Saturday Dual Sport Ride
The alarm is blaring into my ear and I jump up out of the bed, land on a hair beret, curse, stumble, and finally find the right combination of buttons and violence to silence the racket. I haven't had much sleep, having paid for the kitchen pass with a long, long night of watching period chick flicks - I now know way more than I ever wanted too about the machinations of females in pursuit of royalty and the associated rewards.
Tired or not I am stoked to be up and finally on the way to the ride I've been looking forward to for several weeks - really since the last time Moby led a ride through the Talledega National Forest with Gadget, Stan and myself in tow. The riding is incredible with little traffic and a great mix of easy gravel roads, harder gravel roads, and some technical rocky hills.
The take off time from Moby's was set at 9am and I had about 80 miles of street riding between me and the group ride fun. I left the house at 6:15, gassed up and pointed North with directions in hand. The ride up was chilly as I was dressed for working hard offroad in July but the sun was just coming up and most of the road was shaded, the dew still hanging in the air.
I stopped at the gas station in Sylacauga for a sit down breakfast and to top off the tank before going the final 15 miles up to Moby's place in the woods. When I got to the turn off I pulled out my directions which very clearly told me how to get to where I was. I had dropped the sheet documenting the route from where I was to where I needed to be. A quick call to a groggy wife got me back on track and I arrived on time to the apparent surprise of my riding group.
We hang out for a bit donning riding gear, greeting each other, looking at the bikes and all that normal stuff before setting out for the day. About 100 yards down the driveway a bee lodges herself between my nose and my goggles and stings me on the nose before I can get her loose - that hurt.
The ride through the forest is just perfect - the recent rain kept the dust non-existent and I had a chance to get into the flow of the ride. Gadget was riding ahead of me and was obviously not challenged. You know how when you get stuck behind slow people on the road you might practice your quick turn in the lane, weaving back and forth - well Gadget was doing that on the trail while going about as fast as I really wanted to go. I enjoy riding behind him though because when I can keep up, I learn stuff. He hasn't been riding DS for long but talent, youth, and focused interest flatten the learning curve for him and he can haul in the forest.
When we get to the long, steep, rocky hill that I stalled on last time when trying to go too fast, two or three people go blazing by me when I'm already out of shape and in peril of falling. I just keep motoring up the hill, thanking God for the forgiving nature of a big thumper. It is great to twist and go even when you let the revs drop to what seems like 1 rpm. About half way up the hill I see Rabbit standing to the side of her bike on my left and Gadget stopping to help on my right. This is not an area where I'm going to stop and stay upright so I just keep going to the top where thankfully we are stopping for a break. I considered stopping but Brantley had already had to watch me do every wrong thing you can on one hill so it didn't seem right to subject him to yet more.
The next few miles are pretty challenging with a lot of rocks, turns, loose stuff, and steep hills if you run off the track. Several folks pass me and just check out - for quite a while I'm able to keep BD in my sights but finally he loses me too. I come upon him trying to pull Kelly out of the ditch just past a big ass puddle. BD likes to goose the motor through the puddles and apparently he had some excitment before Kelly finally tossed him off into the mud. He was fine and the so was the bike after a little persuasion on the kickstand interlock, he restarted and we were able to continue on.
We came upon a Jeep Cherokee that stopped to let us pass which is a little strange as those guys often get some amusement out of squeezing the bikes into the smallest possible space - preferably on the side with the most ruts, rocks, or roots. Then we come up on the group taking a breather on a long straight - strange.
Apparently the Vulcan Prez, hauling backside on his Rotax powered mountain bike, came close to being a hood ornament on the aforementioned Jeep but instead found the only clean stretch of ditch to run off into and took a tumble while also flatting the front tire. No harm, no foul but we were hanging out while slime was tried and 9 DS riders pulled out 15 hand pumps and electric compressors along with a vast assortmant of tubes, patches, and magical tire fixing incantations.
The tire was holding air so we headed on down the trail me going as fast as I dared, others passing me and giving me that look normally reserved for the silver haired residents of south Florida. When we got to the pavement, word came that the slime was not holding and we set out for a shady spot behind a rural church where the fancy dancy KTM easy off front axle was persuaded with a high tech red brick and the reputedly $30 ultra heavy duty puncture and pinch proof tube was replaced with something I hope was more ordinary. All the while entertained with musical farting, rumbling tummies, and my toddler like whining about being hungry and asking if we were there yet.
The tube finally replaced and the KTM axle put back into place - presumably with the same brick - we headed for Mt. Cheeha to gas up one of the bikes before lunch. Coming down the other side on the way to lunch I was fascinated to see a group of cruisers grind and wobble their way down the mountain without incident. They did stop and let us go by at the turn though after making sure to beat us out of the parking lot earlier. I think they were surprised to see how fast a bunch of thumper dirt bikes could run down the mountain.
The food at Beverly's was great and I was running on empty so all I remember about that is the taste of meat, gravy, and sweet onions.
We backtracked to Shinbone (I think) on hwy 49 for gas and I said my goodbyes - I had ridden a total of 192 miles so far on the day and figured I could get home in early evening. I was surprised to see the group head south on 49 - that was the way I was going - but they soon turned around and I enjoyed the fast curves on that part of the Hwy.
Coming out of one of those curves the bike got all ugly squirrelly - I had a flat on the rear. I pulled over, found the nail, pumped the tire up, rode maybe half a mile and the tire was flat again. I aired it up again, prayed hard, and got to Lineville still with air in the tire. I stopped at the gas station and asked about a bike shop - the girl directed me to the Bargain Barn where they had a whole box of 18" Dunlop heavy duty tubes for $5 each. I bought one as insurance and headed home. The ride home was uneventful except for quick thunder storm and I rolled into the garage a little before 7pm. The tire was fine all the way but was completely flat before I finished stripping all my filthy chothes off.
All in all a great day of riding - when are we going again?