I promise, I’ll get you a real update soon. You hear a lot of “I’ve been busier than a one _______ _________ in a ___________.” (everyone can use their own favorite variation) running around, but in my case, I’ve actually been quite busy. I had family come to town, we finalized some stuff on that mountain bike trail, and I got a new job. I have managed to ride a few times as well. But all I really want to say in this post is, I owe you an update, and you’ll get it. Soon. Promise.
I broke a long streak of not being able to ride trails today. I won’t go on about how bad the weather has been, and what our clay soil is like when it’s been wet, or worse, when it freezes and thaws. No, instead, I’m going to tell you it was about 40 F when I started riding, and about 55 F when I finished. I rode a trail that is arguably one of MidTN’s most popular, Lock 4. There’s a reason it’s popular. It’s sweet trail, largely free of roots and small traction compromising rocks unless the section is specifically supposed to feel that way, for instance the Jeep trail climb. I took a picture looking back down that.
The jeep trail is a little bit of double track rock section up what passes for a hill at Lock 4, which is largely flat, relatively speaking. Don’t let me turn you off on the trail, it’s not flat. It’s just that 700 feet of climbing and descending in 7 miles isn’t hilly by my standards. What this trail does is flow. Again, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t one of those new trails that builders are taking so much flack for, with people calling them characterless, etc. No, this trail flows because it’s just the way the land lays here. The best way to demonstrate this might be to go ahead and post a picture of a feature called Rolling Table.
The reality is, this is plush single track, it’s fast, it rolls, there are lots of little rollers in the trail to hop over, lots of lips and berms on the edges of turns to catch and catapult yourself through, and even a few technical rocky places to negotiate. Unlike last time I was out here, I didn’t see a lot of wildlife on the trails, but it’s not unusual to see white tail deer, turkeys, and ducks and geese gallor here. Yes, Lock 4 is right next to a lake, and a significant amount of trail borders the lake.
To say I had a blast for an hour or so today riding (and re-riding some) loops out here would qualify as understatement. When I got on the first loop, and opened up, and started whipping around turns and hopping over the rolling features in the trail it was almost like I’d been holding my breath since the last time I was on a trail, and finally, I was breathing again. It didn’t matter that I was alone. It made no difference that the woods were still and quiet, like the trees and the animals were hold their breath too. It was therapy. It was needed, it was deserved, it was necessary, and it was the ultimate luxury.
As a bonus, although I rode alone, I got to the trail relatively early. There was only one other person there when I arrived, and somehow, rounding through the loops, I never encountered them, and they weren’t back yet when I arrived back at the parking lot. There I did find a few other riders unloading, eager to know what conditions were like. Aside from a few soft spots (when you encounter some mud on a loop named “the sink hole…”) it was perfect. It was a one time shot, because it’s raining tonight, but the trail was perfect today. One gentleman struck up a conversation with me. He was quite happy the trail was open, as he was trying to ride enough to improve his result in the six hour race that’s held here in the fall. He told me this past fall, he got 5 laps in with a time of just over 5 hours. His goal this year is to get 6 laps inside the 6 hour limit. Now, I can lap straight through in 53 minutes, my first lap out. I’ve never bothered to time my second one. But I can tell you I think 5 laps is pretty good. I figured this fellow to be in his 50s when we started talking, but the longer we talked, the more I began to suspect I had undershot his age a bit. I finally asked him how old he was – would you believe 70? Seriously. And he was every bit as giddy as a school boy…or me….to get to ride today. Think about that for a second. I find it inspiring. I’m more than half way there, and I hope I can do as well as he is at his age. I’d say that I’ve hoped that he had a good ride today, but the fact is, I know he did.
This time of year, in the area around Nashville, TN the weather is, at best, damp. Most of the time, it seems downright soggy. That means it’s not the best time for getting out and riding single-track. Every once in a while you get a day that allows a dry road ride. Occasionally it gets cold enough that an industrious person can get up early in the morning and ride the trails while they’re still frozen. But for the most part, it’s paved bike paths, dodging puddles, and braving winds that just don’t seem to quit. That’s why this post is a categorized as a musing rather than a ride report, or something such as that.
You see, days like today that I think about rides like the one I took this picture on. Oh, it was cold that day. But it was a fantastic ride. I got to check out some recently rehabilitated trail on Lookout Mountain, up in the GW. Just a few miles away was also some slick flow coming down Narrow Back Mountain. Yep, checked that out too. Rides like that stick out in my mind for a lot of reasons. First, I’m not usually the guy holding a ride up. Normally, in a group, I’m closer to the middle than the back. On this ride, my flat-lander was showing the whole time. I had a killer time with some of the climbs. I kept up on the downhills though.
Another reason is there isn’t a lot of trail like this in middle Tennessee (affectionately known as MidTN). For a long time, I thought the problem was a lack of public land. Growing up in central Virginia, I took the huge tracts of public land there for granted. Parks, and national forests everywhere. Around here, things are a little different. But there is still a lot of public land. We just don’t get the idea that the land is available for public use. It turns out that notion is largely wrong. When relationships are built, and understandings and agreements reached, public land can be used by the public. We have land capable of supporting epic class trails. Rolling hills, forest covered ridges, hollows with flowing creeks that fill with fog on those crisp fall mornings.
It brings to mind the importance of building relationships. It’s easy to get on a bike and go ride a trail that’s already there. Many people do just that. They let someone else build the trails, usually those same people maintain the trails, and everyone else just rides on them, and wonders why there aren’t more cool trails. The answer is because of relationships, or lack thereof. See, if those people got involved in maintaining trail, it would give everyone more time to think about new trail. The new connections brought on board by the new people might be useful in locating more land managers, with whom relationships could be established, ultimately allowing more trails to be built. Sure, it takes time, and all relationships take work, and trail building is it’s very only kind of labor of love, but new trails benefit entire communities.
So it turns out instead of thinking about riding, I’m thinking about relationships. But the ultimate goal of those relationships is to give more people more places to take more pictures like this one. So take a look at it. Think about it. Do you know someone who does trail work? Do you know a land manager? Do they know each other? If not, maybe you can take the first step to opening the next door, and introduce them.