Monday, May 22, 2006

Another Ned Adventure

I wanted to do another epic Nederland adventure, and I decided to spare my car, taking the bus up instead. It was a very... interesting experience.

It was early on a Sunday morning, 8am to be exact, and I was standing at the bus station waiting for the 8:10 to Ned. A bus pulled up, and the driver got off in a huff, catching my attention right away. He was built like a beer barrel, round in every regard. He oozed "East Coast" out of every pore. I can't tell East Coast accents apart, but my best guess was New Joisey. He was obviously deeply irritated, and with a noise of annoyance, began operating the exterior wheelchair lift. At the top of the lift was a guy I've seen around Boulder and Denver almost as long as I can remember. He's basically a "professional homeless person." He scoots around in a battered wheelchair, with all these hand-lettered signs about how he was injured in "the war," and was burned over large portions of his body, etc. His face, indeed, does look pretty scarred. I don't want to cast doubt on the fact that he's not exactly cut out for holding a job, so he's doing the best he can. But I've heard rumors that he actually has a home in Denver, along with a wife and kids. His panhandling on the 16th Street Mall and the Pearl Street Mall is so lucrative that he seems to be making a decent living. He's definitely been around Boulder for at least 16 years in this exact state, virtually unchanged, because he was one of the first people I noticed when I moved here.

Anyway. He was being let down the wheelchair lift, but he was actually standing up next to his chair. I could tell that "Vinny" the bus driver thought he was a total fraud. I spent a few minutes pondering how Americans have an ingrained disrespect for people who don't work for a living. And lots of homeless folks I've talked to (while trying to photograph them for stories) have no interest in working. For them, panhandling in wealthy places like Boulder and downtown Denver is good enough to sustain them.

So the bus driver let the homeless guy out, grunted at me to load my bike, then stomped off to the station to announce the Nederland bus. So I loaded Bubba up:

There were now two hippies waiting to get on, as well... a man and a woman who didn't seem to know each other. And here I thought everyone in Nederland knew each other. Hmmm. The driver got on, changed the readout on the bus from Boulder Local to Nederland, rolled his roundness into the driver's seat, and then finally looked at us like we were bugs to incinerate with the magnifying glasses of his eyes. Whoa. Bad vibes, dude. And it's only 8am on a Sunday, for pete's sake. I made one last check on Bubba while the hippies get on. Vinny yelled at the female hippie for not having her student ID. He made no comment to me as I got on. Since I'm prone to carsickness, I sat in the front seat across from Vinny. We pulled away from the station, and this is fascinating: as we entered Boulder Canyon, Vinny actually crossed himself. No shit!! Spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch. Then kissed his fingers. I stared at him in amazement.

Turns out he's a shitty driver. One of those supremely annoying people who can't just smoothly turn the steering wheel when going around corners. He would overcorrect, then jerk it back, over and over in the turns. And since the canyon has about nine hundred turns, this was pretty irritating. I kept peering over the dash to make sure Bubba didn't get jerked out of the rack and flung under the bus.

A while later we encountered a road cyclist riding up the canyon. I have no idea why roadies ride this canyon. Weekend traffic is hellacious, the road has little shoulder, and drivers can be pretty aggressive. And since there are about three other prettier, quieter canyons that will get you up to the higher country, I really don't get it. Well, Vinny of course found himself trying to pass this cyclist just as another car was coming the other way. He jerked the bus around the cyclist at the very last minute, scaring the crap out of me and the oncoming driver. I could see that guy's astonished face for a split second as he whipped past. I started wanting to cross myself, too.

At a stop just outside of Nederland, the male hippie got off. As he went down the stairs, he looked right at me with a big smile, very flirtatious. For some reason, nothing is funnier looking than a scrawny white guy with crappy dreadlocks and frumpy clothes trying to look sexy. Hippies actually remind me faintly of Puritans in their asexual-seeming, devout kind of commitment to wearing natural fibers, eating vegetarian, and being "pure" in their rejection of bathing. I gave him a huge grin because I just couldn't stop myself. He looked so comical.

Here's Barker Reservoir -- Nederland, next stop:

When we finally made it to Ned and Vinny's turning skills had not improved, I was thinking to myself: Wow. Now I really understand my friend who used to say that RTD stands for Reason To Drive.

But then my sense of compassion kicked in. I thought of my dad, who drove for Trailways and then Greyhound for years. He probably spent a lot of time just as irritated as this guy, for good reason. I don't know what came over me, but when I got off the bus, I smiled at Vinny and said, "I bet your day's going to get better." He shot back, "Nah it won't." Classic!! Yo, Vinny, have ya thawt about goin' back to Joisey? It seems like ya belong beaack theah. I stifled a giggle while getting the bike out of the rack. I was barely setting it down on the pavement, and Vinny actually honked at me, gesturing for me to put the rack back into its upright position. Nodding calmly, I complied. I stepped out of the way and Vinny immediately began to pull away. Then suddenly he stomped on the brakes. The door hissed open. He looked right at me. Like a person this time, not an insect. "Thanks," he said. "Really. Thank you." And then the bus swept away, leaving me in the peaceful silence of a mountain morning.

I looked around. Crystal clear sky, without a speck of pollution. Faint breeze in the trees. The sweet smell of pine. I took a deep breath and swung a leg over the bike. The sound of my cleats clipping into the pedals rang out into the quiet. There's no question... mountain biking is a gateway to so many interesting experiences. So is getting out of your car. For good or bad, this day's start was something very different from the usual.

Since it was early on a Sunday, I was hoping to not see too many other people. After a few brief encounters, I climbed out of the low-lying areas and was truly alone, and it was so peaceful and perfect. In the week since I had last been here, the aspens had gained some tiny leaves. Soon this trail will be inside a shady tunnel of flickering, spinning round leaves.

I returned to a place where I'd been doing some exploring before, and found some more fabulous singletrack.

Then I engaged in some self-photographic decapitation:

I explored on and on, not seeing a soul, enjoying the alternating mountain views and dense trees. After about three hours, I got extremely hungry and an energy bar was not going to cut it. So I retired to the Mountain People's Co-op in downtown Ned, for an Asian Cowboy sandwich (BBQ tofu... I like meat, but just wasn't in the mood) and some side dishes.
Ugly day for a picnic:

After some idle conversation with a family of locals, I finally roused myself for the ride down to Boulder, on Magnolia Road to avoid the aforementioned scary-ass Boulder Canyon. Boy, was I in for a surprise. I had only ridden Magnolia to Boulder once before, and it wasn't after three hours of nonstop riding. I had completely forgotten that you have to CLIMB out of Nederland, dragging your full belly, and continue climbing, for quite some time before the road becomes asphalt and then FINALLY, blessedly, goes downhill. Ugh, what a grind. I couldn't even stop to take a picture. I was too busy groaning at every false summit and getting sunburned.

But as always, when the ride was over, I couldn't get the smile off my face. And Vinny, even though your driving sucks and your religious behavior is disturbing, I will still continue to take the bus to Nederland.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Amazing Stuff

Sometimes I am just floored by what people can accomplish. Check this out: this guy is blind, but he competes in downhill races. He follows a guide, and learns what's coming in the terrain by listening to that person's tires on the dirt. He can distinguish the type of soil, if it's rocky, if it's loose, dry, etc. He can hear that person turning, braking, etc. Totally cool!! I don't know if the guide calls out things to him or not... I kinda doubt he could hear the guide with the noise of riding, cheering, etc.

This guy is impressive as well. I don't know anything about him, except that he gets my admiration:

And on another note, here's another funky freaky from the sidelines. How do we get some of these folks at the Colorado races?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

First Ned Ride of the Season

No, it's not a man named Ned, you perverts!! I'm talking about the fabulous trails in Nederland, at 8,000 feet, which are just now getting dry enough to ride.

I headed up there on Sunday, and of course, even though I was looking for a nice steady ride by myself, I ended up running into a group of folks from BMA, the local trail advocacy group. I rode with them for a bit, not wanting to seem rude:

One of the guys wanted to shoot a group shot:

It's Jason, Botsie, John, Gary, Erin, me, and Mike. Several of these guys are board members of BMA. Gary recently got married, I learned, and I wanted to ask,"Does this mean you'll stop staring at my tits?" Because this guy was the worst I have ever seen. I really have to appreciate how young men have learned to leer more invisibly. Guys of Gary's age are just hopeless. But Gary does great work for mountain biking, so I used to always suffer in silence for the cause. Geez.

But eventually I realized I just wanted to ride alone. I usually love group rides, and these are all nice folks, but that day I really wanted to pedal in silence, and not stop so much. So with apologies, I took off on my own. I started climbing and climbing, and found my way up to some snowdrifts:

The weather was wacky! It would be sunny for a while, then cloud over and start snowing in this weird, mini-hailing kind of way, and then get sunny again. Meanwhile, the temperature held steady, so I never really had to put arm warmers on.

The trails were in great shape:

Ahhh, I love Ned. Now I'll be up there constantly!!

This Saturday is my next race, down in Lakewood. I'm going to hang with Joey afterwards. Maybe he'll shoot some photos for me to post!