Monday, February 27, 2012

Silk's ANF Adventure

I am cold. I am wet. I am tired. I am happy!

Silk kept saying, "It may rain, but it should just be misty. Nothing heavy scheduled.".

My head needed the ride, badly, so I drank the Kool-Aid, and I drank it deep. Apparently I wasn't the only one, because StorminNorman, his son, B, and Big Jim Slade, all reported to the line.

We rolled out under cloudy gray skies, at a balmy 52*. I was still caught up in a storm inside my head. Family issues. As soon as we turned of the well worn trails of Munson Hills proper, my attitude saw sparkles of light at the end of the tunnel.

As we climbed a sandy incline, towards a powerline, I saw this 3' tall bird getting down to his feeding. My first thought was that it was a buzzard, but as it heard our approach, it sat up, and I saw the bright white head and neck. We see eagles on occasion, but usually they are high in the sky. He took flight as we came too close for his comfort. He hauled his dinner with him. I've seen hawks carrying snakes and mice, but to witness a full sized bald eagle, carrying an adult opossum, was definitely a first!

We ventured forth on old jeep and horse trail, and various dirt roads. Silk is plotting and planning a big ride on the Apalachicola National Forest, so today was about more scouting. An hour in, and the rains came. StorminNorman, just kept declaring, "I don't think the hard stuff is gonna come down for a while.". I was having so much fun on the trails, I just kept my foot in the gas. Work is warmth.

We finally hit the forest roads of Wakulla County, and went on scout mode. I'm still not sure if we ever saw the road that Silk was seeking, but the cold, rainy slog we were on, was taking all of my focus. BJS and I broke up the monotony of just turning the pedals, by sprinting for all of the yellow reflectors, on each bridge or culvert we crossed. Some things just don't change.

We reached a decision point, at the intersection of Stokley Road, and FS 313. Do we backtrack, or do we continue south, and look for anther way back. I was fine either way, until Silk implied that we may come up short, if we simply backtracked. Not wanting to be the first to blink, I just rolled out south. They'll follow.

Once on the supposed northbound route, the road had turned to a soft, wet sand mess, that made our previous slog, seem like a super highway. We found a road that promised to cut us back to a preferred road. We negotiated a couple of mud holes, but eventually were stymied by the mother of all mud bogs. No way around without getting more soaked than the rains had already offered. The temperature was not rising, so this didn't seem smart. You could see the spirits deflating, as we realized that we had a 45 minute backtrack ahead of us.

Big Jim Slade and I went to work, trading pulls in the north wind. Getting a break from the headwind outweighed having to eat the sandy, mud, wheelspray of the rider in front. Unfortunately, we realized that we'd left our companions, and decided to sit up, and share the workload as a full sized group.

After 3 hours, we finally reach a place to refill water bottles. Everyone kills the last of their food, dons whatever dry clothing they have available, and we begin the job of finding our way home. StorminNorman is chomping at the bit to ride every last bit of old singletrack, that he can remember. But B is tired, and running out of gas, so we're tempering his enthusiasm, with our own grumbling. The jokes are getting more and more dumb, as our bodies and minds get more numb, but everyone howls at their perceived hilarity. All except maybe B, who I'm sure is wishing he'd never agreed to ride with all of these "old guys".

I set up a system, to keep B on BJS's wheel, tucked in that energy saving draft. I watched with admiration, as he fought to stay right where I put him. He was tired, and struggling a bit, but the kid is tough, and never gave up.

It was StorminNorman's birthday, and he had brought a plate of his birthday donuts, to the ride. They were left in the truck, for after. We spent the last hour, talking of donuts, and any other food that sounded remotely delightful. Honestly, saltines would have been a Godsend at that point. The cold, and the wet, and the sand had taken its toll.

We had to be a sight, standing in that parking lot, 4 old dudes, and a 1 tough kid, shivering and soggy, with powdered sugar and donut crumbs, hanging from blue lips.

Like I said, I was cold. I  was wet. I was tired. And, I was happy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thoughts on Living

I just read Dirty Biker's most recent piece, over at This guy just continues to amaze me, with his ability to pull the trigger on adventure after adventure.

I can remember listening to a conversation over dinner, between a couple of Tallahassee's more traveled cycling crew. One recounted another conversation with a coworker who stated that she "REALLY wished" that she could take on the adventures, that this traveler, had experienced. At this point in the conversation on which I was eavesdropping, both travelers called bullshit, and laughed about the whole thing. They both strongly felt that if people "REALLY wished" that they could do something, they would make it happen.

That conversation has stuck with me, ever since. I try so hard to apply it when it counts, and sometimes just to remind myself that I can. Basically, I'm a big chicken. I know that these adventures are always available, but comfort and the unknown are massive obstacles. I have nomadic friends, who never seem to be home. They seem perfectly  at ease, floating along the winds, the seasons, and the continents. I'd feel like a kite without a string.

I like home. I like the feeling of security and peace, that roots bring about. But, I also long to see what else is out there. How do I reconcile these conflictual desires? I keep looking for the off switch for fear, or maybe trying to turn up the volume on courage. Maybe it's just natural to always wonder whether the grass really is greener on the other side.

I don't have the answers, only more questions. Otherwise, this post would have been titled, Answers on Living. In the meantime, I suppose I'll continue trying to expand my boundaries, but slowly enough that I avoid stretch marks.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Just What the Doctor Ordered

A conglomeration of crews merged on the lot at Munson, tonight. We harassed Mingo for his tardiness, but eventually, everyone rolled out, in good spirits. This season, that should be Winter, but is more like some kind of oh so lingering Fall, or fearfully early Spring, has most all of us in shorts and short sleeves. We'll pay for it this summer, when our state bird, the mosquito, hatches by the millions and takes his pound of flesh. But for now, it certainly makes for pleasant cycling weather.

I was openly mocked, for making truck and motorcycle noises, as the clay ribbon, and the day's troubles, rolled away beneath my wheels. For those who know me best, when the little kid bubbles to the surface, they know that I'm having fun. I've no urge to quell that little kid. He reminds me what to look for in life.

It's all about moments, and tonight was full of them. Laughing as Mingo smashed his pedals into anything over two inches tall, and laughing more as he sprawled like a gangly deer, over the most meager of logs. Feeling my bike shoot out of a berm that was hit just right. So much so that it reminded more of my surfing days, than mountain bikes. Smiling even more, as I blew the next one, like a first year rookie. Hearing Tiny Might squeal like a wood gnome, every time she panicked in the sand. Seeing the fog settle in, just inches above my head, making it feel like my head was about to get lost in the clouds.

Tonight was a good night, and I'm  thankful that that script was filled.