The plan, when i woke up, was to hit the trail before it started raining and then enjoy a stormy afternoon at home with my computer and coffee. Well, per usual, i lagged, drawn into the worlds of Instagram and Facebook and shopping and whatever else on the internet that seemed to feed my need for procrastination that morning. By the time i got out there, it was just starting to rain, but i love riding in the rain! Little did i know that some moments later, i'd be contemplating calling 911.
You see, i was set on exploring. I had been scrutinizing new trails on Google Earth and a little rain was not going to stop me. Its only water right? On occasion, i have been known to deliver an overtly passionate soliloquy declaring my love for riding in the rain anyway and it was time to live up to this.
At first, a light drizzle provided just the desired pleasantry. Passers by commented on my bike. I smiled, engaged in small talk and did my best to avoid puddles (funny considering the mess i was about to end up in). Within twenty minutes, i was well along my pre-planned route, several miles east into the canyon, across the creek and up the climb, on the opposite side, to the top of the mesa. That's when the down pour started. By the time i could get my rain shell on, i was completely soaked. Right there, my intuition told me that this might not be the best idea and to turn around, but to my demise, the stubborn desire to explore persuaded me to continue on.
At the far end of the mesa, i came across a sign that read "Cardiac Hill". A steep, rocky, rutted, dangerously-windy road disappeared down the slope and around the bin just behind it. I wanted to go, so i plunged myself and my green contraption downward. This was a bad call. I survived the hairy decent, but at the bottom, as i tried to splash through the creek that slithered through the canyon crevices, the thick mud grabbed my wheels so tightly that the chain broke and i was stuck. I reversed to dry ground by reaching up to the front wheels and rotating them backwards, until i was back out of the creek. Once on the rocky bed, i dismounted and sat next to my muddy mess of a bike. I removed my backpack, quickly finding the small plastic bag of replacement chain links and my chain tool. The broken link was easy to locate and quickly remove, but as i was lining up the master link to connect the two chain ends, the sound of rushing water lifted my attention to where the creek entered the little area where i sat. Water must have broken loose from up-creek and now i was dealing with a semi flash flood situation, instantly sitting in water up to my waist, needing to quickly get myself, my gear and my bike out of there. I threw my pack up onto the bank, drug myself up there and then proceeded to drag my bike out of the water by lying on my stomach, in the mud, to provide a stable base, inching it up the bank with one arm, careful not to let it roll back into the now rushing creek.
Given my ridiculously absurd mud covered state, you see why avoiding the puddles in the beginning seems silly in retrospect. With sticky mud all over everything and with now frozen hands, i labored to get the chain back together. Five links, probably sit at the bottom of the creek somewhere or lodged in the mud, never to be found again. Eventually, things were back in working condition and i was stoked to get the hell out of there, half laughing at myself, half completely pissed at my bad decision to continue on. Once re-mounted on my bright green machine, i began the long steep crank back up Cardiac Hill. This is about when i considered calling 911. The mud was now so thick that i barely had any traction. The rear wheel, even though it is dressed with an ultra beefy 4-inch fat tire, spun and spun and spun, struggling to grip anything at all. Any emotion now turned to worry. Walking my bike out of there is not a luxury i am afforded and if i did call for help, there was no way a ranger could drive a truck down there. It would most likely mean firefighters with ropes or maybe even a helicopter situation.
I cranked as hard as i absolutely could, letting the wheel spin and spin, grabbing whatever it could, and i very slowly inched my way up, not letting myself stop at all to rest. During the long, arduous hour it took to creep up that hill i thought of giving up over and over again, but i had to get myself out of this mess. Any momentum at all was absolutely precious, so despite the deep burn in my arms and pounding in my chest, i cranked and cranked until finally cresting the hill.
After letting out a few triumphant hoots and taking a moment to rest, i pedaled across the mesa back along the route i had come, but within seconds of plunging back down the decent on the other side, which i had pleasantly climbed an hour or so earlier, i realized i was in for a wild ride. With no traction on the wheels, the bike slid sideways back and forth as i plummeted downhill. It was all i could do to keep some semblance of control and keep the wheels on the ground, leaning way over this way and that. Any enjoyment i felt during this dance with gravity and inertia was short-lived, as the slope began to level out toward the bottom. As i began to pedal again to continue moving, the chain and crank would seize up, caked in copious amounts of thick clay mud. I was not going to make it back to the truck and needed to be rescued.
Before i left, earlier, i had placed my girlfriend, Christina, "on call". I had sent her my location from where i parked the truck and a map of the route i intended to follow. It was time to call her. Luckily, my phone was in a Lifeproof case and survived the "flash flood", otherwise i would have had no way to communicate. Siri had to call Christina for me, given the uselessness of the muddy screen, and within minutes she was on her way to my truck. I told her i would send her the location of the pickup point when i got there, but i was not sure i could make it. During the laborious trek back toward the nearest out from the canyon, I would pedal a few inches and stop to clear mud from the seizing bike parts, pedal a few more inches, stop and repeat, my arms beginning to seriously fatigue.
When i finally made it to the out, i sent Christina my location. I made it, but still had to survive the wait in the cold. The last bit of light from the sun was long gone and I sat still, in the rain, every part of me soaked, shivering in the dark. I decided to remove my wet clothes and do jumping jacks (upper body of course) until she arrived. After about forty minutes, the faint hum of a distant engine grew louder and then a pair of headlights rounded the corner. She quickly parked, ran out of the truck, wrapped me in a towel, kissed me and, with a look i will never forget, asked if i learned my lesson about riding in the rain. When we got home, the hot spiced tea and rum cocktails she made never tasted so good!