ImageAh, yes, can’t you just see my mountain bike smiling?  A dirty mountain bike is a happy mountain bike.  This afternoon mine was indeed extremely happy, so happy that the front wheel stayed off when the bike came out of the back of the PT Cruiser-To-The-Auto-Parts-Store.  A bath was in order but I thought it might be a nice thing to let the bike savor the dirt for a while.

I and my bike once again visited the Palos forest preserve (pictured in the header of this blog) this morning for a crack of dawn ride on some very slick single track trails.  The trees have finished dropping their leaves, a carpet of leaves covering the trails.  It rained on wednesday and thursday, so the trails were a bit wet in some spots, but not enough that they were closed.  If they are too wet, then the preserve closes them to prevent erosion and damage to the trails.

My friends Jim and Jon also joined me for the ride. Both are experienced off road riders, very familiar with the trails.. and they both kicked my butt.  My ego took quite a hit as I struggled to keep up with them, but I also thoroughly enjoyed watching them as they rode over logs, jumped into ravines, and rolled over roots.  I tried.  We rode trails with names like cemetery hill, appropriately named, and out/back. The dim morning light turned to a cloudless bright sunny morning, my skills improved to just slightly embarrassing, and my spirits soared as the we crested a forested hill that overlooked a lake with the early morning sun reflecting off of the water.  I am really beginning to love this whole mountain bike thing.

This morning had an added bonus.  Jim was on his first off road bicycle ride since a liver transplant earlier this year.  Palos is one of his favorite places and Jim answered my emailed ride invitation with an excited yes, extended the invitation to a ton of friends as soon as my email was received. The guy was pumped this morning, leaving us all in the dust.  Dang.  Maybe I should get a liver transplant.

And seeing Jim enjoy the ride may have really been the highlight of the morning.  He looks smaller now, a contrast to the man I knew a few years ago, but still an incredibly strong individual.  So many times this morning, Jon and I watched as Jim disappeared around a bend in the trail to leave us behind.  But even better than the riding is the encouraging friend that Jim is, greeting me immediately this morning with a huge hug and “It’s so good to see you again, brother!”.  That’s Jim, the most encouraging person I know, the glow of Christ surrounding him constantly.  Every time I come away with a bit of that glow.

And that bike is still happy.  Maybe it will get that bath before next Saturday’s ride.  Maybe.