I love it when someone takes me out on a new ride — whether it be a trail or road route close to home, or somewhere far out of town. Adding a new place to be on my bike is always great.
That said, I think there’s a good reason why, 95% (oh yes, I totally keep track my new v. old ride ratio; don’t you?) of my rides are on the same trails and roads I’ve ridden and known for years.
The fact is, the more I know a route, the more I love it.
Why? Well, the first reason is because the better I know a route, the better I am at riding it. I have a sense of how to mete out my effort. I know when I need to conserve energy on a climb because it ends in a false flat, and when to let it all hang out. I know the best, cleanest lines. I know what’s around the next corner without ever seeing it.
But the real reason I love the rides close to home is because they’re piled high with memories.
Yesterday afternoon, The Runner and I got out our mountain bikes. I admit I was giddy, because it was the first day the whole year I felt like I could wear a sleeveless jersey.
Not that I’m giddy about the prospect of sleeveless jerseys in general, mind you, but I was giddy about finally — it’s been a long winter — having a day when wearing a sleeveless jersey wasn’t an act of defiance.
“Should I bring an iPod, or are we going to be talking during this ride?” The Runner asked.
It’s a fair question. While I’m normally pretty talkative (though nowhere near as talkative as you might suspect from reading this blog), when I’m riding I often stop talking; I get absorbed in the ride.
“Leave the iPod at home,” I hazarded, not really sure I’d be able to back up that promise of being a good conversationalist.
Turns out I didn’t need to worry. I talked pretty much nonstop during the ride, just narrating things that had happened on the same route over the course of years and years of riding.
As we climbed up Hog Hollow — a long, moderate dirt road that becomes narrower, steeper and more technical as you go up, I recalled that this was the first “away” mountain bike trail I had ever been on. By which I mean, up until then, the only trail I had ridden was Lower Frank, near my house in Orem.
Dug had persuaded me to come try out something different — go out to Hog Hollow, climb it, and then drop down the other side to the Sliding Rock.
Back then, none of the Corner Canyon stuff existed. In fact, back then, the whole Suncrest subdivision where Dug now lives didn’t exist, either.
I don’t remember the descent, in any case. All I remember from that ride is the climb. At the time, it just seemed impossibly steep and unbearably long. And ridiculously technical. I recall telling Dug that I needed to stop and take a break three times on that two-mile climb.
It’s strange, I thought, how your perceptions change. Now I think of the Hog Hollow climb as nothing more than a convenient on-ramp to get to the real attraction: Corner Canyon Park. It’s a good warmup, but hardly taxing, even on a single speed.
But it’s still a good memory of branching out for the first time, along with the feeling of triumph when I reached the saddle.
I could have also told The Runner about the many times the group of us would race to the top of Hog Hollow, and how I never tried to hang with the group — I was too slow. Or I could have told her about the time Jeremy filled Dug’s innertube with water for one of those races.
Being at the top of Hog Hollow really only means you get a short break before more climbing to Jacob’s Ladder.
As we get to the top of Jacob’s Ladder, I start thinking about another first — my first descent down Jacob’s Ladder.
Now, Jacob’s Ladder is about 3 parts jutting rock, 4 parts packed earth, 2 parts erosion gutters, and 6 parts pea-sized gravel. All on a sharply descending, often off-camber fin.
Yeah, it’s kind of technical. Nowadays, I love the descent. Even though I’ve crashed hard on it, I know that (almost) every time, I can fly down. The thrill’s worth the risk. (Except when it isn’t, of course.)
But it hasn’t always been that way. I remember the first time I rode Jacob’s Ladder, I was with a group of riding buddies, and as they disappeared off the front and I looked at the rocky ledges and loose sandy gravel in front of me, that I had a long walk in front of me.
And I took my time about it, too. Muttering the whole way, angry at them for showing me a trail that — eventually — I would come to love.
A Third First
A drop down Ghost Falls brought us to Clark’s, one of Corner Canyon’s main arteries. My first time up that trail was also the first time I had ever ridden a single speed. I remember Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) happily chatted (meaning that he wasn’t working hard at all on the climb) the whole way up, talking about how much he loved single speeding and how this was a perfect trail for it and wasn’t it awesome the way you had to stand and rock the bike for big chunks of the climb?
Or at least I think that’s what he was saying. I had a hard time understanding everything he said, what with the sound of blood pounding in my ears.
Meanwhile, I was wondering if Rick would be offended if I vomited on him. I certainly hoped so.
A Stunning Epiphany
And here’s the thing: just about every section of every road or trail I normally ride is like this for me now: I’ve got an anecdote for pretty much every little bit of everywhere I ride.
Which means, I suppose, I’m becoming (have become) that old guy on the group ride. You know, the one who’s always going on and on about the good ol’ days.
I shall now punch myself in the throat.