You do you. I’ll do me?

Maybe it’s the lack of sun. We had a week of smoke, and then the fall rain has begun. I’ve been feeling lethargic and low. I went for a proper ride for the first time last night after ten days off the bike. It felt foreign and strange and my headspace was wrong and I walked features I have ridden before and slid out on roots that I should have just rolled through because I was riding all slow and cautious.

But then we went for a beer and all our bikes lined up looked so pretty and the sight warmed my cold, cold heart. If they look strangely uniform, it’s because they were all built up by the same guy who is a fan of Kashima coat everything, and everything Fox. Every one of these wheeled wonders could toe the EWS start line. The only limiting factor would be the rider and out of the three, I’d be the weakest link.

I’ve been on the dirt jumper though, practicing, making slow stuttering progress. I’ve been told by several people to get wider handlebars. I borrowed a friend’s extra, along with stem, and attempted to swap the handlebars myself on Saturday night, after an impromptu dinner with the hubs to celebrate our anniversary.

You know how this is going to go, right?

The take apart is easy. Upon mounting the new stem though, I realize I need spacers, and in trying to tighten the headset, I manage to break the star nut, which is now lodged in the head tube.

I message the bike building friend above, because I don’t know what to do, and I am sad because I have no dirt jumper to ride now. He, as always, has both the parts and mechanical advice.

I pick up the parts Sunday morning, and get to tinkering. I break another star nut in the process, but he’d thankfully given me two, just in case.
It was like he knew.

Something that should have taken only ten minutes to do, took me an hour. But, I’m going to be so good at changing handlebars next time.

Bike rides are so essential because they not only clear the head, but every so often, you’ll stumble upon nuggets of conversation that make you realize you’re not crazy. Or that maybe you’re doing just fine.
Like the lament that eight-year-olds execute jumps so well, and well, I don’t, answered by the comment that perhaps my childhood was more…academic.
But yes, two degrees later, and where am I? Still trying to execute jumps on my bike.
Should I be upset that specialists from the city are getting referrals from my town, because a few of the surgeons clearly prefer not to refer to me? (A recent discovery…)
I don’t really care, but maybe I should? We spent the same amount of time in school doing the same degrees, and now I have free time, and they don’t.

Anyway, I came out of it all with some dirt on my bum and the realization that I’m not the “career woman” I thought I’d grow up to be; but it’s not wrong to be a career woman, and they can be smart and write papers and get really excited about work conferences and developing research, because the world needs people like that. I’m just not one of them. I don’t know if or how the world needs people like me, but I’m okay with that for now I think, because the amount of anxiety my job induces usually isn’t worth it.

Plus, messing up, and then fixing handlebars actually gives me great satisfaction.

Today I hate everything

I could scream.

I’m not a screamer generally, so I won’t. I’ll just type this all really fast and try not to post it while I’m still angry.

Covid.
It’s ruining our lives because no one knows what’s going on so people are making up guidelines that make no sense.

Send the kids back to school, they said, so that parents can get back to work, so our economy doesn’t die a horrible, protracted, flesh-eating disease-style death.

Ok. Yes, this is a good idea. My kids miss their friends, I’m a horrible teacher, and I cannot work when they are around. Our area has a low incidence, and a generally younger/healthier demographic.

School started five days ago.
Three days ago, my son gets the sniffles. This happens more or less all the time. He is just one of those dribbly kids, typically from November to March, with a few weeks on and off in between.

But fuck you covid, because the sniffles now means you can’t go to school, and you need a covid test, and need to isolate for 10-14 days.

My daughter is fine. No symptoms. My husband and I are fine. I had an itchy throat 2 days ago because the entire west coast of North America is on fire and the smoke has blown into our little mountain valley, and no one can see the sun and I ought not ride my bike because the air quality is terrible.

I get a call, while in clinic, from after school care. They ask where my son is, because my husband has forgotten to call them to notify them he isn’t coming. He has forgotten, because my husband is now trying to work, with my very active, but sniffly, son distracting him every two minutes.

“Oh, he’s got a slight cold, so we kept him home.” I say.
Last year, we would have just sent him. I am being a responsible citizen right now, can’t you see that?

“Well, if he’s sick, technically, his sister shouldn’t be here either.”

“But she’s fine. No symptoms.”

“Well, that’s the rule, so I’m going to have to ask you to come pick her up.”
It’s 230 pm. This is fucking stupid.
This is also going to happen probably thirty more times this year.

I’m in the clinic, so I corral two family doc colleagues and grill them on CDC guidelines. They reassure me that’s not the case, that it is indeed fucking stupid, and I get a doctor’s note for my daughter. But my son should come in for a covid test. Which, by the way, has a 30% false negative rate and can take up to three days for results.

I book him in. Poor kid.

I text my husband, who has a minor spaz out on me because he is swamped with five billion people calling him and work he has yet to do, and because now he has to stand in a field for half an hour so my son can get a covid test.

I tell him he gets it done, or the kid stays at home for a full 14 days.

I call the program back and advise them that my daughter is staying because no one can come get her, and I’ll bring a doctor’s note when I come get her (to support their bureaucratic process). Ok, I didn’t say that last part, but I sure thought it.

Then I take a deep breath and bring in a person I’ve booked for a longer appointment because I have to go over his MRI and tell him that there is a destructive goomba in his brain that would explain his symptoms. During this appointment, I get about 3 phone calls and 2 angry texts from my husband that I ignore, and later discover that it is because there has been confusion about the covid testing for my son, and they’ve been waiting now for an hour.
Oh, and to boot, because I had an itchy throat, I have to get a covid test too. So after this stupid day, I get a swab stuck up my nose and into the centre of my skull for five seconds. Awesome.

In all this, I have discovered that my husband is kind of mean when he’s stressed out, as I suppose anyone can be, but it makes me both understanding and sad for all the people who are getting divorced right now, and I want to just tell them all to wait until the crazy settles down before they do anything rash because this too shall pass. I hope.

Anyway, then I woke up this morning.
My daughter is sniffly. FML.
Good thing it’s my work from home day? Only I’m going to get no work done?

I start messaging mom groups to figure out pod learning, private tutors, homeschool options where I don’t have to be the teacher. I’ve posted in a local mom group, and I have mom friends calling to lovingly remind me that I cannot mom and teach, or people might get murdered. I wonder how much it would cost to have someone move in, teach my children, babysit on work days, and clean the house for a year, versus me just quitting my job and attempting to do this myself. What is the opportunity cost? Who would be the one to die?
Then I go to the mountain to sort out ski passes and refunds and children’s programs for this winter, because that is another hurricane aftermath in and of itself, and I have to do this in person to ensure no one effs it up (they eff it up every year, four years running now) because it’s a lot of money, and deadlines to claim refunds are coming up. I am answering work emails, while standing in line, trying to fix a scheduling snafu that was due to someone else’s oversight.

So now, it’s smoky as Hades, and I think I’m going to go for a bike ride anyway and essentially smoke a pack of cigarettes in doing so, because I need to rage pedal it out. Me and my itchy throat, scabby elbows, and fresh cold sore that has sprouted up in response to my nonexistent calm and zen headspace. And I’m going to look at my son’s pass photo because it makes me feel better.

“I was trying to make sure I didn’t blink, Mom!”

Fuck you covid.

Unbidden random memory #1

I had a random flashback today. I might start a series on this.
High school, the Cultural Talent Show.
I’m Chinese. I went to three different high schools, and all but one were multiculturally diverse with a significant immigrant population. The one that wasn’t was… a little bit redneck, with a lot of Mormons.
Anyway.
The Talent show. It was supposed to be an opportunity to showcase your culture’s arts. We did a Chinese dance of some sort I think. What I really remember though, was that a bunch of us girls did a choreographed hip hop dance in black hot pants and crop tops and spunky ponytails at the tops of our heads. It was weird. It wasn’t very Chinese, unless it was a representation of the Asian Diaspora in North America, with the advent of the “asian baby gurl” gangsta moll. Yeah, that’s what we were going for. It must have been.
The sound/AV guy, a tall, skinny dude with long, stringy blond hair and death metal roots, rolled his eyes during rehearsal. “What the f*ck? You guys have another act?”
I wonder where he is these days. He also did the yearbook photos and formatting, and I remember he gave me kudos for using an Aerosmith quote as my senior quote. (“Life’s a journey, not a destination”, in case you were wondering. I was the epitome of nerdy nineties angst. They somehow mixed up my photo and quote with another Asian girl in my year. Sigh.)

I remember one girl doing everyone’s makeup. She was really good at it, and even though she was a grade below me, had this quiet confidence about her. I recently internet stalked her and she’s a high-end events planner in Toronto now, where her website homepage opens with the line “Welcome to our Atelier”, and couture fashion designers and high end automotive companies go to her to plan their parties. Atelier.. I don’t even know what that means. She just launched a sparkling wine brand. I’m proud of her, because she is killin’ it. In three inch heels and full makeup.

I just ride bikes and have bloody elbows and run around with my kids in the wilderness. And I am going to have a fitful sleep tonight because tomorrow I will have to give one of my patients a sad diagnosis.
We all lead such different lives, molded by such different recollections and experiences. Funny where we all end up, isn’t it?

Plateaued at failure.

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. -Winston Churchill

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. – Robert F Kennedy

Both of these people are dead. One of a stroke, one of murder.
If we don’t count death as either success or failure, and break it down to smaller, temporal tasks, then maybe I can use glib quotes as encouragements to keep me going.

I’m not a generally athletic person.
Most athletic endeavours don’t come easily, and it takes me a long time to get good at them. I’m okay with being embarrassed, or looking stupid, or generally sucking, because I know that with enough time and effort, I will no longer suck so much. I don’t expect to go pro, but I’m generally happy with being on the better side of mediocre. I am happy with having tried and learned something fun, than simply watching on the sidelines.

Which brings me to these dirt jumps.

This is what they look like a 6:30 in the morning. Empty. Free of children. Free of spectators. Slightly damp from the morning dew. They wait for me.

I lap the pump track. Seven times one way, five times the opposite way. My left turns feel stiff and awkward. I need to do more left turns. I am thinking about my line choice, leaning, my elbows, my hips, my feet.
I get to the jumps, and work on again on my form, body position, elbows, shoulders. I’ve dialed it back, aiming to hit only first two or three gaps with perfect form consistently. I’m better than I was yesterday, but the consistency still isn’t there. Retraining motor patterns takes time. We did some video analysis yesterday afternoon. I reach maximal pump too early. Just wait a split second, a foot-length further. Then compress the landing, extend, and pump again. Elbows out more. Stop brake tapping. Soak up the jump if you’re going too fast. Legs and posture and timing.

I check the time. It’s been the most efficient hour I’ve had at the jumps all year. I just need to do this hundreds of times to get better. Maybe hundreds more times than everyone else I know, apparently. And hundreds more times than all the little kids who can seemingly do this effortlessly.

I’m getting past the third jump more consistently so I start working on this. Two or three more laps, I think, then I’ll head home. The kids are probably up by now.
I clear #4, and in a split second of indecision, I hesitate on if I can clear #5. That split second has cost me, and I don’t have enough time to avoid it fully. I crash again, almost exactly the same way I’ve crashed the previous two falls, on the same jump, halfway between doing it, and trying to ride away from it.

I hit the ground, and am stupidly startled by how hard the ground is. I roll over on to my knees, catch my breath, acutely aware of the burning pain of my elbows and the throb of my left thigh.

I’ve torn the elbows of my shirt, and I didn’t wear elbow pads today because I’ve found that when I sweat in them, the scabs already on my elbows soften, then get ripped off as I try to take the pads off. The past few days, I’ve simply reattached the gooey scab.
It’s gross, and it hurts, and it’s really annoying.
Sigh.
Well, now I have a lot of new scabs to be dealing with.

I get home and have a good cry in the shower; partly because the scrapes on my elbows sting like hellfire as I rinse the grit out, and partly because it is so insanely frustrating to not be getting anywhere with this. I’m not seeing progression. I’m not seeing improvement. Every time I go practice, it’s a crapshoot as to how I’ll ride.

Maybe I’m too old for this.
Maybe I cancel the order for that dirt jumper, because really now, just because I can…maybe doesn’t mean I should?
This is supposed to fun, isn’t it? When do I get that back again?

Adventuring

I like the idea of being an adventurer.
In my head, it consists of the ability to adequately use a compass, find your way in the dark, and view all dangers as possibilities, knowing that the effort invested will lead you to greater, intangible reward.

What adventuring doesn’t typically include, in my idealization of it, is foreboding.

I am, by nature, not cut out to be an adventurer, because foreboding and risk naturally come with adventure, and embarking on adventures requires initiative. I have far too much inertia to come up with adventures.

Which is why I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by adventurous folk, and a general likelihood to say “yes” to anything, barring adultery, illegal activity and chemical use.

“There’s a hut up there. I’ve been told it’s beautiful. Wanna go?”
Sure.
I’m relatively unprepared. I forgot matches and headlamps. I brought children. We are in a vehicle not equipped for the steep, loose rock of the service road. We stop part way up because the dash is flashing lights to indicate an unhappy engine. Everything, children included, get transferred to an accompanying truck. I walk with a friend.

There are cougar tracks in the sand. We walk faster. We can’t possibly be far now, can we? We’ve been climbing for ages! Surely, we must be near the top?

A phone call. The hut has been claimed. They are dodgy characters, not ones who would tolerate children camping nearby. “It’s more of a tool shed, not a hut.”

We’re still walking, seemingly straight uphill. Oh, a fork in the road, and it leads to a perfect campsite. Flat, views forever, wildflowers.
“I’ll walk to the fork to wave the truck down,” she says.
I stay to take some photos of the now setting sun casting a warm, benevolent glow over the valley.

The phone rings again.
“Are you coming toward me? START SHOUTING.”
“I was going to stay here. Do you see them yet?”
“HURRY UP. START SHOUTING.” She is screaming into the phone.
I start a jog back to the fork in the road. I can hear her yelling.
I start yelling nonsense back.
When I reach her, she is perched atop a big boulder, waving her arms. She is panicked, because this guy had hopped on to the road to peer at her, close up.

He had run off when I started shouting too, then stood there, observing us. The truck arrived with our kids, and we all stood on a narrow, winding, mountain road, staring at each other.

It’s a black bear, and common enough a sight that they are generally not feared, but I suppose when it’s right up beside you, it’s a different story.

We all clamber into the truck and the executive decision, unanimous among three moms, is to drive back down the mountain. We are not camping here tonight. Every fibre of my being fears it will not end well.

It is not until we reach the valley near the ice cold river that we find a suitable site. We cobble a fire together and get to setting up tents and making dinner. It is suddenly dark.

Soon, we are staring at a starry sky, counting satellites and wishing upon the two spectacular shooting stars we saw. There is a dance-off in front of the fire. There is laughter and s’mores and very soon, tired and smoky-smelling children crawling into sleeping bags, bits of ash painting their fingers and faces.

We are wild. We are free.
We are thankfully car-camping.

The memories my kids are generating right now? I would do anything to ensure they continue on this vein. So what if it takes me two days to catch up on adequate sleep? So what if it’s thirty-seven mosquito bites on my legs and an hour or two of cleaning and laundry after getting home?

Go find an adventure.
They are always worth it in the end.

Cool moms

I took my son to the dirt jumps today.

We headed over after dinner, and did a couple warm up laps on the pump track. He went to practice all the little rollers, and I went and worked on my jumps. Every two minutes or so, I’d hear him yell, “MOOOOoom!! Watch this!”, or “MOOooomm, come ride this one with me!”, or “MOOooomm, I’m hungry!”
Every single person at those jumps was acutely aware that I was his mom.
So as I went for another lap, another mom who was sitting on the sidelines watching her boys practice waved me over and laughed, “My son just told me that you are a cool mom because you bike, and that I’m a cool mom ’cause I play soccer!”
I give her a big grin. Yeah girl, we are cool moms. Let’s milk it while we can.

So someone explain this to me:
Why is it then, that when I pulled up to the jumps today, and saw the larger than usual group of guys at the start of the jump line all lined up, that my stomach did a nervous flip? Why, when I am decidedly older than all of these dudes, do I feel so insecure? I almost wanted to turn around and ride the easy lines with my son until they left.

But then I girded my loins (because in my head, that is what I am doing…great visual, right?), pulled into the lineup, and just did my thing. I’m here to practice after all, and time’s a-wastin’. Then, once it’s been done once, I can forget about everyone else there, and just focus on what I’m doing, and all is well again.

Is it because I’m a girl? Is it because I’m a mom? Is it because I’m the only girl and only mom there? I had texted another girl to join me but she’d had other plans. Even though I can be pretty certain that most guys out there don’t bat an eye at girls on bikes, and have full respect for all the rad ladies who are infinitely more skilled at this than I am, there is still something inexplicably intimidating about riding up to them. Guys, I suspect, will never understand this.

Where does this come from? What twisted psychology has been bred into me? And why can I not overcome it? Why, at nearly forty, am I still worried about whether I’m cool enough?

So here’s the rub. I’m buying a new dirt jumper. It will be a 40th birthday present to myself. I’m getting it custom painted a chameleon-esque blue-green-gold, because why the f*ck not? It will be spendy, but I will likely never sell it. And I will ride it until I can’t ride anymore, because dirt jumper geometry doesn’t change every few years like other bike geometries do. When I eventually have this in my hot little hands (which should be December sometime), I want to be able to properly ride it. I want to be able to do this bike justice, to ride it like its meant to be ridden.
But owning a cool bike also gives me anxiety, because what if I’m totally judged for sucking at it and having a fancy bike? What if I epitomize the Rich Asian Lady stereotype of driving a Porsche, badly, to get groceries? (You know the ones…the ones who do twenty-two-point turns and still end up crooked in the parking stall?)

One of my best girlfriends just turned forty. We chipped in to get her diamond earrings, and they will be stunning on her and she will wear them and she will be even more elegant and classy than her already elegant and classy self.

Maybe I should just be a girl and ask for jewelry, but what exactly would I do with diamond earrings? Where would I go? I’d be terrified that some thief would rip them out of my ears, and then I’d need surgery to correct my torn off earlobes and that would significantly interfere with getting various helmets on.

I might be having a crisis. Or a coming of age. What does that even mean?

“Mom! Did you do all the jumps?”
“Naw buddy, I keep messing up that last one today.”
“That’s okay mama. You’ll be able to do tricks on the big jumps soon.”
“Oh, I hope so..”

I am going to take the Cool Mom label and run with it for as long as I possibly can. Maybe I should put that as a decal on the bike. Ahahahaha. No, seriously.

Church

When I used to kayak, it was common to refer to the river as church. All crazy waterfall descents were filmed and finished with the sign of the “claw”, which I can’t really explain, but I digress. The church thing stuck. Any good paddle day, any good outdoor day, #CHURCH. It’s a reclaiming of religion from the religious, taking back a word that is so often maligned to being what it is; a place of safety and refuge, of peace and calming of the spirit, a place of worship.

It’s quiet here. There no highway noise, no electronics, no civilization. Just the click of my hub, the crunch of gravel, the breeze as it cools the sweat off my face. Goosebumps and a shiver. It is quiet.
It amazes me, how much background noise there is. You don’t notice its presence until it’s gone. Like all things, I suppose. The brain chatters too. It worries and writhes with restlessness.

This morning, I met a colleague’s husband from out of town. He is seeking reprieve from his children, the constant chatter and noise. He road rides, so I join him for a long, flat pedal. My legs are stiff and aching from yesterday’s adventure. When you reach the end of the paved road and turn around to go back, this is what you see. A welcome again, to silence, the rhythm of my legs, my breathing, a breeze rustling through the trees.

I needed these moments of calm. The four days before were high intensity. Late night work catch-up, work during the day, family, adrenaline-filled bike adventures to hidden trails tucked away. This is one of the rocks I careened down on two wheels. It was the first of three, and spectacular. (Here’s a video of the original trail builder riding the first three rocks.)

It was lush, green, still, and quiet, save the pounding of my heart. I went on to break my derailleur hanger on another feature further down, then riding out the rest of the trail chainless. If you want silence, that is the best way to achieve it I suppose. There would be occasional views over the valley that would force you to stop and breathe it all in.

I spent the following evening at the dirt jumps, finally clearing all the small gap jumps more consistently, and achieving one lap where it all felt absolutely perfect, so now I can continue to chase that feeling. Even though I have chosen a time of day where I more or less have the jump line to myself, it still feels busy. One of these days, I will go early in the morning, before the world wakes.
I arrived home to a few of my husband’s friends having a testosterone-y hang, and they graciously had me join them for a beer and slice of pizza before I left them to their own devices. One, who is working on his own piece of writing, asks how my writing is going.
“It’s not,” I reply, “because all I have is a file with a million scattered ideas, and nothing to glue them together.”
He has texted me occasionally, I think to keep himself accountable, because the text will simply say, “I’m going to write 5000 words today.”
I ask him if he did it.
“Nah. Didn’t make it. No excuses, really.”
The discussion drifts to bikes and photos of one guy’s recently sliced foot. He dropped into a lake from a rope swing, and managed to slice his foot open on a sharp rock at the bottom. We all gawk at the photos, unable to look away. It’s a Frankenstein-esque stitch job. Impressive.

I get back to work, before finally retreating into a deep, exhausted sleep.

It’s a lot of bike time, I know.
I work late nights to afford it, because that silence, that green, that calm? I can’t think of any better church.

Perfection

Saturday, late morning, a friend rings up. “I snagged a campsite. Last one. Let’s go. Just moms and kids. You, me, A and possibly M. Aim to leave at 230. “
I’m in line at the bike park with my reluctant daughter. She didn’t want to come, but we have a park pass, and I’m annoyed she hasn’t used enough of it. We’re just going to do one, maybe two laps. There are too many tourists. Lineups make me testy.
“Fine,” she says, all seven-year-old sass. “We’ll do a lap.”
“You can decide what we ride. But no more bad attitude.”
“EZ Does it. Del Bocca Vista. Family Cross. Then we go home. I don’t want to wait in line again.”
She is grumpy. Spoiled little grouch. Doesn’t know how good she has it that she’s riding a world class downhill bike park.

Wait, camping plans? Her face lights up.
“OH I can’t wait to go camping! We haven’t gone all summer!!!”
We head up the lift and it’s like I’m sitting with a different person. We’re counting all the masks people have lost, looking at the jumps, talking about bikes. We pass a tourist family ahead of us on the trail, and she’s on good form, riding faster than she’s ever done with me before, keeping up when I see how far I can push it, but still staunchly refusing to follow some of my lines. We pause for her to rest her hands, and it’s the fastest lap we’ve ever done together.
She’s all smiles as we race back to the car.

It’s chaos as I try to find all our camping gear, scattered and tucked away throughout the house, no longer centralized as it’s been so long since we went. I pack the car and kids and stop at the store and before you know it, we’re off!

My son is excited, talking about how we should zip the sleeping bags together to make one big one, and maybe we will see the horses at the paddock there, and what other kids are coming? What are we going to make for dinner? How come the store didn’t have big marshmallows? How many Oreos am I allowed to eat?

Camping is freeing, because we can let the kids run wild through the woods while we finally get to have conversation that is not interrupted every 30 seconds by kids fighting or asking thirty thousand questions. Everyone is happier in the woods. We eat junk food, and the kids collect trinkets offered by the earth. We settle in around the fire as the sky darkens and the air cools.

Dammit, I’ve forgotten the fly to our tent. I have no idea where it is, but I must have taken it out and stored it separately. No rain in the forecast, so we should be fine. I’ve always disliked the fly on tents, as it blocks out the stars and traps the moist, stinky breath of all its inhabitants overnight.

A friend’s little boy wakes at 3 am to vomit. Too much sugar.
This has happened on nearly every camping trip I’ve been on since having children.

Mama, I am going to snuggle you and snuggle you and snuggle you.

This little boy wakes up beside me to the sun rising up through the trees. He smiles a dreamy smile and takes a deep breath. He is wearing a fleece onesie that makes him look like a lizard, and my little lizard scoots in for a big hug and more warmth.

We lie still, my kids and me in a jumble of arms and legs, cocooned together, trying to stay warm as the sun has yet to do its job. We breathe it all in and there is serenity and stillness and nothing else.
If only for a few moments.

I’ll take every moment I can get.

Comes with the territory

My left shoulder looks a little like someone grabbed some 80 grit sandpaper and gave it a few swipes.

While I’ve found my game again on my trail bike, it would seem that life is simply not exciting enough unless I’m crashing into things. Or falling off of things. Or tumbling ass over tea kettle over things.

I’ve been spending more time at the dirt jumps. I finally cleared the little gap jump line; all six little bumps. It’s a relief really. It’s taken far too many hours to get here.

I particularly enjoy how you can see my bloody elbow and dirty shoulder here.

I had crashed in my attempt earlier. Too fast, too far, overshooting each successive jump; I could feel it getting beyond my control but I wasn’t sure what the best way to dial it back was. I hit the fourth jump, whose lip is steeper and gap is shorter, overshot it and landed on the flat, without enough time to set up for the fifth. I tried to pull brakes and was too late, burying my front wheel in the gap, but still with too much forward momentum so that I pitched forward off my bike. I tucked and rolled and landed on my feet somehow, but scraped up my shoulder (partially through my shirt) and my elbow. Two more attempts later, and I cleared the whole line, each jump feeling just right. Next time, just pump hard, scoop the toes, and hope to clear it anyway. New epiphany – if you case a jump, you can still salvage the next one.

Now, to pull it off again. And again.

So I head to the jumps again this evening after work. I’m by myself, and for a moment, have to remind myself that I’m a grown woman and there is no need to feel insecure.
There is a sendy crew tonight, all riders I’ve seen around who have an uncanny ability to defy gravity with a bike. They’re drawing a crowd and they’re loving it, throwing tricks and no-handers.

One of the guys there is a bike coach I rode with a couple years ago on Monday Night Rides. He’s coaching my kids a bit this summer at bike camp, and my daughter is enamoured with him because he buys them donut holes, and he’s a ton of fun to bike with.
He rides by and says hello, extends his fist for a fist bump. I am too uncoordinated to do this, and laugh as I tell him so. He watches me ride a line or two, gives me some feedback, and goes to launch his own flight path. He’s from Spain, and there are a number of Spanish boys whooping and hollering as they all ride the big jumps, styling it for the crowd. He has a big scab on his elbow, and I am, like a child, a bit proud that I have a big scab on my elbow too.

There are a bunch of little boys riding the jumps with me, some with their dads. The moms are watching on the sidelines, and there is one girl, about twelve, who is sending it on the big jumps with these unkempt and dusty twenty to thirty-something boys. Her parents are watching on the sidelines, and everyone here knows that she will one day be pro material. Her mom congratulates me after I clear all the jumps again tonight. “You did it! Nice work!”

Ahh these dirt jumps.
They’re just another way to feel like a superhero. Channel a dolphin. Get some flight time.
It’s a different skill set, a thoroughly different fear, an equally satisfying rush.

Next year, when I’m forty, I want to hit the bigger jumps. And figure out how to do a whip.

The Sound of Silence

There is a trail that climbs up a mountain, whirls you around at the top, showcasing views and alpine lakes and wildflower meadows, then sends you careening back down with fast, flowy glee. Temperatures and heart rates rise, and the leaden legs make a sneaky appearance. Suddenly there are goosebumps, a shiver and icy snowmelt to dip your toes in. The way down leads through the forest, transitioning from rock and sky to loam and greenery as the air gets warm again.

It’s pretty magical.

It’s also a bit of a suffer-fest. Elite racers can clean this in around two hours.
Mere mortals can take more than six.
The very first time I rode this four years ago, it took me about five. I had wicked quad cramps by the end, and had to collapse to the ground every five minutes to stretch.
The second time? 4.5 hrs.
The third? 4.25 hrs (leading someone up who had never been before).
This was my fourth time doing it, and the first time with my new to me bike. We set the objective to avoid stopping unless it was for salt tablets/glucose/water, timed to occur every 30-60 minutes. We stopped for about ten minutes to eat a sandwich at the top, and two brief stops to take a photo.

Pics or it didn’t happen.

The nice thing about doing it midweek is the dead quiet. It’s the top of a mountain. There’s no one there. It’s glorious. It’s just the wind, maybe a bug or two.

So what that I did hours of work in the wee hours of the night for three days so I could ensure a free day yesterday?
So what that I’m doing more work in the wee hours of the night for the next three days so I can get some biking in the next few days?

Worth it. Every minute. Every twitchy eyelid, every caffeinated drink.

Because silence is hard to come by. True wilderness.

I love the song by Simon and Garfunkel, though it doesn’t reflect this silence. This one is peaceful. Less sad and anguished.

I often wish I had the time (and will) to ride this once every week or two. I’d be fighting fit, and who knows, maybe more zen. That’s why all the oracles and gurus are perched at the top of some mountain peak, no?

So here we are, writing for fun and spitting it all out after I’ve agonized over every opinion and word choice in a too-long report that took me four hours to write. Oh, to be on a mountain-top again.