Monday, March 13, 2006

Thank You George from NEMBA

Yesterday, I packed up a couple of bikes, a lot of gear, fueled the pick up and headed down to Springfield, Massachusetts to go riding in the woods with my daughter. My intended departure time for this little adventure was set at no later than 6:00 AM. But when I am packing for two and not used to it, time has a way of getting away from me. It turned into a 9:00 AM realtime start. I was okay with this as the 3 hour delay fell comfortably inside the plus/minor factor I have built into all activities I am in charge of. The silver lining was it also gave my darling little girl 3 extra hours to recover from a Saturday night at college.

The delay told me not to expect this day to unfold smoothly. I would need to remain flexible and take the events of the day in stride. So I did not push it to make up any lost time. Making up 3 hours in a 3 1/2 hour trip would just make me crazy in the attempt. So I cruised.

For some reason I got a tad antsy in Worcestor. I had to be reminded by a Mass State cop that 20 miles an hour over the construction zone limit was a no-no. She snapped me out of my interstate daze with a blast on her 4000 watt PA system. "Red Chevy Pick Up, SLOW DOWN!!!" and accompanied it with that stern look only cops seem able to conjure up. I managed a weak sort of thank you smile and wave while I checked my crotch for wet spots.

Landing in Springfield just after noon, Lis and I quickly changed and headed to Mt Tom, a nearby state run chunk of woods. After a half hour drive, we entered the park and were greeted by a friendly sign that said, "Mtn Bikes Prohibited". Well this sucked. It meant we would have to work our way to choice 2, the Holyoke Range up near Amherst. With no map of the area, all I had was a faint idea of the general direction. North a tad and to the right.

I became agitated. I knew Massachusetts and it's love of illogical road design. Roads based on colonial deer paths the Indians improved on so they could sneak in to raid. They get you there but I often wonder how. I was fearing an afternoon of frantic searching as the sun dropped closer to the horizon. And us stuck in the car in bike duds getting pissy with each other.

The mountain biking gods were smiling on us yesterday. I am sure they took over control of my truck. We seemed to make no wrong turns, even when I would say, "Hey this looks like it might gets us close." Every turn and choice worked some magic and in a half hour we were pulling into a muddy parking lot occupied by the vehicles of our riding brethen. Thule racks and construction pick ups patiently waiting for their mud covered owners to return.

As a final tip of the cycling god's hat, a group was just leaving the lot after their weekly fix. One mud speckled fellow walked over and made inquiries as to how a truck from Maine had located this particular spot. And I proceeded to give the blow by blow but stopped short. The whole day had started and evolved to place me and my kid here on this spot at this moment. I just kind a mumbled something about sniffing out trails was an ability I had developed from the many years of searching for them.

I think the guy's name was George. I can't remember because I was a puppy forced to sit in front of the food dish but not dive in. My mind was on how quickly we could lose this guy and get riding. But I was polite and listened to his riff. He was in charge of the local NEMBA chapter and boosting their cause was an obivious intent. He asked if I had a trail map. I showed him the one I downloaded from the net. He just smiled and said those trails were a joke, but he could help me find some of the good ones.

Between George and his buddy Rich, I think his name was, they hooked us up with some of the best trails I had ridden in a long time. Trails designed and laid down by mountain bikers. Bridges, rock armored wet spots and a flow that just made Lis and I grin with each swoop and down stroke. We only stayed out for an hour and a half. But as the first real ride of the Spring, it was the best hour and a half I had had since November.

We barely touched the network that exists there in the Holyoke Range. I knew this when George looked at his watch while deciding what loop to set us out on. A quick referral with Rich confirmed they wanted to make sure we did not get too deep into it. Lis and I only covered 5 or 6 miles and passed inumerable intersections and trailheads that we knew were just as special as the one we just finished.

Thanks to the folks of the Pioneer Chapter of NEMBA for creating such a special day for a couple of riders from Maine. The trails there rocked!