Getting stuck on summer

It’s typically around this time of year that I like to make sweeping generalizations about the upcoming winter based on, say, the size of my dog’s hairballs (a prediction which, I may add, was dead-on last year.)

It’s also quite common for me during dry spells such as the one we are currently experiencing to curse the snow gods for forsaking us – in favor of Vail, no less. I’ve also been known, during these high-pressure times, to habitually check the online forecast every five minutes and scan ski reports like some sort of desperate junkie. This behavior is usually accompanied by vain threats to move to the Yukon and despondent moaning about how “It’s never going to snow again.”

But for some reason, this year has been different.

“This weather must really be driving you crazy,” a casual acquaintance remarked the other day.

But the truth of the matter was, I actually had been enjoying the dry, sunny conditions. I hadn’t even noticed my dog’s shedding patterns or so much as glanced at the 10-day outlook. I couldn’t even remember the last time I looked at my skis, and my hockey skates were sorely neglected.

It was a bizarre about-face for someone who relished winter as much as I. Someone who’s only been to the beach once in her life but skied in practically every state with mountains (and a few without) and even a foreign country (OK, so it was Canada, but at least they have a different currency.)

However, for as much as I like winter, I also like the balance that summer offers. Just when you tire of sun, warmth and the same old running and biking trails, the weather changes, providing refreshingly new activities and scenery to focus on.

But last summer was different. Perhaps it was because I spent the entire duration waddling around with a 9-pound watermelon in my stomach, making it quite cumbersome to bend over a bike, let alone put my own shoes on. While everyone else logged miles on singletrack, I logged miles on the couch. They communed with nature, I communed within a 100-foot radius of the nearest bathroom. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about my watermelon, whom I love very much. It’s all for the sake of argument: that I am not ready to accept winter yet because I haven’t properly said goodbye to summer.

But don’t worry, I’m working on it. I’ve recently rediscovered several muscle groups and body parts that were in dormancy and reacquainted myself with some old trails, as well as a new one.

In fact, it’s so new that it doesn’t even have an official name, other than “The Secret Trail” – which is a bit ironic since everyone in the quad-state area seems to know about it. Being as such, I see no need to divulge its exact location. Stumble around long enough, and you’ll find it – which is what I did with some general directions from my better half. It was on his recommendation that I ride the Secret Trail, based on the argument that I may not have many chances to do it again this winter. I now realize he may have been referring to my imminent death.

OK, so maybe it wasn’t all his fault. After all, before my yearlong hiatus from biking, I was reasonably proficient for the recreational weekend warrior mom that I am. Which is to say I could shred most everything in the Meadow Loop. Of course, this doesn’t say so much about my skill as it does about my memory. I knew those trails so well I could ride them with one leg tied behind my back. How different could this new one be? I asked myself, shrugging off the warnings from other mere mortals who had gone before me.

“There are some very technical sections,” they warned.

I replied that I handled technical quite well – I just got off and walked. Of course, it helps if you can actually get off your bike. Unfortunately, a previous muddy outing had rendered my clipless pedals deadly implements of imprisonment, something I had conveniently forgotten as soon as I got home and put my muddy bike away in the garage. But now on the Secret Trail, as I teetered precariously on a switchback, frantically trying to pry my feet from the encrusted pedals so I could bail out, it all came crashing down on me – as did my bike. As for my feet, they never did come free on their own accord. Instead, I was forced to crank them off using my hands, all from a severely compromised position lying down in the dirt next to a sinister ceramic bunny (another part of the “secret,” I guess). This scene was repeated with painful predictability several more times on the ride, with varying outcomes: shin into the dead tree, big chain ring in the calf, bruised tib-fib on the crank arm. I would have given my firstborn for but a drop of lube. But neither me nor my riding partner were remotely prepared. In a last-ditch effort to remedy the situation, and help stem the bleeding, I mustered up enough spit to try to clean the pedals out. But this only helped to reactivate the mud, and I am here to tell you that the bond created by human saliva and Horse Gulch sandstone is second only to that of Super Glue.

Finally, when I realized that I may never live to see dinner if I kept it up, I relinquished the bike in favor of walking, or in this case, gimping.

“It’s really all about the views,” reminded my riding partner as the trail, now aptly renamed the Bloody Shin Trail, offered up previously unseen vistas. And I must admit, even through the sting of fresh road rash, they were beautiful.

But not as beautiful as the deck of thin clouds that had formed over the distant mountains, carrying the promise that winter would soon be here.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

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July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale