The Giro De Cielo Comes To Town

The Giro De Cielo, Sussex County, NJ (Frosted Flakes View)

How cool is it to wake up on a beautiful spring day  and watch some of the best riders in NJ Jersey while you eat your Frosted Flakes on the front stoop?  Very cool indeed. The Giro De Cielo, sponsored by Skylands Cycling and the Somerset Wheelmen; raced through our scenic country roads this morning.  It was a pleasure meeting Joy and Nick Curry, they were both race officials working hard to keep the 60 cyclists in the peloton safe from any on-coming cars.  Ride on!

Encore Gallery:

The “Life Is Good” NYC Bike Tour Rides Again

When I saw the five day forecast on my Droid’s Weather Bug app and it showed a big yellow sun with 80 degrees  underneath it for Wednesday, I put the word out that the 2010 Life Is Good ride was on!

The 35 mile casual ride features some site-seeing, great food, entertaining conversation, stress relief and, of course…  a nice little work out.

If you want to be on the contact list for next year, let me know.   All you need is a bike and a positive attitude; …the ability to take off from work on short notice might come in handy too.

The Life Is Good Tour starts with breakfast in Randolph, NJ and then a park and ride rendezvous up in Fort Lee.   The group rides down though Weehawken and takes the path train form Hoboken to Christopher Street in NYC.   We cruise down the West Side Highway past Ground Zero, South Street Seaport and hop on the  Brooklyn Bridge.

My favorite part of the ride is our lunch break in Brooklyn.  We stop at Grimaldi’s and pick up a couple of Margarita Pizzas.  There is a reason why there’s always a line out the door. Delicious!  It was nice to see tax dollars being put to good use; workers were putting the final touches on a beautiful river-side park right down the street.   It was a perfect spot to mangiare and soak up the sunshine.

We take the Manhattan Bridge to the 6th Street Foot Bridge over the FDR and, this time,  invited ourselves to the big party picnics going on at Union Square and Tompkins Square.   The next stop is a little slice of heaven called The Tea Garden which is on the way to Madison Park.   25th Street takes us back to Chelsea Piers on the West Side and it’s a straight shot up the river to the Little Red Light House and the George Washington Bridge.   We cross the GWB and take in our final sights, sounds and smells of the city before crossing back into Jersey.

What a day.  This year, I brought my camera.

Like our new friend in the Tea Garden said… “It’s a beautiful ‘freekin’ world, man.”    🙂

Encore Gallery:

La Ruta de los Conquistadores

Lacso Katona singing, "I Feel Good" by James Brown after we finished the first climb of stage 1.

Lacso Katona singing, "I Feel Good" after we finished the first climb of stage 1.

Back in the day, Spanish explorer, Juan de Cavallón and his crew of new world conquerors supposedly found a short-cut to travel from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean side of  Costa Rica.  One has to think that Juan was either an adventure-junkie or a man with incredible adventure-race foresight because his 330 km “shortcut” from 1540 is now considered to be the premier mountain bike challenge in the world.

“The Route” that old Juan took  was researched and resurrected by modern-day super-athlete Roman Urbina, and eventually transformed into the La Ruta de los Conquistadores; an insane multi-day competition that attracts iron-men and women from all over the globe.

“It’s not about making it to the finish line; it’s about working with what you’ve got, giving it all your might and surviving the adversities that you might come upon along the way. Lending a hand to someone else, a sip of water, a spare tube, a word of encouragement, a friendly smile… while you compete against yourself… that’s the true spirit of La Ruta.” Said Román, “This will be an edition like no other, a true eulogy to mountain biking, in a location that hosts some of the most challenging terrains for this discipline, the rugged terrains of Costa Rica’s vast mountain ranges. And like Urbina says, “…it’s time to train hard, time to mount your bike with determination and get motivated to conquer Costa Rica on your iron stallion.”

Me singing "the hills are alive with the sound of music."

Me singing, "The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music."

My good friend from Slovakia, Lacso Katona, who sometimes I think is more machine than human, has been taking me on mini-mountain bike excursions every year since I’ve been coming down to Costa Rica for vacation.  Lacso came here for vacation about 20 years ago and basically said “to heck with Slovakia… this will be my new home.”    That same story and similar sentiments have been told to me more than once by my other “gringo” friends who also made ‘pura vida’ their permanent residence.

Over the years, Lacso has been telling me about this holy grail of mountain bike terrain known as La Ruta.  In his Slovakian-Spang-lish accent, the tales are even more dramatic and entertaining than what I found on the internet.

As a fitness enthusiast and a big fan of Mother Nature, it was time to let my tires kiss the dirt and get a taste of what everyone was talking about. Yesterday, after training here for 3 weeks, I did a section of stage 1 and it was absolutely amazing.  The song, Hurts So Good, by John Cougar comes to mind.  Challenging? Yes.  Rewarding? Yes.  Would I be able to do another 300 km’s in November when the trails are muddy and cold?  Fuhgettaboutit!  No, not without training with guys like Lacso and Lance Armstrong consistently for at least a year.

After our four-hour trek of only 33 km’s that included; steep climbs, technical down-hills and the kind of ridiculous scenery that you only see on the Outdoor Life Network, I was ready for lunch and an ice-cold mango smoothie.

Kudos to anyone that has ever competed in La Ruta de los Conquistadores and uber-kudos to anyone that has actually crossed the finish line.  For the rest of my fellow- mortal humans out there; keep spinnin’, keep dreamin’,  and keep enjoyin’ your ride on this journey we call ‘life.’

Encore Gallery:

hawkcheaterA friendly reminder for the tourists.Pura VidaThe owner of the mountain top restaurant Martha, with her son, William and cousin, Nelson.Even after a wind storm literally blew her restaurant off the mountain last February, Matha's manages to stay positive and keep her sense of humor.  No wonder why Ticos are some of the happiest people on the planet.Genetics.  Maybe this is why Lacso had to wait for me after each climb.

"Made it, Ma! Top of the world!"

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