Saturday, December 8, 2007

Lines on a map

I remember it well, when I met Kevin. I had been riding for a couple of years or so and had built up a pretty nice bike, a Schwinn Paramountain frameset with Deadly Nedlys signature decal on it. He and Cindy Whitehead had recently won the NORBA championships or the Worlds or some such thing, and they celebrated with a pretty nice lugged frameset out of the Waterford plant. Prestige tubing and XT parts. Sweet. The problem was, I did not know where to ride the dang thing. There were a lot of mountains out there, in fact I live practically surrounded by National Forests or parklands but it can be intimidating to just head out with no idea of what you are getting into.

The bike shop guy had mentioned that there was a local mtn biker that was doing a lot of exploring and we should meet and talk shop. He said he was kind of a character in that he rode with a full backpack, army sleeping bag, etc. Really? My interest was peaked.

The fated day happened and we met over the counter at the Schwinn shop. He was kind of a character, but Kevin impressed me with his open attitude about wanting to explore the areas trails and roads. His way of putting it was to ride "all the lines on the map". Cool. I'm in.

In fact, he was planning a trip to Moab, Utah to check out this thing called a Fat Tire Festival. I am not sure of the year, but I think it was very early in the life of the festival. I still have the t-shirt and the water bottles from that trip.

Oddly enough, I am a pretty careful kind of guy and it really is not like me to jump in a truck with a near stranger and head across three states. Still, I must have trusted him or seen something I liked in the guy as two weeks later we were rolling into Moab for the best time on a bike I had ever had. I will save that story for another blog entry. Maybe I can dig up pics.

Over the next several years Kevin and I rode nearly every line on the Angeles National Forest map and a few that were not shown. I still have the map with all the highlighted lines, torn edges, and scribbled notes. That map has seen a lot of dining room table talks, spread out and studied as rides were planned, loops closed, dots connected. Every faded highlighted line is a memory. We wrote two books together on where to ride and saw them published, some of which lives on in current trail guide books. We started a Mountain Bike Trail access group, the Grapevine Mountain Bike Assoc., adopted two local trails, named a few trails that still carry the monikers we broke them with, and remained friends for many years.

I will always remember how good a rider he was. Really a great singletrack rider, he never used toe clips, always rode in hiking boots and wore underwear under his lycra shorts. I never could break him of the habit of carrying the 'survival pack' he rode with, usually some kind of army grade fannypack with shoulder straps. this is waaaay before Camelbacks were on the scene. He could climb too and had the constitution of a goat. Many a time he would show up for a ride with a Taco Bell cup of refrieds and green sauce, shovel it down and then hammer up the trail leaving me amazed.

In the early days, we pushed and carried our bikes a lot. That is the fate of those who choose to blaze trails and be a pioneer. His favorite line was "just one more hill". It must have worked cuz I always fell for it and kept on pushing, riding and carrying.

As time went by and bikes changed, I was always trying the newest thing, SPDs, front suspension, etc. Not Kevin. He just shook his head, grinned and said he liked it the way it was and saw no need to change. Then he would proceed to set a trail pace that would leave the racer boys wondering and woe to the 'fast guy' who went on an exploration ride with us. Two hours into the push out of some lost canyon, they would be wishing they had never met us.

I remember one huge loop we were doing in the Los Padres forest. We had connected several Jeep roads and motorcycle trails together and were pretty worked over. As we hit the pavement for the last leg of the journey, about 10 miles of rolling 2 lane through the junipers, one of the three of us was really shelled and had decided to call for a ride back to a bar we had started near. Kevin was to wait with him until the truck got there and then join me on the ride back. I started down the road, barely able to turn the cranks and had not gotten more than a mile or two along until I saw the rescue truck coming towards me and past to pick up the one guy. I expected to see Kevin in a few minutes, pedaling along to suffer with me on the last leg home. Soon I heard a vehicle approaching from behind. As the mini truck passed me, I saw the driver, the guy who was too bonked to continue, and hanging out the passenger window looking at me with this sheepish grin, was Kevin taking the SAG wagon for all it was worth. I was struck with an odd combo of anger and humor. At first I felt betrayed, then as the lactic acid buffered the anger, I had to shake my head and laugh, thinking of the beers that they would be drinking while I pedaled along.

I rarely see Kevin anymore. He lives a ways from me, but not that far. I miss him, but I am a lousy 'pen-pal' I guess and he is no better. I don't think he rides much anymore but hikes stuff like in and out of the Grand Canyon in a day. He still finds those lines on a map.

I could not have found a more inspirational, willing, and humble partner in crime for all the exploits to come. Thanks, buddy. It was great.

I bet he still rides without toe clips, SPDs, and wears whitey tighties under his lycra, but don't tell him I told ya so.

No comments: