Saturday’s Frolic In the Hills

Today was the first time I’ve ridden a motorcycle since last Saturday. Until yesterday, the shin muscles of my left leg were so sore, I could barely lift my toes! It’s been a rough weekend, trying to walk around the house, and to and from the mail box, barely able to stand or make my legs swing beneath me.

Saturday morning, I awoke at 6:00 AM to the sound of my clock radio, softly blaring meaningless noise across the bedroom. After shuffling around in the dark for 15 minutes, gathering up some warm and comfy clothes, some food, water, and plastic armor to cover every external surface of my body, I hopped into my car, and drove over to my cousin Mike’s house.

Describing the trip down there would take too long, so let me state that:

  1. It’s amazing how much stuff you can fit in the cab of a truck with three people, and
  2. You regret doing so pretty quick into the trip.

So, after a long trip, we go to Hollister Hills Recreation Area, unloaded three dirtbikes and our gear, and got suited up to ride. We each took turns straining and grunting, kicking madly to get our motorcycles to start, only to have it die when setting off. One problem with wearing multiple layers – the warmest layer is always too hot to wear while kickstarting a grumpy bike.

Thus, it was with reserved elation that we finally set off down the dusty dirt road on a calm warm-up trip, Mike and Christian zipping up ahead, bumping and pushing each other, trying to get each other’s motorcycles to shut off. I followed up the rear, trying to get my dirt-arms back.

You see, sailors have what they call “sea-legs” – that comfortable feeling in the brain and legs, that allows them to walk around a pitching deck without losing balance, or feeling nauseous and barfy. A land-lubber feels disoriented on a boat, being used to solid land that doesn’t move.

A motorcyclist who’s only ever ridden on the street has a similar condition. We’re used to riding on asphalt, that doesn’t move. When you steer, the wheel turns, and the motorcycle follows. However, on the dirt, the ground moves! You turn the wheel, the dirt spins beneath, and the whole vehicle slides around. It takes considerable effort to relax the arms, and back, and just let the motorcycle do what it needs to do on the dirt, trusting that it’ll eventually go where you want it to go, or somewhere similar.

And so it went. We headed into the hills, the crisp morning air blasting off the kickstart-sweat. It’s a tremendously exhilarating feeling to have a motorcycle pull you up a hill, over rocks, across ruts and pits. Things you would expect to toss you off into a thorny bush simply disappear beneath the front wheel, the seat kicks you in the pants, and then the obstacle is behind you. If your arms are loose, and your legs relaxed, the entire motorcycle bucks and tosses below, and you just fly across terrain that’d take hours to traverse on foot.

When we returned to camp for lunch, Christian told me we’d ridden 45 miles of trails. Forty-five miles, I marveled! No wonder my legs were so tired! Try staying on a pogo-stick for 2 hours – that’s about what it was like. But what a way to exhaust oneself, racing up and down hills, popping wheelies, sliding sideways into corners, and generally getting away with what would result in arrest in the city!

After lunch, we headed over to the motocross track, where Mike’s been working on his mad jumping skills. I was somewhat dubious on running the track, but what the heck. We rode over, pulled into the staging area, and watched the traffic. The traffic pulled directly away from us alongside the road, three large jumps in view. It then turned left, up the hill, with more jumps. It wound back down, then up the hill, finally turning back into the start point.

Mike and Christian started up their bikes, and took off onto the track. After watching them, I started mine up, and rode up to the first track. It reminded me of walking down a pier, how it extends away from the ground, but instead of water being five feet below, the pier extends 20 feet into the air, and just stops, and the ground beyond is 30 feet away.

I simply rode up once side, slowly traversed the peak, and back down the other side. This was not for me!

So I instead rode back over to the TT track we passed, and tried that out. It was a flat, windy dirt racetrack, laid out like the outside of an amoeba. This is what I could get into – speed down a long straightaway, slow slightly for a long left-hander, accelerate out into another straight. Hit the brakes hard for a tight 360-degree left, speed into a not-so-tight right, then speed zip into another 360-degree left that puts you back where you started.

The trick was, the hard-packed track was covered with dirt, so if you left the main path and tried to hit the brakes or turn, you’d slide the direction you were going, until hitting something that would either stop you, or let you turn. What a blast!

I joyously put in more laps than I could count, running ‘round and ‘round, until, on the last lap, I strayed into the slippery silt, and the bike started to slide out from under me. No big deal – I just held on, kept steering where I wanted to go, and hoped for the best, but suddenly the bike just stopped, flopped over on the other side, and left me standing, feet splayed widely apart, the bike lying on its side beneath me.

Shoulders heaving with laughter, I lifted the bike, and pushed it over to the rest area – a gazebo-like structure with a picnic table beneath. I took off my helmet and gloves, and sat down on the table to rest, stretch, and figure out if anything was broken. My legs were tired and stiff, and my toes hurt.

I was fine. Bruised both my big toes somehow, had a major shin-splint on my left leg, and lots of really tired muscles from the all-day workout, but nothing broken, pulled, or sprained.

What a fun time, I can’t wait to go back!

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