Les Trois Escargots

A growing family of snails.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mountain biking in Rockville, California

I could start by listing the disadvantages that I had compared to Edward (i.e. brakes the wrong way around, no fitness, no riding for 6 months, unfamiliar equipment etc etc), but that would sound like I was making excuses. The simple fact was that Edward rode great and I rode like a kook. We had driven to Rockville park about half an hour north of Vallejo and Edward had talked me into believing that it would be a straightforward Saturday afternoon's ride. Why had I forgotten the first rule of mountain biking - always make it sound easier than it is?

We parked at the secret bikers' back entrance to the park and kitted up - shin pads, gloves and, for Edward, a full face helmet. At this point, I began to get suspicious and made a blithe reference to the fact that I was "taking no risks today" as I had a few more months of travelling and didn't want to break anything. He didn't reply and I knew that he saw it for what it was. Another excuse.

We climbed a short section of fire road through a dry, but surprisingly green landscape to a fence line by a large pond. The third member of our posse, Fin, went off to the muddy water and filled his stomach in anticipation of the hot riding ahead. Fin is Edward's dog and, unlike Edward and I, he would finish the ride injury free, save for a couple of ticks.

We wiggled on a dusty, rocky trail between oak trees with Edward promising an "interesting challenge". I am tempted to add "dude" to the end of the last quote, but that may be my stereotype of Americans taking over. In any event, he was excited and I was beginning not to be. The challenge was a steep rock step leading into a bouldery gully with a tricky twist and turn needed to nail the final ledge. Imagine fist-sized chunks of rock cemented into a drainage channel to which someone had taken a sledge hammer to roughen everything up a bit. "Babies' heads", Edward called them, and they were pretty solid.

Edward, riding with clipped in pedals, hit the rock step and I watched his front wheel arc through the air. He tried to heave his weight forward to counter the movement, but it was too late and, in slow motion, the bike started to tip over backwards. Two things happened simultaneously - first Fin moved out of the way and second Edward tried to remove his feet from the pedals. He failed and landed solidly on his back. The camelback of water exploded and, with a nice scrape on his elbow, he pulled himself from the ground. I pushed my bike over the section while, Robert the Bruce like, he tried and tried again until he succeeded. That, my friends, is the American work ethic.

At the top, Edward pointed out poison oak, a plant that induces an irritating and very uncomfortable rash if it comes into contact with your skin. Most people first encounter it when "seeing a man about a dog" in the bushes. We rode off on singletrack, climbing slowly, and within half an hour I felt my legs start to get heavy. Edward was giving me the running commentary and I tried to make meaningful responses without sounding like I was out of breath.

Eventually, the riding became a little easier and we hooned through oak woodland with verdant green grass on packed singletrack. To my mind, the archetypal Californian riding. The brakes being the wrong way round caught me out time and time again as I pulled on the left brake expecting the back wheel to slow, only to find the front wheel locked up and the bike in a skid situation (again). Still, it didn't matter. The sun was shining, I was in shorts and I was riding. That was more than enough.

Edward's highlight was a steep gully of washed rock, babies' heads and loose stones. He disappeared, full face helmet tightened before the descent, in a cloud of dust and with a few words of advice - "don't do anything crazy". He must really have got the wrong idea about me! I eked my way down, scanning for the smooth lines and slipping the bike around all the obstacles that no doubt made it his favourite run. At the bottom, we turned right and I went over a step down. My weight was too far forward and I supermanned over the bars. A nifty little roll on impact and I was unscathed save for a few scratches. "You look like you've done that before," Edward commented. I wasn't sure whether to take it as a compliment or not.


Blogger Lisa said...

Thank you so much for visiting us on your world tour. We loved having you. We appreciated your kindness and your relaxed manner. You are so good with kids!! (Albane, I cannot thank you enough for playing with my Aidan) We will be living vicariously through you as we follow your blog. Be safe. Love, Lisa, Edward, Aidan, and Rory
PS If you want a shower or a nap before you get on the plane to Asia stop by on Tuesday.

8:18 AM  
Blogger fran said...

Hi guys,

I can see that everything is OK, as always a very nice pictures (hey, Huw, gives a hug to your fathers). I really envy you guys, you´re doing all that things which everyone wishes. I´m enjoying with the comments and specially with the pictures (Albane, you look so pretty!!, sorry Huw, but you.... are like me, you doen´t like to the camera ja, ja, ja).
Ok, what´s next step?, wherever..., have a nice trip, couple. I hope to read a book talking about a travel around the world!!!!

Un abrazo, chavalotes.

7:44 AM  

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