Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why I Ride

     When I was a kid, as most people my age, I learned to ride a bike. I learned a little later than others, but when I did, it was a new freedom for me. My childhood best friend, Michael, was an avid "freestyle" rider who's idol was Martin Aparijo with the Grant GT team, with aspirations of joining a team of some sorts himself. He was good..a little reckless, but good. He would enter competitions from time to time, and had a 1/4 pipe in his back yard. Me, I wiped out any time I tried some silly trick and never understood exactly why anyone needed to be able to stand on their handlebars while moving. I just wanted to ride in the woods and explore areas of the neighborhood. Magical areas unbeknown to the lay pedestrian.  There was the "Grand Canyon", a washed out drainage gully with rumors of Lizard Men and creatures unknown to man...the "drop off" which was just that, about a 5 foot smooth drop that was really, really fast and spit you out on the 8th hole of the local golf course...the abandoned golf clubhouse that was left on the 9th tee box when the local golf course upgraded. The abandoned building was littered with graffiti, but not in the sense of gang graffiti. More like "Bon Jovi Sucks- Dokken Rules!",  "Ratt" or just random profanities, as if to stick it to the man when our parents tee'd off on the last hole for the day. The roof had long collapsed and the building long rumored to be a safe haven for devil worshipers. All of these destinations were very "Goonie-esqe" and were no where near as deadly as they were billed. Mostly you would find old noody mags and left overs different substances capable of being smoked.
      We rode in the woods. The woods in between these little pockets of neighborhoods held great secrets. First kisses, first smokes, broken bones, fist fights, and who knows what else. These woods were our social outlets. There were trails and routes created not by shovels and spades, but with tires. This was a network that could essentially allow us to ride all over our little town and only use the paved roads minimally. It was great to run into friends in the woods en route to other buddies houses and stop and talk with no concept of time. We had no where to be, no cell phones to interrupt, beepers were for our parents and no one really worried about us until it got dark outside. We wanted to shoot BB guns and curse without fear of repercussion. I stashed Skoal Bandits out there so I wouldn't get busted with them. We practiced our sniper skills by burying ourselves under pine straw, unaware of the concept of red bugs, and shot our BB guns at the school bus when it drove by. There were often pick-up bike races that just happened. The routes used the landmarks described above. "So go up the climb, over to the drop off, back up to the club house, over to short street, around the loop and back here to the big tree to finish". I don't recall if anyone ever stuck to the race routes as agreed, or if anyone ever claimed victory without controversy. Seems like controversy surrounded the biking community even for 12 year olds.
      This is my love of biking. Somewhere in my late 20's/early 30's I was focused on getting up the next rung of the ladder and working 50+ hours a week. I was looking for some sort of release. I fished, only to find that age old adage "the happiest day of your life is when you buy your first boat, the second happiest is when you sell your first boat" to be true. I spent countless hours and dollars working on this P.O.S. only to be disappointed in a mechanical failure more often than not. A friend of mine mentioned riding trails, and it immediately stirred up the "good old days" feelings in my loins. On our first ride, when I took off down a hill with a drop off, I was hooked, again.

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