I'm driving along a wash-board logging road in a pick up truck full of friends. The box is stuffed with our bikes and seating space in the cab comes difficult between helmets and knee pads wreaking with the scent of a thousand summer rides. It's a classic scene, but today feels special as we make our way along this routine road. The sun is hanging low and the sky is awash with a cloudy pink and blue glow. Each and every breath brings about a sting deep inside my lungs and a thin frost lines the window's edge as I daydream about how rad this ride is sure to be. I am finally at home in the Loops again and the autumn season is firing. I haven't got anywhere to be, and there is no place in the world I'd rather be than right here at home.
It's only a short pedal from truck to trail head. Just long enough to remember how soft and silent the forest can be during this changing season. And despite having to climb a short bit on my dedicated downhill bike, the familiarity of this trail feels endearing. After a full season on the road I'm realizing how much I missed these casual, close to home laps. I spent the better part of my summer in pursuit of new adventures and slowly realized that often times, the greatest adventures of all can be found close to home.
I've been anxiously awaiting these rides since the first snow flakes of last fall. I've become expecting of the trail conditions that typically surface in October, but in no way does that ease my desire to attack the trails in their dieing days. So I drop into a forest ablaze with a million shades of orange and yellow leaves that litter the trail and blind my usual lines along the brown stripe I'm meant to follow. They've exploded into every crevice of my peripherals. Crunching beneath my tires and delicately swirling as they fall from branches before me. Soggy patches under the cover of shadow surprise me as I slash past them. I can only imagine how brilliant this exhibit must appear chasing me down the trail and fluttering in the air behind me.
It almost slipped my mind, the way that frost will sort of fluff the trail. But I am remembering as I effortlessly pump and pop along this leaf ridden path to the tune of tires thumping in the loamy earth. I am weightless and surrounded by the radiance of tall black trees leaning naked over-top this valley. I'm wound up with shred and in this moment I feel a flow that I dare not interrupt. So I carry on past resting points as corners carve themselves and my tires discover traction in the least likely ways. It feels as though I'm dragging my bar through turns and casting mossy shadows to the backside of berms. The world should be whizzing by at this fast pace, but everything pans out crystal clear and slow motion.
I cannot recall a rehearsal of this song and dance as the ride continually pushes closer to perfection. But in all the years I've been crushing laps down this winding forest gully I don't believe I have ever traveled at such speed or with such fluidity. Then again, this sort of next level trail smashing is what this season supports. Non-stop top to bottom laps regardless of frozen fingers and toes.
Finally, I emerge from the gallery I've been searching for all year and resurface beneath the grey skies and brown plains of the river valley. The trail has come to an end and the eternity of shredding that swallowed me whole only moments ago has resulted in another painful puff and pant on a cold fall evening. On these short days a ride goes by fast, but its glory will last forever. With the lap I've been longing for all season finally in the bag, my only remaining hope for this season is that I don't wake up to winter in the morning.
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