Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lost In The City

I didn't think it was possible to get "lost" in the middle of a city comprised of nearly 6 million people. Directionally challenged in a way where you don't know where you are or how to get where you are going , of course, but lost? But I learned last night that if you travel 15 miles deep into the urban mountain biking trail at dusk without real lights and then leave the path to take a shortcut towards the lights twinkling way off in the distance, you can actually get to a fork in the road and have to blindly chose which way to go. I find this to be a special treat on a Monday night following a huge rainstorm.

South Mountain is the largest urban trail system in the country with over 50 miles of trails in the center of Phoenix. It is also in my back yard. Within 10 minutes of hiking, you can spin 360 and see no houses, hear no highways, and feel for a moment that you are out of town. This isn't to say that you will see no people, as it is a heavily traveled trail with many hikers and bikers making it part of their daily ritual. But during monsoon season in Phoenix, most of the urbanites get scared of lightening and rain and the trails become abandoned. There is a very popular singletrack trail called Desert Classic which circles the southern base of the mountain for 18 miles. It consists hardpacked dirt with lots of deep dips, curves and rocks. It is the very first place I ever road a mtb, endo-ed and discovered how much fun this sport could be. Since I am still a newbie, I still somewhat sucked last time I road it about 6 weeks ago. But I have been doing a lot of biking since then on much harder trails so I was excited to test myself again. My friend Sarah and I started a little later than we wanted at 7:00 pm which only gives about an hour before darkness. We were flying along and I was feeling awesome. It is the best I have ever felt on a mtb comfort wise. I feel like I am definitely improving and hit every hill at speed. I did stall out on two hills due to wet loose sand, but that number was down from five last time.

So turnaround time came & went and we were still making forward progress away from the car into the impending darkness. At some point, we decided just to keep going, further along the trail than we have ever been, and at some point, try to find a trail out to the road once that dark hit. I have a cheapo Target light which I purchased for $12.00 because I couldn't figure out why real bike lights cost $200. Really, a light for $200? Does it pedal and yell encouraging things at me as I ride? No? Then, I will pass. So I have a cheap light and Sarah has none. But this did not discourage us from riding unfamiliar trail in the pitch dark, it was an adventure after all. But then the trail got crappy. By crappy, I mean much more technical, climbing up into the mountain with a lot of large rocks where picking a line is helpful. I tried to lead and Sarah tried to follow me, but really I was not doing so hot and we were off the bikes a lot.

Finally we came to a vee in the road and decided to take the trail heading closer to the direction we were going to have to take back to the car. Only problem is, this wasn't a real beginner biking trail. I think it was just a hiking trail made by locals who live in that area. I felt pretty out of control most of the time as obstacles would crop up too late to avoid them. Something about being out in the darkness and just having to let go of technique and fears was strangely exhilarating. I realized if you just stay relaxed and let your bike bounce the way it needs to while maintaining forward momentum, you will stay up. We finally took a wash into a neighborhood and after climbing over a fence we were back on road and just had to find our way back to the car. I think overall it was about a 25 mile journey which took about 2 hours. This puts my mtb mileage for the last three days at 55 miles which is pretty good for me. I didn't bring my bike computer because it was raining when we started and I didn't want to ruin it. Thanks again for another adventure Sarah, crazy rower #2.

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