By P Mitchell Dunklebarger, Photos by Evan G.
Shuffling through a foggy haze of chilled morning mist and familiar hangover symptoms, I surveyed the damage: clustered heaps of bicycles sporting cartoonish tires and ice-crusted components; weary looking comrades milling about in search of brewed beverages, attempting to muster warmth and peace-of-mind in the dawning hours; the smoldering coils of a sacrificial loveseat; bacon fumes wafting through the biting air. It was only Saturday, and our antics had just begun.
For the dozens of worthy adversaries who ventured to this unassuming rural Pennsylvania destination, the Frozen Fat Wide-Tire Enduro and Winter Camping Social was more than a weekend pleasure excursion or cycling challenge, it was a necessary expression of being. To these warriors, the allure of like-minded lunacy and hearty thirst induced interstate travel solely on word-of-mouth, as if they already knew where to be without being told. As they trickled in on a Friday afternoon, campsites were pitched and jabs of one-upsmanship were traded in the good spirit of a common disregard for personal comfort. Blind enthusiasm was building as the first keg was tapped.
But this commune is not without a leader, and the Visionary Gross was soon to arrive following the fall of dusk. Summoned to mount their rolling fat steeds, the gang departed through the darkness for a taverns’ beckoning, head and tail lights blinking in queue. Arriving at the bar in staggered groupings, the local buffaloes were amused to peer up from pint cans and billiards at such tightly dressed and boisterous fellows. Pitchers of fine ale were called for. Sweet potatoes were fried and heaped en-mass to challenge the appetite. A presence was made felt.
After much carousing, tires were pointed homeward in search of the enticing open flame. The aforementioned couch was paraded forth and cast upon its funeral pyre, evoking uproar of approval from the on looking hoard. Stupor turned to exhaustion as sleeping arrangements were sought out one-by-one.
One chilly night under their belts, the crowd arose to fulfill their higher calling. They were not among this group to simply eat, drink, and be merry—they were there to ride. A shuttle was executed, landing upon a satellite departure point in central Pennsylvania’s great forest. Following grueling climbs and jutting descents, forested oases provided cold beer and distracting banter from the arduous task at hand. After many hours and many miles of off-road adventure, these riders of the frozen apocalypse returned to basecamp, gathering to break bread and flow liquor.
Feats of strength and dexterity were now on display, with the famed Tube-O-War providing for competitive bragging rights. As darkness fell, a derby circle was constructed to challenge the balance of these inebriated fools. Flashing lights of every color, fixed to wheels and seat posts, cast a psychedelic wonder upon the scene. As the night wore on tall tales of great achievements were shared among the crowd, whimsical as the flickering coals.
Day broke yet again, with the promise of another refrigerated tour of mountainous splendor. As camp broke, the group departed for the final leg of this great Commonwealth exploration: an exhilarating romp atop the Allegrippis ridge. What ensued was a hard-fought battle for first ascents and swag grabbing; with due rest stops for refueling and exhibitions of log riding aptitude. The group could sense the end was near, but spirits were never higher as they swooped about this snow-dusted rollercoaster.
The culminating rendezvous in the parking lot rewarded this band with one final meal, as congratulations and commiserations were shared among the brave adventurers. The communal sense of accomplishment was palpable, yet almost an afterthought to the unnamable calling for self-induced suffering that all had sought and seen.