Sunday, June 23, 2013

New Chapter

I woke up this morning barely able to move. With each passing year, a big ride takes its toll and yesterday's Dahlonega Dirty Thirty left me plum wore out. I had no plans to ride today, but just rest and allow my legs to recover. Roger announced that there was a Farewell Ride at Blankets for Scott Stewart at 10:00. It was 8am, I had an hour to get ready. Sure I did not want to ride, but this was special. It was a ride for Scott, I was going, there was no question about it.
Let me back up to yesterday's adventure first. A big ride was posted by for people to experience the confusing labyrinth of singletrack trails of Bull and Jake Mountain. Having been riding these trails for 24 years and watching the new trails be developed, we know them all like the back of our hand. Roger was more interested in the big group of people it was drawing, so we awoke at 0:darkhundred to make the 7:45 am riders meeting in the Bull Mtn parking lot. He got his wish alright. There were well over 50 riders present, and we only knew a handful; Michael and Carin on their tandem, Larry, Brad, Gary, Scott, Keith, Rod, Robin, Ken, Kathleen, Dave, Tamara and Mickey.

The route was not the usual direction most of us ride at Bull so it would make for a nice mixup of the usual course. All zillion of us headed out the dirt road towards one of the new re-route sections. The Forest Service has been busy as a beaver lately with some super re-routes on many of the trails. No-Tell's rough downhill section, the 'heinous' climb of Jones Creek Dam trail, and what we call the 'old cabins' trail have all been redone. Jake Mountain trails have also recently been redone, thus creating a fabulous network of singletrack. A few years ago, we all but quit riding at Bull because the trails were so eroded and damaged from the horses. The resurrection of the Bull system has been greatly appreciated. These were the first real trails we ever rode, and they hold a tremendous amount of memories for us. It is nice to have them back.
All these years of riding have taught me a few lessons, and one of the greatest is how to be patient in a big group.  I gradually let all the anxious racer types work their way around me.  I knew every bit of trail that lay ahead, all the abrupt climbs that would trip everybody up and the long grinds that would try their endurance. Why wear myself out up front, when eventually we all end up together again?   Sure enough, on the long climb up Bare Hare, I could see a string of riders walking their bikes.  I put it in my granny gear and quietly slipped by some here and there.

My legs weren't pulling power from all 4 cylinders that day, so I had to settle  for a pace that I knew would get me through the entire ride.  There were plenty of guys around going the same speed, so I was not alone and enjoyed bombing down Bull Mtn trail.   I joined up with Brad, Larry, Gary, and Roger all waiting at the bottom and we headed for the Jones Creek Dam trail.
I used to get mad at myself when I wouldn't have a good strong ride, but have finally learned to resolve myself to whatever it is and enjoy it.  Usually I could be up there in the mix, but today I had to hang on the back and suffer through it.   We were getting ready to climb climb climb.  Becky and Jeff taught me to be happy happy happy about it, so I was.   Up we went.
It was a beautiful day.   Nice views were to be had.
From Jones Creek we headed to Turner.  I remember when Turner was first opened.  That trail was the cherry on top for us (still is).  From day one we always went down Turner, but today we would be going up it.  Not sure that I've ever actually been that direction.

From Turner we went right down the road to No Tell.  Again, we were going up this time, and with the re route it made it much more enjoyable than in the past.  No more rutted out steep grind.   From No Tell you cross the road and head into Black Branch.   We ran into buddies, Marty and Eric, as they were out for a ride starting from Jake.  Always good to see friends on the trail!

From  Black Branch we hooked up to Jake Mtn trail and headed to the dreaded 'river' crossing.  It has become quite deep these days and the current is a bit strong.
I wanted to spare my shoes from getting wet and getting the "funk" smell, so I took them off and crossed in my socks.  One guy behind me attempted to ride through it, but that didn't last long.
Being short as I am, it was a challenge to keep my bike high enough so that the wheel didn't get caught in the water.  Every time my wheel would start to touch the water, I'd practically lose my balance from the strong current.   Regardless, the cold water felt fabulous and was very refreshing to my legs.   By now they were starting to protest and I didn't bother trying to keep pace with the guys after we crossed the river.   A small band of guys formed behind me and I led them up the long long Jake climb.  I tried to get them to come around me, but didn't have any takers.   Dang it, I had to keep the pace going and was mad I wasn't riding stronger so that I could put the hurtin' on them.  Silly pride and vanity.   I wanted to be riding with these guys.........
but they were too fast for me today.   Then I came upon Brad on the side of the trail.  Broken chain.  Sometimes you just can't harness that much power!   Gary, Brad, and Larry are great guys, and they always support and encourage me in my riding.  Roger and I have been riding with Larry for well over 20 years!

The ride finished up with a short downhill over to the Bull connector trail.  Roger and I rode that in together.  Then it was time to wash up, change clothes and chow down.  Rod graciously handed out freshly cut watermelon, and Northstar Bicycles (Dawsonville) served up hot dogs, slaw, and chips.

Even though my ride time was only 3 hrs 15 min (29 miles), I felt like I had ridden at least 4 hrs.  The combo of the fast pace and climbing direction of the trails made for a good thrashing.   We have a route  of 34 miles we do in 3.5-4 hrs that includes the sweet downhill of Turner, Bare Hare, and No Tell and the fast flowy bits of Jake and Moss Creek.   If you ever need a guided tour of Bull Mtn, come join us anytime.

I wasn't about to let my knackered state keep me from saying adieu to our dear friend, Scott.   Scott and his family are moving to Texas so some of the guys called a last minute Goodbye Ride for him at Blankets.
My first memory of Scott is riding at the Ag Center trails in Gainesville.  We met him and his wife, Elicia, there about 10-11 years ago.  I'm not really sure of the year, but I do remember those first rides together.  Scott has worked tirelessly and selflessly as the Trail Director for the Woodstock Sorba chapter.  He could always be found building the trails at Blankets and is responsible for so much behind the scenes that all the trail users take for granted.   We have a lot to thank Scott and his crew for and are reminded of his work every time we enjoy the fantastic system at Blankets.

Here's Dave getting air on the Alt Line that Scott did at the Dragon's Tail.

My Sorba riding buddies are a fantastic bunch. We really don't care what anyone's level of riding is. In fact, we all represent the entire range of slow to fast and all in between, but it's not an issue when we get to together for a ride. We always have a good time together. We're always laughing about something, and nobody takes themselves too seriously. There are no egos in this group.
Scott, we're going to miss you, buddy. Thanks for all you've done and for being a great riding friend.
We wish you and Elicia and the kids all the best in your new venture in Texas. We look forward to seeing what this new chapter holds for you! Happy Trails until we meet again.

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