Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Mountain Bike Mud Madness


It hasn't rained for a couple of weeks. No, those clouds saved up their drops especially for Mother's Day, knowing that Chad and Nimue had agreed that I could get out for a rare bike ride on a weekend day. What to do, what to do? Since Chad had just installed brand-new extra-grippy tires on my mountain bike, I took it up for some mud madness fun up at Long Ridge and Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserves.


On the ridge yesterday there was every type of non-winter weather imaginable: fog, mist, full sun, drizzle, out-and-out downpour, sun+mist, sun+rain, wind, etc. Also mud. Sticky mud, grippy mud, clay-ey mud, mud full of half-decomposed sticks, slippery mud, splatty mud, sloppy mud, gloppy mud. Mud, mud, the mud mud. I have to say, the new tires performed quite well -- between being a little wider than the old ones, knobbier, and just plain newer, I reveled in the much-improved connection with the ground, despite said ground being mud, and rode further than I had planned given the rain.

At one point, I had to stop and investigate a horrible noise coming from the back wheel, only to find that the entire area surrounding the back brakes was encased in a sticky mud cement with the occasional chunk of branch to vary the texture. It was like the bike had somehow decided it needed a protective coating and deliberately accreted armor like a caddisfly larva making its case. One of these wood chunks rubbed against the wheel, making the disconcerting noise. There was also a layer of glop several inches thick completely encasing the cog that sticks down from the rear derailleur. I'm really not sure how the chain had continue to move, much less shift, in this condition (the stuff was approximately the texture of cold chocolate chip cookie dough), but it had been functioning just fine. At any rate, I hunted around until I found a stick that was both narrow and rigid enough to scrape out the worst of it; while I was in the process of this I encountered the only other mountain bikers I saw that afternoon. They asked if everything was ok, and then just laughed in sympathy upon finding that I was looking for the appropriate stick with which to de-mud the back wheel and drivetrain. Once the back of the bike was (sort of) cleaned off, my shoes and pedals needed the same treatment.

Besides the two mud-splattered mountain bikers, I saw a couple of hikers, a couple of people setting up a picnic in the fog for their cozy-blanket-wrapped aged mother, deer, a veritable explosion of quail, and lots of wildflowers, which included the red pea pictured below. Not native, but pretty nonetheless. (Notice the beads of water which really would prefer to be on the ground making the mud multiply.)


The flower/mud/Mother's Day juxtaposition seems somehow apt as yesterday Nimue gave me a bouquet of flowers from the school garden; the day before, she decided to excavate a giant mudpit in the middle of the back lawn where I had pulled up some weeds but hadn't yet reseeded the grass. "But Mom, you didn't tell me I couldn't do that!" Argh. Happy Mother's Day.

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