It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday in the middle of winter, and I had been granted the afternoon to ride one of the choice spots within a couple hours drive: DuPont. I had spent the previous rainy afternoon tinkering in my workshop doing various bike maintenance, more out of wishing I was riding and daydreaming about riding rather than doing anything that really needed to be done. As soon as I finished up the last of my familial duties for the afternoon, I hastily packed up and rushed out the door to get on the road. It is a little after 1pm with about a 1hr and 20min drive to dupont.
About 35 minutes into the drive something hit me. Not sure what triggered this thought, but at that moment I realized I had forgotten: MY SHOES!?!!?!!…as I have been conditioned by having kids not to curse I let out a great big unsatisfying “AWEEE FOOOEY!”. At that point, I knew if I went home to get them, that’s game over time-wise for Dupont, but at least I would have been able to ride the more local spot, paris mountain, with my hardtail. However, as bad as I wanted to stay the course and somehow ride Dupont, I didn’t really have any other choice so in disbelief and immense personal shame I head for home knowing I will have wasted several hours of precious weekend free-time.
As soon as I turn the car around, I see a wallmart perched on top of a big hill. It is backlit with the sun’s golden rays peering around the edges of the building as if beckoning me to salvage my day and buy a cheap pair of skate shoes, which I did. At this point I’m thinking, “sweet! Crisis averted; that was convenient”. So with only about a 20 min total detour I get back on the road and complete my drive to dupont, all the while getting more and more excited to stuff my bike into a few high speed corners and try to huck as far as possible off of even the most meager of trailside booters.
As I get closer to Dupont, the weather and overall conditions seem to only be getting better and better… 60s, the air is crisp with a gentle breeze, and it’s a place that absolutely pops with rich forest colors on a sunny day. While I’m unloading my gear I’m thinking about the game plan, which is to get as many laps on 3 of the parks most fun high speed, technical DH trails, burnt mountain, cedar rock and big rock; the last two feature stunning Appalachian views and contain the most exposed granite anywhere in the western NC region.
First up is Burnt mountain. The climb up is a quick 0.5 miles away from the parking lot, then about a 15-20 min push and pedal to the top if you take the most direct route. About ¾ of the way up, after pushing up the most technical, steep rock and root infested section of trail, I hear a sound: PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS….it’s my rear tire.
At this point in the story, it’s important to know that about 2 weeks prior, I cheaped out and instead of just buying some new rubber, I repaired an old torn tubeless tire that had given me nothing but trouble 2 years ago when I first started using it. The repaired tire had held up to a huge ride the week before, so I thought I was completely in the clear…obviously not the case. Nonetheless, I still have my spare tube sitting in my pack, so I set to work with the task of getting my bike ready to ride. I get the tube out and I noticed how cheap and flimsy it looked, wondering where the heck I got this garbage in the first place, but get it in the tire and start pumpin away with my tiny packable pump.
As the tire is getting closer to complete inflation, I am marveling at how ridiculously ill-fated this ride has been. Just then with one mis-aligned pump, I snapped off the tip of the tube’s valve core inside my pump. At this time, I finally let a deep guttural “FUUUUUUUCK!!!” out into the forest. I notice that the end of the valve core is still intact, so I remove the tip of the core from my pump and figure I may get away with this. …Not so much. As soon as I resume my pumping duties, I blow the inside of the core into the tube, and the entire volume of air rushes out of the tire.
At this point, things are getting border line comical, and I’m just thinking about how 99.9% of all rides go off without so much as a hitch and why the hell is this all happening now…to a seasoned master-of-shread such as myself of all people! I then have no choice but to start the ¾ mile walk of shame back to the car. On the way I pass several other groups of bikers, and humble myself by asking everyone I see if they have a spare tube I can borrow (read: have for free). Nobody does, and their cheap words of encouragement regarding my situation are a very thin veil for their looks of scorn and ridicule (the Germans call it “shaudenfreude”, meaning to take pleasure in another’s misfortune) at me for have a bike so ridiculously blinged-out but not so much as a properly working rear tire or at least appropriate backup supplies.
Finally, I make it back to the car and start packing up when another rider parked right next to me finishes up. I try to at least bring another poor schlub into my world by telling this guy about the poo-storm I’ve been dealing with for the last couple hours when he stops me, “here, man, I have a tube for ya; you gotta at least get SOME riding done!”. So I accept his gracious offer and we chat as I’m getting my bike ready to salvage this day and ride some of the best descents in the region. Come to find out he lives pretty close by and we make plans to meet up for some local rides at some point. He drives off being done for the day and I set out for some much needed redemption.
I head straight for the goods: cedar rock and big rock. The two trails are right next to eachother, descending down from the same starting point, a huge dome of exposed granite with amazing Appalachian views stretching out in almost every direction. Again the fastest way to access the DH is to hike and ride straight up; a pretty grueling half hour of work.
As I crest the dome, I start to put the day’s previous events behind me as this could literally be one of my favorite places in the world. I start to get ready for the first DH: cedar rock, which is a brake-searingly steep and fast ribbon of exposed granite straight down the mountain’s fall line that gives way to a lower section of fast yet technical rock gardens littered with ledges and features that begged to be boosted, doubled-up, and dropped. I lower my seat and then grab my gopro out of my bag and put it on. I actually have the thought, “how big of a A$$hole am I that I’m actually about to record myself after the kind of crap that just happened? I must really be asking for it…”.
As I’m musing about this, a retreat group of about 20 senior citizens rounds the bend coming up cedar rock, and tell me that there are about 30 more heading up but that it would be a while before the last of them comes up. At this point I just laugh to myself and resolve to just go slow and watch out for old people on the trail, hoping theyd all be almost at the top. I tell them I’ll watch out for their buddies and field the typical jokes about them wanting to borrow my bike so they don’t have to walk down.
I turn on the go pro and start rolling, quickly picking up speed on the steep slickrock. At the first left turn in the trail about 40 meters down from the top, I charge through a technical root-infested turn, dodging a few disgruntled, sweaty senior citizens, and just then I hear it again, that “PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS….” sound. The SECOND replacement tube had just popped. Of course, the situation would not be complete without a little more insult added to injury: I hadn’t even cleared the group of seniors. As each one passed me on their way up I heard “that’s not good”, “whats that hissing noise?” or “are you OK?”. By this point, I was beyond an angry reaction. It was like I had just peed myself in the first grade with no option but to walk past all my classmates to tell the teacher I needed new clothes. As I withdrew into a heady swirl of shame and regret, I walked back up cedar rock, past the group of seniors enjoying the view from the peak, down big rock (the most classic DH run in the entire 60 miles of trails at DuPont), and back out to my car.
I packed up the car and left; I did not pass go; I did not collect $200. In another 1hr and 20 mins, it was a little after 5:30 and I was back at home nearly 4.5hrs later, not having actually ridden more than 30 meters or so of biking all day. As I pulled into the driveway, having had the whole drive home to digest the monumental waste of a beautiful weekend day that had just transpired, I had only one last thought: “BIKES!”
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