Dat gummit! A blowout!

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Beautiful Sky Along the Quakake Road

Shot this photo during my ride, today. This is along the Quakake Road, which is where I ended up after making a left in Weatherly instead of turning right to go up the Plains Road.

If you take a right at the church in the photo, you're about 3 miles from Beaver Meadows. However, I opted for the longer route, following Quakake Road to 309 and popping out between Hometown and McAdoo. From there, I just followed 309 home.

36.6 miles in 3 hrs 40 minutes. That's 58.9km. HELL YEAH.
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No One Drinks and Drives in North-East PA

Nope. Nobody ever drinks and drives around here. And they all have really great taste in beer, too. I know they must because they keep the good stuff to drink at home while tossing the swill out the window -- not that anyone would ever litter around here, either.

Found just about EVERYWHERE on the side of the road.
Seriously, people. Don't drink and drive. And don't litter, either. Broken beer bottles are a bike tire's worst enemy.
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Almost a 50k

Full Route: 29.8 miles
Today was an epic riding day. I plotted a course, gathered my things and hit the open road. It was glorious!

First of all, this ride was freaking fantastic. Lots of uphill challenges, plenty of downhill thrills, a distinct lack of traffic and wide open roadways. Have you ever wondered what it felt like to fly? I may have never gotten off the ground, but it was exhilarating.

I started off going out 940, towards Freeland. I then turned off 940 and rode through Jeddo, eventually going past Eckley Miner's Village. Past Jeddo (and especially past Eckley) the shoulder widens, leaving plenty of paved roadway to ride on. Not that it matters, as traffic is virtually nonexistent. It's mostly uphill, but that just means plenty of downhill to come.

Entrance to Eckley Miners Village
When I finally began to head downhill, I relished it. Arms tucked in, feet firmly planted, I hung over the handle bars and let the wind rip through my hair (well, what's left of it.) I could hear the front tire screaming as the speedometer climbed past 30 mph. However, the blissful moment was over all too soon. Back to reality, back to tough uphill roads.

I made a right at the bottom of the hill on Buck Mountain Road, heading towards Weatherly. Again, not very steep, but a long climb to the top. Eventually, however, I saw a welcome sight, a sign indicating a 7% grade for the next 3/4 of a mile. Time again for pure, downhill adrenaline. This time, with a slight twist.

You have no idea how happy I was to see this sign.
There's a marker obscuring the squiggly line on the map at the top of this post, but it represents the tight, hairpin curves of the Weatherly Hillclimb. People come from all over to race up this hill in souped-up vehicles twice a year, and the tire tracks all over the surface of the road tell the tale of the hundreds of cars that attempt it. But it's just so much fun to ride down it! The 20 MPH speed limit signs, then 10 and 5 MPH signs were pretty funny at the time. I won't say how fast I actually went, but I was respectful of those curves.

Finally, Weatherly. I made a slight deviation in my plotted course to stop and visit my brother, but he wasn't home. So, onward. I had planned a stop at the Dollar General that lies across the bridge to refuel. I bought a
Nature Valley Granola Bar (Google Affiliate Ad) and went looking for some chocolate milk -- carbs and protein, basically -- but the only available drink was some brand that had 450 calories in it. In hindsight, I probably should have grabbed that one -- I burned over 1,000 calories on this trip -- but I spotted a bottle of "Protein to Go."

SCORE! Oh, wait, no. This stuff tastes like vomit.
At first, I thought I'd scored gold, until I actually tasted it. Horrible! It tasted like spoiled milk and sick. The date indicated that it was good until 2014, but it still tasted like the worst dreck I'd ever had. Was it bad, or is it supposed to taste like that? I thought twice about finishing it, then bottoms-upped it before thinking again. Time to move on.

The Weatherly Plains Road was the only part of this trip I was worried about. However, looking back, I found that it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. All those runs up the hills here in town seem to have prepared me well. I was even surprised to see that I'm not dead-last on Strava.com. I'm only second to dead last...

Onwards through Beaver Meadows, up the Stockton Mountain Road, along Diamond Avenue to 309 and, finally, home. If I get to my driveway and remember feeling like I'd never see it again, that's how I judge a journey like this. True, I was never very far from people I knew who could help me in a pinch, but there were times that it did feel very lonely.

I'm well aware of those who would not be challenged by this ride -- I even encountered a fellow cyclist on the Weatherly Plains Road who blew right by me -- but I still feel very proud. Think of nothing but victory; recall nothing but triumph.

29.8 miles in 2 hours and 49 minutes. Almost a 50k.
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Quickie Update: Interval Training

Just a quick update, mostly for personal record-keeping.

Today I did intervals for a total of 52 minutes at an average speed of 12.4 mph, going a total distance of 10.9 miles.

I tried doing 5 sets the last time I did intervals, but couldn't finish the last set. I ended up doing 11.4 miles in 57 minutes at an average speed of 12.0 mph.

Blech... I can't get anything out of this. Next time I do intervals, I need to write down what my time is after each set and not count the warm-up and cool-down rides. Looking at what I have from these 2 sessions, it's hard to see if I'm improving.
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Scary New Pain

For the past few weeks, I've been pushing myself to become stronger and faster, but I admit that I've been neglecting my endurance. So, for today's ride, I decided to see if I could push myself to go a little farther than usual.

The Route:
Up and down Arthur Street 6 times to build a little more hill climbing endurance. On the 6th time, I rode to Diamond Avenue and followed it out to the Rails to Trails for distance endurance. I rode Rails to Trails out to Beryllium Road, turned around and headed back. I then followed the Rails to Trails all the way to Route 93 and turned around in the parking lot, heading back to Stockton Mountain Road. From there to Diamond Ave, up Arthur and back to home.

The Stats:
Total Distance: 20.8 miles
Time: 2 hrs 26 minutes -- non-stop
Average Speed: 8.5, Max Speed: 32.8
Elevation gain: 2007 ft, Max Elevation: 1860 ft

Also worth noting: I didn't go below the 3rd gear of my rear hub, even during the hill climbs. I wanted to add extra resistance and keep my speed up.

The Ride:
Uneventful. A few close calls with cars thanks to a lack of decent shoulder on some parts of the road. My hybrid bike definitely likes pavement more than the rough trail, but whatever. I still want a road bike more than a mountain bike.

I felt pretty good throughout the ride, until the turn for home, going up Arthur one last time. My legs were burning and giving me the, "Let's wrap this up, pronto," message. Despite the burn, I didn't feel fatigued or a lack of strength, but then the real fun began.

As I parked my bike in the garage and headed upstairs, the situation got scary.

In the minute it took to cook some oatmeal, I guzzled 2 glasses of water and was adding protein powder to a 3rd. I just kept shaking my legs, trying to get the ants to stop marching, but it wasn't helping. I was in a lot of pain -- more than I had encountered from any previous ride. I was worried for a moment, but I knew what I had to do.

Finally, I grabbed everything and headed over to the dining room where I kicked my legs up onto the table to keep them elevated while I ate. Oatmeal with flax seed, potatoes and tuna. More water, and some rest. In about an hour, it was like nothing was ever wrong. As I write this, I'm feeling much better.

So, what now?

There are about 6 weeks left until the event. Just 6 weeks to see if I can manage to hit 31 miles (50km) without utterly destroying myself. I figure, I'll stick to my normal training regimen of intervals and hill climbs for the next few days. Next week, though, I'll see if I can't conquer those last 11 miles.
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Let's Talk About Natural Supplements

...because just the thought of choking down another omelette is making me gag. Yesterday, during my post-workout meal, I was doing everything I could just to get through chewing and swallowing those eggs.

According to everything I've read, the post-workout meal is very important, but what do you do if you're just not feeling hungry? Are you supposed to force-feed yourself? And, yes, I would describe what I did yesterday as an intense training session. After 2 hours of going up a very steep hill, my legs were extremely sore.

The good news is, I got through the meal and my legs were feeling much better, but I think I'd like to switch out eggs for a protein supplement. Any thoughts on this?

I happen to have a large bottle of Healthy 'n Fit Nutritionals 100% Egg Protein. It's the "heavenly chocolate" flavor, which is a bit of stretch -- both in the "heavenly" and "chocolate" descriptions -- but I can drink it down and get it over with much more easily than another plate of foam-rubbery grossness. I can also mix it in with oatmeal and milk, which seems much more palatable.

Again, any suggestions? Should I just avoid this stuff and stick to whole foods?
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One of my minor goals was to ride the Arthur Street route for an entire 12.4 miles, and I managed to do it sooner than I expected.

On my first attempt, I was only able to go 6.5 miles. On my second attempt, I was able to push that another 2. Today, on my third attempt, I had only intended to go 10 miles, but when I realized how close I was, I decided to dig a little deeper and go the last 2.4 miles to finish it off. I didn't even "cheat" by weaving back and forth, I just pushed straight up the hill.

The last 2 miles were brutal, but I feel great. After lingering in self-doubt about my training and nutritional regimen, I feel like everything I've been doing so far has been right.
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Interval Training

I decided to add a new method to my training regimen. Basically, you have 40 seconds of intense, passionate, unbridled... pedaling... followed by 20 seconds of rest. Then, repeat 9 more times. After the tenth time, rest for 5 minutes. Repeat this whole process about 4 or 5 times, and that's a good hour. Have a victory lap to cool down, and you're done.

The first session was absolutely killer -- I really thought this was the most brutal thing I could do to myself. But then, it wasn't so bad. And after each rest, I actually felt myself able to crank those pedals even harder. It felt good; I feel great.

After the fourth set, I debated going just one more time. What would one more time hurt? But then, I began to think about yoga planks. What is a yoga plank, really? It's a push-up that forgot to lie down. The thing is, they burn while you do them, and then they don't feel like anything... until the next day. So, I'm willing to bet tomorrow is going to suck.
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My 2 Best Friends

My dog Cinco is sitting on my lap, crushing my painful, sore legs, while Jonesy, my cat, is sitting on the arm of the chair, pawing at the can of tuna fish I'm trying to eat to replenish my protein.

Cinco and Jonesy
I'm covered in salty sweat, so the dog loves me because, as creepy as it sounds, I taste pretty good. The cat loves me because the can looks and smells suspiciously like his usual dinner. I'm sure, somewhere in that feline brain, Jonesy is thinking, "Why are you eating MY food? Why don't you give that tasty tuna to ME?" Because it's NOT for you. AWAY, BEAST!

It's almost as bad as when I'm trying to do yoga planks and Cinco comes over to lick my face, then crawls under me to lay down. I could collapse at any second, dog... That's really not the best place to lie down. Just FYI.

For today's ride, I stuck to the same route as Thursday. The first two laps up the hill felt pretty good. The rest of the laps were decidedly miserable, however. All in all, I managed 8 laps up the hill, which is 2 better than Thursday, so I'm feeling pretty good about that.

I finished off on the flats, taking 1 hour and 50 minutes to go a total of 11.1 miles. I'm not thrilled with that, but I'll give up some time if it means increasing my stamina for hill climbs. Eventually, I want to be able to get up that hill for an entire 12.2 miles. Confidence is high.
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Gut Check

My legs were on fire, but the rest of my body was drenched with sweat as I approached the top of Arthur Street. It was my second time climbing the hill when I had my first "gut check," and I asked myself, "Why am I really doing this?"

I didn't have an answer, but I pondered the question as I crested the summit and coasted back down.

Of course, there is an answer, but I don't have it yet. I don't have it because it involves the rest of my life, and I haven't lived it, yet -- I can only exist in the present. But someday, in the future, I'll be able to look back and say, 'This is the answer. This is why I did it."

I rode to the end of the block, turned around, and climbed up Arthur Street again.
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Challenging Myself

Well, if I was looking for a challenge, I certainly found one. Today's route took me up Diamond Avenue to the Stockton Mountain Road. I turned left off Stockton Mtn. Rd. and onto the Rails to Trails, following it as far as I could go.

From what I saw on Google Maps, Rails to Trails eventually becomes the Club 40 road (aka Co Rd 42, aka the infamous Beryllium Road), but I've never gone the whole way before, so I was eager to see what the trail is like past the gate.

Easily, the most fun I had was riding on the Rails to Trails -- no cars, no potholes, no problem. However, you ever get that feeling, when you're all alone, that you're not really alone? As I rode past the Dreck Creek Reservoir, I started to get that feeling. Instinctively, I started riding a little faster, just in case someone was coming up behind me. A little faster, and a little faster still. Before I got into a full panic, I turned my head a little, just to see if anyone was there. Of course, it was just my imagination... until I realized that SOMEONE WAS THERE! I almost lost it, but I got the bike under control. "Hey, how's it going?" he said as he passed by.

I'm pretty sure I've seen him out there before, but what blew me away was how fast he was going. He must have more gears on his bike because he was pedaling about half as much as I was and I could barely keep up with him in my highest gear. Then again, maybe my thinner tires were biting into the ground more, building up more resistance while his wider, mountain bike tires were allowing him to ride over the surface of the loose gravel.

Eventually, I got to the gate where Rails to Trails technically ends. This is Beryllium Road, a paved roadway that runs from Stockton Mtn. Rd. and leads to a fenced off area that used be the old Kawecki-BerylCo beryllium factory. If you make a right at this gate, it takes you to the factory site (which has long-since been bulldozed and capped as a Super Fund site. All that remains are acres of empty land with some trees and brush growing on it.) I made a left.

As I passed through the gate, I saw the other rider turning around to head back. I immediately got the sense that I should have followed him. Maybe he knew something I didn't? Like, maybe there's a reason he doesn't ride on the paved road. Well, after riding on this "paved" road, I can certainly see why I might want to avoid it.

The pavement is beat to hell, just completely torn up -- it's almost as bad as most Hazleton roads, to be honest, but I digress. My skinny, 700c wheels were taking a pounding, the bike's suspension was definitely getting a workout, and every bone in my body was being rattled loose. This road sucked. And then, at the end of a long, painful climb, I reached the summit. Smooth, clean roadway. For whatever reason, this section of the road looks almost well kept and maintained. I seriously doubt it's being taken care of, as there's little reason to go back here, but it's definitely in good shape.

As I rode on, I could hear heavy machinery and get a view of the large strip mine operation going on back there. Eventually, I came to a gate that I couldn't ride through. I had to get off, pick up my bike and carry it around the narrow gap at the edge of the road. Welcome to Stockton Village.

I was now on Club 40 Road, at the intersection of Club 40 and Stockton Mountain Road. According to Google Maps, if I just follow this road, I'll wind up at Route 93, but now it was time to test that theory.

The traffic is very light on this road -- even compared to Stockton Mtn. Rd. -- but there's almost no shoulder, so if you get traffic coming both ways, things get very tight. Thankfully, I didn't encounter too many trucks or cars. As I continued, I had hoped I was right about this road leading to 93, but soon the "aroma" of the Kentucky Fried Chicken told me what I needed to know. It was taking me exactly where I expected it to.

From 93 to Cedar, and up Cedar (which becomes Seybert), I was nearly home. Just a few more miles to go, and that's pretty much where the adventure ends.

As I rode up my driveway, the odometer clicked over 12.845 miles. I said to myself, "There's my 20k. No problem." 20.6, to be more precise. The funny thing is, the MyFitnessPal app only asks for the amount of time you've been riding and the average speed. My average was a meager 8 mph (and that's with going nearly 30 mph on some downhill sections) over 87 minutes. The app takes no regard of the monster hills I had to climb, so I don't know how much attention I should pay to the 600+ calories it says I burned. There's a BMX/Mountain bike setting that doesn't ask for average speed, but that claims over 800 calories for the amount of time I was out there. That seems like a little too much, but my aching muscles are telling me it may be on the money. Either way, if it was a challenge I wanted, it was a challenge I got.
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Recovery Ride

Went for a ride on the Rails to Trails with Ron. The pace was pretty slow, compared to my normal riding speed, but his son, who's just getting the hang of riding a bike, was tagging along with us. Also, only went about 7 miles, but it made for a nice recovery ride after pushing myself over the weekend.

Thanks to Ron, I got some good advice for my upcoming 50k and even planned out a decent training route with plenty of varied surface conditions and inclines. Should be good for getting me up to condition in time for the 50k in October.
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I've Entered the Flaming Foliage Festival

I just found out about The Flaming Foliage Festival and Metric Century Bike Ride that takes place in Hazleton in October. How have I never heard of this before?

I don't think I'm ready for the metric century (100k) and the 20k seems way too easy -- I ride 10 miles a day, so another 2.4 doesn't seem like much of a challenge. So, I'm definitely going to go for the 50k. Then again, it's not just distance I'll have to contend with. The route goes through McAdoo, Tresckow, Beaver Meadows, Weatherly and back. For those who don't know the area, there are some big hills to contend with on this route.

It seems kind of intimidating, but I've been working very hard all Summer and I think I'm actually in better shape than I was as a teenager. Also working in my favor is the fact that I've almost done this before -- a couple times to Beaver Meadows and back and even one time all the way into Weatherly.

You know, maybe there are a lot of people out there who do 50k every other day, but this is the first event of its kind I've ever entered, so I'm pretty excited! With 2 months to train until the event, I'm very confident I'll be able to do this.
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About Dale

Hey, there! My name is Dale Culp, and I'm a bicycling adventurer.

My goal is to show you the world through the eyes of a bicycling enthusiast as someone who loves going on long rides along back roads, visiting trails and exploring North-East Pennsylvania.

If you'll follow me, I'll show you what some of these places look like, how to get to them and how to keep yourself from getting hurt while riding through them. We're going to have a really good time!
For the most part, I bike for recreation. I also do a little bit of bike repair and am always on the lookout for a gadget or two to make the experience even more enjoyable.

I'm interested in going on group rides and meeting other bike bloggers to share links and war stories with. Sound fun? Look me up on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/daleculp or send me an email at daleculp@gmail.com

When I'm not riding, I am a creative professional whose day jobs have included: database administrator, web designer, columnist, freelance writer, professional blogger, game critic and musician.

If you're interested in hiring me to write some words for you, here are a few places around the web where you'll find plenty of my published work:
I currently critique iPhone apps for 148apps.com
I've written about music, movies, live events and video games for The Weekender.com
I've written about mobile games & Internet culture for GoLackawanna.com
I've written about Android games for AndroidRundown.com

I've also been published in several online publications, such as Escapist Magazine and IGN.com.

My article for The Escapist - Pastor Blaster -

My article for IGN.com - Are Google+ Games Doomed? -
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