While many people may be content to plow the same furrow day in and day out, there are those among us who simply refuse to be constrained, and who push relentlessly against any and all boundaries, whether they be physical, mental, or even geographical in nature. I, of course, am a member of the latter group, and over my end-of-summer vacation I undertook several wilderness explorations astride my trusty–and profoundly capable–Jones LWB bicycle:
Not only that, but I also dug deep within myself and found the strength to ride the same bicycle for two (2) whole weeks, which is an incredible accomplishment considering: A) As a semi-professional bike blogger I have many exquisite bicycles at my disposal and rarely ride the same one twice in a row; II) I once tried to commit to riding the same bike for a year as a gimmick and failed dismally.
In years past I’ve taken more road-oriented bicycles with me on my vacation, but as I ventured deeper into the woods I realized I needed something more sure-footed in order to uncover some of the more succulent routes I’d been missing. Furthermore, after bringing the A. Homer Hislen with me last year and discovering how liberating it was to travel without Lycra and special shoes and all that other crap, I wanted a bike with an upright position and flat pedals. So I outfitted the Jones accordingly prior to departure, and it served me extraordinarily well for the duration of my sojourn:
This being a family vacation, I mostly stuck to my sustenance loop, a short yet satisfying affair which involves climbing a ridiculously steep road with pitches of up to 28% that eventually turns to rolling gravel and then riding back down it again. However, I also managed some longer rides, including a wilderness loop I’d been meaning to complete for some time:
The dirt sections of this ride are mostly old roads now used primarily by snowmobiles and 4x4s:
They’re not “mountain bike” trails and so they don’t have mountain-bikey features, but they do present everything from grass to mud to rocks to stream crossings, which means they present the perfect use case for the Jones:
Then once you make your way through all that you’re rewarded with some of that super trendy gravel stuff:
In addition to being highly satisfying to ride, these roads offer an opportunity to contemplate the sheer hardiness of the people for whom they were once the only thoroughfares:
People carried water from wells or springs, used out houses, and cooked and heated with wood. They hunted and fished for some of their food, but had to be wary of rattle snakes, wolves, and panthers.
Imagine having to climb a mountain and fend off panthers just to go bowling:
But while the panthers today are pretty scarce, apparently there are still plenty of rattlesnakes:
Perhaps I should have chosen more robust footwear:
Fortunately I didn’t encounter any rattlesnakes, though I did come across a bear. There I was, riding along the gravel portion of my sustenance route, when a large branch fell out of a tree and onto the road in front of me. So I looked up into the tree, whereupon I discovered that the branch had been dislodged by a small bear, which was now making its way down the tree’s trunk. Being the semi-professional bike blogger and avid cellular telephone nature photographer that I am, my first instinct was to take a picture of the bear. However, in my excited state, I couldn’t manage to open my camera app; moreover, the bear was picking up speed, and it began to dawn on me that maybe it was coming down from the tree in order to tear my face off with its mighty claws. So I started to turn around in order to bomb back down the hill to safety, though this proved unnecessary, as once the bear made landfall it bounded off into the woods. In retrospect it was probably just a cub, and likely far more frightened of me than I was of it–and can you blame it really?
Between the wildlife, and the treacherous trails, and my minimalist footwear, and the weathered monuments to people long deceased, and the “We Don’t Call 911” signs with actual bullets for the 1s, I was constantly reminded not only of my own mortality, but also of the fact that me that as a citydweller I’m a total “woosie” who’s not only overly reliant on emergency services but also completely unable to determine the age, sex, and species of a bear.
Sometimes you need a little perspective.