Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Normal & the Not So Normal

In the subculture universe of cycling in which I live, there is a wide range of personalities and abilities. I would venture to say that Raja and I have the broadest scope of friends to rival anyone, as if there was such a competition to be held. Regardless, depending on our mood and energy level, any combination of ride and company can be had.

This weekend I was ready for some good old fashioned low key drama free riding. Sweetwater had notified me of his and G-Off's plan to ride the Pinhoti trail. Normally always riding their road bikes, this was their first time to be hitting the dirt in a while. Their plan sounded like a great one to us.

Our other choice was to be tortured by Michael on a road ride. Thank goodness we already told Sweetwater we'd be there, so I could honestly tell Michael we had other plans. For weeks now, Michael and I have been trying to kiss and make up, but it just hasn't worked out for us to hook up for one of his road fiestas. Maybe when I finish my next round of steroids.

Regularjoe signed up for the drama free ride. I had convinced him that Sweetwater and G-Off were 2 of my Normal friends. I say normal as in nice, pleasant, lacking in any strange qualities. He wasn't so sure what my definition of normal was, since last time I tricked him into riding with our friend, Larry, the Shredder. He emailed me to clarify what I meant by normal, and to let me know he did not consider Larry as normal.

As I thought about it, I realized we have more not normal friends than normal. It's not normal for most of these guys to ride as fast and strong as they do.....all the time. We've known Larry for the better part of 20 years, and he has never changed. He's always been lean, always been fast. That's not normal.

Then there are our friends that are downright freaks. That would be the Marvins, Karens, Michaels, and Gregs of our unique subculture. By simply waking up in the morning they are in shape. Freaks I tell ya, freaks. I've long since quit trying to understand them. We can only sit back now and remember with fondness the years long past when we used to ride with them. Meeeeemmmories, like the cobwebs of my mind.

Then there are the other not so normal friends, of which we fall into that category. Our Sorba friends, and the Bodr's. We're just flat out goofy and silly, and don't consider it a successful ride if we haven't had at least a dozen belly aching laughing spells. That's my kind of normal!

I swore to regularjoe that the likes of Larry would not be there for our ride Saturday morning. Just 2 other normal guys, respectable riders, low key, drama free. It will be a pleasant day on one of Georgia's most beautiful trails.

Imagine my horror the next morning when up pulls, not only Larry, but his teamate, Gary, to our parking spot on Gates Chapel Road. Oh no! Regularjoe is going to kill me! It just kept getting worse. Kevin and Mary were there along with Travis.
These are the local shredders. More not normal people. Continuing to add fuel to the fire, Sweetwater and G-Off were no where to be found. I won't get a chance to kill them, because regularjoe will get to me first. You should have seen the look on his face when he drove was one of What tha *@!$&?

After I convinced him that these not normal people would be doing their own separate rides, he got out of his truck to get ready for our normal ride. Finally, at 8:29, Sweetwater and G-Off rolled up. Better late than never!

Larry and Gary departed off to Pinhoti 1 to kill time while they waited for latecomer Brad to show. Mary, Kevin, and Travis had taken off for some gravel road climbing, so we were safe once again.

The morning light streaked through the thick trees casting a beautiful glow as we silently made our way up Pinhoti 1.The thick blanket of fern on the ground is one of my favorite features of this trail. I get lost in thought sometimes when riding here. Has an intoxicating effect on me.

So far things were off to a good start. No one was in need of hammering. We all wanted to just ride and enjoy the beautiful scenery. No drama, no tricks, no hootin' and hollerin'. Just daydreaming and the sound of steady breathing through the thick humid air.

We made our way up and over Pinhoti 1 to P2. Sections of the trail are so overgrown that you have to thick thin thoughts as you pick your way through, trying to avoid the snare of briers as they rip your arms to pieces.

As we were about to begin the fabulous descent down Pinhoti 2, who should appear but Larry and Gary. Uh oh, things are about to get not normal.They never hooked up with Brad, so could they tag along with us? Uh sure. Just send us a postcard from the top of the climb.

We bombed down P2 trying to keep things as normal as possible. I was surprised to be able to keep Raja, Larry, and Gary in my sights. Raja has alot of clout when it comes to downhilling, and usually gets first dibs in the lineup. Larry was in front of me, and obviously not pulling out all the stops to stay with Raja. I liked having a rabbit to chase and it helped me pull out a smooth drama free descent.

We got to the bottom and G-Off had one of those not normal looks on his face. He had gotten stung on the way down:-(
The poor guy had not yet recovered from a bee sting received on his ride last week, and now he gets a matching sting for his other arm. He was not happy. He popped a couple Benadryl and I asked if I could have his bike in case he didn't survive. Since he's allergic to bees, I knew I better get the verbal agreement in the presence of other witnesses.

I said this was going to be a drama free ride. I had a feeling it was not going to turn out that way.

G-Off decided to ride up the gravel road and stay out of the singletrack. We've lost contestant #1. Is this going to be another one of those elimination round rides?

Larry and Gary led the way up Pinhoti 3 as we said goodbye, hopefully not for the last time, to G-Off. By now it was just a paltry 91 degrees. Pretty normal for a Georgia summer.
Trying to keep the drama to a minimum, each rider slipped into their own rhythm and climbed in silence. Except for Larry and Gary. You could hear them up ahead in the distance, gabbing away. That's not normal to be able to climb AND blab away at the same time. Come up for air every once in a while. If not for yourself, at least to make us feel better about ourselves.

This is one of those climbs where I really get lost in my mind. The scenery is so overwhelming. I have visions of all kinds of shots I would like to take, but it's really best to just keep the pedals turning and keep making progress. It's a long climb.I'd like to see how the real estate agent shows this particular cabin!?! This sign is in the middle of a switchback about a mile up the trail. Is that normal?
We weren't about to interrupt our climb by tromping through the woods to some Open House. Climbing was still on the agenda. Climbing on the P3 can play tricks on you. There are parts where you look down and you swear the riders on the sections below are going down the trail in the wrong direction. Lots of serpentine and snakey turns.
And there are lots of switchbacks on P3. Raja is the king of the Switchbacks of Doom, as we affectionately refer to them on this trail. This switchback is the very last one before the top of P3, and it is a doozy. Steep and tight. I've only made it twice.
Watch the master.

This is not your normal everyday switchback.

And that's how it's done!

Some of the switchbacks sneak up on you if you don't have the trail memorized. Unfortunately, that's what happened to Sweetwater. He was surprised by a downhill switchback as he came into it with too much speed. Rider down! Oh no, not another elimination!

Sweetwater was going to live, but needed to return back to the truck with a nasty blow to his leg. His consolation prize was a little kitten that had been discovered hidden in the brush. Since I was not actually there to witness the Hello Kitty moment, I will let Sweetwater tell the story from after his crash:

THEN, the ride got interesting. Earlier when we had ridden from P2 to P3 on Conasauga Rd, we heard a kitten crying in the overgrowth on the side of the road. A couple of us stopped and the kitten seemed to be very lost or abandoned. Not much for us to do at that point, so we rode on. After my attempt to ride P3, the kitten was still there.

Larry was there and was willing to take care of the cat if I could get it to his house in Jasper. So we took the bladder out of my Camelback and Geoff carried that. I put the kitten in my pack and wore the pack backwards like a papoose. I rode with one hand on the handlebars and one hand keeping the kitten from squirming out of the pack, from P3 along Shakerag back to the car, sometimes one legged because my shin still had shooting pains. It was a sight.

Once back at the cars, Geoff bonded with the kitty and they became best buds. Not wanting to let the cat go completely, Geoff asked his mom to take it. She agreed, Larry agreed as long as it was going to a good home, and the kitty was saved. And my shin feels pretty good today, so it all turned out well.

(photos courtesy of Travis)

Aaaahhh, we finally had a bonafde "oh look, a kitty" moment on a ride. Thanks, Sweetwater!

Back to the not so normal ride in progress. Regularjoe was terrified. Being the newest member to our Cast, he knew that meant he'd be next to go in this not-so-normal drama filled ride. Isn't that how they treat the new characters? At least he had an official name. Maybe he wouldn't be killed off afterall.

We carried on with the game.

The top was reached successfully by all 3 of us. Larry, Brad, and Gary had long since finished the climb and already turned back down for the descent. The heat had reached monumental proportions, but there was an odd wind blowing through the trees. That's not normal, at least for a hot summer day. It sounded more like a winter day, but definitely felt like summer.

The descent was made without any drama. If regularjoe was going to be eliminated, we'd have to come up with another plan. We could forage off wild poisonous fungi and see who the last one standing would be.

Raja and I had planned to retrace our steps by going back up Pinhoti 2 and 1. regularjoe was not overly thrilled at this idea, but decided to tackle at least going back on Pinhoti 2. It would be a climb in this direction on the singletrack, doable, but a climb nonetheless.

We passed a huge group that was bombing down the trail. Kevin from Outspokin, along with Dave, Chris, Ellis, Carl, and a few others. It looked like they were enjoying a nice normal day on the bikes.

regularjoe survived P2, and was ready to end his normal low key ride. He had survived, and I was very proud of him for stretching himself yet again. This guy is starting to act like one of our not normal friends. Better keep an eye on him.

I coaxed Raja into climbing up Pinhoti 1.

With heads down, we made our way up the long long climb. For whatever reason, my legs still had some juice left in them. I had never really gone hard in my efforts today, so it was paying off in my endurance. My cushy MotoLite assisted me easily up the steep climbs.

Raja wisely made the decision to walk some wall sections, which in hindsight I should have too. His legs were much fresher the next day than mine.
It thundered as we reached the last few miles of our ride. My chamois reminded me that it was time for me to be wearing something else, preferably something dry. By now I was ravenously hungry. Only 32 miles, but 4 1/2 hrs saddle time and about 5400' of climbing. Just another normal day of riding for some not so normal people!


regularjoe said...

Enjoyable recap of an enjoyable day in the saddle. Thank goodness I made it out aliv...oh look, a kitty!

Al said...

The Al is up top. As it should be. More people will visit now.

Al said...

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