Monday March 17, 2003

Rest In Peace

When I was in college my little sister was in high school. I’m five years older than she is. I remember one day I was walking back to the house and she came up to me because some kid was harrassing her. I didn’t do a very good job at doing anything about it at the time. He was just picking on her that day for some reason. I mean, he was just another neighborhood kid. He’s lived at the end of the street for as long as I can remember. Back when kids used to play in the streets around here.

In the Baltimore Sun today somewhere in the Maryland section there was a short article, a mini-article, about a shooting that happened a few streets over from where I live. That same kid is 27 now. He was 27. He was shot twice in the back and killed last night. A witness said they saw him running away from two men.

Baltimore and therefore the surrounding areas are well known for the heroin trade. It used to be the realm of jazz musicians, hipsters and artists until the 60’s or so. Then it caught on. And it’s not getting any better, especially as the economy gets worse.

Mountain Biking

But that’s not why I’m writing right now. I’m writing because I went mountain biking yesterday. And yes, I am so sore. Saddle sore for one. Oy vey. It was great, though. Patapsco Valley State Park is one of my favorite places on the planet. In the top 5 on my list. The trails were very muddy and icy. Yeh, there was ice all over the trails. I’ve mountain biked in lots of places and on more trails than I can remember but I’ve never ridden in the woods on ice. In California they shut down a lot of trails in the winter to bikes and horses because of whatever. Because the trails get muddy and there’s concern about erosion and blah blah blah.

Out here it’s open season. The policy out here is that if the trail is muddy and icy then … you’d better not lock up your rear wheel or you’re eating a mud pie. Five minutes into the ride I had mud from head to toe. Now that’s mountain biking.


How Not to Mountain Bike

So that leads to the little story I wanted to tell. About 8 or 9 years ago I went riding with a former college roommate. We went out towards Western Maryland. I had a good bike trails book that had 3D topographical maps in it that I thought were so cool. The first place we went to — I think it was Sugarloaf — said they didn’t allow mountain biking so we decided to go farther west near Frederick, MD.

Gambrill State Park. It was a tough ride. Not terribly long. About 10 miles total. But downhill singletrack was tight and rocky and the soil was loose. Not to mention we were traveling down the side of a mountain so it was pretty steep. It went on like that for a while and then started to climb. So after a lot of hard work we got to the top.

I had written the directions down, copied from the trail guide book, and took them out. I had candy bars with me and between Dave and I we had eaten all the food. Most of the water was gone, too. So I looked at the directions and we followed them, turning right on to the paved road and looking for the trail back.

After about 20 minutes of riding it was obvious that something was wrong. Nothing looked familiar. You have to be careful when you’re mountain biking because a lot of trails either aren’t marked or are marked very poorly. We asked people for directions but they didn’t gibe with our instinct. So we followed a trail that dropped for a while and we ended by a river. By this point we were just lost. Seriously lost.

All we could do was follow the road. Both Dave and I were starting to get leg cramps. We asked more people for directions but they weren’t much help. I kept looking at the directions but none of the road or trail names were familiar. Eventually it got dark. And cold. We got on to some road and made a guess about the direction to take. We were desperate at this point and I should add that this was before cell phones were prevalent or ubiquitous. We were in bad shape. Baaaaad shape. Pitch dark. Hungry, cold, cramping.

I took off one of my bike shoes and waved it (reflective material on the heel and sides) until someone stopped. He told us we were on the right road and that it was just a few more miles until we got back to the parking lot and the trail head.

About a half hour later we crested the last rise before the parking and saw one of the most surreal sights I have ever seen. The gate was locked and in the parking lot there was a commando center. The only light was coming from green glo sticks and computer screens. There were shots in the distance and crackling voices over the radio. There were army trucks and soldiers in full camo and face paint standing with rifles and machine guns. And to make it even more bizarre they didn’t acknowledge our presence at all. Until we started up the car and one of them walked to the gate and unlocked it.

What should have been a 10 mile, 2 hour (or less) ride turned into a 4 to 5 hour ordeal. And we were lost. I mean really lost. You’re really lost when you don’t where you are, where you’re going or where you came from. That’s lost.

When we got to a place to eat, a fancy Burger King, I realized what went wrong. Oh. By the way, there’s a certain kind of hungry you get after a huge mountain biking ride. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s a deep kind of craving hunger, though. Then when you get food your jaw muscles ache because basically every muscle in your body is starving for fuel and full of lactic acid if you haven’t kept yourself fueld and hydrated.

So I got out the trail book and looked at the directions I had copied. They were right. Same as the book. Then I looked at the map of the route. And I saw that the point where we had made a right on to the paved road SHOULD HAVE BEEN A LEFT!!! The written directions had that one error in there that put us through that hell. I could not believe it.

So fast forward 9 years. This past Saturday Dave and I went to see Daredevil. I’ll leave the movie reviews to Mr. Cranky. Afterwards we went to the bike store and were browsing around. We saw some books about trails in the Baltimore/Washington DC area and sure enough there was one by our friend trail guide author, Scott Adams (not the author of Dilbert whom I played a New Year’s Eve gig for).

So I’m picked up the book and I am not exaggerating when I say that I was flipping through purely randomly, not even paying attention to what I was doing, and landed smack dab on the Gambrill State Park page. Dave and I looked at each other. And sure enough it has the SAME mistake in it still! It’s got the written directions saying “go right on to the paved road” and the map route drawn to go left.

I can only assume that anyone else who has been the victim of that mistake over the past 9 years never survived to report that error to the publishers or authors.

But the world must know. How many more lives have to be lost to senseless navigational errata.

Well that’s it for now. Not much new to report. Not yet. But stay tuned. Same bat time. Same bat channel.

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