Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Leads to Old

My last post was all about seeing something new; doing something different(ly).    I think that ultimately, I'm just burnt out on my mtb, lately.  Winter brings the dark, and dark traditionally limits us to mtb night rides.  Truth is, we limit ourselves.  Last week's night cx ride opened my eyes to other dark options.

I brought up the desire to do a dedicated clay road ride and the crew jumped all over it.  Last night found 7 of us rolling into the twilight, while the clay roads unfolded beneath.  Everyone seemed to have a good time, and I for one was just plain stoked to be doing something new.  

This morning I was looking at the map of our route.  I was looking at other options, kind of like one of those choose-your-own-adventure books, I read as a kid. What happens if I choose this turn over that other?   I had this one particular right turn in mind.   I zoomed out on the map, followed the little track through the trees to the north, and see that it pops out just south of Blackshear Rd, off Thomasville Rd.   Blackshear rings a bell deep in the recesses of my memory.   I dig a little deeper, and it all comes to the surface.   The aerial photos became a playground map of my youth.  My grandmother lived on Blackshear, when my Grandfather was the superintendent of Hines Hill Plantation.  I see the roof of the little old house, and it looks like the pond out back has succumbed to algae or lily pads.  It looks so green compared to the black water I remember being told to stay out of during family events in that backyard.   A slide show plays instantly at the thought of that pond out back.  The green grass backyard as big as all the world in my child's eyes.   Family scurrying about, as my Dad and his Dad fried fish in the cookhouse. Aunts and Grandmother shoeing us away from underfoot, as they carried pies and other goods down to the picnic area by that pond.  Running around with a stick of some sort that made the perfect sword, fishing pole, wand or whatever else was needed in any moment of unbridled. imagination.

I look just north of Blackshear and I see where my old house used to be.  It was referred to as The Cracker Shack, back then.  I wonder if that was a pet(or derogatory) name my Mom and Dad made up for the place, or if it was "officially" known that way by the plantation in general.  I follow the smaller plantation tracks through the woods, to the 3 Small Ponds I always bragged about.  "Where I live, we have THREE ponds in the woods behind the house!"   In my mind, it was quite the brag, in the 2nd grade.  We rode bikes all through those woods.  My first bike was a Huffy that looked like a dirtbike.  20" knobby tires, fenders, number plate, the works! My brother had another 20" wheeled bike, with a bass-boat red banana seat, sissy bar, and apehangers.  Dad would take us out on those roads, my brother and I on our own, while the youngest brother rode in a child's seat on the back of Dad's Sears 10spd.  Knowing what I know now, I honestly don't know how he rode those skinny road tires on those dirt roads, with all that extra weight, and absolute garbage for brakes.  Riding 2 rut roads covered in pine straw from pine trees that had to be at least a million feet tall.

The Cracker Shack is gone now.  It makes me sad seeing that. Reality is, it was ancient when I lived there and that was a loooong time ago.  My first thoughts when seeing it replaced by a big storage building were bitter.  My history replaced.  But that old house was probably long past any functional use.  That old house was home for awhile, and now it will always have a home of its own in my memories. 

I think I'll be taking that right turn I was looking at, in the near future.  If I remember right, there was a little church at the end of that road, just before the highway.  I think I'll go see about that.  I think I may need to see if I can get into my old yard, too.  The house is gone, but I bet the roots of  those memories are still planted pretty deep in that piece of earth.

Last night's ride made me happy... because it was something new.   But today, seeing how something new can tie so deeply into fond memories of my past, well,  that was a very unexpected gift.  One that makes me infinitely more happy that I opted out of the same old, same old, and opened another future door to my history.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dead Ends

This first month of the year feels all out of sorts. In my head, one warps up tools, ideas, and plans for a "new" event, at the tail end of a "closing" event.   In other words, prep bikes in December, for events of January. 

My January went nothing at all like that.  The opening week saw me scrambling to bandage a hemorrhaging bike, in time for Felasco.  She came together, and I suffered through my 12th tour of those woods. After Felasco, I found that the Tallboy was still bleeding beneath all those bandages.  The rear shock was scritching and squirting(technical terms) with every cycle.   No time to send it off for a rebuild before Ididaride.  So I borrow, not one, but 2 rear shocks from folks, only to find both of those in worse shape than my own.  Scramble, pillage, rape, salvage, beg, bailing wire, and too many freaking hours in my shop later, and she's bandaged, yet again. 

Ididaride starts fast as always, to get that coveted spot in the singletrack, ahead of the lollygaggers. It will slow to downright hiking speed, if you get mired in all that.  About 12 miles in, I've been long bittered by my cold wet feet, and the fact that my body is not settling in after the fast start,  I feel tired, but hope it will come around.  The only thing that came around, was my rear wheel, after I clipped a pedal in a corner, planted my knee firmly in the trail(causing the first ever tidal wave in the Suwanee River), flipped ever so gracefully around to land on my back, slammed the back of my head into the ground(causing 2nd ever tidal wave in the Suwanee River), and watched curiously as my bike flew overhead, and tried to kill Tiny Might, who was still in front of me at the time.  I get up, and though I very much love Mexican food after I ride, I was not at all enticed by the spoke and rim taco that used to be my front wheel.  I had zero interest in walking, but knew the wheel was never going to be the same again.  I took the wheel calmly from the dropouts, and proceeded to bit the ever living shit out of it against the ground.  Mechanically speaking, I was trying to straighten it enough to allow it to spin between the fork legs, so I could limp out.  Metaphysically speaking, I was absolutely trying to kill something that was raging inside me.  I sent the group on, knowing I was effectively done for the day.  Once they were clear, I continued the mad thrashing of rim and earth.   I found a large tree, about 6-8" in diameter, and set about trying to bend the rim around its trunk. A loud crack, the tree that I was now recognizing to not look so healthy, vibrated, shook, and began to fall.  Ahhhh hell!!!! I was struggling between my natural desire to run, and the desire to not kill any innocent rider, that just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  I gave it one last hard push towards the woods, and backed off. Crisis averted. 

The wheel spun just straight enough to get me rolling.  It heaved, jerked and swayed, but rolled. The spokes creaked and groaned with every rotation, but they got me to a highway, and back to White Springs.  I must have looked like Debo, riding that hoopty down Main St. 

The Tallboy is now on blocks, and I started trying to get another bike together in time for Urban Gorilla.  After 6 hrs in the shop, and driving all over hell and back to chase down parts on Saturday, I made it happen.  Sunday dawned wet and foggy, but I was stoked. Bike looked good, and rode great.  I was very ready to get in some much needed hours.  About 4.5 hrs in, I pick up a stick, that wrapped my rear derailleur up like a...well....I don't really know what.  She was a mangled hunk o' metal, I know that.  I tried to convert the bike to a singlespeed, but 3 pedal rotations later, she bound up tighter than all hell.  Unrideable, and unfixable with the tools on hand, I sat dejectedly on a park bench, and waited for evac.

It gave me plenty of time to ponder some things.  Mostly, I pondered retiring from mountain bikes.  I'd spent probably 25-30 hrs in the shop this month, only to have 2 bikes more dead than they began.

Today I drove all over Gadsden County, and found all these cool roads, that I couldn't wait to ride on my road bike.  Sweet roads that climb and descend the crazy topography as you move south towards Lake Talquin.  But every one of these sweet roads came to a dead end.  At first, I wrote them off.  For some reason, it just feels wrong to use roads that don't connect, when laying out a new ride loop.  See, there it is right there. Loop.  But then it hits me. Who made that rule? Why do I have that feeling?  Maybe that's just bullshit.  Maybe I need to to readjust my thinking, and be okay with all the backtracking.  Continuity is great and all, but does it have to be the only way? 

These threads of thought may seem incongruous, but in my head, those dead end roads, and all of the  dead end wrenching I've been doing, seem to tie together about perfectly.   I've already begun backtracking across the nuts and bolts, the assembly, disassembly, and reassembly of those bikes.  While it seems like rehash, it's simply a necessary evil, of riding bikes. Though I really wanted to, I could never really just write off those bikes.  And this weekend, backtracking be damned, I'm going to go ride those dead end roads, both ways, and enjoy their gifts, coming AND going.