Dirt Makes the Heart Grow Stronger

I don’t know how she made it past our first bike date. I, who was still working as a courier at the time, and her riding a vintage bike that I fixed up for her, went out for a bike ride. We were doing well on our ride until I ran a yellowish pink light at the intersection of 17th and JFK and almost got her killed. 17th and JFK no matter what time of day is like a major high way that runs its 4 lane course from city hall out to 30th st station. She was not so happy about riding in the city from then on, but did it because of the necessity, but not very often with me. Think of a puppy that was doused with cold water…they will never want to get wet again.

She vowed to ride with me and upon the completion of bike #2, we went for some mountain bike rides in the Prince William Forest and even gave riding at the Wissy a try. Prince William was alright, but the Wissy was a disaster. Way too technical for her. With my busy schedule and her aversion to falling on rocks, we did not get much time to ride together until she surprised me with the request of getting a new bike with the promise that she would actually ride it.

Keswick Cycle hooked it up, and she walked out with a pretty sweet Specialized Myka Hardtail for our trip to the trails at White Clay, DE. I have been telling her about these trails for years. They are one of my favorite places to ride because it is some where you could go all day and not be dead at the end of the adventure. White Clay is probably the best maintained trail on the East Coast and it is beginner friendly which makes it perfect for Jess.

The roller coaster entry to our intended trail was not her favorite part, but she walked her bike through it to get to the flat other side. See…she does not like to go down hill fast, and the start of a beginner ride should not start with a few loopty loops. We cruised on the trail. I spent a ton of time on the front brake trying to go slow enough for her but also make sure the trail ahead was clear.

With the first major downhill cleared, we took a break on the side of the trail to get ready for the rest of the trail ahead. Jess even tried some of the crazy chemicals that we mountain bikers call nutrition. I think she likes real food and Slurpies much more.

Jess pointed out the cliffs that I never really noticed that are in White Clay. She said that we were riding right along cliff drop offs and I looked at her like she was crazy, but she was right, they are there. I am usually in some delirious haze trying to catch some fastie to ever notice the precarious precipice we are riding on. Thanks for pointing that out!

With the major climb and some gear shifting lessons done we took another break to just enjoy the shade and get a briefing on what was coming next. On the purple loop of the park there is a nice climb after the bridge and then a very cool decent on the other side of the corn field. If all goes well, you end up back at the bridge in one piece ready to make the climb back to the car.

I was surprised at how fast she got moving along in the corn field, and I caught the nasty eye for relating the fact that I watched a guy break his collar bone in the section she just cleared. I followed her on the downhill just letting her go as fast as she wanted and gave my brakes a bit of a break. The decent was going great, and she was building some speed until a suicidal squirrel tried to derail jess and our good ride. Luckily she was already on the brakes, or this bike would have needed a rodent extraction from the front wheel.

When her nerves calmed down a bit and I explained that squirrels running out are kind of normal and he was not out to get her, we soldiered on with a refrain of Slurpie. I promised her one when we were stopped at a stop light next to a 7-11. If that is what it takes, I am ok with that.

The climb back out is a decent grade and it is long and twisty. I could tell that she was getting tired and her legs hurt because of the way she was riding. There was some amount of sloppy riding happening and I know how I get when I do that.

The roller coaster start was our only obstical at this point. We made the decent, the climb, and even a corn field, but she never made it across the roller coaster. I gave her the challenge of doing at least one of the loops of the whole thing. She held on tight but she made it and even went back again and did it so I could get a good picture of it. With gritting teeth and some sort of funny noise, she made it across that section and even into the last and most difficult one.

The Slurpie reward was delayed because no mountain biking trip can be complete without a trip either McGlynns or El Jafe. We decided to get some mexican food. It is what real mountain bikers east anyway. With Slurpie in hand, the ride was    declared a success and something she would actually do again!


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