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Ice Road Bikers

Old 11-08-20, 06:35 PM
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Ice Road Bikers

I once was suffering through a prolonged and frustrating period of unemployment. I was recently graduated from college, lived in Sumner Washington with my beautiful wife and two little boys. Sumner, by the ways, is at the base of Mt. Rainier (and would be the second city to be wiped out of Rainier ever decides to barf--Bonney Lake would be the first). It was the dead of winter and boy, I was feelin' it. I would wake up every dreary morning with a pit in my gut with no apparent job prospects, dwindling savings, and my little family to take care of. The pressure was constant.

So, one frustrating afternoon, I closed up the newspaper, put down my notebook and dressed for a winter ride, kissed my wife goodbye and loaded my yellow Cannondale ATB in the back of our little Nissan station wagon and headed for the hills. I ended up on a little logging road near Carbonado, driving as far as I could in the rutted ice and snowpack. I parked in a little turnout and unloaded the bike.

The landscape up there is serene. Even though it was mostly overcast, some thin clouds let an occasional ray of light touch the snowy hills. The snow was crunchy in places, but glassy where the trucks' tires compressed it. A couple warm days liquify the outer couple of millimeters of snow and refreezes at night into undulating glassy ice.

I pumped up the hill being careful to stay in the outside edge of the snow where I could get traction. The air I inhaled seemed to freeze the inside of my nostrils, but it felt good to get the blood flowing and lungs pumping like this. Before long my thighs started to burn with lactic acid and I admitted as we all do in a moment like that, that I had been lazy and was now receiving a just punishment for my lack of diligence in sticking to the cyclist's creed to "ride every day, and even if it's just a little, ride anyway".

"Darnit!" A padlocked gate came into view, and threatened to spoil my progress. The western US is a place where trespassing can get you in trouble, but I never heard of anyone getting shot, despite the posted signs. I stopped the bike, balancing quietly at the gate and scanned the horizon to the north and to the west. It was quiet there, really quiet--the kind of silence that can be felt as much as heard. I would sit and rest a bit.

Now, forced to face my thoughts and fears without distraction I silently raised my voice to God and pleaded for a solution. And then I was still. By and by, the bitterness of disappointment ebbed away as my heart rate slowed and the doubts gave way to optimism as my legs slowly flushed out the burning. For some reason, I suddenly recalled my grandparents who brought their little families through tough times in the war years. They succeeded, so why should fail if I at least try? I was filled with peace of mind and confidence that come what may, I will be able to provide for my little family.

Eventually, I started to feel the chill of the northwestern winter oozing into my jacket and decided it was time to go back home, so down I headed. At first I was able to find traction in the soft crust of the road's edge but I made a mistake--maybe I was tired and didn't react quickly enough--and my tires slipped down into the glassy ruts of the trucks that passed that way.

These ruts are not rough, or rutty as ruts go. No, it's more like a groomed concave luge track, maybe because logging machinery has wide tires or something. Very slick and whatever made that rut, didn't care about the well-being of a twenty-something bicyclist! I was quite literally, trapped in a rut. I couldn't stop, I couldn't steer left and I couldn't steer right Balance was almost impossible. The rut was now my track and it was up to me to keep control so I put down my left foot and slid down that road gripping the bars, leg down. I don't know what this would actually look like, but I will tell you, I wasn't always facing downhill--some times I would spin sideways in a beautiful Brodie, and sometimes I would rotate past sideways so I was then sliding backwards, continuing a counterclockwise rotation.

I don't know how many times I fell but indeed I fell and probably cussed every time my knee got banged. But after a bit, I didn't care anymore. As the adrenaline took hold, I started laughing--this was a blast! I was having fun for the first time in a long time, and, at the near-peril of my life!

It seemed to last only a couple minutes and then I got to the bottom where my car was parked. The accidental "luge" ride was probably only about 1/4 mile; but now instead of depressed I was exhilarated (and exhausted). That one bike ride burned out all those bad brain chemicals quicker than anything I have ever done, and left me feeling humble, more positive and taught me a lesson in dealing with depression.

Cheers to everyone as we head into north-american winter time. And here's to hoping you find a little adventure in your rut.

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Old 11-22-20, 02:26 PM
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This is a great story, thanks for sharing!
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Old 11-22-20, 03:01 PM
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No snow-covered mountains around here, but every February the local bike groups have a ride across frozen Lake Winnebago. It's about ten miles on ice, flat as a pancake except for the occasional drift and snowmobile tracks. A fair number of people tend to show up:
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