Second Childhood

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.

2 Responses to Second Childhood

  1. Cruising Santos in the summer rain. Sounds good to me. Made me a little homesick for a second there. Here’s my next Wild West report:


    This is a delayed Yellowstone Report. We’ve been out of there for a few days now. We spent three days with my sister in Boise, and this morning we woke up in Beaver, Utah on our way to Las Vegas. I’m afraid that in Las Vegas we might forget there is a Yellowstone.

    For those who don’t know, Yellowstone National Park sits in a huge volcano that blew its enormous top millions of years ago and then over time filled up with enough dirt for trees to grow and Elk to graze and Buffalo to roam and bodies of water and dramatic canyons to form, and lodges, hotels, and campgrounds to be built. Volcanic activity still bubbles and hisses under you though, and the places where it’s most obvious are popular destinations. When I say the park is enormous, what I mean is that if you want to see two extraordinary “signature” sights in the same day, such as the Canyon Area and Old Faithful, you’re likely to be in the car getting there for much of the day. Here are a few notable observations from our time there:

    WILDLIFE: Yellowstone is famous for its fearless wildlife that do their best to tolerate the annoying humans. At the top of our family Yellowstone list entitled, “Things We’re Over Already” was Buffalo. Those gigantic buttless cows are everywhere, and I mean everywhere, because wildlife rules in Yellowstone. You might go over to one of the few Yellowstone Lodges or rustic hotels for a coffee and a rock on the porch, but have to alter the normal path you would take from your truck to the front door because Barney the buffalo and his giant brother Buster are grazing on the front lawn. Never mind the thousands and thousands and thousands of perfectly acceptable grass in the great elsewhere. If they want the Lodge grass or the grass right outside your tent (or under your tent), you best move aside because they’ve got the lifetime family pass (special Sierra Club edition), and they know it. None of the other wildlife choices made our list, because we didn’t see much of anything else. We saw some Elk and some great birds, but never spotted a moose or a bear or a wolf or a coyote (though we heard a lot of coyotes). We collected lots of stories about spectacular wildlife sightings though, and we know many exotic beasts lurked just off-screen as we stumbled by.

    DANGER: I mentioned in an earlier post that our family keeps an ongoing debate going around the complex topic of what is and what isn’t an “acceptable risk.” For instance, how harmful can buffalo – the giant, lumbering, palookas – really be? Sasquatch says: “Don’t click the picture till you see the whites of their eyes. And if the geyser they let us see is this cool, just imagine how great the one might be in that steaming patch of woods over yonder beyond all that yellow tape! Boardwalks are for the unimaginative!”

    Yellowstone stops such statements from even being uttered by littering the entire park with the most graphic and alarmist signage you’ve ever seen in your life. I never even had a chance. Here’s an exact replica of a flyer they must drop over the park from overhead because you couldn’t turn around without seeing one:



    Buffalo can weigh 2000 pounds
    and sprint at 30 miles per hour
    three times faster than you can run

    These animals may appear tame but are wild, unpredictable, and


    Nice work, huh? My kids were crying by the time they finished reading this flyer and wouldn’t stop their blubbering until I swore I wouldn’t try to ride a buffalo or even make friends with one! I tried to explain that this kind of flyer is always created by the paranoid, and is always misleading. For instance, in this case wasn’t it obvious the flyer was talking about the slowest possible human and the fastest (and crankiest) possible buffalo? Nobody believed me when I explained that these buffalo hadn’t had to sprint in so long they’d forgotten they even could. I might have swayed them if I was fighting words alone, but all this Danger Signage uses incredible graphic depictions of park mayhem – Yellowstone Gone Bad. Right in the middle of the flyer I’ve recreated above is a picture of a Buffalo having his way with, get this, a young boy! The boy has just been butted and is flying up and over the buffalo’s giant horned head, his arms and legs helplessly outstretched with his camera flying off in one direction and his binoculars flying off in the other. This is typical park propaganda. Even the tiniest of steaming mud puddles has a billboard beside it with a stern written warning and a terrible picture of, again, a child, falling through an unknown fissure into one of the many boiling pits that kill. Again, cameras and binoculars are flying everywhere and in some of them mothers stand shrieking and pointing at their unfortunate offspring from the safety of the sacred boardwalks. It’s always too late for Jr. though — he’s cooked. It’s a wonder Jr. Squatch and Baby Squatch would even get out of the car on our Yellowstone outings. Actually, though, I think the kids LOVED all this signage. They didn’t have to wonder for a second if maybe I could be trusted, because there were plentiful and extremely clear signs everywhere that settled the issue in no uncertain terms.

    BEAUTY: I’ve been struck dumb with the beauty of it all twice on this trip. First was the approach to Jackson, Wyoming. You’ve been traveling through arid, wind ravaged Wyoming for hours and hours and suddenly you’re in a valley so green and majestic it’s like Shangrila. I thought, “Oh, so THIS is what all the fuss is about.” My mouth just hung open for miles and miles of it. Second was Artist’s Point in the canyon area of Yellowstone. You realize when you get to Artist’s Point that you’re experiencing the live version of THE Yellowstone photograph that you’ve seen countless times, but nothing can prepare you for the grandeur. That huge blue waterfall cascading down into that bright yellow canyon with the towering green conifers and the deep blue big sky defies description. It literally assaults you with beauty. I think if you pitched a tent and lived there for a week you could fill your tank with enough beauty to live a year in Gary, Indiana without complaining.

  2. You said, “pitched a tent”, huh-huh. huh-huh.

    It’s a shame you didn’t mount a buffalo and gallop off, splashing through steaming pools of molten water. That would have shown them ALL!