Sunday, May 27, 2007

I Don't Need No Stinking Bike

Yesterday morning I went on a bike ride with a friend. At least, that was the plan. We took off from my house and rode about three miles up the road to a trail that heads off into the woods. My friend John is a very experienced mountain biker known by all his friends as “No Fear” because of the speed and recklessness of his descents. I am not a biker. I can’t even call myself a novice. I was using a bike that was given to me some years ago which is ostensibly a mountain bike. Truthfully, it’s a mountain bike in the same way that a Suzuki Samurai is an SUV. It sort of looks it, but don’t actually try taking it off road.

So, we turned off the road and John immediately powers through a mud hole, up over a ledge and begins motoring up the hill. I gamely attack the mud hole and instantly end up with one foot in the mud. Getting back on, I jump on the pedal and start cranking up the ledge, only to have the tire slip out from under me, sending my groin into the handlebar shaft. Well, since this is biking and according to Lance Armstrong, it’s all about the pain, I simply grunt and start pedaling again. I get about 20 yards up the trail, crank over a rock and suddenly find that my rear tire is refusing to turn. Getting off to look at the wheel I observe that it has slipped halfway out of its slot, and is twisted sideways (though not bent) so that it is firmly jammed against the frame. John has tools, for his bike, but his bike does not require an ordinary wrench, which is what would be needed to loosen the nut, reset the wheel and secure it. We pound the wheel back in with a rock and then it’s decision time.

Option 1 – Weenie out because my bike broke, call it a day, and go home whining with my tail between my legs. I don’t think so.

Option 2 – Forge ahead on my bike, in spite of the likelihood that the wheel will dodge out again, only this time it will happen several miles from the road and make extraction of the equipment much more difficult. Possible, but not appealing.

Option 3 – Ditch the bike. Run it.

John says he doesn’t really care. He has had two hard rides already this week and knew he would be riding with an rookie today, so he had planned to mostly goof around anyway. He allows as how I’ll probably end up passing him on some of the steeper uphills, and he’ll just cruise the downs and wait for me at the junctions. I ditch the bike in the bushes, take off my helmet, grab my water bottle and we set out.

It was amazing. There are miles and miles of trails running through the woods all around town. Old roads, fire trails, snowmobile trails, paths. We continuously crossed stone walls in the middle of the woods, indicating that only 100 years ago these were open fields that have now grown over into stands of mixed hard and softwoods, beeches, maples, some oaks with hemlock and pines. We crossed grassy fields overlooking mountain vistas, went deep into hemlock swamps, tracked across sawdust piles from long ago logging operations, and slogged through mud and over rocks.

At one point we came across a horrendous washout (thanks to horrendous rains last month) with a snapping turtle stuck in the gully. He was a goodolboy, with a shell a good 14 inches in diameter He couldn't get out so I decided to help him. He did not appreciate it in the least. Here’s a hint. If you ever want to pick up a snapping turtle, don’t. If you have your mind set on it, however, grab him by the tail. I still have all my fingers, but it was a close call.

We stopped for a minute on a bridge over the Suncook River. I picked two ticks of my legs. I killed them. It felt good.

About an hour and forty five minutes into it, we pulled up to Barnstead Country Store. Here I will speak in praise of High Fructose Corn Syrup. Is it in you? The advertiser wants to know. Heck yeah. A quart of bottled Midwestern sunshine and an Almond Joy later, and I was good to go the distance. I did notice that the last mile or so that my legs were feeling pretty fatigued. On some of the uphill climbs they were just not feeling quite as springy as they had a couple hours before.

The total? According to my sources, I biked 3 miles on road, and then ran 12 miles on trails. The total, including the breakdown and the stop for refueling ran about 2.5 hours. A good mornings jaunt, I’d say. I was a little hungry after, and lagged a little, but generally felt pretty good. I ate and showered and drove up to pick my bike up. Got back and cleaned house, took a trip to the dump, and made a small home improvement. Had dinner with the family on the deck that night. A good day all in all.

I’m feeling pretty good today. I think I may be sore tomorrow. It usually hits the second day after.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot's wife said...

On the way home from church one day there was a huge snapping turtle in the middle of the road in Dunbarton. We among others stopped to try to encourage it to the other side with no avail. It snapped at sticks, Benjamin's feet and anything it thought it could reach. Boy, that baby was fast! Finally someone who knew what he was doing stopped. He put his foot on the turtle shell near the tail, grabbed the tail and held it out at arm's length as he walked over and threw it into the pond. Until you see it, you don't realize how far their necks stretch as it made a valiant attempt to bite her rescuer. The rescuer thought the turtle was about 75 years old. We have seen bigger snappers swimming in the Merrimack River which is why David won't swim in the Merrimack.