You may run into Ernie Rodriguez
Mountain Biking in the DC Region would not be what it is today without the efforts of MORE’s current President: Ernie Rodriguez. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and riding with Ernie for several years, but it really wasn’t until my latest tenure as Operations Director of the Mid Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE) Board of Directors that I really got to know him, and appreciate what he is doing for our sport.
As of 2016, Ernie Rodriguez will roll into his second 2-year stint as President of one of the oldest and most respected mountain bike clubs in the nation, MORE. I had a chance to sit down with Ernie over a couple of cold beverages and talk to him about how he started mountain biking, what he loves about cycling, and what’s in store for MORE in the coming year.
Ernie started riding in late 2000 on a whim. Ernie and Joel Kennet, a shared acquaintance, played frisbee together on a regular basis, and one afternoon Joel suggested they try mountain biking. “Joel was putting together a trip to go ride in Peru,” Ernie said. “But before we went down to South America we needed to make sure that we could ride!”
So, the pair gathered some bikes and headed out to Laurel Mountain, PA to a regional mountain bike festival. Ernie’s been hooked ever since…
“I just loved the social aspect of riding,” Ernie added. “Some of our first rides were hash house bike rides. We basically followed a trail that had been previously marked that led to hidden treasures (beer). There was just so much camaraderie. The hashers are basically a ‘drinking club with a biking problem.‘ But I just loved riding the trails, and the fun and camaraderie in between made it that much more fun.”
Ernie’s favorite riding is mountain biking. “Every once in a while I’ll get out on the road or do some cross riding, but I simply love mountain biking. I really love playing in rock gardens and riding technical trails. I love the challenge and rewards of clearing hard to ride sections. When I see a rock garden I’m like ‘let’s try it!‘ My favorite trails by far are those in the Frederick Watershed (below) – they just force you to pay attention and to actually ‘ride your bike…'”
Those who have been involved with MORE for a while will undoubtedly remember some of the people that made a difference to riders in our region. In Best Rides DC I feature Tom Jackson, and it’s nice to hear Ernie give him credit for his efforts.
“Soon after I started riding on a regular basis I got involved with volunteering, but I mostly rode with the group. Tom Jackson was heavily involved in leading rides and getting new riders into the sport. He basically got me (our group) out on different trails every weekend. He kept it interesting for us.” Ernie added, “Tom basically took us to a different park every weekend and introduced us to MORE’s Douthat camping trips. That’s where I met Scud, and as you know, once you got exposed to Scud you became an automatic volunteer.”
“It was from there that I connected with The Bike Lane team and kept meeting more of the people that really made a difference. Anne Mader, owner of The Bike Lane, was involved with The Fountainhead Project and recruited me to get involved with fundraising. It’s then that I became more involved in trail work and realized how many people before me had made it possible for not just me, but so many others to have quality places to ride. It’s then that I decided to join the board as VA Advocacy director; eventually I opted to run for President.”
That’s when I also came back to the club and threw my name in the hat to become MORE’s Operations Director and when I really started to get to know Ernie. Volunteering for the MORE board is a taxing endeavor. It requires a great deal of your personal time and a commitment to work to advance the goals of the club. I asked Ernie what he believed have been his most memorable accomplishments during his first tenure as President. “As a member and volunteer I noticed that the club was somewhat fragmented,” he said, “so my first goal was to make sure to include everyone and bring people back together, ultimately we all share the same passion for this sport.”
“I wanted to make sure that every mountain biker that enjoys mountain biking the DC region, most importantly our members and volunteers, were included. It’s taken time, and it’s been difficult, but we’re making progress. We still have work to do, but I think we’re getting there. I want to make sure we empower our volunteers to keep doing what they have been doing and make sure they know they’re appreciated,” he added.
“One of the proudest accomplishments I’ve seen is neither mine or the board’s, but it’s from our volunteers, mainly our trail liaisons,” he said proudly. “They have taken ownership and pride in what they do with their particular trails. I want to make sure that they know MORE, especially the board, appreciates all of their efforts and is there to support them and provide whatever assistance they need to succeed.”
As with any large organization, there are also disappointments. I asked Ernie if there is anything he wished he would have done differently, or anything that’s disappointed him during his first tenure as President. “I see how the MORE Board and our volunteers work very hard to accomplish things and move a project forward, so it is sometimes frustrating to see how long things take to happen. Still, I’ve come to understand that things take time, especially when dealing with multiple jurisdictions and government agencies. Bacon Ridge, for example, has a great team that had been ready for quite some time to begin building a trail, but getting the MOUs and permits lined up took a while. It was a bit frustrating for the people with the shovels on hand. But now that everything is in place, work is proceeding at a great pace. Mike Klasmaier and Trevor Ellis, along with Phill Rollison and the rest of the team in Anne Arundel County have been doing a phenomenal job, not only building trail, but finding ways to fund and rally volunteers to come out and help.”
“The same goes for other liaison teams around the region. Mount Vernon took a while to develop, but things are moving forward. The Shed, as many of us know, has had uncertainty for years, but thanks to the patience and diligence of Shed Liaisons Dave Kalt, Philip VanWorkhoven, and ambasadors Joe Whitehair and Darius Mark, along with MORE’s Executive Director, Ryan Delany, the City of Frederick is working on an MOU for MORE to maintain all the trails in the watershed.”
Ernie is headed into his second term as MORE’s President, another 2-year commitment. I asked Ernie what his goals are this time around. “As I head into my third year, I want to focus on sustainability and make sure that the club has enough funding going into the future,” he said. “I need to ensure I’m a good steward of the organization. My goal is to make sure that whoever comes after me inherits a club that is sustainable and can keep building and maintaining trails, and that continues to support the people that make things happen – our liaisons and volunteers.”
“I also want to make sure that new mountain bikers have great places to ride, just like I did when I started mountain biking.” he added. “I often tell new riders not to worry so much about what bike they have to start with but just to have fun. Head out on a trail with your friends, make new friends, challenge each other and celebrate everyone’s accomplishments. I also want to encourage all mountain bikers in the region to join MORE and help their local liaisons succeed. Volunteers like Todd Bauer, Eric Crawford, Ed Dixon and Larry Cautilli are the fabric of MORE and work tirelessly to enable riding opportunities at your local trails.”
Ernie finished by asking me to remind everyone that this February 6 is MORE’s annual winter party and meeting and to encourage people to attend. It will be an opportunity to visit with old friends, make new ones, and to help MORE recognize the people that make it possible for all of us to continue mountain biking in the DC region on some of the finest trails in the East Coast.
If you happen to run into Ernie Rodriguez on the trail give him a pat on the back for all the effort he has put forward in leading MORE into it’s 25th year. Better yet, offer to lend a hand in leading MORE into its next chapter…
Ernie’s current bike inventory:
- Custom Full Suspension Ti Eriksen
- Trek fixie Road bike
- Custom Ti Eriksen Hard Tail
- Niner SIR9 single speed
- Trek Carbon road bike
Both of my books (Mountain Biking the Washington DC/Baltimore Area and Best Bike Rides DC) include “You May Run Into” sidebars that highlight local personalities who have devoted their time and made a difference to cycling in the DC region. This is the first of what I hope are many more interviews that extend the sidebars published in the books and where I introduce you to more of the people that make a difference in our region.