the first dirt ride of the season...

yesterday it happened...
the first dirt ride of the season

last year's winter was very different from the winter of this year
last year things were cold with very little precipitation
thus allowing for bundled up mountain bike rides on hard packed frozen earth
in contrast this year and its SNOWPOCALYPSE had things such that snow covered the trails for what seems like forever
then after the eventual thaw... mud

well... finally... the snow has melted
from where I can see... the snow is gone
even on those 12 foot tall mound that the plows created on the corners of our city streets
with the snow gone I was able to think about dirt
with rain in the forecast I knew I had to act fast

yesterday I woke to a heavy gray sky with a moisture in the air
there was no need to check Weather Dot Com
it was clear that rain was coming
it just was not clear when

rather than think about such things I acted
in a matter of haste I slammed a can of Red Bull, like a super hero I jumped into my DCMTB kit, and then threw the Surly Karate Monkey in the back of the Element and headed towards Rosaryville
in an effort to get their more quickly I tried to modify my route
the absence of an iPhone had me working with a piece of scrap paper with set of chicken scratch notes that I jotted down after a glance at Google Maps

headed out of town I made one turn... and then the next...
immediately I knew I was lost... well not lost... I recognized some roads that would take me to the trails and ice rink at Fort Dupont
while being disoriented enough to question whether I should loop back and go the way I knew

I kept going.... staying the course
now rolling off my Spidey Senses rather than my chicken scratch directions that looked like the drunken scrawl of Charles Bukowski

the streets looked like the background to the Thievery Corp Numbers Game video with Chuck Brown
things looked completely unfamiliar... although I did not feel turned around... I did not know where I was or how I should get where I wanted to go
then I noticed a street sign for what looked like Marlboro Pike
I knew that my path would cross an Old Marlboro Pike
the road I was on seemed pretty old
I figured that this regular Marlboro Pike would soon become Old Marlboro Pike

running low on fuel I thought I best make a pit stop where I could get gas and some directions
it turned out I was a half mile and one turn from Route 4
that road would be familiar and get me back on track
to my amazement I arrived at the trailhead in just over 50 minutes all the while driving in a overly cautious manner due to the speeding tickets I got from a speeding camera on my last drive through this area

at Rosaryville I was worried when I rolled into the parking lot on what looked to be wet asphalt
then I was relieved when a rider coming off the trail assured me that the trails were dry, buff, and ready to ride

a turn of the allen key and my seatpost was at a comfortable height and I was rolling on the trail
I was comfortable with my less than perfect machine that got little more than lube on the chain and an adjustment to the front disc
there was air in the tires and the chain was tight
the bike was not show room new... but it was ready to roll

Rosaryville is a real treat... it has a flow to it that is far more fun than challenging
Rosaryville can also be quite deceiving
those nine miles can work you and the twists and turns can throw you if you are not focused

I hammered pretty hard on my somewhat crusty Surly Karate Monkey with its single gear and its rigid fork
my pace was far from race pace
instead I rode with focus and control
all the while conscious I was riding alone
constantly reminding myself that it had been a while since I had done any real riding

I rode the loop one direction at a good pace then stalled in the parking lot just long enough to squirt some H2O and a splash of Red Bull down my throat after ingesting a few Honey Stinger Gel Blocks

back on the trail reversing direction I had to work harder to keep pace
the first lap went by with its usual emotion that the nine miles somehow seem longer than nine miles
there always seems to be a false sense of being halfway done when it is not quite halfway
which of course pushed the finish further away

the gel block and the Red Bull worked well to keep my body and brain on the bike
a loss of focus can make this tame set of twists and turns a scary experience

I tired to work that Zen balance of day dreaming but not drifting off and losing intensity
it is an interesting balance
a trick where I try to get my body working as it should
focusing on getting a good strong cadence with circles on the pedals rather than mashing the pedals like I am running up stairs
once the groove is set things become ballistic
thus allowing the mind to wander

focused on the trail while day dreaming
trying not to let pace and intensity drift off with the dreams
rocking the trails trying not to brake too much
just trying to flow
all the while day dreaming about different topics

I day dreamed about topics to rant about
thoughts about "hydration pack or not to hydration pack"
or "the risks of riding without carrying tube, pump, and tools"
yes... I was enjoying riding bareback
while also fearing the lesson that a short ride on a bike is a long walk with your bike at your side

one my two laps I passed a few cyclists head on
there were smiles and waves
each of us riding solo
seeing the other riders made me feel better about being out in the woods without a riding partner
so much of sport is best played with "the buddy system"
not one is more fun to ride with a buddy
but if a rider finds themselves in need of assistance.... it is good to have a buddy there

back at the car with two laps in the saddle and I was peeling off sweat soaked gear
in the car I drove back into the city
turning onto Suitland Parkway headed back into The District
slapping myself in the forehead when I remembered that South Capital Street blends into Suitland Parkway

I got home with enough time to shower and change before heading to a reception at The National Bike Summit
then back on the bike to ride across town
luckily the clouds had still not unleashed the rain

mixed and mingled with bicycle advocates from all over the country in the Dirksen building
all the while feeling a buzz from the activities of the day
knowing I had gotten on dirt before the rain robbed mountain bikers of the dirt option

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