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"Riding with Bill"
|Saturday 16th July 2005|
I'm not really sure I can pull off a full article on this ride but I have become painfully aware that the people that know that I write, are either scared to do stuff with me because they are afraid they will end up in an article or are disappointed when I don't write one. I think Bill will be both, so I have to write it. The short story is, Bill went riding with me. He did amazingly well, still fell a couple of times and drew blood which for some strange macho reason seemed to please us both.
I mentioned Mr. Sears in my last article about trail riding. We have been talking about riding together for a couple of years. He told me about the Katy Trail which is a 225 mile bike path stretching across most of the state of Missouri. It is not my kind of riding since I don't think my butt can take 225 miles. I told him he needs to ride “single track” which is a dirt trail that is just wide enough for a single bike to ride on and in some places might not be quite wide enough. I love riding these trails, they are physically challenging and can be mentally challenging (scary). The scenery is better than most paved asphalt or concrete bike trails and it's fun for an old man to play in the dirt and mud. Bill comes into Fort Worth every once and awhile but not to ride and most of the time he has too much scheduled so we never make it happen. It is summer now, which means that the sun doesn't set until around 8:40 pm. I convinced him to come down, jump on my son's unused bike and ride some single track with me.
The weekend before this trip the weatherman starts to call for rain, lots of rain, all week. Bill is coming in on Thursday. I ride the trails everyday and watch the weather channel. We escape the rain everyday or at least the trail stays dry, but the weatherman keeps saying the next day we will get rain. On Thursday I look at the weather and for the first time in a week is shows a nice bright yellow sun.
No rain in the forecast so of course, the moment Bill steps off his plane the sky opens up like we are standing at the bottom of Niagara Falls. Bill tells me that when he stepped from the car into our parking lot it was like stepping into a rice paddy. The rain stops and I drive over to look at the trail just in case the rain missed that part of the city, it didn't. There is standing water everywhere and the trails look more like streams than trails. We are not going to be able to ride that night.
I'm in Nashville the next week and I get a call from Bill telling me he is in Dallas. I realize, after he hangs up, that he will be in town until Friday and that I'll be getting into DFW around 6:00 pm on Thursday. Sunset is around 8:40 pm so even with traffic and some delay at the airport we should have plenty of time to ride.
I gave him a quick call. It might just be me, but he sounds a bit reluctant. I think Burt Reynolds would have gotten a warmer reception asking him to join him on a canoe trip down a Georgia river and telling him to make sure he brought his banjo to entertain the mountain men. I could be wrong because Bill did agree. I told him I might be a little late since the plane was suppose to land at 6:09. I still have to get off the plane, ride the train to the other terminal, since I am sure my plane is not going to land at the same terminal that I parked my car, I should get to the house around 6:45 pm. I get to the Nashville airport in plenty of time. I wave goodbye to the guy I'm traveling with, who is lucky enough to get on an earlier flight. I head over to my gate and notice that the "equipment" has not arrived. We are suppose to board in 30 minutes but that doesn't look likely with no airplane at the gate. The plane lands right at our boarding time but since it is full of passengers I assume we are in for at least some delay. We start to board at just about our scheduled takeoff time. I got upgraded to First Class so I'm not feeling too bad. I have a two hour and forty minute window of time between landing and sunset, of which, I have only burned 40 minutes so far. The pilots can sometimes make up a bit of time in the air.
I notice a small child in the row across from me in First Class which is unusual, but not unheard of. Although it is not unheard of it is not really a welcomed sight, since small children have a tendency to cry and you can not offer stranger's children alcohol. Your own kids you can always slip a bit of Baileys in their Hot Chocolate but the Flight Attendants seem to get very upset at you if you ask them to do it for you, especially if the child is not yours. I'll never understand other people's parenting techniques. The child seems fine for now and I forget about it as soon as the guy next to me pulls out his cell phone. He pops it open and screams into it, I mean screams. I can feel blood dripping out of my ears. He is saying something cute and amusing or at least he thinks it is cute and amusing. Something inane like, "BOB YOU NEVER CALL, YOU NEVER WRITE, DON'T LOVE ME ANYMORE." On a more positive note I am writing this while he is sitting next to me and I used capital letters to reinforce the idea that even the baggage handler standing outside on the tarmac next to the jet engine wearing ultra-high attenuating hearing protection thought this guy was talking too loud. The guy has noticed that whatever comes screaming out of his mouth is magically appearing on my computer screen. He drops the volume down from a coma inducing 180 dB to a still painful 140 dB. I may have lost a new friend but as long as they shut the door soon I might still be able to retain some of my hearing. I order a Baileys and the observant Flight Attendant has decided that the best way to handle this angry looking fat man is to sedate me, so he keeps refilling my glass.
I have six shots before we reach 35,000 feet and I, for the very first time in my life, fall asleep on a plane. I wake up because the "Yelling Guy" is talking to a co-worker who decides that every word spoken back to him must also be spoken at full volume. I don't want to drink anymore since I still hope to ride. The pilot gets on to tell us a lot of information which I don't hear because the "Yelling Guy" has decided that he will have to speak louder to be heard over the loud speaker. I understand that we have made up some time and will only land 15 minutes late. Not because I heard it from the pilot but because the "Yelling Guy" has taken to repeating everything the pilot is saying to his co-worker because she can't hear the announcement since the guy is yelling at her. I also assume it is because she is slightly deaf from having to work with this guy. We land at DFW and, of course, our gate is occupied. Not only is it occupied but the pilot tells us that he can see three luggage carts waiting to be loaded on the plane at our gate, so we are going to be stuck here for at least twenty minutes. He then says,"But please go ahead and use your cell phone." This news brings tears to my eyes as I see "Yelling Guy" pull out his cell phone, flip it open and scream loud enough for the people back in Nashville to hear, "I have had twenty messages since we took off." He starts to call each one of them. I picture the people on the other end standing around a speaker phone saying, "No really, you can not believe how loud he is. Watch the table will move every time he speaks." I catch one of them saying,"What was that?" and then laughing as "Yelling Guy" cranks it back up to 180 dB. This wakes up the small child who begins to cry. Now it is a contest between "Yelling Guy" and the child.
They both continue to increase in volume until I fear that the aluminum skin might be ripped off the plane. I am trying to call Bill and tell him I will be getting to the house a bit later than expected. He is puzzled since he is at my house but hears a screaming baby in the background from my end. He says, "What is that? Is that a baby crying?" I say, "It is." He laughs into the phone asking, "Where are you?" I tell him, "On the plane from hell. Please shoot me." I tell him, "We should still be able to get a ride in." I finally get off the plane, rush to Skylink, DFW's new high-speed airport train. I jump on the train about 50 minutes after I was suppose to land and discover the "high-speed" part might be a bit of an exaggeration. We move at about 20 miles an hour which is not exactly "Bullet Train" speed and then stop and sit for some reason for 10 minutes just 200 meters from my stop. I assume it is to annoy me but I can not be sure. I get to my car and drive like I am trying to achieve low earth orbit. I am now an hour late but since it is after 7:00 pm traffic is pretty light so I get home quickly.
I get to the house say "Hi" to Bill and ask Cheryl to put the bike rack on her SUV for me. I rush into the bedroom, drop my clothes on the floor and put on my bike shorts, an old T-Shirt and some white socks. I decide not to fill the CamelBak with water since we will only be riding for maybe 45 minutes. Bill is helping Cheryl mount the bikes while I toss the helmets in the back. We jump in and I scrape the bike rack on the dip in the driveway leaving a trail of sparks as we race the setting sun to the trail. Bill has never ridden a bike with Pedal Clips and of course they are not set correctly for him. I decide that we should skip the first part of the trail to give him a little time to play with the pedals and because the first part is a little steep and drops down into a tight curve that will be a little dark this time of day.
We hit the trail and Bill is doing amazingly well. I continued to toss back useless advice over my shoulder; "Pull up on the handlebars before you hit a half buried tree root..." "Don't use the front brake for any reason..." "Stand up when you ride over the bumpy parts..." "When you are racing downhill just hold on and let it happen..." I'm sure he is not listening which is probably good since I have fallen more than he has already today so why anyone would take my advice while I'm laying on the ground trying to unclip myself from my peddles is a mystery. We get to the prettiest part of the trail, it opens up on Grapevine lake. The Sun is just above the tree line on the far shore, I stop to take in the view. Bill comes up behind me with sweat dripping into his eyes, a greasy chain mark on his calf which I believe is bleeding but since I am colorblind, the wound is covered in grease, and I don't want to spend too much time looking at Bill's calf, I am not positive. He gives me a look that says, "OK, this is pretty but lets get this over with."
We are on the last part of the ride out, maybe about a mile and a half with another quarter of a mile to go, but the last part is the hardest. I have only learned how to find my way back on this part of the trail in the last couple of weeks. I have been riding this trail for almost two years but for some reason I always get lost coming back this way. It also has a couple dirt steps and then a seven foot drop off which dumps you onto an improvised bridge. If you are really good you can launch off the lip and stick the bridge. I am not good and for the first six months just skipped this part, fell at the lip for the next six months and closed my eyes and prayed for the next six months. I can now do it with my eyes open. I turn to Bill and say, "You might want to skip this part." He of course tells me, "No. lets do it!" I go first to get far enough in front of him to stay out of his way and look back. Unfortunately I don't see him drop off the lip because he is so close behind me that he has to swerve to avoid hitting me. This slows him down and he has to drop off the peddles. I see the "Road" gear dig into his calf, I'm sure it is bleeding now. The big sharp gear attached to the peddle cranks is called the "Road" gear, the smallest gear in the front is called the "Granny" gear and the middle gear is uncreatively called the "Middle" gear. The road gear is used on paved roads, to bite into large fallen trees so a mountain bike can climb over them, and most often to cut the heck out of your legs as you slip off the peddles and fall onto it. Bill walks the bike up the last little bit of the hill and waits for me to pass him so I can lead again. We ride down the trail toward the end which has some more dirt steps and some tombstones. Tombstones are rocks half, but firmly, buried that stick up like tombstones. They also mark were most of us fall. The last part of the trail has a couple two foot drops that land you back on the paved park road. Flying down this last hill has a tendency to annoy runners, walkers, and street bikers. We always feel very bad about annoying the runners and walkers.
We ride up the park road, turn around and I say, "This is the end, we just ride back to the car the same way we came. We can either ride back up over the tombstones and the dirt steps, but of course riding up a two foot drop is harder than riding off a two foot drop." "Or we can skip the last part and ride this paved park road to the part of the trail where we saw the sunset?" Bill wiped the sweat from his eyes, looked at his watch like he was late for a meeting and said, "I don't care. I guess we can skip that last part."
Riding back on the paved road allows us to talk for the first time, since most of this ride we have been on single track. I ask, "So, do you like it?" Bill thinks about it for a second and says, "I thought it might be harder." I'm not sure what kind of answer that is, I assume a political one, since you could say it was positive but not really an answer. I was hoping he was going to say, "Yeah, I love it. I can not wait to go home and buy two bikes, one for me and one for Judy." I guess it could be worst than, "I thought it might be harder."
We move off the paved road and back onto the single track. I lose sight of Bill a few times and have to ride back once to find him since the trails are a real rabbit warren running all over connecting and interconnecting. We work our way back but the sun has set and because we are back in the trees it is getting a little dark. I turn back to him when we get to our starting point and say, "You have done so well, we might as well do the part we skipped on the way in." We race over the running track and head back into the woods. It is much darker here. I yell back to him, "This is it. We are coming up to the end of the trail. You really have to push it here." I stand up and ride up the hill. I hear a crash and a thud behind me and it takes Bill a little longer than I thought to make it up the last hill. He tells me he fell just as I told him, "This is it."
I am covered in sweat and Bill looks like he has had a pretty good work out. He tells me that he has a few scrapes and I can see the blood on his leg. We pack up the bikes and decide to skip going out to dinner. It is already late and neither of us could go out without taking a shower and changing.
Bill stopped by my office the next morning and with the unconcealed sound of surprise in his voice said, "I thought it might be harder. I feel pretty good. I thought I might feel it in my legs, but I feel good. Of course I bled like a stuck pig in the shower this morning." When the hot water washed away the scab it must have looked like the shower scene from "Psycho" That is mountain biking, if you don't fall your not riding hard enough and if your not bleeding, you didn't fall.
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