By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
I ran a mile in someone else’s shoes this week, only not literally.
I run in Levi Jackson State Park often and on this day I chose the dirt trail behind the pool. I expected several wet spots, but found it almost impossible to traverse some of them due to deep ruts. Mountain bikers had made a go cart track out of the trail.
I thought it a bit disrespectful until I remembered I used to ride the same trails with some of my buddies.
They still kid me about the time we were coming down a hill by the Levi Jackson family cemetery. It seems I had picked up a little too much speed as I entered a turn. I was still churning the pedals hard just before trying to make a sharp right-hand turn. When I cut the handlebars to the right there was no response. Just before the turn I hit a root and with nothing but air under me but air, the handlebars became nothing more than the grip between my survival and being mangled in a wreck.
Turns out it wasn’t bad. I just plummeted through the thick brush and branches without ever hitting anything solid. Eventually my momentum stopped and I rejoined with the group. They thought it hilarious that I just shot down the hill like I had intended to do just that. The rest of the day I turned curves slower than a child pulling a puppy in a little red wagon.
I bring that up to say this. When we were riding our bikes through Levi Jackson State Park we were not sure if we were allowed to be doing what we were doing. We didn’t see signs of anyone else on mountain bikes. And we thought how unfair it is for a state park to not allow bike riding when it would bring more usage to a state funded property. And besides the bikes didn’t do any damage.
That’s a big change from the same guy that was looking at mountain bike tracks this week and wondering who would do such a thing.
As I continued to plod through the muddy trail, I had a lot of time to think. First I thought of a second reason I was guilty of being a poor citizen other than the previous contradiction. I was a member of the founding board of Friends of Levi Jackson. Our group did some good things in the park before we all found ourselves too busy to continue. Maintaining these trails would have been a perfect project for Friends of Levi Jackson. A little sweat from the brow and a few wood chips would get the trail back in order for multi purpose use.
You also have to wonder if this was even an issue or just a victim of circumstance. I have never seen rain like we have had the last month. When nothing gets a chance to dry you get mud holes. On a typical dry summer bikes would leave nothing but dust.
There are a lot of chances in this life to overreact to one side without getting a true feel for the other side. The contrast usually doesn’t show itself as well as it did this week. But sometimes we just need to go a little slower so we have time to think.