These are the days when a cyclist gets desperate. The time change makes riding after work impossible. The cold weather doesn't help. The holiday happenings fill any open time slots you thought you had to train. Holiday food plays a mean spirited roll in your calorie intake and your choice of premium fuel. And spinning on the trainer? Well. That is not as motivational as spinning through the forest or down a long country road now is it?
So when rides are organized that happen to fall perfectly into cracks of opportunity I am granted in life I figure I have a manly man obligation to ride them. No matter how insane or absurd the ride may be. At this time of the year... I must go! I need it!
And so comes the "Last Ride on Earth" organized by the good folks in UC3 SORBA and Taylor Graham. Drawing from the impending doom forecast by our Mayan friends down in Mexico (back when there were Mayans, which should tell you something about their predictions) my friends created a reason to ride that won't ever occur again. At least not this month. An apocalyptic night ride with lights. My children like to call them "Stealth Missions". They graciously opened it up to all riders and not just SORBA/IMBA members of which I am. But I do believe that non-members could be subject to woeful scorn in the highest degree because unlike most Unions we operate in the woods, and on trails... where there's no collective bargaining. Just scorn. And I personally believe that if you can't help with the trails physically because of your schedule or something then you should help monetarily by donating to SORBA/IMBA.
When the day of the ride came the weather turned mean. Georgia's own wintry apocalypse blew in on us and brought temps in the 20's and 40 MPH winds that made it feel like 10 degrees. The epic nature of this ride was escalating. I truly didn't think too many people would show up. Many lesser men chose to ride earlier in the day when the temperature was better and they could actually see the trees blown down over the trail before they ran into them. Obviously this flies in the face of our mindless, edge of reason plan to ride when no sane person would. I have to admit, the worse the weather got during the day the more excited I became. And I wasn't alone.
When I got off work at 7:30pm I grabbed a Chic-fil-a sandwich and headed over to the Nancytown parking lot in Cornelia, Georgia. I got there at 8pm and there was only one truck. It was Science Mega-Man Trent Smith and a friend. They had been out there since 4pm and were hungry. I bid them farwell and began changing into my battle gear.
|The Last Day on Earth Ride, 9PM, Dec. 21st, 2012|
Soon my truck was surrounded by others just as crazy and excited as I was. I didn't get everyone's name but I did manage to get everyone in a picture or two. Taylor Graham ran around thanking guys for showing up. We had 13 riders and one mascot named Roxy. I filmed the prayer before we started.
When I looked back on occasion I was treated to the sight of all the guys snaking through the trails with their lights. We dismounted several times for trees and stopped after being redirected completely by a fallen tree. At this point there were only 5 of us off the front and rather than get cold again we decided to press on.
Sammy Arial stayed behind to guide the rest of the group around the tree. We rode and talked and climbed for another 20 minutes. After a long downhill we popped out onto a road. I was completely lost. But everyone seemed to be content with our location so I wasn't worried. Little by little everyone started popping out of the woods.
Everyone accept Ben. I counted 12 riders. We were missing Ben. He was with our leading group when we left Sammy but evidently he got dropped on a climb and took a wrong turn. I felt terrible. Taylor quickly rode back up the trail and I instinctively followed him. We climbed all the way back up to the first cross road and as we did I began regretting my choice to come. It wasn't very smart for me to be there. I didn't know the trails. If Taylor and I split up to search I'd be just as lost as Ben is.
I told Taylor that I could at least ride back the way we came and sweep the course. It was the easiest choice by far. Taylor had to ride up Tower Mountain. If Ben wasn't there he'd have to get on Dicks Hill Pkwy and ride back down to Nancytown. Turns out that's exactly what he did.
I made my way back to the parking lot and found our wayward Ben there with several of the other guys. They had looped their way back around and were laughing about the adventure.
Taylor showed up and checked on everyone then headed out to join the few remaining riders who wanted more. From what I gather he and Bill Mashburn stayed out there until 12 midnight. Very nice.
In hindsight I should have gone with Taylor since he knew the trails so well. But everyone else was done and I had an hour drive ahead of me so I chickened out. But I got 2 hours of intense riding in on the last day of earth and felt really great. Everyone was smiling and happy as we packed up to go thaw out.