in quiet honor of...

ben; as no one else could, you will appreciate this.

spencer and i set out on another post canyon ride after work today, though with a purpose not entirely the same as our last (session a ladder-drop section until it got dark and then meander at high speeds back to the car).

today's ride was to start soon after we closed the shop today at 6:00 as the light in post canyon tends to wain quickly into the evening. we were indecisive as to whether we wanted to do a shuttle downhill run, a freeride-y long-travel bike run, or a cross country ride with just as much climbing as descending (old skool stylez). due to our indecisiveness and asshat customers, we didn't get out onto the trail until 7:00, finally deciding on a cross country ride with short travel bikes and spandex (real old skool stylez). it had been a while since i'd been on a bonafide fully pinned xc ride with a world cup mountain biker so i was a little wary. once on the trail, however, it all came back - the good times past all came back.

post canyon xc ride

there's this loop in post canyon, you see. this ride that spencer, ben and myself always did. this isn't the cute little "always" that is the ride that you would do maybe every couple weeks or so. no, this is the ride that the three of us did weekly, if not twice weekly, driving the trail farther and farther into deepened erosion until a gorge cyclists association was formed, the GFRA, to stem our process. spencer and i began riding this loop one hour late and already down on the light that we would have to finish the ride in the dark final stretch of the canyon, a singletrack trail by the name of Seven Streams.

post canyon xc ride

we went fast. i had forgotten just how fast we used to go on our little roached out bikes, lacking adequate suspension, braking power and, more or less, skill. as we wound through the old trees and over loose dirt, the memories had started to flush in. anytime we would pass something familiar, one of us would yell at the other, either behind or ahead, a memory connected to that spot. we would switch back and forth leading, following, twisting, turning, and, generally, making mince meat of this fine little path threading through old growth and new growth.

eventually our ride took us to the crest of the mitchell ridge trail. to our left lay more rolling singletrack. to our right the trail dropped into a hard left hand turn, a short sprint up a little right hander, and finally fell into the kind of scary fast descent that makes your eyes water and your brakes stop functioning correctly due to heat buildup. a twisty, slightly bermy, wide-open doubletrack loss of elevation that, no matter where or how much i ride, still ranks as one of the most childishly fun pieces of trail anywhere. spencer and i stop at the top to gather ourselves and catch a breather from the previous climb.

post canyon xc ride

there is a root in the middle of this junction on mitchell ridge. ben, quite some time ago in a magical display completely lacking focus and grace, meandered gently, nearly softly, into this root. it smiled at him, like a friend, and he must've smiled back because soon, in a sudden fit of noise and limbs, they were hugging. ben lay on the ground defeated, yet laughing. he had the most violent crash of the day not on the numerous rock gardens we had smashed through that i now look at with a wary eye. nor had he lost control on any one of the hideously fast downhills lined with strangely unforgiving oak trees. no, our good friend fell victim to an innocuous root, placed just so. (it should be noted that the key single word in this entire paragraph is laughing. that's just how it was.)

this was nearly many, many years ago.

spencer and i looked at this root this evening. we gathered ourselves for the decent, buckled helmets, clicked shoes into pedals, looked back at the root and promptly burst into a rage of laughter. we, at that precise moment of happiness, dedicated the ride to ben, wherever in the huge ass city of chicago he was or whatever in the hell he was doing. needless to say, that was the fastest elevation loss of the evening.

post canyon xc ride

later in the ride, as we stopped before the final fast descent to the car, spencer muttered, "so, this is why i ride." i think he was implicating the memories and the joy in that why. it takes a lot to be a world cup level racer, especially at 22 years old. there are huge ramifications to your social life, your school life, your love live and your work life. one beer at the wrong time could prove disastrous in the long run. one sniffle could mean missing the next race two weeks out and falling farther back in the points run. a missed training ride throws an entire fitness routine out of sync with itself and the planets. it takes an insane amount of dedication, one that i am in no way familiar with. for him to have said what he said, and to have meant it like i know he did, means a great deal both to myself and to those not present in physical but always in spirit.

we're torn asunder from those we love and the activities we love doing. i know that's a lot to say when you're freshly 21 and have a hard time finding much more responsibility in the summertime than making sure the bike shop floor gets swept everynight, but i'm pretty damned sure i mean it. there are ties that unravel and never get fused back together. people wander and not always do they come back. friends come from time to time but, in my experience, have mostly gone. as young peoples, for the most part, we have our health, sure. some of us have our educations, absolutely. there are even those of us who have made the final leap into respectable real jobs with an unparalleled enthusiasm or have already become embattled and bitter to the smallest percentage of a fraction of the wonders the world surely has to offer. most of the challenges we face, with a certain privilege i might add, revolve around not having correct change for the bus or proper bridge toll. but we still love. but we still miss and remember. and goddamnit to me that counts for something. everything.

post canyon xc ride
near the crest of mitchell ridge, one short of three.



Benjamin said...

haha, spandex

maybe the next time i come back to the northwest i'll actually be in some kind of shape for biking. course, i have no damn clue when that will be...probably thanksgiving.

Benjamin said...

also i like how your short-travel bikes have more travel and weight 10 pounds less than my 'long-travel trail bike' from 1999.

make spencer call me sometime, will ya? and you too. but spencer keeps calling and i keep not being able to talk. and that sucks.