Blind Faith

Our night ride was over and the beautiful landscape in Pattee Canyon combined with another great Missoula sunset made the ride perfect. My friend Jill and I just got done riding the Sam Braxton trails and were enjoying slice of pizza (no need to say where).  We had been presented with larch which were yellow contrasting with the dark blue evening sky.

“I really enjoyed the way you have been blogging on the RMVQ legs and combining them with the current day’s events”, Jill remarked as I processed the fact that a blogger that I looked up to actually read my blog.

I realized that I better finish the process that she was referring to and one that I have promised in my last blog. Blogging has been hard to do lately. Not because of any problems with life but the opposite. I have been spending more time with a friend doing what I love. Riding my bike. That takes precedence and my online presence suffers.

There are things I know for certain. And there are things I don’t or cant know. But I have confidence that in time everything will reveal itself and if this week has been a good example then I can not really make any guesses. Riding a mountain bike at night is much like the suspense of life.  You have limited view and everything is focused upon a minimal set of visual data.

But it is all there, exposed, and you know what to expect in the near future. Sometimes a corner in the single-track will appear but you have reasonable time to make the proper adjustments to navigate around. Then there are times when your speed is just too fast for the visual data at hand and the corner becomes a “situation”.

Just as you can see concretely in front of you there is this big unknown that you cant see. The woods make it specially dark and you just have to have faith that when you get to that corner your lighting system will expose it and you will be able to navigate correctly. Its all a part of night riding and the reasons I like it. It is much like life.

Sometimes your lighting system may be a little inadequate or in many cases you forgot to charge the batteries.  But that is why we have friends right? When you are not sure of what lies ahead and kind of freaked out by riding aimlessly into darkness a friend can make all the difference. Specially a friend with bright lights and knowledge of the trails. The magical part of life and why navigation with another person is almost essential. I have come to realize that the most important part of life is navigating with another person.

Night riding into the darkness without that friend can be a mixture of pure scary and complete chaos. Without adequate data navigating can be inaccurate and disabling. Like leg 5 of the RMVQ.

There I was Sunday October 10th at 2 a.m. riding through a Turah neighborhood with the anticipation of a 3,000 foot climb. I was in extreme darkness without hardly any lights to see the way. I left aid station 4 with my lights on emergency backup because my extra battery failed. I was relying on a lighting system that had been burning all night. I fully expected to be navigating by limited moon light halfway through the leg.

Even in complete darkness there comes a moment where you know you have been in a certain place before. Specially when you have been there just 5 minutes before. I stopped my bike and strained my neck towards a street sign. The low light barely lit up the words and after letting my eyes adjust I could see that I had been riding in circles for the last 15 minutes.  Shit, I couldn’t even get out of town. I became discouraged and contemplated throwing in the towel. As I back tracked I realized abandoning the effort was not an option because the lone aid station volunteer was long gone. Alden had gone home to finally get some real shut eye.

Eventually I found the logging road that climbed from Turah to the highlands just East of Missoula. I was heading into a maze of roads in a land at an elevation of around 6,000 feet during the coldest part of the morning. Worst yet my lights were not adequate. I was navigating blindly. So faith kicked in and my toolset of life took over. I carried on into the darkness and up the 2 hour climb. Eventually the bad decision to eat solid food caught up to me as well. I felt awful and once gaining the high point I sat in the middle of the road contemplating life and why the hell I was out there all alone depending upon myself to get back home.

I have been here before. All alone with no data to go on. Hell, I didn’t have the processing power to even evaluate data anyway. I had been on my mountain bike for 19 hours and my brain was just plain shutting down. The only thing I did have was a tremendous amount of faith. I knew eventually this too would pass and I would be writing a blog about it someday.

I laid back and shut my eyes. I dozed off for a moment then a VERY cold gust of wind woke me. It was like a cold hand gently shaking me and I could of swore I heard someone say, “carry on”. My eyes opened suddenly and the stars above me came into view. They were close and it felt like I had floated high into the heavens to be with them. I was shivering violently and knew that if I had fallen asleep too long I could have been in trouble.

Shivering I struggled to focus. My eyes adjusted more and I realized I was looking right at a friend. The big dipper once again. I stood up … or … was helped up. And I rode down the mountain pass with a good friend at my side.

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