Its been a slow week. I have been in a funk of sorts – been having a real hard time getting up to go to the gym in the morning, things like that. I didnt do very much this week- a whopping five miles of running and a half hour on the spin bike. I did make an attempt to ride last night with Dom and Mike at Brandywine, and you’ll see as you read further, the gods were conspiring against us.
The story starts out with something as simple as trying to get home from work. I bagged out of the office a bit early, in order to get down to Brandywine by 6- sounds simple enough, right? Everything was going to plan until I inadvertently got on the wrong train- the R2 instead of the R3. Problem is, I did not realize that I was on the wrong train until I was at the Eddystone Station(I was engrossed in my book and I had my mp3 player on; I couldnt hear the conductor announcing each of the stops). I happened to look up form my book just in time to see an Amtrak train fly by my train, and then I quickly came to the conclusion that I was not on the R3, because Amtrak trains do not run on my line.
I hopped off the train, and quickly got my bearings. I wasnt too far from my gym, so I started walking towards Chester Pike, while at the same time, I called the wife and asked her to come pick me up.
So, fast forward and I am finally at my car at the RIGHT train station. I am running late but I am still on schedule to get to Brandywine around 6:00. The sun is shining and its beautiful outside, and the conditions are contrary to what the forecast had predicted when I checked before I left the office.
I get down to the park, and when I arrive, I see Dom’s truck parked, but no Dom. I am figure he had gotten to the park early and decided to head out on his own for a bit until Mike and I got there. No more then 5 minutes after I arrive, Mike comes bolting into the lot on his bike. As we’re getting ready, Dom finally heads back to the parking lot, but there is a problem – he’s got a flat.
So, he starts changing his flat tire, and I give him a spare tube, but the problem is that the holes in his rims are drilled for Presta valves and I only had a tube with a Schraeder valve. If you dont know what a Schraeder or a Presta valve is, google it. It’ll be easier than me trying to explain it. I am not sure if I am spelling the word “Schraeder” correctly.
So without making this story any more convoluted than it needs to be, we decide that the easiest way to remedy this situation is for me to remove the tube from my front wheel, which has a Presta valve, and replace it with my spare tube with the Schraeder valve (my rims are drilled wide enough to accept either valve styles). Dom could then install the Presta tube into his wheel and everyone would walk away happy. Simple plan in nature, extremely difficult in execution. The picture clearly shows the two of us on the tube-switching exercise.
You see, Dom rides a bike that has “tubeless” wheels. Unlike conventional wheels, which have an inner tube installed within the tire, some of the newer mountain bikes run “tubeless.” The tire is sealed to the rim- there is no tube to replace. There are a variety of reasons why one would want to run “tubeless” and that can be explained later, but I want to stay on track with this story, because I am getting bored typing it.
For whatever reason, we couldn’t get the friggen tire back on the rim once we got the tube in the tire. Dom broke three tire irons in the process of trying to shoe-horn the tire onto the rim.
Now, while all this nonsense was happening, the skies had gone from sunny, to cloudy to downright nasty. A storm was coming – that much was obvious. We were racing against the clock to see if we could squeeze a few miles in before the rain came. With each passing minute, we were loosing the race against the clock. Finally, Dom got to a point where he realized that try as he might, he wasnt going to get the tire on the rim. By this point, the sky was almost black, the wind was howling, and it was starting to spit.
Mike and I said f*ck it, lets do it. It was obvious that we were going to get drenched. As we left the lot, the thunder was booming and the sky was periodically lit by bolts of lightning – perfect mountain bike conditions. It started to become even more obvious that there was a good chance that my @ss was going to get hit by lightning.
As soon as we hit the trailhead, the skies opened up and it started to pour. We were cruising along a piece of singletrack adjacent to a corn field – I was about ten feet behind Mike- and suddenly, I hear this awful booming cracking noise and I see a tree branch come crashing down about 15 feet in front of Mike. We both come screeching to a halt, and we’re both screaming our heads off.
Our reaction was a combination of shock, and the pure awesomeness of riding in a lightning storm and having a tree branch fall squarely in front of your path, and knowing that if you were riding just a tiny bit faster, that you would be under that branch. After the shock of the moment had passed, we continued on, and the rain started coming down in sheets. We rode a section of twisty single track that parallels the Brandywine River, and with each passing foot, the water level on the trail got higher and higher. I couldnt see a friggen thing from the mud splatter from my front wheel hitting my face. We finally popped out by the bridge on Thompsons Bridge Road and decided that it was time to head back – enough is enough. The thunder was really cracking, and the thought of riding next to a large body of water in the middle of an electrical storm was starting to loose its fun factor. We started heading back on a double-track trail that had turned into a stream. Its normally a fast piece of trail, but I had to really take it easy, because now, I was practically blind – the rain was hitting my head on, directly in the face, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
Finally, we popped out where we had started and headed back to the lot. Mike hitched a ride with me back to his house, and I immediately headed home to dry off. Talk about a fun ride home: I didnt bring a towel with me, so I had to ride home in a pool of my own dampness, covered head to toe in mud. Awesome.
So, if you thought I was kidding about the gods not wanting us to ride thing, you can see that I wasn’t kidding at all, and luckily, they didnt send a bolt of greasy hot lightning straight at me, just to prove the point.