Stories to tell, stories to tell.

First off, let me say that my boy Andy rode out Rita with flying colors. After boarding up the windows, packing in the family and easing his nerves with a few bottles of brew he came out the other side with some minor fence damage, and that’s about it. Great news.

Only two weeks until the Tour and team buKit trudges on.

The training continued this past weekend with the visit of Team Mechanic and Official Microbrew Consultant, Nature. Our goal was to ride as much as humanly possible in a short amount of time – which we did for the most part. A day by day synopsis follows.

I’ll preface this by saying that by the time the end of the work day rolled around on Thursday I was a ball of stress. I had a terrible day at work, as we all do when trying to get shit done because you know you will be out the next day. It’s as if everyone else knows and refuses to cooperate. I hate taking a day off without tying up loose ends.

To add to the stress was the call I got from Lyn at home saying that Julia’s ‘spots’ had returned. A week or so ago, Julia got these red spots on her legs out of nowhere. She went to the doctor and he said it was an allergic reaction of some kind, gave her a couple of scripts and she was on her way. They cleared up – but of course decided to return on Thursday thus potentially throwing a wrench in Supermondomountainbikeweekend – we only have one car and should she need to go to the doctor or ER, I was trying to figure out how to get everyone where they needed to go.

To top it all off, in the back of my mind I knew that while I was out frolicking and cavorting around without a care (sort-of), my bud Andy was down preparing to stare down the monster that was Rita. Speaking to him on the phone days before it hit was surreal as he calmly recounted stories of securing provisions, traffic jams, lines for gas, and determining which room in his house was the safest for them to ride out the storm in. Scary. Nervewracking.

Eventually it all panned out. Julia’s spots improved the next day and Andy was confident on his chances with the storm. Supermondomountainbikeweekend was back on.

Weds: Arrival day. Nature came over in the evening and we ‘discussed strategy’ and he ‘Consulted on Microbrews’.

Thursday: Nature got a WakeTink ride in, I however abstained to share some quality family time since I was basically going to be gone for the next 2 days. The evening saw more ‘Microbrew Consultation’. At least that’s what it says on the tax forms.

Friday: First ride day. I took the day off work. After shuttling the kids back and forth from preschool so Lyn could sleep in and I could earn bonus points, we embarked on what Nature dubbed the ‘Tour of Fairfax’. It is basically a bunch of little rides linked together including some road, asphalt trail, fire road, and singletrack. We hit some W.O. & D. Trail and then some singletrack trail leaving out of Reston and heading out to Great Falls Park. Stopped halfway and had lunch/snack on a cliff around 400 feet up over the Falls. A nice spot for sure. All told it was about 4.5 hours and 30 or so miles. Was a bit rough at times as it turned hot and sticky humid again here that day. A nice ride though. Went home and got our BBQ on. Burgers. Microbrew Consultation. You know the deal.

The next day was F-Day. Furnace day. We were setting out to ride Elizabeth’s Furnace out in Front Royal, Virgina. I had never made this ride before an it was one that Nature had both exaulted and warned about. I belive his exact words were:

“It’s fun. It’s a great ride. It will make you hate yourself.”

Damn that sounds inviting.

We drove the hour out to Front Royal and met up with ‘Big Jim’ (he’s at LEAST 6′-5″ – the name fits). It was nice to see him again, I hadn’t seen him in at least 5 years. He is a friend of Nature’s that used to hang at the Youth Hostel on occassion.

So we set out. A fire-road climb. Right from the car it went up. And up. And up. And it was like that for about an hour. Then it got steeper. Nature reassured me that the downhill at the end of this ride was worth it. Finally we came to a fork in the road. There was some discussion between Jim and Nature while I counted the colorful dots swimming in front of my eyes. I deduced that there were two options:

1. We could truck for 6 miles more up to a fire-tower with a nice view and then double back to this spot and connect with the trail here, or
2. We could head straight for the trail now.

They decided to go with #1, which added like 2 hours to the ride and would eventually lead to us decending in near darkness – but no one really thought of that at the time. We hit the road.

The fire road was fun, some ups and downs and generally ok spinning. Then we stopped for a snack break and I took a picture. At this time Nature said it was only about a mile to the fire tower but it was a ‘bit of a climb’. Yikes. That’s like saying George Bush has ‘a bit of a problem speaking’. So we departed and all I will say is this: Longest. Hardest. Climb. Ever. It was only a mile but it seemed like an eternity. Legs burning, lungs sapped. And to top it all off, there’s Nature 10 yards in front of me, sort of goofing around on the bike – going slow, zig zagging back and forth, waiting for me. Bastard. Go back to Colorado. Even better was the fact that all along the fire road we were passed by families in cars going up to the lookoff. The cars were struggling up an incline of this magnitude (I think about a 17% grade) and I know people were looking and wondering what the hell was wrong with us. We must have indeed been a sight, laden with gear and soaked with sweat, literally inching our way up the hill. I wonder if they could hear me mumbling my mantra under my breath, “I’m having fun. I’m having fun. Why do I do this? Because it feels good when I stop. I’m having fun. I’m having fun…” Anyway – bottom line, I was really happy with my climb, I actually finished it quite well and felt pretty good. We took the little trail out to the fire tower and I took another picture. The view was nice.

Then we BOMBED back down that fire road. I mean BOMBED. That was FUN.

So we get back to our original fork in the road and I’m thinking at this point that it must be gravy from here. I mean, this must be the payoff, right? The fun downhill? We’ve already ridden 3 hours, climbed probably near 2,500 feet, and I really can’t remember my name anymore so it’s time to just point the bike downhill and go, right?

“We have just a little singletrack climb to the summit, then we’re done,” Nature said. I was apprehensive.

We started out. Was ok going at first, then it got rocky. Then it got steep. Then it got rocky and steep. Then Nature turned back and said “There’ll probably be some parts you have to walk up.” Ugh. Hike-A-Bike. Nothing like riding for 3 hours then having to shoulder your 30 pound beast and scramble up the side of a mountain. Probably won’t be to bad, I thought – Hike-A-Bike sections are usually short. Famous last words.

I got off the bike, shouldered it, and climbed. Climbed. Climbed some more. Stopped. Had a conversation with God about the things I’d done wrong and how sorry I was. Proposed that I would never do them again if he somehow present me with the power of flight for 15 minutes or so. No dice. All told we scrambled up ankle busting rocks on slippery shoes with metal plates on the bottom for about 25 minutes. At one point in the delerium, I stopped and took a photo of the trail up, as I had just turned a corner and couldn’t believe that it continued. I felt I had to document this abuse somehow, that the story had to be told.

Upon reaching the summit, where Nature was sitting with a snack, I declared: “That is NOT a trail. That is a geologic formation put there to remind us as humans that we are weak and frail in relation to the power of nature.” I heard Satan laughing with delight.

The downhill was indeed worth it. Super technical sections, with some spots you just had to walk, but fun nonetheless. I managed to only be ejected from the bike one time – albeit a spectacular one – as I graciously sommersaulted over the bars into a lovely rock garden. It was really a sight. I have the dinner-plate sized bruise on my thigh from my handlebars to prove it.

All told it was another 5 hour day and probably another 30 miles or so. We got back to the cars right at dark and I hurried my ass home – I was late of course – and probably already in trouble.

We were supposed to ride WakeTink sunday, but we were both spent and I needed a rest day before I got back on the bike Monday to go to work. Instead, never ones to be inconsistent, we consulted about Microbrews.

Flat out one of the best weekends I’ve ever had and some of the best riding I’ve done to date.

I’d like to say thank you to Lyn for watching the kiddies all the time I was gone. You rock. I know that I owe you. Thanks to Nature for coming out riding it was a blast. We have to not let another 8 years go by before we do it again.