Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ride out the Old and Ride in the New

As long as I can remember, Raja and I have almost always started a New Year with a bike ride. It is a ritual I have come to cherish and cannot imagine bringing in a new year any other way. I love reflecting back on the different January 1st rides we have done. They have been in so many varying places, mountain bike, road bike, rain, snow, freezing temperatures, warm sunny days, all of course with a wealth of friends from our huge cycling family. After 24 years a family can get pretty big.

The weather this time of year is obviously touch and go, so we're not always fortunate enough to get in a ride on both Dec 31st and Jan 1st. Since cycling defines my life, I like the idea of ending the year with a ride and ushering in the new on the bike as well. This time we were lucky. Raja wanted to try out the trails of White Oak in Tennessee, so we headed north and met up with regularjoe for our last ride of the year.

The ride was of great significance to Joe because it marked a milestone in mileage for his year. He manages to juggle fatherhood and family, career, and riding all in a healthy and productive way. He has also managed to assimilate Raja's skills rather successfully and we have all watched Joe grow by leaps and bounds as a cyclist.

The White Oak trails delivered nicely for us. The smooth singletrack had good flow and most importantly there were helpful maps at every intersection. There was plenty of climbing enabling us to get a good workout. From the looks of it, there are still plenty more trails being built making it worth the 1.5 hr drive.While we feel the flow of extended downhills are best at the Five Points trail system , these Tennessee trails offer plenty of opportunity for a fun and challenging ride. Case in point; the White Oak Ridge trail (yellow markings) is like an exact replica of The Snake trail. If you did not know any better you would think you had linked into The Snake. Rocky and technical, it will test your skills for sure! Too busy trying to keep up with the guys, I did not have much time to get a good pic representative of that section, but hopefully you get the idea.At a moderate pace, we did all the trails in 2 hours (with a few bits being repeated) and clocked 15 miles. Joe and I were content with the 2 hours and happy to call it day while Raja wanted more. Much to his dismay I wanted to save some energy for the next day's ride and talked him into calling it quits. However, we could have easily gone out for another hour and not been bored. The loops are big enough that you could do them in different directions to keep it fresh. The White Oak trails were a pleasant surprise and have much to offer every class of mountain biker from beginner to racer. The trails are deceptive and you will find yourself climbing more than you realize. The ups and downs make you work, but the descents leave you wanting to go back for more. All in all, we were happy with our choice to check out White Oak and heartily recommend you do likewise!
I have not been riding much at all the past 3 weeks and as a result my cycling performance has been lacking. Winter is always a tough time for me as I lose my motivation, eat too much, and go into hibernation. This winter has been a rough start, but I was determined to end 2011 on a positive note. While the ride with Raja and Joe had left me exhausted, I was not going to give in on my waning fitness. I was going to do a New Year's Day ride whether I felt like it or not. It's what we've done for over 20 years, and feeling lame was not a valid reason to give up a good thing. Besides, if I fought my way through this haze, maybe it could represent starting the New Year with a winning spirit. How poetic that our ride began in the thick morning fog! We awoke to the sound of rain this morning, and Raja questioned our decision to head to the mountains. Waiting to hear the verdict from our friends, I almost didn't care what the weather was going to do. I wanted to start this day riding my bike because I had something to prove. Rex phoned with their decision. Michael had said weather be damned, they're going to Mulberry Gap come rain or shine. Good, we packed up the bikes and headed north again.

In spite of the weather, about 40 people showed at Mulberry Gap, and I took comfort in seeing my fellow cycling friends. Some were new acquaintances I'd only known for a year while others, like Mike, were friends we've ridden with since 1988. I like that. I think it's cool to know so many many many different people in the riding community, and I want the list to keep on growing.
The conditions were not the greatest, but heck, I've suffered through much worse. It wasn't freezing cold and that counts for a lot in my book. Whatever, I was riding my bike. I may not have been fast, but it did not really matter. One thing I've come realize through all these years in the up and down ebb of riding is that you cannot measure your happiness through performance. You enjoy your ride because you can ride. You enjoy the people with which you are surrounded. You make it through the tough conditions and you savor the glorious moments because in the end it's all a big tapestry of memories.

Riding should make you smile. Sometimes the conditions are less than optimal for smiling. You can still smile. As our Swiss Camp mantra goes; climb climb climb, happy happy happy. It's your choice!It rained, we got wet, our bikes got muddy, and we got muddier. I'm still glad we rode. Starting the first day of the Year on my bike is always a good thing. It has to be a sign of good things to come. Besides, maybe we got our nasty ride for the year out of the way. The rest has to be all roses and sunshine, right?!!!

Good friends, old and new, riding out the old year and riding in the new. Hey New Year, here we come, what do you have in store?!!! Happy Trails and Happy New Year, Ya'll!

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