It was going to be a good ride. In reality, any ride that you make it home in one piece is a good ride, but there are certain factors that can make a ride bad; getting lost, having mechanical issues, crashing, getting swarmed by mosquitoes and biting flies. Independently, all tolerable, but when combined, I was pretty close to having a hissy-fit.
I was hoping for a long day on the bike. To work out some of these and to get one more good training ride in before the Hampshire 100. With my schedule being what it is, this day was the only day to do it. Greenwood Ave trails were good, Gordon College trails were good, and from there I was planning on heading over to Appleton Farms, Bradley Palmer, and Willowdale: all good.
Coming out of Gordon College trails, on Chebacco Rd, I was heading up the road, to go back in when I spied a trail on my right, on the opposite side of the road. Hmmm, I thought… I've never been on this trail…
I headed in, expecting the trail to end in 100yds or so, but it didn't. It kept going. It was pretty well defined and pretty fun. Surprised at my fortune of finding yet MORE trails in this area. I came to a short, steep rock face that I couldn't ride up. No problem. I dismounted and started climbing when suddenly I fell as if I had had a carpet pulled out from underneath my feet. I hit the rock, and I hit hard, my (new) bike bouncing down and down.
At this point, I had a moment of rage directed at whomever chooses the soles of mountain bike shoes. These have as much grip as if they were impregnated with Teflon. But hey, I bought 'em, so I'm as much to blame. But seriously, mountain bikers occasionally have to walk, and walk on wet, slippery roots and rocks, why not cover the stiff sole with a softer durometer rubber? But I digress.
After picking myself up, and my bike, I made it up to the top of the rocks, and remounted. I was a little banged up, but I've certainly had worse (but not usually walking).
Another slick, moss-covered rock loomed ahead and took the long way around.
By now, I noticed something annoying about this new trail… I had some friends following me… about a thousand friends… circling, swarming, buzzing, biting friends. I had a cloud of mosquitoes and flies. What fun. I kept them at bay as long as I kept moving. I didn't know where I was going, but I was moving.
Eventually, I came a across a sign for Old Mill Dam. I didn't recognize the sign, or the logo, or the trail name, but I kept on trucking, keeping ahead of my "friends."
Unfortunately, I came into a downhill turn a little too fast, my front wheel washed out, gravel got between the wall of the rim and the tubeless tires, my tire went instantly flat, and I, again, was thrown to the ground while my (new) bike bounced off the trail and into the trees (as I said, i was going too fast).
Crashed and bloody? Check.
Flat tire? Check.
Swarms of biting insects? Check.
Okay, pick myself up, find my bike, take off the front wheel, pop the tire off, get covered in Stan's goop, dig out the gravel, find my spare tube, swat flies and mosquitoes, grab my CO2 cartridge and… the black switch to regulate flow is gone. It's not gone, gone… it was on there when I pulled it out of my pack, so… it was there… somewhere… After what seemed an hour, I found the small, black plastic switch, and was finally able to inflate my tube and tire. I was getting mauled by bugs and I was getting pissed off. I just wanted to get to the road and start making my way to my other loop. That, sadly, was easier said than done. I finally found a trail intersection with a trail name that I recognized, "Ancient Line." Oh, so THAT'S where I was…
Anyway, I didn't know which way to go, so I went left, which put me into a long stretch of mud, wet rocks, and more bugs. The bugs were truly driving me insane, and I was focusing more on them than on riding, which is NOT good when riding technical sections. I dabbed and dabbled as much as I rode, and my shoes were more unstable than my bike on this stuff. Plus, I had intentionally over inflated my front tire to prevent a pinch flat (which would have had me walking all the way home). Getting more irritated by the minute, I took a turn on another trail which wound it's way around and around and I just kept going.
Ultimately, I found a fire road, guessed at which direction to go, and surprisingly, guessed correctly. While not as fun as the singletrack SHOULD have been, I was moving at a good clip, and left my blood sucking friends behind. The fire road was much longer than I anticipated, convincing me that there must be hundreds of miles of trails in this area.
So, I got to the road, I knew my way home, and with several things still left to do on my "to do" list, I opted to make a B-line back to headquarters.
I finally got home, muddy, bloody, sore, and sweaty, and with at least *some* knowledge of some new trails… I guess it was a pretty good ride after all.