Motivation. Stoke. Enthusiasm. Chutzpa. No matter what you call it- sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t. We’ve all experienced those mornings when we crawl out of bed and the air feels heavier than it should. Those days when nothing seems as shiny as it was the day before; when the to-do list looks formidable and nothing tastes very good. I haven’t had one in a while, but Sunday was one of those days for me.
I wasn’t the only one; six of ten originally motivated folks had already bailed on camping by Saturday, and when I went to bed that night (grudgingly indoors) my homework and other obligations were beginning to creep into my head. We had a six-hour ride planned- did I really have that much time to play outside? Could I really justify it? I’d already written one “reading response” for a class that basically just cites the weather as an excuse for my truancy and unfinished work- would it be bad form to write another? I fell asleep with lists running through my head.
Thus when Sunday dawned un-shiny and two more people bailed, I made up my mind to be a responsible student too, if only for a day. I lined up my books in a sort of assembly line and told myself it was fine to text an “I’m bailing” message to Stephen and Sam. But it wasn’t. At least not to them- Stephen called immediately and began to harangue me about how few nice weekends we probably have left this season. At first I resisted, but in the end it was a kind of pathetic fight; all I really needed was to hear how lame I sounded. Essays? What are those? I hung up the phone and started packing.
Which is how I came to be peeing behind a tree on the edge of a sunlit golden field, chewing on a cold, leftover pizza crust and hoping I wasn’t about to get my butt kicked by a bunch of boys on a way-too-long ride.
Thats when the little voice in my head really got desperate for some attention- I had homework to do! I’d ridden for five hours the day before! I was sick dehydrated hungover overworked overweight over it- but it didn’t matter. The chamois was going on. Sure enough, as soon as we started pedaling we started pedaling hard, and it felt great. We didn’t stop for more than a granola bar until we got to the top, which was over 5000 feet of vert away, and totally worth every one. The grade is mostly mellow but consistent- which is one of my favorite things about the Curley Lake High Line; you’re climbing almost all the time, but it’s such a beautiful trail that it’s easy to forget you’re working. Before you even start to think about that second slice of cold pizza, the air is getting thin, the trees are disappearing, and you’re on top of a mountain. Surrounded by other mountains. There is a ton of space and it’s very, very quiet.
We took some cheesy pictures, stuffed some food down our necks, and tightened the straps on our backpacks- the descent begins with a short tear across some rattly tundra, after which it doesn’t matter what frame of mind you set out with; you get stoked. Fast.
I’ve struggled with descending this year, which is something I never thought I’d say. I’ve always been the ex-ski racer when it comes to riding down scary things, and for the most part I’ve found that what I lack in actual skill I can usually make up for with pure dumbness. Not so this season- my shoulder surgery overlapped the point when I got truly acquainted with “things that can go wrong on a bike,” and I got (there’s no other word for it) scared. Toss some unfamiliar wagon wheels and a highly-chippable carbon frame into the mix, and I was more than a little slower than usual.
But the switch flipped back on during this descent. I let go the brakes, just once, and like magic I was mach-ing through the woods over baby heads and boulders, trees turning into star wars blurs on either side of me. My bike, which I’ve been convinced is broken in about six rattly places, suddenly fell silent and began to move naturally under me- everything was right. I haven’t felt that semi-crazy joy on a ride in over a year. It was sublime.
At one point we all seemed to lose the ability to form words and just kind of communicated in whoops and giggles. It had turned into a beautiful, extremely shiny day. Despite one flat and one murdered chipmunk. To whom I’m dedicating this blog- I didn’t mean to hit you. I am so sorry.
When I got home and saw my textbook assembly line, I just smiled. No one knew or cared what I’d done with my day. There are always reasons why not, but you never regret the reasons why.