Sunday, September 7, 2014

Just Take Your Medicine (and don't complain)

Halfway through my second lap at Tom Brown, I realized I would rather be doing anything than riding my bike. Big Worm and Tiny D had dropped me about ten seconds into their medium pace regimen. They are prepping D for the Tom Brown race next week, and I am here to see them. Worm is aggravated, no one is hearing what he is saying and he's just trying to help. D warms up slower than any completive cyclist of her ilk, but when she flips the switch she can red line as long as she wants. They are invisible in the distance and I am going so slow the roots on the one technical section of Cadillac, almost force me backward. I am completely and utterly unenthused with mountain biking. This activity has become some monotone dirge and I would rather watch game shows than pedal one more minute.

It was not like that when I started. Some of the trail heads were marked by no trespassing signs and for the first time since I was a skateboarder, I felt that great taste of five finger candy. To steal something was always sweeter than to being invited. This was also true of my favorite surf spot back home; The Power Plant. We you had to go down dirt roads around a gate and then finally down a perilous sand double track in my old VW bug. After navigating that maze then, and only then, could we pick the fruit of that grand emptiness. Dark gray waters awaited with great lefts and rights with no one around for miles. It was a huge oasis from the rat cage that was my home break; North Jetty in Ft. Pierce. At the plant you could catch as many waves a you wanted, and we laughed and yelled paddling as fast as we could, back out to the empty lineup. The dream was short lived as word got out and the gallery brought the bullshit by the truck load. All my favorite skate spots were illegal too. You came to a fence, looked at your friends, threw your gear over the wall, climbed it and reaped the rewards. We skated big pipes, empty pools, new construction roofs, and bone dry fountains at dilapidated hotels. The skate park, lay within minutes of where we were trespassing, but for us the rules, frozen pizza, and Steve Miller on a loop, where too much to bear.

When I started riding fifteen years ago, it was an adventure for me. Tom Brown was covered in head high grass. The unregulated trails broke off and crossed back over themselves, while others dead ended into old buildings. Cadillac was private property, rooty, brutal, washed out and fantastic. If I saw a cyclist out there, he was always better than me and everyday there were ten obstacles I dreaded. If there was a storm and a tree came down, it laid where it fell and you had to find a way over or around it. Out past the levy, in the no mans land beyond the tracks, lay the bucket loop bordered by thorns, berries, crooked fences and occasional hunters. Weems trails had four wheelers with no helmets, rich high school pricks drinking beer by fires, standing in the trash they never cleared. Beyond them lay the abandoned Fallschase development with burned out carcasses of berm houses and paved roads to no where.

All my favorite pastimes have an element of fear attached. I was afraid every time I skated a big half pipe, took off on a set wave, or reached for the top button of a girls jeans. That thrill of waiting for a sigh or screaming denial was (and is) the "thing". I was able to keep that demon alive on my cross bike by riding more dirt, on an unsuspended skinny tire beast. For a little while this year, that feeling came back. Even the smallest section of soft sand is a white knuckle death ride. I also found the feeling out on long road rides alone, wondering if I had enough legs to get home. I felt the tingle with every passing car and every turn, down roads I didn't know.

I have unfettered dreams of cashing in my retirement and becoming a dishwasher in Missouri, hiding in a rural house writing the novel, no one will read. I have to fight my steering wheel anytime I get near I-10 to keep from driving away into new, unauthorized single track. I always remember there are bills to pay, a great wife to kiss, and boys to support on their new trail. After all, I have had every opportunity to take all the shots I've wanted to take, with little or no resistance from anyone in my life. Still, I pace back and forth in my office like a caged cat that once ran wild. I peek through the blinds and wonder what they'd all say if I disappeared again, like I did back in 87'.

In the end, I am a good dog and I know where my bowl is. I ride the rides and take the easy route around the logs. I dutifully get out of the saddle on the ten foot wide oyster shell horse path. I run the fence obsessively and howl at real and imagined threats beyond my borders, like I am actually defending some sacred ground. More than anything, I fear that sound in the distance is just a branch in the wind, scraping the fence, and all the barbarians beyond my gates, have died.