Sunday, June 18, 2006

Q. When Is A Bike Ride Like the Oregon Trail? A. When You Are Completely M/F Lost.

KN and I decided over memorial day weekend that we would bike the ten mile loop around the lake. Earlier this semester I would normally ride about 10 miles, so even though I'm currently woefully out of shape, it didn't seem completely out of the realm of possibility. Like complete fools KN and I set out full of hope and optimism, only to be crushed under the harsh heel of reality.

The first 5 miles or so went well. We were humming, or rather, puffing along when the trail dropped off into a park full of kids playing little league, and for the life of us we couldn't find where the trail picked back up.

A boy and girl rode by and we asked them if they knew where the trail was. The girl told us to follow her, which required biking down some alleys to some magic porthole where the trail reappeared. We followed the girl a ways and she assured us she was "going way slow".

"Way slow" turned out to be muy faster than KN and I could muster so we told her to go ahead. She gave us directions for the other "tricky part" and then she vanished like an apparition that leads you into the forest to die.

KN and I, now moving a bit slower, continued along the trail until it dumped us out in a taqueria parking lot in el barrio. Most of the trail is scenic and beautiful along the "lake" (which is really just the dammed up Colorado River); taqueria parking lot is scenic in a different sense. We were not alarmed as there was a runner ahead of us who ran up this enormous hill so we knew what general direction to head. At this point KN and I got off our bikes as the hill was too steep, or rather, we/I was too out of shape to ride up it.

When we crested the hill we found ourselves on I-35 and there was not another person in sight. All we saw was a mile marker that read 8 and 1/2, but it gave no other information. We were ecstatic to see the marker as that meant we must be close to the end of the ten mile loop; we were less ecstatic to realize we didn't know where the hell the trail was so we could ride the last mile-and-a-half.

We rode across I-35: nada. We started riding up and down the access rode -- nothing there either. We were now out of water, had been out biking for at least an hour and a half, and since it was around 3pm it was muy hot. I admit I was getting a touch panicky.

As we rode down one side of the access rode, we passed a cross (clearly for someone killed in a car accident) that said "Anthony." For those of you who've played The Oregon Trail perhaps this will have the same significance for you that it had for me.

The Oregon Trail is a game where you play a pioneer heading west on the trail and you have to hunt game and what not to stay alive. However, half the time you drown, run out of food, or get dysentery. Invariably in the game you'll come across grave stones of others who "died" on the trail. Usually your character dies promptly after running across these, and once I saw the Anthony cross I began to feel even more apprehensive.

KN and I were trying to find someone to get directions from, but only panhandlers were on the road. About this time KN started noticing drug paraphenalia on the ground and said "hey, is this a crack vial?" At one point she noticed something strange on the ground. She picked up an object which turned out to be a very attractive glass hash pipe. As neither of us had any money, I told her we should probably take it in case we needed to barter our way out of this situation. In the Oregon Trail, one would often have to barter with an Indian to show you a shallow place in the river to cross.

About this time, KN saw another biker at the intersection. She waved to him to get his attention, and he cheerfully waved back a greeting. I wanted to shout "That was a wave of distress you nimrod!" but it's not like he would have heard me. Not about to lose our only hope, KN then rode through traffic like she was Evil Kneivel to get directions from oblivious biker man before he could speed away.

It turned out that apparently we needed to ride about a mile away from 1-35 to catch the trail again, but we would again cut through some shady parking lots. Um, how about a trail marker? An arrow? Hell, an Indian guide?

We found the trail again and came to a bridge. We stopped to look at a map posted near the bridge (which would have been ever so helpful about a mile ago). We did not know which bridge on the map corresponded to our location as there was no helpful "you are here" indicator. Being tired, dehydrated, and irritated I didn't feel much like figuring it out. KN saw an old man and asked him how to get back to where we parked. He told us to ride over the bridge, catch the trail on the other side, and all would be well.

I did not feel like riding across the bridge. If this were the Oregon Trail, we could just caulk the wagon and float it across. The old man ran away and KN said "If I'd known we were going to need a Jedi to guide us, I'm not sure I would have done this."

Word KN, word.

We rode across the bridge, only to see a bunch of stairs leading down to the trail. At this point I just felt like somebody was fucking with me. Stairs?! You have to be kidding. We rode along the sidewalk about 25 feet above the trail, but afraid of getting lost again, we finally decided to walk, or more appropriately, skid down the hill which was like a 60 degree angle.

The last few miles are a haze, hallucinated blur. When we finally returned to where we had parked the car, I think we had been out for about 3 hours total. Being starving/dehydrated we went to Kirby Lane to celebrate our return to civilization. Our waiter asked us if we had been in a bike race.

"Not exactly, but we did manage to ride a ten mile loop in fifteen miles," I explained.

This week KN and I decided to undertake an activity we are both better at: drinkin'.

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