Sunday, December 19, 2004

Clever title goes here

What to call this post? I had a number of things in mind Saturday. "Mein Kampf"? "Yet another bright idea"? "What the f*ck was I thinking when I signed up for this"? "So that's what 'getting your ass handed to you' feels like"?

The plan was simple enough. A group of us ("The Magnificant Seven") were to ride the entire length of Fairfax County Virginia's "Cross County Connector" commuting trail. A "commuter" trail network (yeah right!) consisting of single-track, gravel paths, paved paths, roads and sidewalks that isn't too well mapped. Some of us would have GPS units with plans to have a coherent and cohesive map by the end.

The day started bright and early; up at 6:30am, out of the house at 7, at Wakefield park to meet the other guys at 7:30 (so we can shuttle to the starting point and leave my truck at the 2/3 point). The ride was set to begin at 9am.

Sitting around Wakefield, I had some time to kill before the guys were due to arrive. I decided that since I had installed a new chain (and changed the chain setup) on my singlespeed the week before, I should maybe pull the bike off the truck and try riding it around a little. It took about 2 pedal revolutions for me to figure out something was wrong. The chain was skipping and clunking in a way that made me doubt the bike would work for the epic ride planned for the day. A quick inspection showed me that I should have followed the most basic bit of bike maintenance...when you change your chain, change your entire drivetrain (especially on a singlespeed). My rear cog was worn pretty badly and wasn't working with the new chain very well. I made the decision to take this bike back home and grab my geared full suspension rig so I could make the ride.

I make a quick call to DT to tell him I'd meet them at the Great Falls starting point then beeline for home. Once home, I grab the FS and hit the road. I haven't ridden the FS in months. I should have known this was gonna be a rough day.

I make it to the starting point with some time to spare, luckily. DT, JoeP, Graham and Randy were already there. I pump up the tires, pump up the rear shock and ride around the parking lot a bit just to test things out. Before long Lee and Dan show up and we're ready to begin.

The first obstacle is right out of the parking lot (see JoeP's blog above). A stream crossing (in 27 degree weather). It's not terribly long or deep, but the bottom is a smooth concrete thing which is algae covered and quite slippery. Most of the guys decide to take off their shoes and socks and walk across. I had already gotten my shoes and neoprene booties on and was no in the mood to take them off (the booties are a pain in the ass to get on). I decided to ride it. I figured if I washed out now, I could walk my wet, cold ass back to the truck, blast the heat and head for home.

Luckily, I made the crossing without incident. Lee, figuring that if I could do it anyone could, decided to ride it as well. He made it with only a damp foot. Everybody puts on their shoes and we take off.

About 100 yards down the trail, I try to shift gears and I get nothing. My rear thumb shifter pushes all the way to the bottom and doesn't move the derailuer. Great. Looks like I'm riding a singlespeed today after all. This one is just bigger, heavier and squishier than the one I wanted to bring.

The trails at this end of the CCT are actually pretty nice single track. Some of the CCT follows (or even becomes) part of the Difficult Run streambed trail network which is a nice length of trail. More technical then Wakefield, but easily ridable by somebody of my (fatboy) skill level :)

The non shifting bike was annoying, but something I thought I could live with. That was until the first climb when the bike decided that *it* knew when to shift better than *I* did. It would ghost-shift at the worst possible times. And, it would ghost shift in both directions! Trying to climb, *clunk*, pedaling would become nearly impossible, then 20 feet later, *clunk*, I'd be spinning like a madman. It was f*ckin' frustrating.

I managed to complete a bit over 10 miles with the group before mechanicals, my lungs and my legs did me in. Guess it was a bit silly to undertake a 33 mile ride after not being on the bike for weeks and weeks. I was shown a bail-out point pretty close to my house, so I took it. It was a neighborhood road leading to a main road. The plan from there was to call in the calvary (either the girl or the sister) to come rescue me. It took a while to get through to either of them, so I started making my way towards McDonald's. I was dying for some bad-for-you food that didn't taste like power bar and some salt. I ended up going a couple of miles on the road before I finally was able to contact the girl to come to my rescue (thanks baby!). She took me back to the starting point to get my truck. I then got a call from Lee to see what the situation was for shuttling. He had plans late in the day, and the epic was taking longer than expected. I told him I'd meet them at Wakefield (since I was supposed to be the shuttle from there anyway) and headed back to the park.

I got to Wakefield and sat in the truck for a while waiting for the guys to arrive. When they did, there were two fewer riders than when I had split from them. Seems the CCT had taken it's toll on a couple of the other guys too. That made me feel better :). Anyway, as we were packing Lee's stuff up in my truck, DT decided that he'd had enough of the CCT for the day too. It seems that he'd taken a bit of a spill in the last few miles, and that coupled with some leg cramp action were enough. We managed to squeeze him and his gear into the truck as we said out goodbyes to JoeP and Randy, who were determined to finish the full 33 miles (congrats guys!).

So the shuttle headed back to Great Falls and dropped DT and Lee off at their vehicles. I then headed for home and as many hours of doing nothing as I could manage.