Currently I’m sitting in front of my computer (obviously). But what is significant about that statement is it comes on the heels of cleaning up, showering, and putting away my gear after a mountain bike ride in the rain. You know how it goes. Seemingly more time is spent cleaning, de-layering, and putting stuff away after the ride than actual time out on the trail. That’s part of life for many months of the year here in the Pacific Northwest.
Was it a good trip? Would I classify it as a good ride? What then is a good trip or ride? Are those even fair questions?
Sometimes the answer to those questions immediately after you get off the trail is a resounding “NO!” I remember during one 24 hour team race lying in my tent. It must’ve been two or three in the morning. Outside was a torrential downpour. And I mean DOWNPOUR. The rain relentlessly pounded my tent. I was already drenched from my night lap. It was a miserable lap too. Not only was it raining, but dry wash beds became running streams. Oh, and the light I borrowed from a friend died halfway through my lap. Luckily I had a backup headlamp used for hiking. Even though I could see dimly a few feet in front of me I was able to complete the lap.
But there I was … soaking wet, tired, frustrated … actually angry, covered in mud, and hungry. And then the rain started dripping through my tent. To make matters worse, if there was actually a level of rain intensity beyond a “torrential downpour” the rain kicked into that gear. Through the pounding rain and the thin walls of my tent wall I heard innumerable voices from other nearby tents angrily curse the rain. One voice pierced through the rain … “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!”
After a miserable night in the damp darkness of my tent the rain eventually stopped. The sun crawled over the ridgeline sending its tendrils over our makeshift camp. My last lap was dry and I was elated. With all of my possessions covered in mud after the race I hastily shoved everything into the back of my SUV and drove home.
That is not a good trip. It was a GREAT trip.
As they say … time makes our memories golden. While I was miserable in the moment to this day that ranks as one of my most memorable and meaningful rides or races. As I scan my memory for other “Top 10” rides there’s a common denominator. They were filled with inclement weather, suffering, pain, and in the end overcoming. Whether I hobbled back to the trailhead with blood gushing down my leg or coasted to a check point with a destroyed derailleur these trips and rides stand out as memorable. They punctuate the horizon of my memory among hundreds of other rides.
Even today’s ride had some of those traits. While there weren’t any suffering or mechanical issues, but because the weather is turning colder and wetter it added a refreshing element I had missed during the hot and dry summer. I had to think through layers, staying dry, and being more thoughtful with what I packed. Foul weather can take a mundane or routine ride and turn it into an adventure. While I don’t relish leaky tents, broken components, or wounds requiring ER visits and stitches I do value the stories they produce.
What then is a good trip? One that begs us to tell its story.
Words by Sean Benesh
Founder of Loam Coffee