Monday, June 14, 2010

Mountain Bicycles

So, about the title of this post... My brothers-in-law... brother-in-laws... my wife's sisters' husbands (BIL) invited me to join them on their 2nd annual mt. biking trip. And I agreed, despite the fact that I have not ridden a bicycle since I was about 10, much less pedaled straight up and ridden straight down. But it involved camping, so I said yes like a giddy little school girl. The location of what was nearly my final resting place was Douthat State Park. Located in the mountains of Virginia just off of I-64, this lovely park has a little bit of everything; including an abundance of trails designed to maim and punish novice mt. bikers such as I. Here is a map of the trails, and below that, what they really looked like.

Yeah, that's right, straight up and down the sides of mountains. I have a lot of new found respect for people who can do this. Anybody who has seen me lately knows that intense physical activity is not my top priority, so I basically pushed a bike around alot that weekend.

So here is a rundown of the activities. Carl set up the whole thing and is a master planner. He got there on Wednesday and Kevin joined to have a day of "hardcore" riding before the newbies arrived. So Carl and Kevin rode Thursday. Steve got there on Friday afternoon and went for a ride with the guys. I didn't get there until about 9 on Friday night. Just barely in time to set up a tent before dark.

Here is a picture of our campsite. To the left is Carl's Taj-ma-tent. It is basically as big as my Master Bedroom. You can walk in and remain standing. Carl and Kevin lived it up in here with padded flooring, a fan mounted to the ceiling, a clothesline, and two cots. Steve and I slept on gravel. And I use the term "slept" lightly. But, at least it was shelter and it wasn't unbearably hot. I probably kept the wild animals away with my snoring.

Since it was a national holiday, we had to celebrate. I am, of course, talking about National Doughnut Day. So I brought along the food of honor.

Doughnuts go with everything, apparently even Miller Lite.

Saturday, we started with a nutritious, energy-packed breakfast. Grits, bacon, and eggs cooked in bacon grease. Carl is a master chef as well.

After the grease solidified in our arteries, we went for our first ride. After we pedaled up about a 1000 ft (and when I say pedaled, for me, that means pushed), we took a break, had a snack, drank some water, layed down, took some oxygen, started an IV drip... Here are some pictures on the way up...

So, although it was hard, and I failed miserably, it was fun and it made me sweat like an ice cube in the sun. The downhills were hard to navigate as well. Even my experienced BIL's had to push some downhills. Although, at one point, an old man flew past all of us around a hairpin turn while we walked and basically laughed at us and told us to pull up our panties. On the way down, I discovered something about myself that I didn't know about..... myself. That is, I have apparently lost any sense of balance that I may have once had as a younger me. On the way down, there were several areas that were tricky to say the least and I managed to mismanage one such area (OK, it was probably the easiest part of the downhill). I gently rode my bike off the bath and proceeded to steer it straight into a tree, subconsciously thinking it would stop my forward motion. I was subconsciously wrong. The tree merely deflected my forward motion. I then proceeded to flip off the bike and roll down the hill, head over heels. The bike followed me, bounding high over my head. When at last I came to rest, I was no worse for the wear, except for a gash on my shoulder. I was fresh out of the "Dorah the Explorer" band-aids I stole from Kennedy, so we stuffed some leaves, sap from special tree roots, and a various assortment of herbs in the gaping wound and it healed immediately.

It is still scabbed over, but I'm sure I will get a super macho scar out of it, and that is really all that matters.

That afternoon, most of us were pretty wiped out, so we went to the beach on the lake to relax a bit. We took turns riding around the lake in Carl's kayak and, being the engineering nerd I am, I took the opportunity to go look at the spillway for the dam holding the lake. It was pretty cool, there were two spillways with a wetland between the two and the faces of the spillways were fashioned out of stone blocks; not very common.

When we got back to camp, two “nature girls” working for the park dressed like girl scouts came by to show us some of the local wildlife. One girl had a garter snake they had just caught, and the other girl had a little bug magnifier case with a giant Carolina Wolf Spider in it. For those of us who are deathly afraid of Spiders; those of us who bolt straight up out of bed screaming because they are dreaming spiders are dropping on them from the ceiling fan; those of us who nearly fall down the stairs at work in front of the secretaries to avoid the tiny spec of dust in the air that could, in some universe, possibly resemble a spider hanging from the ceiling; for us, that was not good. I calmy asked her to please lie to me if she had to and tell me that she didn’t catch that here, meaning the park. She quickly replied with a smile not to worry. They caught it at the park office, not our campground. If I hadn’t started sweating and trembling, I might have punched her in the throat. For those who do not know what this spider looks like… here it is.

This is pretty close to life size.

That evening we just hung out and had BIL fellowship over a wonderful dinner of "walking tacos" and Reese's S'mores. MMMM..... The next morning, we had one more ride. Steve left a little early because he is a girl. Actually, his knee was jacked up pretty bad. As far as the ride goes, I was spent from the previous day. It wasn't as much of a climb (I still pushed most of it) and it was a much better ride down. I enjoyed it alot more. Kevin and Carl rocked it out, of course.

So here we are one last time.

It was a great weekend (although I felt like a little girl in a man's world) and I can't wait for next year!