By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The last time I rode a mountain bike on Sheltowee Trace I limped home a beaten man. I bent the brakes, ripped the seat from my pants, and slid into a tree like a rocket shot from the sky.
I couldn’t wait to go back.
Friday I did and with much less drama.
The most exciting part of the trip was a move I wouldn’t have attempted the first time. As I darted around a switchback turn, my speed hurled me toward a downed tree. I let go of the handlebars and pushed myself back into the path without losing speed. I regripped the handlebars and peddled onward.
Well that’s the way it felt to me. Reality I was probably below walking speed and started to tilt over before grabbing for something in a panic. Reality is much less interesting.
The most excitement this trip came when I found a geocache at Holly Bay Campground. Geocaches are small boxes of hidden treasure that you search for with you GPS. This one was very well hidden and took some detective work. It’s very exciting when you find a geocache, especially this one which was a locked wooden box. You never know what you will find inside. I solved the combination, popped the lock, and opened the door ….. It was like a horror movie when cockroaches started pouring out of the box. There were dozens of the filthy critters.
I also found a cache hidden near a wooden cross sculpted from the stump of a felled tree, another under a bridge that looked like it was made from Jenga blocks. I found seven caches in all; rode about 15 miles, and all I broke was one shifting knob on the bike. Not a bad day.
When I took my bike for repair, I mentioned to the real bikers at Mike’s Hike and Bike that I had taken the trail. It was suggested that I join their group for a night ride on the same trail. They even threw in the “it’s for all skill levels” pitch, which means, “You should be riding a tricycle, but we will let you tag along.”
It sounds like fun and they are great guys, but I hate to be the slowest person in any group except the buffet line. What I call a bike ride most riders would probably consider a walk to the mailbox. I want to ride more, but I am not sure I am ready to join a biker gang.
Not to change the subject, then or now. I began to ask questions about backpacks. On my recent trip to Mount Le Conte, I wore a daypack to carry snacks, water, and instructions where to send my body. I think the pack may have been used by my kids at school one time. I made sure it didn’t say Justin Bieber rocks or that I had a crush on anyone. Otherwise I just jammed it full of stuff and took off. All of the weight sat around my hips and tugged at my shoulders for hours. By the top of the hill I felt like I had been locked in a stockade. There was enough sweat between the pack and my back to put out a small forest fire.
I needed to know more about backpacks.
Mike adjusted the pack I wanted and gave me a few tips on fit and function. Then he dropped in a sandbag that weighed 25 pounds to let me know how the extra weight feels. It felt better the extra 25 pounds I have been carrying around since college. It felt much better than my previous pack.
So I will leave you with two messages. Get out and do something. You don’t have to be the best or the fastest to have a good time with a bike or the two legs God gave you. And please go see the guys at Mike’s Hike and Bike. It’s a great store with a knowledgeable staff that is passionate about what they do.
If they talk you into taking a bike ride, please let me know if you are slower than a tricycle.