Some casual & sparse, others with those “net” things that just look too perfect. Most of the riders are talking and not paying too much attention to the lights. We ring our bells a lot. Sometimes for cars, sometimes before running into each other, and sometimes to appreciate good lights or to be obnoxious. The firetruck and surrounding trees along Carrol Parkway, a spectacle of red, green, and blue are received with many bells. The tiny house on Jefferson between South and Patrick Street gets whoops and hollers.

James’s grill is still smoking and throwing sparks at every bump…Alyssa, Diana, and I break out into song while going up a slight hill. Does anyone really know more than one verse to any Christmas song? After about four miles of riding at a comfortably slow pace, we swing back around to the park and drop off the ones not going out for libations. We curve around to Market Street to my favorite part of Frederick in the winter: the line of trees wrapped with white LEDs along the main drag of downtown.  Pile the bikes in front of Brewer’s on the lone bike rack this side of Market. James’s grill, still smoking, is extinguished dramatically with a double dose of water. A cast of characters greet us inside genuine niceness, despite the fact that one of the bicycles outside is smoking copiously.  The giant from Twin Peaks greets us inside the door, and we plow into the bar area.  The place is packed but some of us squeeze into the one available corner next to the already-eaten buffet. It smells like cray fish swimming in a pool of Old Bay. I try out a claw as an nose ring. James and I slam a pizza. Dan the Younger and DonBranDon feed each other a pizza.  People drink many beers. Delightful conversation with old and new friends. The night ends with a drowsy pedal home wishing I could have stayed longer.


And, the moment you have all been waiting for:

Tuesday we’ll ride from the 7th street Starbucks at 8 am after downing enough caffine to revive Kim Jong Il’s Big Sleep.  50ish miles, don’t know where we are gunna go yet, so bring 10 dollars, in case we have to bribe a guy named Fred to drive us home.

Thursday get your butt outta bed at 6 am for the 7 am ride from the same Starbucks.  We’ll go places, be back by 11:30ish.  Bring coffee dollars.

See you cats out there!

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