Breaking the rules of the Maah Daah Hey: how Not to mountain bike the Badlands

There are rules to mountain biking the Maah Daah Hey trail in the Badlands of North Dakota. Here are four of the most important ones.

• If it’s raining, do not ride the trail.

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The Maah Daah Hey on a non-rainy day.

• If it rained anytime in the past few days, do not ride.

• If rain is in the forecast, do not ride.

• If it looks like rain, do not ride.

Well, you get the idea.

We broke every one. Continue reading

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When a road beckons… A summer of biking and books

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rest STOP in the Catskills

On a recent Saturday morning bike ride in the Catskills, I got to a fork in the road and paused. To the right was the paved country road I had planned to take. It wound up through some very picturesque farmland and at the top of a ridge joined a road that would circle back down through a valley and home. The road to the left was gravel and I couldn’t recall ever taking it before, certainly not with my bike.

A year ago, I stuck to paved roads with a bit of traffic—mostly pickup trucks and SUVs on the way to the next town. It took me a while to feel comfortable on roads where houses were few and far between. But those became the ones I enjoyed the most, where I might spot a few fawns playing in a field, or, once, baby raccoons mewing and as cute as kittens. And then when I started to venture even further, I got a bike that could handle the pavement and the dirt and gravel. I wasn’t going completely off the map, but when a quiet dirt road beckoned, I was ready to accept. Continue reading

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A Place Where Everything is Possible

Reyna Pacheco @ StreetSquash

Reyna Pacheco speaking at StreetSquash

Just about a week ago, I listened to a young woman give one of the most inspiring speeches I’d heard in a long time. It wasn’t full of big words or even particularly big ideas, but it came from the very big heart of a young woman who pursued and achieved a dream she once thought impossible. An immigrant from Mexico, Reyna Pacheco attended Access Youth Academy in San Diego, learned to play squash there—becoming a five time Urban Team National Champion, and is now a senior at Columbia University where she competes on the squash team. She was invited to speak about her experience to over one hundred young women who were celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day at the StreetSquash Center in Harlem.

The Street Squash players—some from immigrant families like Reyna’s—were totally rapt by Reyna’s talk. This was a young woman whom they could relate to, who had had so little, but had achieved so much, who was cheering them on. I believe that Reyna’s words and message will stay with them for a long, long time.

Here is the speech Reyna gave at StreetSquash. Perhaps her words will also inspire you . . . Continue reading

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Last Women Standing: A Sobhy & El Sherbini Shoot Out

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“World’s Grandest Squash Championship”

This article was started in a subway train and will end in a bar. Because ToC has taken its toll on more than just the players. Maybe twenty-two year old players – er, writers can burn the candle til two a.m. every night, show up to work, and then watch and write all night, but I could use a good night’s sleep. So this is the end of the line, guys.

And it was the end of the line finally for a history-making ToC player who poured her heart and sweat and everything she had into the glass court in Vanderbilt Hall. As with Cinderella, her time at the ball had ended. The reason? The deadly accurate, extraordinarily executed, and patiently sought shots of a twenty-year-old Egyptian, Nour El Sherbini. This long-legged young woman — so athletically unassuming and sweet-natured off the court — at times made the points she won look easy. I knew they weren’t. Continue reading

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Rooting for Sobhy & Wishing Age Didn’t Matter Much

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Nicol David congratulating Nour El Sherbini on her semi-final victory at the ToC     photo: Clayton Gates

“I’m not out of it yet.”

That isn’t a quote from any of the excellent players I watched Wednesday evening at the Tournament of Champions semi-finals. Rather, it’s from a rather poignant article in this week’s New Yorker about the author’s love of squash and his frustration with age affecting his game. Well, the line could’ve also come from another and much better known player affected by age, Nicol David. I watched her surprisingly quick demise, thanks to the almost magical shot-making by Nour El Sherbini, an Egyptian player twelve years her junior. Nicol displayed flashes of her trademark brilliance (her leaps around the court seem gravity defying) but I couldn’t help noticing a certain stiffness in her walk between points. Both she and Sherbini had battled five games the night before in their respective quarter final matches, but recovery for a twenty-year old is a very different cup of Advil than for a thirty-two year old. Nicol lost in three. 11-8, 11-5, 11-6.

The match most of the crowd had come for, however, did not disappoint. Although the match score was the same, at 3-0, the games were nail-biters, and my palms were sweating throughout. Continue reading

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Another ToC Stunner: Gohar Downs Massaro

 

Massaro vs. Gohar ToC 2016

ToC 2016 Quarter Final Match: Nouran Gohar vs. Laura Massaro   photo: PSA World Tour

They bumped hips, grabbed each other’s waists, and slid by thigh to thigh. In another space in New York City, these women’s movements would be just right for late-night in a club downtown. But this was two in the afternoon in a glass squash court in mid-town.

A few nights back, I had missed a history-making match as the barely-out-of-college U.S. squash star Amanda Sobhy took out last year’s ToC champion, Egyptian phenom Raneem El Welily to advance to the quarter-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions. It was a huge upset, and I was not going to miss Sobhy’s next match on Tuesday afternoon against last year’s ToC finalist, Alison Waters.

But first up in the quarters was World Number One Laura Massaro of England on court with the eighteen year old Egyptian, Nouran Gohar. Continue reading

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Downton Abbey Blues: How to miss the best squash at ToC

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photo credit: Mike Pepper

Sometimes you make a bad decision. This one is a doozy.

The day had started iffy to begin with. A storm had moved in to NYC in the early hours of Sunday morning and rain was pounding the skylight above where you are sleeping. This isn’t a don’t-forget-your-umbrella day. This is a pull out your foul weather gear, dig out the knee high rubber boots, and where the hell did you stuff that bonnet with a brim that you bought in Gloucester?

Better yet, text your late morning squash date that you’re busy bailing out the basement, pull up the covers, and stay home. Continue reading

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