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July 25, 1998
a year ago

Mountain Bike Adventure

The morning was extra lazy as we knew that Carla and Rick were going to show up for mountain biking planning at about noon. So I slept late and ate some spaghetti and stuff for sustenance while I could. They arrived pretty much on time and we sat down and pow-wow'ed as to what we should try.

It was the first time I'd ever been on a mountain bike on mountain trails, but I didn't want to do something super simple as then I wouldn't have taken advantage of their expertise and experience. So we decided to drive an hour and a half out to the Olympic peninsula and take a trail that the book had said was really, really pretty and by a river, so would likely be pretty flat. The picture in the book about elevation changes said that there was a downhill at the beginning, some flat and then an uphill at the end of the nearly nine mile ride, but it was a to and back kind of trail, as in we could turn around at any time. It was a good thing.

The beginning of the trail wasn't all that bad, in fact the first 50 feet or so was a wide dirt track and the worst hazard was horse droppings here and there. There was a quick adrenaline rush of a down hill path to the place where the trail T'ed, and then the main trail went off to the right. It went *down* off to the right, really, really down. It was right down to a set of four or five narrow switchbacks with soft trail and edges that cut to sheer walls with a few ferns clinging to them interspersed with Big Trees. The trees were really pretty, green and dense and close together, and the sunlight filtered through them all gold green.

The switchbacks were terrifying. All the more so when Carla hit a patch of loose, smooth rocks and somersaulted over her handlebars. She landed in a soft spot and she held on to the bike long enough that it went just beyond her, but not quite so far as to slip down the steep slope, as it caught on a bush. I'm a control freak, I'll admit, and sliding around on those steep soft paths with nothing but air to one side was nearly beyond me.

But I found that I could walk my bike down it, a careful step at a time, watching my knee, and making what care I could to step on stuff that didn't give too much. The path was okay for walking, just. There were portions that I had to be really careful on, going down. I mean, I was unhappy with my knee just going down solid stairs. This was a few levels well beyond that. But everyone else was doing okay, John was even riding most of the switchbacks down, so I knew it was *possible*. I just didn't have the experience or courage or whatever, to do it myself, but I did have the courage to stop and figure out just how scared I was and do the thing that made getting down possible. And not let my pride get in the way of surviving the experience intact.

So I walked down most of the switchbacks, and then took my slow careful time across the stream at the bottom. Reminded of when I wouldn't even do beach rock with John and Kathy and here I was doing slick river rock. Rick was very cool and came back to take my bike across for me.

Then we started rolling along forest paths, and it all started to make sense as to why anyone would do this. It was bumpy and lumpy and rooty and rocky and dirty and there was underbrush to scrape and scratch and bugs kept zooming and zonking into my helmet or my head or stuff. But it was magically beautiful at the root level of the forest. It was cool and quiet and lovely and the bike started feeling, for once, like it was actually being used as it ought to be used and the up and downs and all-arounds used its ability and balance and capabilities.

Not fully. Not even close.

But I felt good about using them some. Jumping unto bridges and wandering through narrow paths, balancing on gravel pathways much narrower than most of the bridges I'd been crossing while going to work, and wallowing through mud and soft dirt. It did beautifully. Though there were moments when it slid on the soft stuff, with a bit of thought and a banishing of panic, it was controllable. Especially after several panic stops that turned out to be pretty solid. I got more confident after that. It helped that the paths were mostly flat, with a few interesting up and downs that got me used to both speed and the need to maintain speed up a grade. I think I could actually make our driveway now knowing what I know.

A lot of it was just conquering fear. Taking the downhills a little faster in order to make it up the uphills. Sliding a little on the curves in order to have the speed to make the straights. Going a little bit more beyond the edge of absolute control in order to have a more general control over how I'd go and where I'd be. Not worrying about the details in order to get the whole to work better. I had to figure out where I could loosen my controls in order to get better performance, and the only way I could figure it out was by letting go of my deathhold grip of total physical control and loosening up a bit and letting things work the way they should. Probably one of the hardest things I've done.

The forest was damp and thickly grown. Moss hung like curtains from everything, there was a huge tree that was just fuzzy with mosses and there was the cool damp scent of water everywhere. Water and growth. Fallen trees were gradually rotting away in the thick, thick undergrowth and at one point the trail paralleled this giant trunk, nearly eight feet tall, and the under side of the trunk had started to rot away from contact with the soil so it was this huge cavernous thing. The canopy above covered it in thick and close so it was as dark as a cave beside its bulk.

At one point we followed a washout to the river and the cool, clear water was wonderful to dip our hot selves into, to feel the currents of coolness running by hot skin was a deep luxury after the work of biking along the paths.

Along the smooth bits was where I realized I really could love this sport a lot. That it could take me more deeply into forest territories that I'd never get to as quickly on my feet. That was very keen to find out. It was also good to find out that the terrifying bits wasn't the way it was supposed to be, and having Carla and Rick along for reasonableness was really nice. I'm sure John would have, by himself, just bulled through everything, but I'm also sure that I would have put him behind me if I were as uncertain as I was to begin with.

As it was Carla was great about encouraging me and telling me that I did well on things when I did them. That was wonderful to have.

So we got a good ways out, came back, went to the river, and then started all the way back, which mean back up the switchbacks. The funny thing was that after the way out and with my experiences on the flats, the paths, going up didn't seem quite as narrow as they had when we came down them. That was kind of funny. Though some of it was also that going up was much easier than going down on my knee. It was just muscle power work, which was what I had to do with my knee anyway.

So I just plowed back up the switchbacks and did fine with pushing myself and the bike all the way up. The ride back to the car was really easy after all that, and the width of the path nearly laughable. That was pretty funny.

The timing on the whole thing was pretty perfect. We reached the car pretty much as the sunlight was fading, and the sun was well behind the trees. The drive home was good and quiet, and we stopped at the Golden Wok on the Plateau and got take-out as they were about to close. Lots of food that smelled delicious on the short drive back to the house, we just piled out of the car and ate, all sweaty and goopy and everything, but we were starving. The food was excellent and then we unpacked the car and they went home while we started to clean ourselves up.

I nearly fell out of the car when we stopped at the Golden Wok because my knee was really stiff after the ride and after sitting, but a bit of a walk around the restaurant got it working again.

The blue hair had to be washed in the wash tub, as the dye is still coming out of it at great rates. But it did okay there, and I got to take a quick shower after that, with a towel holding my wet hair. That was nice and cool and quick.

Sleep was quick and dreamless.

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