Rain out our dirt trails, we ride paved ones. Flood our paved ones, we ride roads. Run us off the roads with your big bad cars, we ride gravel roads. Chase us on gravel with county dwelling dogs and we....well.....run (or ride faster).
So don't go thinking some little 106 degree heat index is going to scare us, especially when we have a tunnel for shelter.
I know that for the small part of the cycling community that is me not riding Wednesday was simply unoptional (this is a good new word), especially when two local traditions: the Taco mountain bike ride and the infamous Tunnel Party ride were converging on the same night. The fact I had just finished building my new mountain bike made things such as heat stroke seem like a trivial matter.
More on the bike later...
We started the ride at Nick's place near Norwalk and rode the Great Midwestern Trail (GMT) into town passing lots of tunnel party riders heading the opposite direction. Tunnel happens every so often (I'm not clear on the timing) and is great (liver) training for RAGBRAI. It gets its highly creative name from the longest of the several tunnels on the GMT that revelers take over for the night.
Tunnel was on the docket for later because we had Greenwood Park and some of the only dry dirt trail around squarely in our sights. The Marble Madness grooves of the Hillside trail are found immediately south of the Ashworth Pool and the old Science Center. It alternates some long grinding climbs with awesomely fast twisting descents. It is a stupid amount of fun, even when the air is filled with humidity soup. Needing to leave a little something in the tank for the Tunnel we opted for a short turn on Hillside and a quick pass through the nearby Rollercoaster trail before heading back toward the partay. It was hard to leave the dirt behind especially with my sweet new sled under me, but it had to be done.
By the time we got to the tunnel the party was hopin'. There were probably 100-150 riders mixing it up under the fluorescent orange glow of electric lights. There were bikes leaning on other bikes, their tangled masses propped against the walls. The patchwork quilt of riders - some dancing, some singing - was reminiscent of a claustrophobic street market in an exotic land. The sounds of conversations, music and general merriment rattled between the tunnel walls, building into a deafening din.
Rain moved in (what else is new) prompting us to press further into the tunnel, spelunking into the previously unexplored depths. We acclimated well to the deeper environs and things were going well....maybe too well.
Way too early it started getting way too late, especially for a fella - such as a myself - that had to be bright-eyed and bushy tailed the next day at work. Still needing to ride 3 miles back to Nick's, we started discussing an exit strategy. Our other companion, Matt, had another plan in mind.
Matt: "Let's ride to Cumming!"
(that's 4 miles in the opposite direction)
Me: "No way"
(it's after midnight)
Matt: "Oh, C'mon"
(his arguments were getting better, but it was raining)
Me: "Negatory good buddy"
Matt: "Nobody expects us to ride to Cumming!" (a la Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition)
Me: "Point taken.....Ok, fine."
Luckily somewhere in between finding our bikes in the mass of machinery and making our way through the mass of humanity we came to our senses a bit. Even though no one would expect us to ride the wrong way into the dark rainy night, we would have to live to fight another day.
As we peddled home, soaking wet, tired and dehydrated I laughed to myself. Happiness is finding adventure where there appears to be none and ending it, although prematurely, by cruising along through the darkness with some good, like-minded buddies.
Actually, I did.