They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a thousand words you will get. I finally got my ride in, and Santos delivered—in a pouring rain. The thunderheads were sitting on the ground, the sky as black and blue as my hip right now. Those limestone roads are slick as ice when wet.
I left work and rolled to the trailhead, lazily, as it was raining like the last time it would ever. My mind relaxed. Lyrics Born, Calling Out, is plugged in the stereo and broken off. It’s just that good.
I passed the turn for the trail and headed for the Santos Bike Shop hoping for a little trail beta and some gear ogling. They carry some heavy artillery in that joint. Two young guys and a couple Dads were mulling the options as well. 3 of the 4 drove up from Orlando and were loathe to give up the ride, weather be damned.
At issue was the logistics of transporting all of the bikes to the trailhead or riding in the rain. They lacked cargo space and didn’t want the kids riding along 441 in a driving rain at 5:00 P:M. Next thing I knew I was offering my truck and loading bikes into it. The only non-riding father jumped in with me. His son was visiting from Puerto Rico, and his dad was doing whatever he could to show him a good time. We pulled up at a side entrance of the trail, and while I was changing, they basically ditched me. I callously locked the truck and silently wished them a pleasant slog back up the highway. I can have my own damn ride anyway. As I cruised through the jungle wonder of the trail, I came across a rider. The sudden appearance of him caused me to lock the brakes and slap to the ground, in the big ring, of course. It was a blonde-headed kid from the shop. He broke off from the group to find me. I was sincerely touched and chastened for my spiteful thoughts at the truck.
This rider turned out to be a messenger for me, sent with knowledge and wisdom. I’ll just call him “Local”. Local is in the grip of a 13 year old in love. He is in love with his bike, with riding, with the notion of what it means to go hammer and tongs in any conditions, against any man, woman, or child. What I learned today is that a good ride, and a good partner is an ageless thing. Once under way, it became clear that he saw me as an opportunity, and quickly I saw him the same way. Under the care of other dads, he was essentially solo, and local, and not so inclined to ride under the structured cadence of the others. I pulled in close and gave it to him just like I would any friend or foe on the trail. “I want everything you got, if you feel the call.” He didn’t say a word. He just stood up and started building a brick shithouse of momentum. I felt it. He felt it. It was time to ride. Off we went.
After a sloppy stretch of mud, deep water, down branches, and sideways rain, we came to a stopping place to wait for the others. I raised a dirty, bleeding fist and we pounded knuckles of respect. He commented on my Presta valves, my clipless pedals. The youth clearly had the early symptoms of upgrade sickness, a lovely disease.
Flat pedals, no clips of any kind, and Schrader valves be damned, Local could go. I redirected his attention to his disc brakes, his Easton bar, his aggressive Specialized Hard Rock frame and told him, “Shit boy, your ride is nice, and you’re only friggin thirteen, you have to have something to look forward too…. Oops I mean shoot.” He rolled his eyes at my paternal efforts, “Whatever, I’m used to it. I don’t care.” After a quick regroup and a sputtering chastisement from the HFAC (head fucking adult in charge) we were off on Twister, a rolling trail of sweeps, berms, and mild drop-offs made treacherous by the rain.
I won’t lie. Chasing a boy on a bike through a pouring rain over slick rock and roots made me feel like a boy myself. We were separated by nothing but a few thousand cold beers, some heartache, and a few hard knocks, but nothing more. Fuck it man, we were bros.
Another regroup and the HFAC called it done. Local rolled his eyes at me and me at him. Oh well, no use in fighting it, we got what we came for after all.
250 words to come (more or less)…check back for “Racers, Placers, and Chasers” a synopsis of Juancho’s run with the big boys of Santos.