The single track trails at Palos Forest Preserve are some of my favorite trails to ride, a treat that I don’t get to indulge in very often simply because getting to them involves braving the traffic on interstates 88/355/55, a long drive with the traffic factor included. Saturday morning is a different story, the drive a mere 30 minutes or less (the VW dirty diesel likes to go fast). September is when my road riding friends start thinking mountain bike instead, so most Saturday mornings find me bombing the trails at Palos with friends. We meet in the Bullfrog parking lot just before sunrise, ready for three hours or more of time on the trails together.
If I come out of a ride without a bump or bruise or contusion or thorn induced scratch or sprain, then it wasn’t a normal Saturday morning ride. Part of the recipe of guy time is challenge — male bonding must involve a bit of competition and sweat. Blood, sweat, and gears. Many of our rides together are remembered by an injury that occurred during that ride:
- The “Face” ride — Jim literally flew into the first ravine of the Three Ravines trails, his face meeting a limb in mid air. We pulled a dazed Jim out of the ravine, his face bloodied from a large gash above his eye. Jim is a tough guy, a liver transplant survivor, and he insisted on riding another two hours with us that day. He talked nonsense most of that two hours, so it was a bit worrisome.
- The “Swinging Arm” ride — Jon is one heck of a rider, an energizer bunny type who will just ride and ride and ride and then ride some more. While riding the XX trail, a series of rocky challenges, Jon’s front wheel met a rock slick and wet, sending him violently down a steep drop off to his right. His arm hit a rock on the way down, the rock breaking his arm directly below the elbow, rendering his arm useless. Jon insisted to ride back to the parking lot with us, a series of steep climbs and close to three miles of riding, his arm swinging down at his side as he rode. How Jon rode back to the parking lot without passing out is a mystery.
And then there is my bum knee. Cycling is good for keeping the creak out of that joint, until I do something stupid. When I am out riding with the guys, that is bound to happen sooner or later. Last year I twisted the knee when I put my foot down at the top of a steep rut, the dirt slick from the morning dew, as I tried to keep my bike from falling into the rut. I didn’t just feel the pop in my knee as it turned the wrong way while I and my bike fell into that rut.. I heard it pop. I cried out like a little boy, my friends ready to rescue me. I pulled myself up, threw my leg back over the bike, and finished the ride. My knee screamed at me the rest of the way. I spent the rest of the day and part of the next with my knee propped up, an ice bag in place to hold down the swelling.
Last Saturday was this year’s knee day. Oops. Ain’t I gots sexy knees? Problem is that right now was just a bit swollen. I would love to say that I messed it up doing something tough. Nope. I fell as I was rolling to a stop. I stood off the seat for a second, then actually missed the seat with my butt as I attempted to sit back down. Folks, that’s nearly an impossible thing to do. My butt isn’t petite.
I ignored the knee after I got home Saturday, instead spending the rest of the day outside sealing the asphalt driveway. The good thing about that was I felt no guilt parking my butt on the couch all Sunday afternoon and evening. By Monday, most of the swelling was gone. I feel good today. Tomorrow I ride again.
Now for the annual guy trip to Brown County, Indiana for two days of mountain biking….