Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Big Boy Ride

Marilyn and I are almost always together. We like it that way. But today, the "girls" went to the home show and the tent flea market. And the boys went on a big boy ride. A manly ride. A brave and daring thrill ride along the ridge of the mountains outside of town. No wimps allowed. No girlie girls or girlie men allowed. So what in the world was I doing in the middle of the pack? John led the way today. Jack played follow the leader. My job was to keep close tabs on Jack. And Gary was the tail gunner- a job of great title and authority which translates loosely to "make sure Greg keeps up and doesn't get lost in the desert." Fine. OK. I'm cool with that.

Where the road departed and we headed into the dunes and foothills, leader of the pack pulled us over for a strategy session. "Now boys, we'll be ridin' at 25 to 30 miles an hour today. Try to keep up. The way this works is you keep the tail lights of the guy in front of you in plain sight. You keep the head lights of the guy behind you in the rear view mirror so no one gets left behind. If we turn off the main trail, pause there until you know the rider behind you sees the turn off. Fine. Ok. I'm cool with that. But the next number I saw on my speedometer was 38.

Several miles later. lead rider circled the wagons one last time before heading up what looked to me, from where I sat upon the big seat of my Honda Rincon 4X4 700 power horse, nicely decked out in camo and wearing my new gloves without fingers and my sand sock dust mask and my shiny new olive green helmet, remotely like a road or path or trail of some sort, but more strikingly like a suicide mission of a trail that extended up and along the mountain ridge as far as the eye could see. John: "Now, fellas, we don't want anyone getting hurt out here today. So, Greg, if you feel a little apprehensive about the ride you are probably (the word "probably" struck a chord with me immediately) gonna be OK. But if you feel really fearful about something, then just don't do it!" Fine. OK. I'm really cool with that.

And so off we went up the first real climb of the day. On a trail no wider than the bikes. That was very steep. That was covered with loose rocks. Whose sides fell away sharply down the mountain on either side from the get go and got worse with every tenth of a mile we covered. My palms were sweating just like at the dentist office. This IS fun! My eyes wanted desperately to look left and right to get a perspective on my position on the mountain and a sense of my level of safety or my imminent demise. But no. Huh-uh. Glue those baby blues on that trail and try to quell the hyperventilation that was trying to take over. I kept thinking to myself. Fine. Ok. I'm cool with this. But I quickly realized that it was TOO LATE to not do something I didn't want to do. And at this point I can't say I was too sure either way. The choice had been made. Turning around on that trail was not an option because it was also not possible! The phrase "a snowball's chance in hell" came briefly to mind.

The higher we got, the more the nerves tried to take over. But I had a leader out in front, Jack's tail lights high and in front of me, and, when I dared to glance at the rear view as I was instructed, Gary was still back there. Fine. OK. I'm getting better at this.

At the tippy top of the first major leg of the climb, again John found a spot with enough room for a conference before proceeding. "Greg, You doin' OK, fine, you good with this?" I searched for an answer rattling around in my brain. I really didn't know what my answer would be until out it came: "Well I suppose I'm doing fine, OK, I think I must be good with all this- because I soiled my shorts three times coming up that first hill, but have only wet myself twice since then, so yeah, I'm good with this.

With that bit of comic relief I actually was good, and while it was big up and big down the rest of the ride, from that point on in my head it was all down hill. Never got 100 per cent comfortable- and that's a good thing. A small dose of fear helps the tires to stay on the trail, or so it seems to me, and until I can replace the fear with the skill that is required to ride the way these guys ride in confidence at every know, say it with me: "Fine. OK. I'm cool with that."

I wish I had the talent with a camera to give a sense of the elevation and sharp angle of the sides of these hills (you can call them that if you like; I'll stick to mountains, thank you very much). Pick a point, any point, on any ridge of any of these in the picture and picture yourself dwarfed by the landscape and scurrying along that ridge line like a cricket on the edge of a hot tin roof in the desert. You can almost get a sense of the challenge by trying to use this photo as your map and see if you can trace a route from one side of the picture to the other. That IS what we did. Here is one hint: it is much more difficult than it looks.

But good companions, and good riding tips took all of us, me included, to the top and back down the other side without major mishap. To say it was an exhilarating ride is a severe understatement. To say parts of it were pretty scary to a guy who doesn't much like heights in the first place- well, that's playing things down too. "But glad I am", as Yoda used to say, "I traveled to that dark side to see the sights from up high on the mountain." I couldn't see forever, but I DID see California, and isn't that just about the same thing?

From the "reflector", so called, at the end of the mountain trail, we could look over the green agricultural fields of California. My orange whip, now proudly sporting an American flag, waved over all the land. And it was just fine. Really OK. And I was cool with that!

1 comment:

Camille Carnell Pronovost said...

Greg, I just had to write to tell you - thanks for making me laugh! I love the way you write so keep 'em comin'! Camille