I love this time of year, bike races are winding down, the weather is still good for getting out and it’s the kick off of the holiday season…which means less work and more time to bike and spend with family. Mountain biking is now more about going out on an adventure and less about training for the next race.
This was a different Thanksgiving for me this year. Instead of going to the in-laws for the usual turkey dinner I spent the day at the hospital. My dad had esophagus cancer 4 yrs ago and due to complications from the operation to remove the cancer his lungs are in poor condition. Thursday it got to a point that he had to go to the hospital so he could be put on a respirator. In the past 4yrs I have become somewhat numb to events like these, I mean I hope for the best but am ready for whatever comes at me. These days I try to focus on being there for my mom, she needs the support.
My support for dealing with things like this is getting out on my bike with friends. As we all know getting out on the bike can turn one’s mood around and help us to make the best out of any situation. The day after Thanksgiving I spent the morning mountain biking with Utah and Falco at Ringwood State Park. No matter what crap goes on in our life cycling seems to make everything feel better. I am grateful to have my health and buddies to share a ride at one of my favorite parks in NJ.
We met at Ryerson School and rolled out at 7:45 as other cars began to filter into the parking lot for post Thanksgiving rides. Despite the frosty grass and cool temp’s it didn’t take long for the climb up warm-puppy to warm us up. With Falco up front we got into a nice rhythm as we headed out toward Shepard’s lake on Skylands trail. Our 29” wheels flowed over rocks (with an occasional dab) that seemed to be created by the geological process. Its hard to believe these trails where built by Jorba, they feel so natural.
Bombing down a fire road Falco ripped his sidewall and got a hole in his back tire. Yes the boy works at a bike shop and was too lazy to set up his tire tubeless. No worries he uses a Gu pack as a boot on the sidewall and has a spare tube, oops wait he has a hole in his spare. Utah pulls out his spare tube from his bag of tricks and discovers that his has a hole as well. This reminds me of HS days of carrying condoms around in my wallet that break before they ever see any use. I pulled out my condom and gave it to Falco, no hole…good to go.
After the Shepard’s lake area I have no idea where I am, but I do know we are heading toward the old boy scout area on some of the most technical trails of Ringwood. By the amount of fresh leaves on the ground you can see that this is the path less traveled. The rocks are now more randomly placed and menacing. At one point my hand slips off my handlebars while going down a rock and I start heading over the bars only to be saved by my stomach hitting the bars. I think it may have been better if I went over, ouch!
The old BSA area brings back some fuzzy memories for me; I camped here in the late 70’s as a scout. It’s tough for me to recall this area on a bike; if I had more time I’d hike around here to jar my memory. I’ll settle for a picture instead.
The ride back to the school from this area is incredible. Some sections are crazy rocky, some are floweee rocky and some offer great views. This section beat me up some more and I started to get sloppy as my body began to get tired on the uphill technical stuff. After descending the downhill rocky switchbacks we came upon a stream crossing that Falco picked the perfect line across. Utah aimed for that line but slid off a rock and his front tire sank into 3 feet of water. This is never a good thing; he did his best to stay dry but ended up doing the backstroke in the current. Which I must say the stream crossings where certainly at high tide this time of year. Luckily we didn’t have far to peddle to make it back to the cars.
Rolling back to the school in less then 2.5hrs we managed to cover about 14 miles. My Garmin 500 is never 100% accurate in the woods. This ride was exactly what I needed to deal with stuff that life throws at you. From time to time everyone has unpleasant things to deal with but we can all be thankful for our family, friends and the opportunity to get out on a bike and enjoy ourselves. Keep on bikin!