Well, last night's ride lived up to our crew's usual drama standards! Unfortunately, I had a little help from a distraught wife unit. The ride is set to roll from Joe's Bike Shop and Ice Berg is standing patiently outside by my truck. Being 15, he still needs rides to the rides. About 20 minutes from clockout time, I find out that Marco Polo can't make the ride, so I'm gonna need to drive Ice Berg back home afterwards. He's a good kid, so that's not too bad, but it definitely adds another 45 minutes to my trip home! Then my better half calls, frantic that she's just been in a hit and run where she chases the guy down until he stops! In the middle of her call, she blurts "The cops are here. I've gotta go!" and hangs up! So now I'm stuck wondering if everything is alright. She did manage to convey that she's not hurt, but I don't know if her car is jacked, if she needs help, nothing. Just before I melt down, she calls back, tells me everything is cool, and that I should still ride. "Don't stress." she says! Yeah right! Have you met me??
So we arrive at Joe's and the FNG, who is borrowing a light from me, needs help mounting it, but doesn't want to take the initiative on his own. In the meantime Ice Berg is circling like any good teenager, asking a thousand questions about how to mount his helmet light properly. Through all of this, I'm trying to get my own gear together. When we finally roll out, the group keeps getting split up crossing clogged T-town traffic arteries. Somehow, I'm on the wrong side every time. Things just won't look up for me!
On the Fern Trail we meet some other riders heading for the Higher Ground ride. As one group passes, The Human Wrecking Ball starts telling me, in his best trail whisper, that one of these guys is the guy who had the audacity to challenge him at Tom Brown a month ago! The nerve of the guy! So I answer, in my best trail whisper, but HWB doesn't hear me and keeps crabbing about how I'm ignoring him. So as my blood pressure continues to elevate, I decide it's time to bump the pace up to where nobody wants to talk anymore. No talking hopefully means nobody pushes any more of my buttons, right? No such luck! We arrive at Tom Brown Park and I'm trying to collect my crew to head for the parking lot to look for late arrivals. But this is like trying to herd cats! As 3 of the guys shoot by on a downhill, I realize that the last guy is not the FNG! WTF? The last guy is HWB's nemesis, who hopefully didn't hear our trail whispers. Where did Newbie go? I look down the hill and see FNG walking into Paulie's headlight, and his borrowed light no longer appears to work. Apparently the light had extinguished on the Fern, he'd missed a turn and took a trip over the bars, in the dark. Afterwards he'd been riding by braille to catch up! Paulie, being the generous soul he is, loans FNG one of his two light systems and we're back under way. But now the Nemesis is complaining about how we're stopping too much, and wanting to know if we're gonna ride or what?? Who the hell is this guy? Why is he in the middle of OUR ride griping about OUR plans??!!
New tactic time. I'm sitting in the back now. I figure if I let HWB and Nemesis try to kill each other, Paulie will go fast to watch, and all I have to do is sit back and watch FNG take bad lines. When your day is going poorly, laugh at someone else's pain, that's my motto! So my night starts to turn around. A short while later, HWB freaks out and splits for home, Nemesis dipped to find more talented riders who will clearly challenge him more than we do, and our merry band is down to four.
And then something cool starts to happen. We regroup and start chatting. I nudge towards the trail a couple of times, but noone takes the bait. We just sat out in the quiet, dark by the lake, and talked about all manner of humorous old stories. Everything that was leading to my early coronary checkout melted away. Eventually we started home, with nothing but the usual games of grabass and smartass comments that are the trademarks of all of our better rides. Everyone was cold as the temperature dropped 15 degrees while we were out there, but deep down, the warmth of knowing I was where I belong was back. Despite all the stress of my day and making this ride happen, in the end, it was still better than sitting home stressing all the challenges that have been heaped on my household the past few weeks. This ride was doomed from the word go. It should have been a disaster! And in some ways it was, but I'm sure that on some dark night ride in the future, the story of this ride will be told again, but maybe as a more beautiful disaster.