I am leaning over my bars. I am in the middle of my third physiological breakdown of the day. My thoughts are wild and random. I miss my wife. Maybe I should go back to college. My father was right. I have three goo's back in my bag in the unreachable cars. I brought too much water and I am almost out. I am taking a mental inventory of the stores around me. Tyler is out. Derwood has half a bottle. Slade spins his bottle in his hands, like he is judging the color of a 1929 Chateau Latour.
All the great adventures of my life share one common denominator; I didn't see the impending situation coming. Watching reef dry up around me in Hawaii, as I paddled toward blue water and a huge set. The last few frames of slow motion, as the spiked volley ball came toward my face, in an unfriendly game on Guam. Standing at the edge of a half pipe, one hour before my heat, as Mike McGill flew over my head. Your brain goes to the Google window and there are no results. The answer to the equation is: you are not ready. Your experience bag is minuscule. The chasm between what you should know, and what you don't, is so clear and stark that you can't even react. You stare at everything around you as though it is an absurd dream. You thought you were ready. You were wrong.
Big Worm does a wonderful thing when his patience is running out. He stares directly at you and smiles. I have always believed he was waiting for you to finish your thought. I realize now it means he has lost his faith in logic, and in language. He is the only one on the hill that has ever been there. Now we are lost, and everyone has an opinion about our next move. I make the four thousand, one hundred, fifty sixth nervous joke of the day, and he breaks off the laser and smirks at me. Tension averted. Big Jim keeps looking at his GPS. Tyler has the expression of a hitch hiker in the speeding car of a madman. Derwood is happier than he has ever been. Zack (the youngest of the lot) waits with no discernible reactions. We start to roll again, up hill.... naturally. The sound track for this part of the movie is two notes over and over. A sick dissonant chorus with all the melodic charm of Quint's nails going down the chalk board.
Earlier in the ride we bombed down trails covered in so many leaves the track was gone before you made it. Then we back tracked and ended up on some brutal climbs. We stumbled onto some boy scout camp and tackled the hill that caused break down number one. I had a huge gap between Slade in front of me and Worm behind me. I felt fine. It wasn't that bad. I rounded the top to see more climb ahead, and no one in sight. I simply stepped off my bike, let it fall in the leaves, and sat on a log. Worm rode by minutes later, deliberate, experienced, knowing exactly what I was learning, and said nothing.
It is said that you see something in yourself when you are pushed to this place. The place where the jokes run out and no one is talking. Everyone is gassed and no one admits it. You keep going because no one is coming to get you. These are the rides you talk about for years with a mixture of remorse and hilarity. This is the tool you pull out on the next ride, when you don't go too hard at the base. This is the fuel for the wink you give to the next poor bastard sitting on the log. Today you are lashed to the learning tree, and no one can can show you the answers. Your only hope is that the arm holding the the whip will eventually tire and let you off.
We rolled into another boy scout camp and another parking area. There were two others just like it a lifetime and five hills ago. Even as I saw the cars it didn't compute. I knew Worm would find it.
Someone is talking about how they smelled brakes on the last white knuckle downhill. The cooler is open and a beer foams up. Wrappers are ripped and food is devoured. Somebody laughs. Worm is riding a telephone pole that lines the parking area.
It may have been the best ride ever.