Before I go any further, I have to let all of you know some exciting news. I’ve cancelled my trip! I’ve met this really special girl. She is so beautiful and funny and smart and everything. You all told me not to fall in love, well I did it, dammit. And now I’m staying in Ashland to live with my true love, Solana.
I am looking into getting a more permanent job here. Bike safety is great but it doesn’t provide enough hours. She is a massage healer and whispers chants while she massages your back. Her soothing voice and the warm smell of the incense creates the most decadent experience. Here’s another look at her beautiful face!
Gotcha! She’s hideous. I would never be caught dead with a creature so foul. Mustache? Hairy chest? Blegh. Those pictures are of me preparing my costume pre-race last weekend.
Since I got to Ashland I kept hearing about this great race called The Siskiyou Challenge. It was a 5-leg relay race with an 11K run, 3K paddle (kayak, single-canoe or paddling surfboard), a 24.5 mile road bike, a 9.5 mile uphill mountain bike, and a 5K run to the finish line. In between each leg teams had to pass a bracelet instead of a baton. From when I first heard about it I was totally interested but it cost $50 to register. I don’t have that kind of money right now. Gotta go to the trip. Well my co-worker, Egon, wasn’t feeling very well two nights before the race and asked me to take his spot. Mountain Biking! I immediately said yes without thinking that I had never really mountain biked. I’ve raced cross, and I’ve raced short track. But none of those are as technical as true mountain biking. But I can handle a challenge, especially if it involves a bike.
The first step was to get a bike ready. I had the mountain bike that I found but I needed to change the cables and the chain so I set to work on that right quick. Plus, the wheels are not strong enough for true mountain trails so I grabbed my touring wheels and put some mountain bike tires (the ones I’m taking on my tour). I was all excited for the bike until I did this. I found out that I had a broken spoke on my touring wheels. It was on the non-drive side, which is better, but still not good. Once a spoke breaks it will keep on breaking. And I’m not even out of Oregon yet! I’m not going to have the ability to build wheels on the road so replacing them will be very, very expensive. The whole thing brought me back to my discussion on Karma. I’ve replaced the spoke and right now all is well, but we’ll see once the bike is loaded.
Egon told me that I must – must ride the course before the race. I was stoked. He’s telling me I have to ride before I race, as in more riding? Alright, fine, I guess. The only problem with that was that I didn’t have anyone to show me the route, and the only time I had available was dark. But night riding is something I have always been interested in. I grabbed a map of the route and armed with a front light and headlamp, headed off after a great dinner of locally grown chicken, salad, bread (it comes from a bush, okay?) and cookies. Like I said, I was alone and in the dark and couldn’t read or even see signs. I started out taking a big, long uphill wrong turn. It was a heavy gravel road that felt way too wild to be part of the route. I turned around and found the true route which really wasn’t any flatter, but at least it was more tame. The moon lit my path and the small stretch that had streetlights certainly helped me see my way. Once I dipped over the mountain away from the city and moon I got a little scared. I didn’t want to get lost and I still have that weak fear of wild animals. Along the climb I saw a few eyes reflecting in the trees and my fears were assuaged. I guess it makes sense. I am more afraid of the unknown than what I can see. I got to thinking and, you know what, I would rather fight a bear than a deer. Sure, bears are ferocious and have big teeth and claws, but at least it is a close range fight. I can use my agility to get around the bear and stab it in the back of the head. A deer will charge at you with razor horns and run right through you and wear you as a hat. However, I know that deer are way more docile and there is little to no chance of me fighting a deer.
I finally finished the 2.5 mile steep climb and got ready for the downhill. At the dinner, before I left, one of the racers told me that one of the trails is extremely technical and requires advanced, if not expert skills. So I start heading downhill in the dark over the first trail, Caterpillar Loop, and am having the time of my life going over its roller-coaster dips and hairpin turns. Right away I started laughing and saying to myself, “This is awesome. I can’t wait for tomorrow!” It was such a blast and the thrill of my night fear made it even more exciting. I kept along the trail and caught glimpses of the race signs paving the way. All of a sudden some dude in a top hat appears from behind a tree talking on his cell phone. I got spooked and said hello to him to calm him. I don’t know if he even saw me. Totally bizarre.
Next up, was the BTI trail. As soon as I got onto the trail I came across some pretty fresh bear poops. Not only did I have to worry about surviving the scary trails in the blind night, but I had to worry about a bear attack. The BTI was the trail that everybody warned me about. It was tough. Tight turns over steep drops that were totally rutted out and washboard. I learned the benefit of lowering your seat for mountain biking. I tried to bust skids on the turns so I wouldn’t fly off the trail, but my seat would launch me in the air as I put my foot down and would flip me in the air. Images of flying off my bike, breaking my leg, and having a bear eat me alive flitted across my eyes.
I got out of the BTI with only one minor crash and came to a T without any markings. The map I had seemed to go to the left so that’s where I went. It was a tight section with huge rocks that I narrowly avoided and branches that scraped my shoulders. I did not like it one bit. It dropped me off onto a gravel road that I thought for certain was correct. I followed it downhill and it dead-ended at an official-looking gate emblazoned with a NO TRESPASSING sign. I turned around and went uphill to see if the road looped around and went back to town. But I kept going higher along a creek that didn’t have a road on the other side. I was lost. I had no idea where I was. I turned around again and searched for the trail I came off. I couldn’t find it and once again ran into the gate. I checked my phone to see if I could call my friends for rescue but I had no service. I could feel panic building up my spine. I rode back up the road and searched diligently for the trail. I found a different opening than the one I had come out upon, and made my way back to the BTI and eventually found my way back to town. Solo night-riding for a first time mountain bike experience is not recommended but absolutely one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever done on a bike.
The next morning was the race so I tested out my drag wear. I was on a team of all women called Twisted Sisters. Since I was the only dude I needed to somehow transform to be a part of the team. A friend of the team let me borrow a tank top, bra, skirt, and I got knee-high socks and frilly arm things from Lo. Asa, Lo’s partner and my roommate, set our alarms early for the race. He was on a different team and the race started 7:30. Earliest race I’ve ever been in. At the kick-off party everybody commented on my costume and said I was super hot. I’ve never felt so attractive and wanted in my whole life. I think I shall dress like a woman more often.
I met my team and drank some coffee provided by the good folks at Rogue Valley Roasters (more on them once I resume the travelogue).
After the race started I went home and took an hour-long power nap since I wasn’t going to race for quite some time. There was a lot of miles in between me and my mountain climb.
I got to my starting point and waited with the other mountain bikers. The first road racer came in and I started stretching and waited. And waited. And waited. That first roadie came in a whole ten minutes before 2nd place…and he did the entire race by himself! Asa came in from his road leg. I asked him if he had seen my teammate and as I did everybody around me shouted, “Go! Go! That’s your teammate there!” I hopped on my bike and grabbed the bracelet and took off.
I didn’t plan on passing anybody. It had been a good three minutes since the last person had come in. Well, fortunately I was one of the youngest racers out there and passed 15 people! After every pass I said to myself, “Okay, where’s number 9? Where’s number 12? C’mon, where are you 14?” At the peak of the leg, I jumped off my seat and lowered it for the downhill portion. Once I did so the skirt I was wearing kept getting caught in the wheel so I stripped it off and tossed it to a course marshal. Then came the rest of the downhill and the dreaded BTI…and I frickin’ killed it! Maintained momentum, never had a stutter and passed multiple people.
It was a great race and a great day. I came home and passed out after a fun after party where I got a free message. Up next I will update you with the rest of my travelogue, and my first opinions of Ashland.