The events you are about to read took place between 12:20 and 1:24pm (or thereabouts).
Very wet dirt.
12:21 pm: Ride off the three step ledge outside the door from work, heading up towards “test tracks”. It’s March, lunchtime, and pushing 65 degrees, and my nourishment today shall be dirt.
12:22 pm: Hit the bike path, dodge a couple pedestrians, giving the requistie “On yer left” warning in a somewhat timely manner before I overtake them. The sun is shining bright, and there’s a hint of “warm” in the air.
12:23 pm: Without noticing it, I’m clipping along the path at a very high rate of speed, seems I’m hungrier than I thought. It’s been a good 4 1/2 months since I’ve “eaten” very well. People are lying in the grass along the path, just taking in the sun and general pleasantness of this indian spring. People are fishing already, and I have expected to see somebody float by the river in a tube – but the water is actually pretty low. Just before I cross the bridge I can see a load of people at the skatepark, damn it’s like summer.
12:27 pm: I stop briefly at the park and watch a few kids on 20 inchers pop some 360 flyouts, and a host of other kids practicing kickflips and other skately doo dads… my stomach rumbles, and I heed the urge and ride onwards.
12:30 pm: I just passed the official sign for the trails “Durango Mountain Park”, AKA Test Tracks. This area is the closest place to work to try and get my tires dirty. Takes a whole 8 or 9 minutes to get here. When it’s warmer, it’s my detour for my home commute. But since December it’s been under a pretty constant blanket of cold white. For the last week or so, temps have been well above 40 and I just know most of it should have vanished by now. Todays mini lunch journey is really a reconasance mission just to see if they’re dry enough to ride, my fingers are crossed across my brake levers as I pedal…
12:33 pm. After navigating up this flat area through a smallish valley type area, I reach a capillary that runs into one of the main trails. Test Tracks is pretty much a non managed area full of what they call “social trails” around here. I think they mean they are not officially sanctioned by any of the user groups, people just sort of go where they want – just like the olden days. Like all the other trails in the area, I begin with a climb. but it’s not very steep or long or anything. Still, my winter lungs are not yet up to par, and I’m panting rather immediately.
The little valley in the background was very dry.
12:37 pm: I’m only through about a quarter mile of trail – it went from bone dry arid dirt, covered with pine needles, to a very moist semi frozen tundra like surface. Outlook for a complete loop is not good.
12:40 pm: By now, I walking my bike up the trail, hoping to get into a section that faces the sun for the most of the day. But the trail just keeps winding upwards through the trees. In fact, I’m not really so much walking my bike as much as I’m using it for support. The trail is now pretty much mud. Or rather, a layer of loose mud melting off of maybe a still frozen underlayer. I stop to look around, chill out, and bust out my peanut butter sandwich, noticing that I forgot to bring any liquid. Snap a few photos, and wander the more flat parts of the trail on foot, slipping several times.
12:50 pm: I wander up near a cemetery that the trail sort of circumnavigates, and notice a full size tent pitched in a thicker area of trees. This is a popular place for transients when the weather is warmer. Some people come out here and work construction, live in tents out here, and ride on their off time (info courtesy MTBR forums for the western slope). The large tent I spotted is empty and mostly uninhabited as far as I can tell. Must be a left over from the fall.
12:55 pm: I get back on the back and explore a few hundred yards of dry trail in flat exposed area up on higher ridge, but before I can get into a groove, I’m back into mud again, and walking. damn. Stop for a few more photos.
12:57 pm: I remember that I forgot to wear a helmet. Bad hazard… bad.
1:00 pm: I have no idea that it’s 1 pm. But I do begin to get the feeling I’ve been gone from work long enough that I probably should start heading back. To this point, I’ve been going UP muddy inclines constantly, so the way back will be easy.
The mud on the trails is not “deep”, but more like a thick slime layer. Which is cool, relatively because I won’t be doing any serious damage or leaving grooves on my way down. What the mud does do though, is makes anything even slightly off camber extremely slippery. Going down is actually becoming more difficult than getting up. After a quick drop in to a short chute like turn, I find myself coming up on some a patch of ice. I can’t really brake as it will just lock up my wheels and put me down (I’m already dirty like a third grader), as well, I cannot really engage in evasive action either – same result either way. So I hold my course and zip across the patch of ice – only to find more traction on it than what is available in the mud. Go figure.
1:08 pm: I reach a short dip in the trail – a quick drop down about 8 feet, then an immediate rise back up about 12 feet, on a slight curve. The upside is not as steep as the down side, so I figure momentum will carry me through.
Dropping in.. sorta…
108:15 pm: I took it for granted that I would hold a line down the little hill, but I was wrong. The precarious surface directed to a line that was pretty much a b line for a series of small trees. I manged to brake a little and veer to one side, avoiding injuring both msyelf and the trees, but I also killed all momentum, and I forgot to shift up before I entered the section, so I’m a rather inconvenient gear to try to pedal out. Still, I give the old singlespeed push and try to muscle my way along.
1:09 pm: The mud encasing my back wheel is acting more like a stick magent than any source of power transfer or source of traction. It manages to put a stick right into my front dereaileur, which in turn spins it a bit sideways on my seat tube. The immediate result of this is that the stick prevents my crank from moving forward, and my pedal stroke is immediatly halted. As is any forward motion I may begun to accumulate. Damn.
1:09: 20 pm: I pick another loose stick and begin to “clean out” my deraileur. Once it’s fairly free of mud, muck, needles, sticks, berries, and errant forest creatures, I push the bike to the top of the rise. As I begin to crank, the crank locks up again.
When I inspect the chainwheel, I notice that when that stick and jammed up in there, a link of my chain had caught the side of the deraileur cage, and effectively sheared it from the pin on either side of the link. Of course, this being a quick lunch time foray, I didn’t brink any tools, and as nutritional as the P, B, and J was, it didn’t leave me with enough strenght to push the link back together by hand. Damn, I’m gonna be late.
1:12 pm: After monkeying around with the chain for a few moments, I just decide I’ll coast the rest of the trail out, and remember the way back to work (all mile of it or so) is downhill anyhow. The pin is fixed in the link well enough where I can gimp myself back with little “half pedals”.
Charting the path of least resistance. From here, I can coast for
nearly a half or three quarters of a mile.
1:14 pm: I’ve coasted my way out of the trails with decent moment, and roll by all the skaters/riders at the bike park, past the fisherman practicing their fly techniques, and all the people basking in the sun warmed grass. After just about a mile of coasting, I find myself gimping along with the little half crank technique, and then say “screw it” to msyelf and just decide to hoof it the rest of the way. The sun’s out, it’s warm, and even though my excursion was a bust, I think it qualifies as this years “Virgin Run” and for some reason it feelsg good. Really good, just being among the trees and dirt and camping transients again. Summer cannot come soon enough I tell ya.
1:24 pm: I arrive back at work, and since it’s been sorta slow this month, they dont’ even notice I’m sort of late. Grab a pair of channel locks and pop the link back together so I can at least pedal home after work….
Will probably another couple weeks before it’s dry enough to ride up there, but I hear that the telegraph trails are dry as a bone, which I shall find out firsthand on Saturday. Possibly tomorrow if I have enough umph after work to ride up horse gulch…
My name is Hazard, and I ride a bike.
Thank for looking, Peace.