I didn’t have a whole lot of time, but I had a whole lot of reason, a whole lot of want, and a whole lot of bike. (41 unloaded pounds of bike, to be exact.)
For years, I’ve been allowing the distance between “the well” and me to grow. I’ve been watering it, excusing it, ignoring it. Given the precious rare weekend I had to myself, I knew that the most would have to be made of it.
Grand plans were formulated. I knew it would hurt, but I didn’t know when. I just thought that when I was done, I’d be taking one more step up the podium of kickass. I found my intentions challenged by the reality of a steady, soggy, persistent and cold-hearted rain. I’d like to tell you about the trip.
Looking shady and taking notes by the dim light of my iPod in the parking lot, I managed to get myself to sleep. The New River State Park trail runs a total of 57 miles. I wanted it. All of it. No big deal, really. It’s a 114 mile out-and-back on a railroad grade. There were surely plenty of places to camp if need be and plenty of pretty views.
When I first sat up in the morning, the light of day was beginning to illuminate a thick gray blanket of sky. It was a welcome respite from the 90% humidity, 99 degree heat we’ve been experiencing here in the south. I could tell from the gentle pitter-patter of water tickling the objects of this earth, that it was raining. My middle name is Doppler. I closed my eyes again and waited for silence to wake me up.
Open Eyes, round two — the time was right to go. The morning drops were a hoax, I thought. According to the forecast, this weather would hold for the day, with night time bringing the rain.
I was wrong to count on that. With the bike loaded up, Scoaf, aka the Tiny Sheriff, in her sawed-off milk crate, we hit it. The pace started off brisk. Pushing somewhere between 15 – 18 mph, according to a Tag Heuer and mile markers. My middle name is not Doppler. It’s Moron.
The rain came back. Kind of strong. We pulled over for lunch . . .
. . . and a nap, again putting trust in silence to wake us. When the rain let up the birds were audibly happy, which roused me from the snooze. We hit the trail again, hoping for the best, and riding in drizzle. The Sheriff stayed dry in the basket, under the protection of a towel and an old piece of tarp. Again, the pace was brisk. I took it all for the team. At about 30 miles in, we pulled over again for some fresh water, and a good look at the New River. My middle name is Stoked.
The rain wasn’t so bad, so we kept on. I was starting to look at when we should call it a day, because I could feel the thunder building in my legs. We were equipped to sleep wherever the fuck we wanted to, because it was our weekend. I figured that we could set up camp at mile 45, 50, we’d see. At mile 40ish, maybe 45, the hell of the north came. I had long since given up on keeping track of mileage. The rain intensified, and I questioned the plans. We turned around. At this point, we are still great friends, Sheriff and I. Not for long.
I was now officially at the bottom of the well, and the water was full of wiggleworms. Were it not for the relentless rain, I’d have just camped. I knew, however, that the best thing to do would be hit the fucking gas and get back to the car. I cut off an extra chunk of tarp for Scoaf, tucked her in nice and dry-like, took a couple of deep breaths and hit it. My middle name is not Stoked. It’s Moron.
My cycle of pain went like this:
1) Far back on the saddle, hands in close by the stem, channeling De Vlaminck until it really started to burn.
2) Stand and deliver: push 5 strokes starting with the right leg, coast a little. push 5 strokes starting with the left. Repeat.
3) Sit down, enjoy the view from my gay-high cruiser bars. The well is intense.
It got us back, but that was a heavy-ass bucket with lots of rope. The light was dim at the bottom of the well. I stayed there for a while. The mud of the path had found a comfortable place to rest beneath my rack, around the bottom bracket, and under Scoaf’s basket. The back of my shirt was smuggling a load of dirt that would have gotten a wheelbarrow fired. The trails that I’d made off on, fastly flying, were now sodden and wicked; the slog of muddy friction was demoralizing. I was insulted by them with every pedal stroke. Constantly apologizing to the Sheriff for getting her in this pickle, I promised her some curly fries at the soonest possible opportunity. She seemed fine with that. “That’s cool, pop-pop. I’m dry as a bone anyways. You just keep pedaling.” Little bitch.
I’ve had a chance to sleep on it, and of course, I don’t regret a second of it. I’ve been to the well, and it hurt good. It feels like I got beat in the taint with a baseball bat covered in dodgeball rubber, and I woke up feeling like somebody had made off with half of the muscle mass in my legs. I can’t wait to do it again, maybe sooner than later, and when I do, it will remind me of the beautifully bastardized life-long relationship that I have with the bike.
My middle name is SnakeHawk.by