Into the Woods

Riding on Wednesday afternoon, the sky hung low and there was a misty fog in the air, and it was cold, around 50 degrees. More like the east or west coast than the usually dry, airy foothills west of Denver, which was nice for a change.

There were a few other riders out, but not many, and only a handful of hikers, so the gray and the solitude gave the ride a dreamy feel–which didn’t make it any less painful–Apex trail is a long grind no matter how you ride it. The section called Enchanted Forest is deeply treed, smooth, and up, up, up, and just to get to the small bridge that serves as an entrance of sorts, you have to climb for at least 30 minutes.

It was nice to pedal and suffer in the gray quiet. It was nice to feel the cold on my face and hands and feel the warmth of blood coursing through me. It was nice to just ride and feel confident–something I haven’t felt for a while. Being alone was nice, too, and it reminded me of something fiction writer Chris Offutt once wrote:

My life’s progression had been a toxic voyage bringing me to the safety of the flatland, where I began each day by entering the woods along the river. I’ve become adept at tracking animals, finding the final footprint of skull and bone.

Many people are afraid of the woods but that’s where I keep my fears. I visit them every day. The trees know me, the riverbank accepts my path. Alone in the woods, it is I who is gestating, preparing for life.

—from The Same River Twice

Breaking The Law

Not to be paranoid or anything, but it seems like there are lots of people out there who don’t like mountain bikers–people who see us a lazy, dangerous, and dumb.

Of course, there are always a few bad apples to make it seem so. But I certainly don’t fit that label. (I’m not dangerous. The other two? Well….) I stop for hikers, I do my best not to rip up the trail. I say a cheerful Hello! to everyone I pass.

But sometimes, when hikers hear me rolling up to them (slowly, I swear) and they practically throw themselves into the brush, thinking I’m going to run them over.

Some dorks do try and run people off the trail, other bikers included. Maybe that’s why we have a bad rap. Nice going guys.

Last week, there was a major controversy in Boulder when a park ranger discovered a guy riding down an “illegal” trail on Flagstaff mountain. The video (see below), I love: how the ranger is inspecting a rock (Phew, it’s undisturbed!), picking up a large fallen branch to check for damage (it’s a dead branch, dude, don’t worry). The histrionics at play here are quite silly. And if Boulder ever relaxed some of its mountain biking restrictions–and maybe spent some time educating bikers on the rules of the trail–then stuff like this wouldn’t happen.

I mean, can’t we all just get along?

23 Things I Thought About While Riding Yesterday

The ride: Chimney Gulch, Golden, Colorado.
Temp: around 50 degrees.
Wind: howling with gusts at least 40 mph.
Start time: 5:07 PM. Finish: 7:03 PM.
Vertical climbed: 1,735 feet.
Total miles:7.05 miles.

Thoughts, in no apparent order:

1. Dammit, it’s cold.

2. I can’t believe I forgot my socks and have to ride in argyle dress socks, not argyle bike socks.

3. I can’t believe bike clothing manufacturers make argyle biking socks.

4. Actually, argyle bike socks are pretty cool.

5. I’m actually singing a Taylor Swift song in time to my pedal strokes. My two daughters have got me hooked. (“I go back to December all the time….”)

6. I wonder if the garbage disposal is going to clog again any time soon.

7. I have a lot to do at work. Don’t think about work! Man, I have a long to do list. Stop thinking about work! (Repeat 147 times.)

8. I think there’s too much air in my tires. Funny. The English spell it tyres.

9. I need a quick release seat clamp. If only I knew how to measure the size of my, er, seat clamp.

10. Damn, it’s cold. And windy. I’m gonna blow off the trail and die!

11. I wish I could clear that long rock-step section. Someday. (Hope springs eternal doesn’t it?)

12. Man that’s a scary switchback. (Ride over it.) Man that was a scary switchback.

13. I can’t feel my toes in their thin wool argyle dress socks.

14. I’m glad I bought those new boxer shorts to sleep in. They’re really comfy.

15. I shouldn’t have spent money on that chicken burrito (black beans, medium salsa + corn salsa, cheese, no sour cream) at Q-Doba today. Ah what the hell. It’s payday! You deserve it, Mikey!

16. I wish I could sell my memoir/poetry book/novel idea/essay about trees/essay about going fishing with my grandfather.

17. Why the hell do we still have to be paying student loans? I hate hate hate student loans. (Pedal faster.)

18. Man, that’s a fun section of trail. I like how grippy the rocks are. I like that word. Grippy. Wonder if it’s in the OED.

19. I’m going to make this nasty switchback going up. I think I can, I think I can…. I can’t.

20. I wonder what I should have for dinner?

21. Chicken wings. Mmmm. Chicken wings. Now all I see in my mind’s eye is Homer Simpson. Mmmm. Donuts. Chicken wings and donuts. Mmmm.

22. Ride like freaking wind. No brakes–roll over it, dumbass! (No fear. No fear.)

23. Jesus, I’m cold. I can’t feel my fingers and toes. I can’t wait to get the car heat cranked. (Shiver, shiver.)