This thanksgiving was a great day. I've been riding a lot this year, and got a phone call from an old friend, Jay DeJesus, to go riding on thanksgiving morning. So I convinced my favorite and oldest riding buddy, Don Stauffer, to make the trip from Philly to Bethlehem, Pa. We met at the South Mountain at 8 AM this morning and were the first ones there in an empty parking lot. We got worried and then a few minutes later, Jay rolled in. Within a few minutes there were about 15 people milling around the parking lot ready to go. I never had met any of them, but that often happens when I ride with Jay. Nothing unusual, and a good chance to meet some new people.
The guy leading the ride actually rode to the trail head on his 29'er Cannondale Caffeine, but I wasn't sure from where. His wife Sara met him at the trail with their dog, Dakota. So Rob started us off. And it was very clear in the first few minutes who was conditioned and who wasn't. As usual, I was towards the back with Don. I always bring up the rear to help those who might need mechanical help (ya, right).
But this wasn't the usual ride where the hammerheads take off and you see them in half an hour or so. Rob did a great job of making sure that the fast people were motoring and getting a workout, but also made sure that those of us in the back weren't left out of the rolling party.
The ride was marked with a great assortment of memorable stories, as large group rides often are. About halfway through, Sara and another woman rider, Liz, were towards the back after a short break and I had to make an abrupt stop (read: fell over) and I found what looked like a plastic shock adjuster knob. Sara was in front of me and stopped when I fell and I suggested she take it as she was a local and might know who it belonged to. At the next group stop/headcount, she shared it with Rob. And everyone checked their shocks. Then after closer inspection it was labeled "closure system", and we realized it was a tension knob for a shoe. Everyone was looking around at their shoes and I noticed that Sara was actually missing hers! How about that? What a find.
And lets not forget about the dog... That little Border Collie cruising around beating me to the top of every climb and descent. With his safety orange jacket mocking me as I struggled to catch my breath. Even when he accidentally scared up a small group of deer from sleeping in the weeds, a quick whistle and a call of his name, and he was back on task reminding me how slow of a rider I am. What an impressive animal.
Aside from the normal falls, spills, bumps, bruises, bonks and climbing/descending struggles, there was one other thing that stuck out. About 300 yards from the end of the trail, Don, JC (sorry for dime-ing you out for being slow with us JC) and I rolled up to see everyone off their bikes kicking around leaves. Turns out Jay was styling over a log jump and his glasses popped off his head. So everyone was kicking through the leaves looking for them. The first thing I did was to check out Jay's bike to see if they got caught up in the elegant workings of Jay's new Cannondale Scalpel. Nothing. 15 minutes later, one of the guys I hadn't met was about two feet from the bike, precisely where I was standing, and announced, "Jay, uh, are these yours?" And he pointed at the ground where they laid peacefully. SCORE! And so we finished the ride no worse for the wear.
So, some we shook some hands and headed our seperate ways to sup on our individual Thanksgiving feasts. But just before we left someone asked when we could do this again, and Rob said, "how about next Thanksgiving?" I'll be there. So will Don.
I got home tonight and was sitting on the couch lamenting it was raining and nothing good was on TV, and flipping through the latest Dirt Rag. I was drawn to an article titled "Update on Vegan Rob". As I was reading the article about Rob Lichtenwalner, Bear Naked/Cannondale, winning the title of Granny Gear 24 hour Solo National Series Champion, I soon realized that I was riding with him, his wife Sara, and his dog Dakota this morning!
Anyway, Rob, Sara and Dakota made quite an impression. And I got to thinking - I am thankful for mountain biking. And not so much just for the bikes, but the mountain biking community.
Think about it - Rob and the group made sure some slow guy none of these people never met (me) was having a good time as I struggled my way up the hill, they never got too far ahead, and Rob always had a smile on his face and a joke. I met a few people I will make sure to ride with again, and I walked away half bonked, sore, and bruised - but I had a big smile on my face.
So, I am thankful for mountain biking and those I meet on the trails. So I guess I am thankful for all of you out there on fat tires. I can't wait to meet more of you tomorrow!
Jay - thanks for another ride I will not soon forget. Thank you for inviting me.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
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