I am in pain. My feet hurt. My back hurts. My knees hurt. My legs hurt. My SKIN hurts. Pain.
Today is one of those days that I ask myself why I ride bikes. I am in great shape, I should not feel like this. Yesterday when coworkers asked the typical Friday question "what are you doing this weekend?" I responded with "lay on the couch, I have nothing planned nor do I feel like doing anything." That included riding bikes.
Yet I found myself scheming ways to fit in a ride. Maybe it is because I know that summer is over and I need to get in the last minute miles. Maybe I knew that I would not be permitted to simply lay on the couch all day. Mow the lawn or ride a bike I asked? I don't know, but there were a ton of messages both obvious and subtle that suggested I needed to just lay on the couch, or as close to it as possible.
Instead I found myself heading to a new trail even though something told me deep down inside that I should not go. The really crazy thing is that I even said told Household 6 my plan and that "I don't know how long it will take since I have never been there, you never know what kind of mess I can get into." Well I did.
Here is the story. Some friends from work participate in an annual Washers Tournament at a local camp ground, which happens to also advertise mountain bike trails. I have hyperlinked for those who are not familiar with the Sport (?) of Washer Tossing and while this link shows bikini clad women and shirtless men, I assure you that none of the people in this particular event were wearing that attire (we will count that as a small blessing). I didn't want to get caught up in some huge bracket and be gone all day, but I was told they had great Jumblaya. Since I am a fan of Jumblaya, I thought it would be a good idea to go early, mountain bike at the camp ground (which advertised roughly 7 miles of trail), finish in time to eat some jumblaya, watch some rednecks throw washers at boards with holes in them, and head home for the better part of the day. I would be out of Household 6's hair for a while but I would not leave her hanging for the whole day. Win Win.....or not!
While I was successful at eating Jumblaya and watching fully clothed (thank you) people toss washers, I failed misserabley when it came to riding my bike 5 miles. I guess you could say that I succedded at riding my bike about 1 mile and pushing it for four miles. I threw my shirt away, as well as, a pair of socks (coming home sockless is becoming a trend but more on that later).
It turns out that the trail (did I say it was advertised as a mountian bike trail) is not maintained by mountain bikers (or anybody for that matter). I should have picked up on this within the first half mile turned around and called it a day. After all there were numerous signs! The trail was so overgrown that I could not see obstacles until I was on top of them causing me do dismount or destroy chainrings. There were countless trees across the trails which caused me to dismount, I should have brought my cyclocross bike. Many of those were on steep inclines which required me to walk the rest of the way up the hill to a more level surface to pedel. Signs that said "no horses on the bridge" led me to question where the bridges were as I crossed steep banked creek beds, again carrying my beastly Giant Anthem X 29er.
At one point the trail was rerouted with orange paint on trees and no trail whatsoever. I later learned that the concept here was that if enough horses traveled this route they would have a new section of trail. Not exactly trail building for the long term. This turned into a 1 mile hike-a-bike. When I caught back up with the trail it was so overgrown with cockleburs it was impossible to get them out of my socks. My shirt became hopelessly entangled, bunching up as I moved and burs tearing up my arms. The end result was scratched up arms and legs and a shirt so clumped up and full that I simply threw it away. I was able to get them off my shorts after an hour of picking while watching rednecks toss washers. I still have not tried to tackle my gloves. If they weren't a month old and $40 I would have thrown them away.
Running up hills with biking shoes and a mountain bike leads to leg and foot pain. Cockleburs EVERYWHERE lead to skin pain. All of this could have been prevented if I had paid attention to the following signs (not necessarily in order):
1. The big sign at the entrance of the park that said "Mountain Bike Trails CLOSED." Seriously!! Who am I to question this. Since it was due to rain a couple of days ago, I pursued the park ranger to get a second opinion. He changed the sign to "Open." Why didn't I just let it go, maybe it was the fact that I paid $4.99 a gallon to get there and didn't want to leave empty handed. There is another lesson, get gas in Iowa before crossing into Illinois.
2. Mold in my hydration pack. I put paper towel in the bag to help keep it open so it would dry. When the bag was "put away" it folded over and the paper towel began to grow mold! I love this thing and I refuse to put anything in it but water. It stays clean and taste free, best bag I have ever had (Deuter rocks). I actually think Emily did it but since I cannot confirm if she did or not without having a discussion about taking care of my own crap. I will accept the blame to avoid the pain.
3. Horses: These, as with most trails, are multi-use. These people were ready before I was and they were ahead of me, should have left right there. I personnally have no problem with horses. However, horses have a problem with me and my shiney bikes. Sometimes the riders have a problem, but they are too busy settling down their giant animal that is afraid of anything and everything. I always stop, move to the uphill side of the trail and talk so they recognize that I am human. I think this is the acceptable practice. Today however I managed to catch them from behind. The point is that they were slower than I was even with my bushwhaking. If they can't get through it, what makes me think I would enjoy it. I have never enjoyed riding horses, but I found myself enving the fact that the guy didn't have cockleburs all up in his pearl snapped shirt.
In the future I should be able to recognize the signs of an impending disaster and I hope that I will listen to my body.
By the way, after reading this Emily confessed to placing the paper towel in the hydration bag. Ha, I knew it. Small victories.