My weekends are starting to sound like a broken record. Guess what I did yesterday? Guess what I did today?
While those unfortunate road cyclists are lamenting the close of cycling season, we mountain bikers are reveling in that perfect time of year for riding the trails. Cold weather is OK as long as the trails are dry enough to ride. Some roadies as well as mountain bikers turn to cyclocross, if racing is their thing. Others just cry in their beer or energy drink or whatever their choice of liquid refreshment may be.
Yesterday was sublime at my favorite trail system, Saw Wee Kee. Fearing the recent rain storms may have left the trails too muddy to ride responsibly (I don’t ride if my tires leave a mark on the trail), I waited until midmorning before I loaded up the mountain bike to check out the trails. My fear was unfounded, the trails tacky instead of muddy, just right for traction and fast riding. After a warm up lap, I did two more, then showed a rider around the park when he asked me about the best trails to ride. Instead of telling him, I showed him. He was close to my age, but he couldn’t keep up even when I intentionally dialed it back. I don’t hate to say that I enjoyed that!
Today, I played hooky from church, opting for a trip south two hours to Peoria, Illinois to ride some of the trails there with my friend, Jon. Jon is a hard core roadie who also loves to mountain bike when the road season begins to wind down. He just finished an epic road ride, Paris-Brest-Paris, a ride that must be finished 85 hours after the start. Jon made the cut by 5 hours but slept only 3 hours the entire ride. That’s crazy. But that’s Jon and it’s one of the reasons he is also an excellent off road rider — it takes a bit of crazy to ride a good mountain bike trail.
And the trails we road today were very good. We started by riding a small, 7 mile trail system called Black Partridge in Metamora, Illinois. There are a lot of fun technical sections and bridges that wind through some of the most beautiful Midwest forest that I have seen. We chose Black Partridge to ride first because of its short length, a good warm up.
A quick bite to eat, then we headed 20 minutes south to the other side of Peoria to a system called Indy. Indy is one of the systems least talked about in the Peoria area (a system managed by PAMBA — Peoria Area Mountain Bike Association), so it is one of those little gems, a best kept secret of sorts. A local was leaving the trail as we prepared to go ahead and she shared that same little tidbit with us, a sly grin on her face.
“This is my favorite trail in the area and I am glad no one pays much attention to it. You are really going to like it. You probably won’t see anyone out on the trail. I rarely do.”
She was right in every respect. Indy’s trails wound and dipped and climbed, giving Jon and I all we could handle, enough that Indy became the last trail we rode today. There were a lot of steep, narrow, winding, obstacle filled (a lot of roots) climbs all over the park. The trails had a large number of logs to go over.
Maybe my biggest victory of the day.
Until today, I had a mental block against going logs on my bike. Small, 4-6″ diameter logs were no problem. But large logs were an issue as well as piles of logs. Today, I became a log rolling freak. One log that I went over would be hard for a hiker to go over. I went over it without any issue. The confidence was there once I did it.
It helps having a dual suspension, 29″ wheel bike with excellent clearance. Buying that bike with my bonus earlier this year, despite the remorse of not saving enough it coming back to bite me now, was still one of the best things I have ever done. I am enjoying riding like I have never enjoyed it before, largely because I have the best equipment to ride that I have ever had. Oh, there are a lot more expensive bikes out there, but this one does as much as a bike twice or three times the price. I LOVE IT!
Since I skipped church this morning, I did have to have some church of my own in my car. Jon drove separately since he is attending a conference for work in south central Illinois this week. That gave me the opportunity to talk with God a bit, put some good worship music in the car stereo, sing with it for a while. One of my favorite CDs, Jars of Clay “Redemption Songs”, has a song on it that became my theme for the day and my drive home. It’s a hymn most people know, It Is Well With My Soul, their version a very upbeat version. Maybe it’s nutty, but I listened to that song continuously for probably an hour or more on the way home. It seemed to fit what I was feeling.
“What ever my lot, You have taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul”
Until I got home, did my doody, and looked in the pot (not much different than blowing my nose and looking at the result in the Kleenex). It was deep red. I panicked, then realized why it was red. I had Red Vines today and not much else to eat, a little trick of mine I learned from friends. Red Vines work better than energy gels! But they also have a lot of red dye in them.
Hmmmm…. where will I ride NEXT weekend?