Saturday I went on a _real_(TM) mountain bike ride. With a bunch of geezers: Luke (from my OO class), his wife Patty ("winner" of the Kelly Canyon TT, also from my first grad class), Julie (from first and OO classes), her brother I had never seen before, and Mo (a trainer at Argonne, she knows my Dad, would be training me but the other training guy broke his toe). Some fancy-schmancy bikes too: Luke has a dual-suspension Stumpjumper, Patty has a SlingShot (the one with a steel cable for a down tube - kind of funny looking) with shox-fork, Julie's brother has a dual-suspension Trek, Mo has a Klein Rascal, and Julie has a shox-ed Diamond Back. And me with my Mongoose. I was definitely the loser in the bike-price wars there, except for Julie. Of course, we're talking initial price here, not counting the total component upgrade to XC Pro and Quadra fork on my bike. That would have put me ahead of Julie at least. Everybody except for Julie's brother had a CamelBak, too. Lots of toys.
So they all started out ahead of me (I was a little late because I had to get gas in the orangemobile since I was not going to put a potentially dirty bike in the back of my GTI) and I was heavily expecting to have them wait for me at the top of each small climb as I wheezed slowly along. Luckily this was not the case, since it was a 50-minute climb to the first rest spot. I blew by everybody in under five minutes, much to my surprise. Okay, I guess I was anticipating passing the girls on a relatively flat section just to be macho, but I didn't really think I would be catching Luke and putting enough time on him to be able to stop and rest whenever I felt like it. Also, I didn't want to get too far ahead since I had no idea where we were going. I don't understand why I out-climbed everybody there. Climbing is not my thing, these people have been out riding since the snow melted while I had 33 miles total on my odometer since I changed the battery in March. I guess they were all about 15-20 years older than me, and I must have some kind of aerobic capacity from swimming. It was quite a shock, though, I must say.
So after the 50-minute climb up the "Stinkin' Springs" trail - I guess so-named because of the bovine inhabitants of the area - with a little pushing-of-bike hear the top, Luke and I waited 15 minutes for the other three to show up, then were off on some rolling, fairly straight singletrack. Which was pretty fun until it changed to an evil loose-rock-strewn *steep* descent, the kind where I did a couple of wheelstands because I was unable to get my weight far enough back. Mo took a nice header a ways in front of me, but she is about 5'3" so doesn't carry enough weight to hurt herself that way. I was really trying not to kiss any rocks, though, and was soon walking my bike down to the next rideable section. Then there was another nasty descent, a carry-the-bike ascent, and we moved on to some forest singletrack. The kind where I go slowly because I don't like hugging trees. Again, there was more altitude change here than, say, anywhere within 100 miles of Houston; mostly braking action but luckily my brakes have been adjusted not to squeal in pain.
After the only stream crossing was the second rest stop, conveniently next to a road (well, it was a dirt road to a campground, but a road nonetheless). We had now been riding for about two hours. Julie had a hot date, so she she and her brother took off one way while the rest of us went the other. The road had a little grade to it, which soon turned into a lot of grade when we turned onto what looked like a logging road. Luke and I rested, waiting for Patty and Mo, and I bothered him about what kind of road bike I should get. He used to have a Klein Attitude, so though their road bike would be pretty good. Score one for Alan.
Looking around, I noticed a chairlift. We were in fact at the top of one of the lifts of the infamous Kelly Canyon ski area. There is a mountain bike race there at the end of June, and we then proceeded to ride part of the course. Luke took a right, and I recognized the top of the Stinkin' Springs trail, which meant another descent where I locked up the back and tried not to lock up the front. Locking up the front is bad. Then the trail gets less steep although populated with cows and their residues. Some of which residues I accumulated on my person and on my bike. Yuck, good thing I brought the roof rack. Managed to wipe most of it off my person with handy sagebrush, though. So then it was pretty much a cruise down to the cars, where at about 20 I felt like I was going way too fast. And as usual where technique mattered more than power, Luke was far out of sight and had his bike put up by the time I got down there. In his Westfalia Vanagon, Tricky. You should see it, four fork mounts on the driver's-side ceiling, camper sink-n-stove ohh ohh ohh.
Total elapsed time: a little over three hours; total distance: a little under 15 miles. Lots of climbing, eh. Yikes, I can almost jog that fast on level ground.