Cheese. Meat. Dough. Soda.
These four elemental foodstuffs are the worst possible combination of substances that one can put in one’s body at the same time.
I will pay dearly.
Wednesday night. Two nights ago I went up to Baltimore to pick up Leika. On the way back, as I was driving across the Francis Scott Key Bridge, I looked over to my right and saw the skyline of Baltimore. A memory bubbled to the surface of my thoughts, but I couldn’t place the details. I remembered that I had been recently driving to the Fort McHenry Tunnel and someone was in the car with me. I couldn’t remember who. Whoever it was, they were looking at the mountains of coal and asphalt and the huge ships and the skyline of the city like they’ve never seen it before or like it was oddly out of sync with what they remember. And I though to myself that I couldn’t place who it was but I remembered that it was a friend. Maybe a friend visiting from Cali? No. That hasn’t happened in years. A local friend? No one’s been in my car recently that I can remember. Then it hit me. It was my father.
I don’t see my father often, but I hung out with him, my big sister, and my three nephews on Sunday. My father is the Arthur in Gary Arthur Young. I drove him home on Sunday.
It was a fun day. My nephews are lucky that they’ve got their grandfather to look up to. Two grandfathers. I don’t have any living grandfathers but it would be so cool to have great grandfathers around. I should have three grandfathers (including my stepfather’s father) but … black lung, diabetes/heart disease and … I don’t know the other.
I want to be a grandfather some day and to be around at least until my grandkids reach adulthood.
I wish I could do justice to the storms that washed through the area last night. I’ve never seen anything like that. It was raging when I fell asleep around 11:30pm and it was raging when it woke me up at 1:30am — the only remedy was a can of segmented mandarin oranges — and it was still raging when I fell asleep at about 2:15am. It didn’t seem to bother Leika a whole lot. She’s a cool dog. I think she expects me to entertain her right now, which means that she’s going to be disappointed.
The thunder was literally shaking my bed. Okay, it’s not a bed it’s a futon, but still. Car alarms were tripped. The sky sounded like it was being ripped apart. And at one point there was a constant display of lightning that went on so long I got bored with it and went back to bed. It was like the final barrage of a fireworks display. I don’t care what anyone says; the weather is definitely more intense than it’s been in my short history of existence. It was a sight to behold. Absolutely awe-inspiring.
MTN BIKING IN THE THE DARK
I bought a light for my bike the other day. The Trail Rat. It’s incredible. I had to pick up Leika from my grandmother’s in Baltimore on Wednesday night so I figured that I could sneak in a ride at Patapsco on the way up. I got there from Alexandria in slightly less than hour. Not bad at all but then I had to tighten my seat, inflate my tires, install the light, strap on the batteries, get out of my work clothes, etc. So by the time I … by the way. Let me mention up front that I’m a dumbass. When I tightened the seat I didn’t bother to position it so it was pointing upward. It made the whole ride awkward and I’m still not sure why I didn’t just stop and fix it.
Anyway, by the time I rode across the street from the Park ‘n Ride and hit the trailhead it was 8:30pm. Sunset around 8:46pm, which means it’s still light out until about 9:10pm, right. Right? In the woods, I was reminded, there is a fraction of the amount of direct and ambient light than in the open. But screw it. It’s been too long and I miss riding so I went for it and was prepared for the dark. I rode pretty well. Much fitter than the last time even though it’s been a while. I was pleasantly surprised by my stamina. I was afraid I was going to implode but nope. Going strong except for the whole seat thing, which sapped me on the uphills, grabbing too high on the bar ends to keep from sliding off of the saddle. But my legs were holding their charge on the climbs and recharging soon afterwards (ideally, they recharge during the climb if you breathe deeply and give them micro-rests but that’s some advanced mojo and I haven’t been there since 2003). In the clearings on the Morning Choice trail I came across a few deer and talked them out of my way. The bucks are more stubborn than the does.
The trail rat light was working beautifully. It lit my way (although I can see why lights on the helmet are necessary — lights on the handlebar can only point in the direction the handlebars are pointed). Still, the bright halogen light casts shadows that screw with your percetion. By the time I got out to the half way point it was dark. Really dark. I don’t know if you fellow suburbanites and city slickers are aware of this but it gets really dark in the woods at night. Like, reeeaally dark. Spooky dark.
Eventually, I made it back around to the rock garden and it took some walking to get there. Remember the rock garden? That’s where I saw the green-eyed nymph. This time it was a different scene entirely. The rocks cast eerie shadows down the trail. There are a lot of bugs, frogs and newts that are out at night making their way on the trails and a lot of flying things that sought out my bright, warm headlight. I took a few sips of water, checked the time and gauged how mch longer it would take to get back to the car. Half an hour probably. The awkward seat angle put more stress on my feet and ankles for some reason so I stretched a little bit.
Then I made a mistake. I don’t know what possessed me to do this, but I shouldn’t have done it. I turned around and looked behind me. Pitch black. It was like the world was appearing out of nowhere and disappearing behind me as I made my way on the trails and the only thing guaranteeing the reality of existence was a half way charged bike light. And behind me there was a void. And beneath my feet and to the left and right, much skittering. Now, I’m a grown ass man but I can tell you this. I was creeped out. I had managed to focus on moving forward up to this point. “Super Bon Bon” was playing over and over in my head for some reason for most of the ride. So I started humming it to myself and started walking. Briskly.
Past the rock garden and a few yards up Ridge Trail I stopped for a second to check the time. I thought to myself, man I’m lucky I’ve got this light. It’s saving my bacon. Then the light went out. I kid you not, the dang light suddenly went out. Riddick wasn’t there to save me. After a few seconds of cursing, I remembered the cheap bike light that I almost didn’t bring with me because it’s handlebar mount is messed up. It was in my pack so I got it out and was able to see that the trail rat light had disconnected from the battery back. Whew. It plugs in so it was a simple fix. Back in action. And by action I mean walking the bike down the cheater’s trail to the road. Only three or four miles left.
There’s something surreal about riding across a swinging bridge over a river at night. Like riding a beam of light. Reminds me of that joke about two insane asylum inmates who were trying to escape and they make it to the roof of the building. The neighboring building is too far away for them to jump.
One of them has a flashlight and says, “I’ve got an idea! I’ll turn on the flashlight, shine it across the gap, and you can walk on the beam of light to the other side.”
And the other one says, “What do you think I am? Crazy? You’ll turn it off when I’m half way across.”
I reached the other side of the bridge, got on to the paved (for the most part) Grist Mill Trail and hauled ass. Chasing the light, running from the pitch blackness behind me. I was spinnin’. About a mile and a half later I was on the trail to head back to the park ‘n ride. Only a mile of trail left to go, a gradual but steady climb. It was like a dream, riding across a stream at night. You can see the little fish darting out of the way of the wheel. Do the fish stay awake all night? Some tips about riding across streams.
1. Keep pedaling.
2. Make sure the gear you’re in isn’t too low/easy.
3. You can ride across a stream if the bed is sandy, not if it’s all moss-covered rocks. Duh. Yes, I did try once. No, it didn’t work. Found myself standing in the middle of a stream up to my knees.
The deepest stream I ever crossed was actually a river in Auburn, CA. or Cool, CA. I was there with Matt Harris and was so out of shape. He had just raced this course the weekend before and we got to the river. He went across by the time I reached it. I stopped cause that motha was deep. He was telling me to just do it. It’ll be easier to ride than to walk. If I were by myself I’m not sure I would have tried. It didn’t look possible but he was on the other side so … I started across. The water was up to the seat post, I kid you not. But the bike did its thing. Point it in the right direction, keep your momentum going, and there’s not much ground you can’t cover even if it’s under three feet of flowing mountain runoff. To be honest with you, though, I rode across the stream on his words of encouragement. If he had turned off the metaphorical flashlight halfway across, I would have been in serious water-in-lungs trouble. Not that he would have let me drown.
Anyway, this blog is too long for me to be digressing like this. I made it back to the car at 10pm. Tired but still strong. And that’s good news because the next time I hit Patapsco I’m taking the long trail — the long way ’round the horn. During the day, though. But I need someone to come with me and take pictures. Any volunteers?
Alright, I’ve got some thangs to do. Have a good weekend, everybody.
Reminds me of my first (and only) venture in urban caving. There’s a stream in Dundalk not far from where my grandparents used to live. Under a bridge you find a storm drain. I’d been warned off as kid that years ago, some poor adventurous but stupid young soul climbed in there and drowned in the storm runoff from a sudden rain. It’s the kind of story that you know isn’t true. Probably.
Well, one day I bought a book called “The Urban Adventure Handbook” and had to test it out. Not wanting to be caught doing something like this, I made an alpine start of it at oh, 1 am or so. I crawl into this storm drain, maybe 30″ across, with a little trickle of water running down the middle of it. I creep, and creep, and creep, and before I’m maybe 20-30 feet in, the entrance goes from a dim circle to lost in the blackness behind me. Flip the cheap flashlight off, and it’s absolutely pitch can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face dark. Back on, I creep on hands and knees for what feels like half an hour. and it might have been, inching forward like that. Uninteresting stuff happens, and I eventually decide I’m done, and turn around. Creep…creep…creep. Hey, maybe if I put the flashlight in my mouth, I could move faster. Creepcreepcreepslip! Yep, I dropped it. One frantic grab and a miss and this dime store deluxe meets its maker in half an inch of water.
Here I am, under 10′ of dirt, concrete and asphalt, in absolute darkness, laughing at the ridiculous position I’ve just put myself in. It felt like an hour of even slower inching forward, wondering if I’d encounter any mammals with a bit more fur, before the faint light under the bridge showed a slightly less black circle off in the distance.
Years later I tried real caving, and learned one of the golden rules is never take only one source of light. In fact, never take less than three.
Posted by Rob on Jun 26, 2006 10:39 PM