Every moment spent on a bicycle is sublime. It can be a bit like giving birth, I suppose, as much as I can imagine that feels like, in that it’s not the pain that you remember as much as the sheer joy of what the experience reveals to you. What I take away from each and every ride will stay with me forever.
Thanks, Jim, for reminding me of that. You’re pretty smart, for a roadie.
Yesterday was a nearly 30 mile day — 28.99 miles to be precise. Singletrack. Rocky, sandy, steep climbs, roots, twisty turns, screaming descents. Through woods and meadow, groves of cedar. The Kettle Moraine area of southern Wisconsin is exquisite. A treat. And barely two hours drive from my front door. My third time riding there, it is now cemented on my ‘must do’ list every riding season.
My friend, Ben, sent me a message last Thursday — Kettle Saturday at 10 am? Full monty. Some faster riders will be there.
I already was thinking about going on my own. Ben’s invite just helped me make up my mind — Of course. I could go for that. See you then!
And so I went. Ben and I met his friends, Melissa and Scott, as well as Eric (his job is to drive Specialized demos from trail to trail for demo days), at the John Muir trailhead in Lagrange, Wisconsin. The plan was to do the full monty, which means that we were going to ride both the John Muir trail system as well as the connector to the Emma Carlin trail system. On my own, I would have no problem riding the 30 miles. However, I did not know if I could hang with Ben’s group all day. Melissa and Scott are racers, Melissa a former roadie turned mountain biker (when I asked her about riding road, she says she has no desire to go back to riding road — it’s too boring), and both skilled, fast riders.
I shouldn’t have been worried. No one cared. All we cared about was riding and riding in a beautiful place. I hung on, but it was work for me, and the faster riders did nothing but encourage me all day, even complimented me as I conquered some fairly hairy rock gardens and a skinny with a tall drop. When we stopped to catch our breath, it was a blast, the comraderie of riding bringing us together. I was tired and at the mid way point felt like I didn’t have much left in my tank, but I pushed on and was glad that I did. Had I stopped, I would have missed a lot, including the time spent winding down at the end of the ride, cold beer and the talk about what we had done that day.
Like when Ben and I were riding through the connector trail that wound through a meadow, surrounded by tall grass. Ben was about 50 yards ahead of me when I saw his red helmet disappear into the weeds. The trail was deep with fine sand as it took a sharp turn, Ben’s front wheel digging in and throwing him into the tall grass.
That reminds me, I need to look up what those little prairie dog like animals were in the field next to the parking lot. They popped out of their holes and stood up to check out the surroundings, all together.
Here’s a selfie taken by Melissa somewhere around the 20 mile mark, when we stopped to cool off and take in the view from an overlook. I am the guy in the orange with the blue/white head sweat. Melissa kicks butt — she was up front all day. Scott was right on her tail the whole time. They both are such good riders, I felt a bit out of place, but you might be able to tell from the picture that I fit right in.