Saturday, August 13, 2016

At One With Cactus

Stop and Consider the Cactus

Some days, I just want no problems on the ride. Zero incidents. A minimum of mishaps. A total lack of bruises, scraps, cuts, blood, or mayhem. Today was a day like that. I hesitate to call it a rehab ride, because instantly I start singing that I don't want to go to rehab no no no, but it would not be totally inappropriate to think of the goal as just pedaling down the trail without eating the trail facewards.

This goal dictates certain procedures and a way of approaching the ride with caution, and slightly slower speed, than a plain old fun ride. In that spirit, I opted to try out my new kneepads, to get a feel for them. Would they restrict? Would they pinch? Would they overheat? Would they bind?

New joint shields

Kneepads are nice. That's my initial impression. About three months ago, I experienced a bizarre crash on my road bike when I hit some unexpected gravel and just went straight down to the pavement, onto my right knee. The kneecap is an amazing piece of bone shield, I will give it that, and it protected the soft bits while taking quite a beating itself. Then, a couple weeks ago, on my "let's see about getting back into mountain biking ride" up at Desert Vista, my front tire caught a cholla ball and flipped it up straight into my right knee. It felt like a bee sting, and was the gift that kept on giving when I reached down without looking to flick the bee away. Dang. Thanks, cholla ball. 

Both those made me think about kneepads, and after today's try out ride, I think I will keep using them. Maybe not on the road bike, ironically, but definitely on gravelly rocky sketchy mountain bike rides. My knees were happy today. I think it also relates to the feeling on today's ride that I felt pretty good overall for my age and life experience, where most of the parts seemed to work mostly well, and so maybe helping to keep the knees in general working order in case of trail mishap or mayhem seems to make sense. That hard shield gave me a little more confidence.

Slightly different entry route

In other related news, when looking at the map on the new-to-me Trailforks app, I noticed an entrance to Dreamy Draw called "Myrtle Tunnel" that connected with the "Rush Hour" trail that parallels the 51 freeway. I kicked off the trail portion of the ride that way, remembering the tunnel-like experience of riding through the vegetation on the happy side of the freeway noise wall from rides in the dim misty past. This entrance enabled more time on the trail, less on the streets, always welcome.

Pause bench

This spot always seems to draw me to pause and open my senses to the desert around. It comes just before the rocky downhill to Tatum, and often feels like the right place to stop a bit, take stock, breathe, listen, watch, smell. Watch a lizard skitter by. Listen for quail. Inhale the perfume of the desert. Quick check of the bike. Remember to drink water. Wave at the equestrians. Consider the cactus. Alien, spikey things, could I ever be at one with one?

Only pause a few quiet moments, though. The morning heat increases relentlessly, and the fun run down to Tatum calls. Get on, think it through, maintain the focus on zero mayhem. OK, perhaps just a little mayhem, heading downhill, to wake up those muscle memories, to revive those neural paths. After all, rehab has a start date and an end date. There's a time to go slow, and a time to let her rip. Cautiously. With knee pads.

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