Monday, March 27, 2006

My Pumpkin on the Pedals...


From the perspective of a beginning mountain bike rider….

Fruita, Colorado in mid March couldn’t be more perfect. There’s something so wonderful about snuggling up into a down-filled sleeping bag after a long night by the campfire, then waking to the morning sun while it changes the desert cliffs from purple to orange. Sipping tea, I closed my eyes and let the warm sun soak in on this beautiful Saturday morning.

Walker takes charge of meals in the field, so I simply relaxed and waited patiently for my oatmeal as he outlined the day. Some say teaching your loved one anything is a bad idea; Many would agree. Walker, however, was either unaware of this philosophy, or thought of this as an experiment in the art of Zen. We would start on a “mellow, beginner ride” called Frontside.

Flipping through the guide book while getting ready for the day, I notice a description of a 22-mile, rugged trail with substantial elevation gain called “Frontside.” Surely there must be another trail with the same name….

I am not one to show off, especially doing something I know little about, however, there is something to be said for trying to do your best. With your feet clipped into your pedals, and a fixed amount of gears on a bike, a beginner can only do so much when encountering a steep slope. I didn’t really have a strategy, but giving it my all, I would pedal, pedal,…pedal…then fall. The first couple times, I slapped the dust away and laughed it off…by mile 10 I wasn’t laughing anymore. Walker did what any intelligent man should do: glance back to see if I’m seriously hurt, wait patently ahead on the trail, and most importantly, DO NOT offer advice. I already know the objective, and clearly am not attaining it, so just sit tight until I’m finished with my profanities and have collected myself….again.

Mountain biking etiquette states that you should always yield to the uphill rider. You know you have a long way to go when the up-hillers get off the trail first and insist that you go ahead. This leaves the beginner in a frantic state – one, you don’t want to hold anyone up longer than necessary, and two, you now have an instant audience watching you descend on tight turns, over rocks and ridges. As Walker noticed the riders stopping up ahead, he too joined them to make small talk. Poised at the top of the drop, I took a deep breath and let off the brakes. Ten seconds later I was sprawled out on the trail. I looked to my audience – yes, I was in full view. Walker gestured as if to say, “how was that fall possible?’ I yelled across the canyon that my pedal hit a rock. My audience nodded silently, accepting my rationale, however, we all knew that no rock was within 20 feet of the fallen bike, and the difficult section wasn’t even upon me yet. I jumped up quickly, checkout out my bloody knee, and biting my lip to fight back tears, I got back on my bike. Maybe is was the fact that I was over picking myself up off the ground, or maybe it was that my focus was on trying not to cry instead of trying not to wreck, but somehow, on the stretch of high desert singletrack, it all started to come together for me. Instead of clipping out at the sign of a tight turn, I cornered smoothly. I stood up and leaned back on the steep descents. I picked my lines effortlessly. Even Walker was amazed at my transformation. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert mountain bike rider. But today, in Fruita, I am officially a beginner of a new passion.

Thanks, Baby!

7 comments:

BamaBabe05 said...

So impressive & congratulations on your new passion & status!

Anonymous said...

love it - you might not be a great rider yet, but you are certainly great at writing. Did Walker at least open the car door for you afterwards?

~J Stallings~

Bintrim said...

U ROCK C!!!

Bintrim said...

No blood and all smiles in the picture... This must have been taken previous to the uphill section.

BUBBAJ said...

ROCK ON!!!

Lauren said...

You're awesome!!! Walker - good job on not offering advice!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the encouragement, guys! Last weekend I rode trail #11 with Walker...actually, I started with Walker. Baxter, our faithful, 4-legged companion, is always with me enroute. He rocked on our 30-miler in Fruita, and was my inspiration on the uphill climbs of Soccoro. This weekend is the ladies bachelorette mountain biking scene in Moab - look out, Keeton, the ladies have been scheming! Stay tuned to the blog for the sensored version....

-Christina