A glorious April weekend, the first warm one following March’s leonine exit. I was dying to hit some trails, particularly after rocking the Scrhalpin’ Turns at Waldo last week. Friday I was thinking I might ride both days. One friend said he planned to ride Gussie Saturday, and I hung my hopes on that. But the day got away from him, and he texted mid-day that he couldn’t come out to play. By then I was engaged in my own chores and gave up on a trail ride.
Instead, I decided to work on some skills, specifically on doing a manual. I can get the front wheel off the ground, but haven’t dialed in riding it out, something I could do for a hundred feet at a stretch when I was ten. The one time I got close ended badly. I landed spectacularly and painfully on my ass, to the point that when Pat ran over to comfort her writhing-in-pain-on-the-driveway husband, my response was, “Leave me the fuck alone.” The pain subsided in a minute, but damn! Note to self – apologize to spouse and switch to flat pedals for this exercise.
Determined to make Sunday better, I committed to riding at 4PM, and put out Facebook and email feelers. Everyone had different plans. A lot of my friends did long dirt road rides in the morning. Another was at a conference in NH. Still another had committed to teaching a Congolese refugee how to ride a bike so he could get to work.
You can’t make this shit up. Seriously – Couldn’t the Congolese dude use some trail skills?
By 3:15 I resolved to ride alone, and got my kit on. I’m not wild about riding alone. It worries Pat. I learn from and am inspired by other riders. But perhaps most importantly, sharing outdoor experiences bumps them a notch – It’s an atavistic thing that’s encoded in our DNA, a remnant from a time when cooperation within a tribe literally meant life or death. Plus there’s the beer in the parking lot after the ride.
But my tribe didn’t want me Sunday. Fuck ’em. I was riding anyway.
It started well. Despite every pedal stroke pulling the muscles in my bruised ass, I cleaned the rock garden off the fire road for the first time ever by just following the rules – Head up, shoulders relaxed, feet spinning. Score one for me. Fast down Thing’s twists and then panting up the Red Steeps to Yellow, where I rolled the doubstacle of the rock wall and the sassafras log like walking down a sidewalk. Then it soured. Back on Red, in an abbreviation of the Schralpin’ Turns, I was slow and cornering wide. At the bottom, I couldn’t climb Extra Credit, losing my balance over and over.
Riding back up Thing, I didn’t have the energy to roll the easy rock garden, and even fell on the easiest bit from going too slow. At the top by the quartz mine, I stopped. I’d planned to ride up Red but was starting to think that wasn’t happening. Sucking the last water from my Camelback, I took its deflated bladder as a sign to head out, and rode the easy trail back to the fire road. Not wanting to suck quite that much, I turned off to ride the log and the boardwalk. I fell off the log, then rode off the boardwalk. At the truck, I found I’d only been out an hour, but I was fork-sticking done.
Monday morning, I felt like death and went to the doctor to find I had an antibiotic-worthy sinus infection. Which was good to know, because it told me I didn’t suck as badly on Sunday as I thought.