Saturday, December 31, 2016

Olde Rope Mill

I was napping hard yesterday when the phone woke me up with it's you've-got-a-text noise. I had 2 texts, actually, both from John. The lower one read something like "Meeting Baldwin at Rope Mill tomorrow. 10AM start." I presumed this meant that Mark Baldwin would be in town, down from his new crib in Ellijay, and wanted to ride Rope Mill at 10. I was pretty sleepy though, so I didn't answer. I glanced at the previous text and it said something about playing SRV's Little Wing for Lauren and then I got another one immediately asking if the Rope Mill lot was gravel. Or so I thought. Later when I woke up I could distinctly remember the Rope Mill invite, but I couldn't distinctly remember if I'd actually read those other 2 or just dreamed them. They seemed so odd.

I forgot about it quickly and never checked the phone, but later that same day I actually rode with the frere at Cochran Mill and he confirmed that he had send those other two. I hadn't dreamed it.


We ripped most of Cochran Mill and I felt pretty good doing it. We had to abandon the loop at the back of the Yellow trail to avoid getting caught out in the dark, but hit all of the red, orange, and green loops. I definitely felt up to riding with Mark, which is kind of new because I've grown old this year and though my fitness isn't at an all time low, it is definitely unsatisfyingly low.

The next morning my brother met me at the parking lot next to the Starbucks off Atlanta Road and we rolled up to Woodstock to get in on the festivities.

We were early.

John and My Bikes

Mark was on time, as he is prone to be.

John and Baldwin

Marc Hirsch showed up almost immediately afterwards. There were a dozen and a half more riders meeting us though. It was apparently a birthday ride for a guy named Aaron that they all know. I didn't actually recognize his name, but when I saw him, I recognized him. I must have ridden with him before somewhere.

The rest of the crew trickled in over the next half hour and we got moving around 10:30.

We hit the Explorer Trails first, which are really my favorite trails in the system. The Mill trails are faster and they have lots of jumps and berms, but the Explorer trails are more what I think of when I think of mountain biking. They wind around and expose you to the terrain. You experience the land when you ride them. They're not just a contrived means to an end.

So, we rode those and it was a lot of fun. I haven't followed a train of riders in a long time. I had forgotten a lot of the dynamics and it was great to get back in touch with them.

Aside from having to pump up my front brake constantly (my bulletproof 2014 XT disc brake which no one I have ever heard of has ever had any problems with, except me, that my brother got me because I had constant problems with my Magura Martas, which no one I have ever heard of has ever had any problems with, except me!) it was a great couple of miles.

Whoo! Done with the Explorer Trails.

Done With the Explorer Trails

After that we kind of milled around for the next 15 minutes. It wasn't clear why. It didn't seem like anyone needed to fix anything. It had been in the high 30's when we started and it felt like it was getting up into the mid 40's, so I shed my arm warmers, and I saw a few other riders shed theirs as well, but that took all of 10 seconds, collectively.

Eventually we were like "Ok, lets just get going", and most of us went over and rode The Mill.

I think of The Mill is a contrived means to an end. However, since that end is incredible fun, I'll take it! The Mill trails are just super, super fun. Jumps and berms and switchbacks and log-rides and rock gardens...

I love it!

I did not love that I dropped my chain in the first 100 yards of Turbine though. One thing that sucks about a 1x9, if you drop the chain, you must stop and put it back on by hand. There is no hope of just pedaling it back on. I'd left a few links in it because I wasn't sure if I'd like the 30 tooth front ring or if I'd want a 32 or even a 34. Between that and my freewheel not freewheeling super well, there's a lot of slack in the chain and that was the end result. Also, I need to learn how to adjust the derailleur clutch properly.

No good!

I struggled to catch and once I did it was tough to stay in contact with the rest of the riders. I managed, but it was a bit of work.

At a point, one of the guys ahead of me crashed and tacoed his front wheel in the process. I think he overjumped one of the jumps and came down nose heavy. That's exactly how I broke all those ribs in 2015, so I was a little worried until I saw him walking around and laughing it off.


It's funny. I just had to look up the date of that crash. Apparently it was September of 2015. Man, time flies. Even though I know the date now, it still seems like it happened earlier this year. Man, more than a year later, I still don't feel fully recovered.

Done With Lap 1 of The Mill

All right, done with The Mill... Wait, nope, one more lap!

As soon as everyone caught, Aaron wanted to spin another lap. No argument from me. And, no crashes that lap.

Back at the lot there was an effort to decide whether to spin another lap of the Explorer trails or hit the Avalanche. I had a new problem though. Just standing there my rear tire went flat, rather suddenly. It had been feeling a little soft for a while, but I thought it was just my imagination. It didn't feel right cornering, but then if I rode over something it seemed ok. I haven't done a forensic analysis of the hole yet, but I suspect that either I picked up a thorn yesterday and it leaked down a bit, causing it to half-pinch-flat today, or that the valve stem steadily detached from the tube. The latter is actually more likely. I've had a rash of that lately. For a while I had a pump that you had to shove on to the valve stem and it would push it way up into the rim, and the tube, forcing the valve stem away from the surface of the tube, in the one direction that it's probably the least strong. I finally replaced the pump, but I was reticent to do so until I had to because Tim Winters gave it to me when my old one broke and I was so strapped for cash that I couldn't even afford to replace it.

Either way I had to fix it if I wanted to ride, and I just couldn't get the tire off of the freakin' rim. I guess the beads are tighter these days because everyone likes to put together tubeless set-ups with regular tires and Stans. Or maybe rims are a little taller for the same reason, or both. Whatever the deal, the tire was not coming off on its own, and I had to borrow Marc's pink tire tool. Come to think of it, I had to borrow the same tool once up on Bull Mountain a year or two back, for a similar reason...

Airing it back up was equally frustrating. The CO2 got stuck on the valve stem and required equal parts force and finesse to remove it.

And, though I spent an entire 16oz CO2, it didn't fully inflate the tire!

My tire and front brake are just metaphors for my life these days. Things like that happen a lot. I misjudge something and I pay for it. I had a seemingly good basis for the judgment, but some set of things changed slowly and covertly out from under me, and the accumulated changes finally created problems. What I could reasonably have expected last time I checked, I can suddenly no longer reasonably expect, and I pay for it. And then, some things just fail outright, for no obvious reason. What I should reasonably be able to expect, by any objective measure, I simply don't get, and I pay for that too. All that paying-for-it taxes my resources and makes it that much less likely that I'll be able to keep up in the future.

"My God, are you serious? Come the f*** on!"

I find myself saying that a bit lately. I hate the words. I hate that they come to mind. Years ago I might have been awarded a merit badge for Tolerance to Adversity. But I guess tolerance is only sustainable for as long as you have the resources to spend on it. Whether it's bikes, computers, vehicles, companies, or individuals, one or more of those, pretty regularly these days, need to just come the f*** on!

Of course, if I had the resources I'd buy a new bike, or a new car, or have free time to troubleshoot computers, or to break ties with difficult clients, or spend more time on less difficult clients, or buy stuff for people who like to have stuff, or pay to do things with people who like to do things... But it's a cycle. When you get behind, you have to burn through your resources to catch up. You may never have enough to get ahead. If your luck is bad enough, eventually you won't even have enough to catch up.

All that came to mind as I realized I didn't have enough pressure in the tire to jump on, which I would have had to have done at that moment. I had a second CO2 in my pocket (always prepared!) but no time to use it. There was certainly no time to go back to the truck, dig out the pump, and get it right.


But, the "dangit" was short lived. It started raining at almost that moment. John and I got dry and warm and as we were pulling away everybody else showed back up at the lot. They'd turned around after the first section, hoping to avoid the weather.

So, in the end I didn't miss much. Also, I spent a disproportionate number of words complaining there. The ride and the company were great. Pretend that there are a lot more words saying that.

Me and John grabbed a burger at Canyon Burger in Woodstock, which was good except that I ordered it with no cheese and they had clearly put cheese on it, and taken it back off after a noticeable amount of it had melted into the patty. Seriously? Figures. Christ, that's the kind of stuff I'm talking about. I was too hungry to send it back though, and though I could taste it, it wasn't awful. It just wasn't what I wanted, or what I paid for, or what I should reasonably be able to expect. I don't mean to knock them too much though. That's never happened before, and I don't expect that it will again.

I'll be back.

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