Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dirt Rag Magazine

I haven't posted  here in awhile. Not for a lack of riding, even though the weather here has conspired to make riding a challenge. I've been poring all of my creative juices into a single piece. Every year Dirt Rag Magazine holds a Literature Contest and I was determined to enter something this year. I'll post here first if I win and if I don't then I will post the story that I entered. 

Thanks everyone for the support and stayed tuned, I'll be riding and writing very soon.

Friday, October 19, 2012

What it is

When I tell people, "I'm into mountain biking" they look at me with this blank stare like I've just said, "I'm into eating cereal for breakfast". They are completely unimpressed, uninterested and begin looking for an exit. If I dare make an attempt to elaborate, I notice a heavy glaze stretch their face downward as if some invisible force is pulling a nylon stocking over their head, bank robber style. 

Today I realized why; context. When I say mountain biking I mean one thing but when most people hear it they think something completely different. Why? Because everyone knows what a mountain bike is, they have at least one themselves, hanging from the ceiling in the garage, on the deck or in a tool shed. They've been meaning to ride it but they never get around to it. So there's a disconnect. 

I'm going to fix that disconnection here, with pictures. When I say mountain biking this is the image that pops into everyone's brain:

Ha! Maybe if you're some 80 year old retiree living out your last days in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. 

This is what it means to me:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Darker than a Raven's Taint

Crash, Caution & Princess' Bike

The theater is solemnly dark and mostly still. But somewhere the sound of shuffling, stirring, and rustling can be heard. Shapes, shadows and figures are just blotches here without the light from overhead. 

A thick, ink-black, plush-velvet curtain, drawn closed at the outermost edge of the stage has a small hole in it. The hole shines bright from the light it leaks. A bright beam from beyond, as if shining from the crown of a lighthouse.

Grab the fabric taut with both hands, peer through to see beyond the engulfing darkness. But only bits can be seen, not the entire stage, not all at once. Pivoting the view reveals different aspects, sections, parts and pieces but never the whole stage production. Never enough to get a true sense of where this belongs, or that sits, or how these things relate to those things. Sharp greens, bright yellows, deep oranges scatter the floor and bright white drops shimmer under the harsh spot light and give only a hint of their true nature.

Riding in the near-dark of dusk, shrouded by the thick canopy of century old pines is one thing (see earlier post: Riding Braille), but riding in the dark black of night is entirely different. Day and night different? No. More like the difference between coffee with cream and sugar and black coffee.

This is how I chose to spend my birthday. Me and my two friends, Crash and Caution, with lights strapped to our helmets, rode off into the sea of black. Paradise was empty, completely, save our trio. 

I love riding at night because the problem solving of day riding is amplified at night. With only a small spotlight punching a hole through the deepest darkness its difficult to see the whole problem. Only parts and pieces, sections and samplings but never the whole thing. Never seeing enough to get a true sense of the next obstacle, or corner, or where the actual trail is. Rain-soaked leaves cover the ground with sharp greens, bright yellows and deep oranges. Beautiful but slippery dangerous. I can't wait to go again.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


The black speck at the crest is Lee

By any standard of measurement, riding to the summit of Tiger Mountain is difficult. From the upper parking lot the ascent is over 4 miles on a loose-gravel service road. The incline is relentless and constant, there are no flat or downhill breaks from the 30 degree ascent, in fact, the only change comes when it actually gets steeper. It takes over an hour to gain over 1700 feet of elevation, pedaling the entire time. Which I did not do.

But mountain biking is like that: difficult. When it 's approached with serious devotion, with intent, and in a way that leads to mastery; it's hard, it's painful, it's dangerous and more often than not, it's crashing. 

Most of the time a crash is scrapes, bumps, and bruises but sometimes a crash is breaks, blackouts, and permanent damage. Crash, is also the nickname of my best friend and faithful riding companion, Lee. I've been friends with Crash since the 80's but he only just received his mountain bike name this summer. 

Ride after ride, he would crash, usually in very spectacular ways but always without drama. He simply gets back on his bike and rides on as if nothing happened. 

Consistently crashing on a mountain bike (several times each ride) usually means that the rider is out of their depth, or their skill set is less than the conditions demand, or they quickly find themselves in an unsolvable problem. In Lee's case it's different. Lee crashes not from inability or inexperience; he crashes with intent. That is not to say that he deliberately sets out to go ass-over-tea-kettle. No. 

He rides with abandonment and with the idea that every ride is an opportunity to become better, to push himself past his limits, to break his old-self into pieces so he can carry them forward into a place of mastery. This unrelenting effort is difficult to match. Combine all that with his iron will, the endurance of a Kenyan marathoner and the result is that I frequently find myself on rides with him where I watch him disappear ahead of me down the trail without effort. 

The ride on Tiger Mountain was a typical ride with Crash. I struggled up the road with everything I had, I dismounted often, I walked my bike (shameful), and I cussed. Not Lee, yeah he struggled too but his determination and tenacity kept his pedals moving when mine stopped. I am reminded of that brutal ride today because we rode 12 crushing miles at Lord Hill this morning and once we started on a trail I saw very little of Crash. Only at crossroads, he'd patiently wait, as if he'd been there all day. 

Crash to Master.