The wheels keep turning..

Last month I was blessed with one of those rides that just brings it all back to a good place. Our old friends Jim and Wendy stopped by for the night on the way back from vacation. They had been doing some riding in Bend and had their Felt mtn bikes with them so I suggested we go for a ride the next day down in Falls City at Black Rock. Black Rock is a freeride park filled with crazy jumps, stunts, skinnies and all sorts of features designed for riders who weren't in touch with their own mortality. With our combined age of around 150, you might wonder what we were doing there. You would be right to wonder.

On the other hand, there are definitely some perks to a place like this. It's all bikes. No hikers, no horses, no ATVs, no guns, no conflict,  just like-minded folks.  I've never been close to riding at the level this park demands but I've never been treated with anything but respect by other riders here. It's also totally in the shade. It's a lovely forest with a pleasant albeit uphill road cutting through it that makes a pleasant ride in and of itself. The trails all criss-cross this road so it's easy to bail at any time. The truth is, I was being selfish. This place is a part of my rediscovering mountain biking. I first showed up here in 2007 with my 1987 Bridgestone and people just stared. I had a trail map and had picked the "easy" train to descend and still people kept shaking their heads and suggesting I just ride back down the road. Even with a new bike, I am always humbled by this place, but I've never felt unwelcome. I wanted them to see it. I also wanted to ride with Jim again. He got me on a mountain bike for the first time back in 1987. I picked up racing and he moved on to Ultimate and, while we've always stayed friends, we didn't ride together anymore.  In the intervening years our health and weight had gone up and down and this week we were both in better shape than we had been in maybe a decade.

The ride turned out to be a blast. Jim and Wendy held on to my wheel all the way to the top of Brown Mountain. Maybe my favorite moment was about 2/3 of the way up the road. We had stopped for a second and I was pointing out a particularly frightening road gap jump that started with a wooden ramp about 10' above the road and ended with a dirt transition on the other side. Jim was looking at it with a combination of the mechanical curiosity of a lifelong carpenter and problem solver, marveling at the physics of it, and the sane, cautious person thinking "OH MY GOD HOW THE FUCK COULD THEY DO THAT AND SURVIVE!!!"

The ride down was surprisingly fun. It was a relief not to have to hold myself up to all the freeriders for a change and simply ride for fun. Both Jim and Wendy smiled the whole way down. Anyone who saw us would have shook their head and thought we didn't understand how to ride here. Maybe that's true. But here we are and I wonder how many of the kids half our age will still be riding 25 years from now.

We grabbed lunch in Falls City and said good-bye. Though we get down to Ashland quite a bit, we stay with my sister and rarely get into town where Jim and Wendy live. I have to work on that. Jim is one of the few male friends I'm close to. We've always been following in each other's footsteps and after all these years, we can look back at all the choices we've made and feel like we've landed well.  What a blessing to grow old and feel good about where we've been.


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