So at the very end of 2012 I got a text from a buddy of mine asking if I wanted to hit up the San Juan trail with he and a few of his buddies. I’ve had to say no to this guy way more times than I was comfortable with and was super excited that this time I got to say yes. I was on vacation, the wife was off to take care of the kids and so I was in the garage that night prepping the old Santa Cruz Heckler. For those of you not in the know San Juan, when shuttled, is primarily a downhill trail. So I figured the Heckler would be perfect and I hadn’t been on it for nearly a year. So I cleaned her up, put some lube on the chain and inflated the tires. She was gleaming and eager to get going.
We were meeting early and the morning dawned brisk, crisp, and clear. It was going to be an epic day. We met up at my buddies house, got the bikes switched from one car to another and all the gear squared away and off we went. The starting point for the San Juan trail when shuttled is right outside of Blue Jay campground (yes Tyson the campground with all the flies…it’s an inside thing and another post). We parked, unloaded the bikes, and promptly started to mentally compare bikes. Watching Mountain Bikers….or any bicyclists can be hilarious. First, we eye the competition and start to calculate how much the other guys bike might have cost. Is that a SRAM or a Shimano parts group? Is it a 29er? Then when we’ve got our facts straight and we’re feeling comfortable with our choice of bike the conversations starts.
“So how do you like that (insert bike brand/model here)”
“What do you think of those (insert brake brand/model here)”
And for this ride the topic of conversation most often brought up….adjustable seat posts!! I was at the back of the group when we started off so I could gauge my skill level with the others without holding anyone back. I was riding along marveling at the idea that I was actually riding with other human beings when the topic kept coming up here and there as we climbed and then dove down another decline. I was having a blast but chuckling as everyone was fiddling with their hydraulic seat posts. I’m old school, I keep mine at one level (unless it slowly drops like it did in Moab) and I ride with it there. It’s old school but it’s also much cheaper than those fancy hydraulic posts.
I pulled up the rear for the first couple of miles and made idle chat with a guy who was a paramedic at a pretty nice hospital in Utah. He was a childhood friend of my buddy and his son was riding with us on a hardtail and doing pretty good at it to all things considered. The trail was pretty rock strewn and I kept waiting for a pinch flat but my slightly worn Nevegals held up just fine. We regrouped and my buddy called me to come up front and ride with him. I got up there, let the group rest and then we took off.
The next hour or two is a total blur. We would fly down some sections where I was really pushing my skill level. There were some ninety degree turns where I was grabbing all the brake I could just to make it. A HUGE thanks goes to my bro-in-law who did an excellent job bleeding my brakes nearly a year ago. It was a blast of a ride. We would fly down a section and then wait for the group to gather. Then it was off again. The upper section was fast, twisty, and narrow. Those are all the ingredients for some great times on two wheels.
When we finally got to Champagne Rock (I’m pretty sure that was the name of it) we took a break, took some pictures and enjoyed the view of Orange County and the Pacific Ocean. We snacked, chatted and then remounted to begin the long decent to the other parking lot. This section was fun. It was a little loose and had all kinds of switchbacks, ruts, and rocks. It was honestly some of the best riding I’ve done since Moab/Fruita back in 2011. We were flying along, grabbing brakes, riding out of the corners and then letting gravity take over. The Heckler handled it like a champ. I was doing fine and feeling light on the bike, right up until I grabbed to much brake, washed out the front tire right into a rut and over the bars I went!! It hurt. A lot. I haven’t crashed like that in probably ten years and felt all 39 of my years at that moment. I laid there on the trail staring up at the blue sky my right shoulder really hurting, my knees and lower legs scrapped up and bleeding. Once I figured nothing was seriously broken I got up and checked out the bike.
It was fine, thank goodness!
I climbed aboard, a little shaky and with a right shoulder that was throbbing. Nothing I could do about it at that point so off I went although much slower than before. This last section of the trail required a lot of body English and a lot of braking. My shoulder would scream at me if I turned just the right way so with the advice of my father ringing in my ears….I didn’t turn that way very often.
Finally we got down to the cars that would shuttle us back up to our starting point and the cars we left behind. I was sore and in a little pain. The paramedic took a look at it and was concerned enough that I decided to hit up the Urgent Care when I got back to town. As we loaded the bikes we joked and laughed and reminisced about different parts of the trail and other escapades we’d been on in the past.
The x-rays from the Urgent Care came back negative, nothing was broken or pulled. A radiologist called me a few days later and told me the ligaments had been strained and that was it. I took it easy for the last few days of vacation and tried not to use the shoulder/arm very much. It’s gotten better but not 100% yet. There is still a twinge here and there but it just reminds me of what an awesome ride it was.
It’s really cool how this sport can bring people together. At the start of the ride the only guy I knew was my buddy and by the end of the ride I felt like I’d made some great friends. All of these guys have been hanging out together since they were kids and I want to thank all of them for never making me feel like an outsider. It was an awesome day for a most excellent ride with some pretty cool dudes. Nothing much in this world beats that combination!!