Beware the Rides of March

Slickem Up

It was about this time last year when my friend Bob called. "You ready to ride?" he asked.

"What are you talking about?" I said. "I was born ready! Name the trail."

"How about Seven Sisters? We haven't ridden there since last spring."

"Sounds good to me," I said. "What time?"

"Let's get an early start. How about meeting at the trailhead around nine?" He paused before adding, "Oh, another thing. I talked to Porter and he said he'll meet us there, too."

The next morning as I drove out to the trailhead, I watched the sun creep above Springer Mountain. It was clear, and hoarfrost rimmed the ridge. We would be fine once we got moving, I thought. The First Sister is a long climb. By the time we hit the gap, we'll be sweating and peeling down to T-shirts. I was looking forward to the ride. Winter had loosened its grip at last. On the drive out, I had seen jonquils—or March flowers, as the locals call them—flaming yellow in nearly every yard.

I was the first to arrive at the trailhead. I figured I would stretch a bit. Looking up, I saw birds hopping branch to branch. The sun slanted through the limbs, and I could see insects flying in swarms. I had scared several squirrels on the ground when I pulled into the parking lot. They now perched on the lowermost limbs on the small oaks near the trailhead, and I could see why my friend Marty calls them "long rats with longer tails." The one closest eyed me intently, sitting under a tail twitching like a furry whip.

The unmistakable sound of Bob's pickup whined up the last grade and rounded the last curve. There he was behind the wheel of his "biking-mobile," a 1980 Chevy that looked like it had a dent for each one of its 200,000-plus miles, most of them spent going to or coming back from a trail somewhere.

He pulled into the small parking area. "Hey, Steve. You made it!"

"I wouldn't miss it. Stayed up all last night just thinking about it."

"Yeah, me too." Bob stopped, grinned, and listened. There was a rattle of rocks bouncing off of fenders. "I'll bet that's Porter coming now."

When Porter took the last curve, he fishtailed in a cloud of dust. He skidded to a halt fifteen feet past where we were standing, then backed into the parking area. "Hey, guys! Sorry I'm late. My alarm clock didn't go off."

"We just got here ourselves," Bob said. "If you promise not to let it happen again, we won't make you wash our bikes."

I was beginning to feel a little cold, so I said, "Let's quit yapping. There's good trail going to waste." I took off my tennis shoes and put on my biking shoes. I unloaded my bike, checked the air, and squeezed the brakes. I shook my bottle of lube and squirted a stream on the chain. "Hey, guys, anybody need some slickem for your chain?"

"Yeah, let me have some of that," said Bob.

I strapped on my fanny pack, put on my gloves and helmet, and started riding around the parking lot to warm up. I stood on my pedals and weaved around some of the larger rocks. Before I knew it, I felt twelve again, riding a machine King Tut would have swapped his entire treasure for.

"Hey, Porter," Bob said, "You need some of this?" indicating the bottle of lube he held in his hand.

"Nah. I don't think so. I'm ready."

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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