It's my first ride back, March 10, 2012. I see them in the distance. I recognize the colors, logos, the chain links, but not the faces. They get closer and I feel more nervous. I am scared of riders bumping me most of all. The collar bone is still tender. We are wearing the same kits but no one waves, and no greetings are passed. I am off the trail and I watch them ride away. Just out of ear shot they talk again like the unwanted guest is out of the room.
It's a chilly morning in February 2009 at San Felasco. We are all ready to roll. I am really regretting not getting the BC vest, it looks really cool. Mingo, Micro, Silk, Shanks, Curl, Little Ball, Frog Legs, K-Dub, Cliffy, Big Worm, Darnel, Spanish Mackerel, Lyle, Ice Berg, Derwood, Big Jim Slade and I are surrounded in a sea of orange and black. Everyone is looking and wondering what the hell is up with us. We are loud, we are laughing. Some are bothered, some are jealous, but all notice. We are still rewinding the previous nights costume exploits. We roll out like we own the place.
I make my way back to the Piney Z parking lot. I am answering questions from kids at the pump track.
"How do you ride those small pedals? How much that bike? You can ride a wheelie? Is there trail in there? Are you going back to Tom Brown? How long will it take?"
I look up to see the Big Man, D, El Gato, Cliffy and Ice Berg rolling up. I yell, "Stripes!" (my derogatory nickname for non crew BC kit owners).
"Ain't no stripes here."
Big Worm says out of a sideways grin. I notice I am the only one wearing the new kit.
The first two hours of San Felasco are always the best. Everyone is together and we have a tradition of singing an obnoxious song. This Year we begin "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the entire crew is singing. We pull off the operatic "Galileo" answer and response as we pass a long line of riders. They think we are dicks and they are right. It's just how we like it. It is the tie that binds us all. We are too rough, too foul mouthed, too loud for other groups. We are in the blind state of wonder that accompanies not knowing change is coming.
Cliffy starts to twitch. Like me, he has been off the bike forever and he wants to ride. They head out and I head back up the multi use. As I crest the top, I see a woman on a entry level MTB. Her seat tube is all the way down. She rides past in the new BC kit.
At the first sag stop we all start to get game face and the factions form. Fast Experts, the B group I am in, with my inner circle and the guys that came with no miles in there legs and a hangover in their head, pick up the rear. It is a model for what will happen in the future. People move to different cities. The young guys get into college and take up motocross. Couples part and others come close, some have strokes, others had heart issues, others tend to family and career. Some just make decisions based on training. The covalent bond is losing electrons and the flashes of energy from the splitting molecules makes me squint. We didn't know it, but it was the last song we would ever sing in the woods. It felt just like another day, but it was the farewell episode of the show you wanted to watch forever. The echo increases as the historic snap shots drift and the credits roll. San Felasco 2009: The day BC went super nova.
I cruise past Tom Brown on the black paved ribbon that has been silent witness to all of my comebacks from threats, great and small. Back on Fern, I look over at the junk trucks by the cement mix yard.
The old glass still reflects the sun, but it ain't like it was.