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An Epic Day


Nate
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RG asked for a story earlier today, so after I got home I dug this one out for yall

 

hope you like it....

 

 

My favorite day I ever spent on a bicycle was over 20 years ago, in the dim dark past, before there were cell phones or GPS or even any knowledge of hydration, really. It was summer in north Texas and we were taking our bikes to the trails at Lake Ray Roberts. We were all riding fat tires by then. I had a Diamondback hardtail. The big knobby mud tires could ride over anything, even stickers, and never get flats. I was riding out there with my friend D, a terrific guitar player, and it was early afternoon and a great Saturday for the lake.

 

Back then we didn't really use lycra. I was in cutoffs, a T-shirt, Chuck Taylors and toe straps. D was in the same except for a funky pair of polyester Goodwill shorts. I remember early in the day standing with D at the top of about a 20 foot mound looking down at a muddy puddle at the bottom and saying those immortal last words from my childhood..."I'll go first"

 

At the bottom of the hill, my front wheel sunk into the mud up to the hub and I got launched over the bars and did a full ostrich-plant into the muck. My head fully stuck into the mud, I had to use my arms to pull my head back out. Just like an ostrich. D was laughing so hard he had to get off his bike. We both laughed our asses off, then we rode on, around the lake.

 

A little while later we were working our way through a system of gullies. The sort of scrubby trees that grow near water in Texas were giving us spots of shade and the breeze was refreshing. The wind is always blowing in Texas. The trail was fun to ride. Up and down left and right we were rolling along having a great time.

 

Then we came over the top of this one rise and were met with the thick smell of honeysuckle. We stopped when we got down to the water.

 

"Wow, look at this"  D said almost out of reflex

 

He was right. This whole gulley was covered in honeysuckle. The flowers were everywhere. The water in the little creek was clear as a bell and there wasn't a hoof print, tire track, footprint or even animal track in the soft mud around the creek

 

"nobody's been here for a long time" I said. For somebody who grew up in a big city, seeing places that don't show any trace of people always makes me feel sort of mystical. D is eating honeysuckles. I start in on the ones near me.

 

"It's funny how we couldn't even smell this place until we were right on it" D says and when I look over, I see that he's now laying on his back in a big patch of honeysuckle flowers munching away. He looks so happy.

 

After a good twenty minutes we're back on the trail and riding. I don't recall too much of the next couple hours except that D had a flat and so we had to stop and use the one spare tube we had between us. I had a frame pump and D had a spare tube, and these tires don't get flats, so we were set, right?

 

Late in the day, we ride into a problem. The trail is turning into a marsh. D, who’s riding in front at the moment, stops in the trail. I pull up beside.

 

"This trail's turning into a real mess… I'm not real sure where we are right now"

"I'm not real sure either. It's a long way back, though"

"I think we're lost"

 

So we decide to just get to some nearby high ground and take a look around. Way off, across this marsh in front of us, is a row of houses. There has to be a road of some kind there, so if we get to that, we can ride that out to a main road and then just follow the signs back to the truck. Such was the state of cycling navigation before there was GPS.

 

We ride off into the marsh as far as we can, but it's clear that we have to walk, or maybe even carry, our bikes across this muddy, swampy mess that is now between us and home. Out in the marsh, I remember D stopping. We're both tired, but he's having trouble.

 

When I get up to him he says "God, I'm thirsty"

 

"Are you out?" I asked. You see, back then we didn't understand hydration. Our bikes came with one water bottle holder, so you took one water bottle and didn't touch it for as long as you could stand. We were experienced riders, you see. We knew that if you were still sweating you were ok. We knew that was just salt on your lips. Happens all the time, we're almost back...don't worry. We knew all the tricks.

 

"I've been out for a while" he said. I still had half a bottle. I hand it to him

 

"This is all we got left between the both of us"

 

D nods, takes a swallow, and hands it back. He says, "I'm good. Thanks" and we press on

 

By the time we finally cross the marsh and get to where the houses are D is doing alot better. Then we get to the fence line

 

"****" D says

 

"What's the matter?"

"Barb wire"

"****"

"We ain't got no choice. I'll go through and you hand me the bikes, then we'll GTF outta here. Right between the houses and out to the road. Maybe we'll get lucky and somebody will give us some water"

"Maybe we'll get lucky and they won't ****ing shoot us"

 

We’re now crouched in the weeds at the fence line looking things over. I was just joking, but we thought we better be safe and make sure what we were walking out into. There in the weeds I tap D on the shoulder

 

"We better each take a drink." I hand him the bottle and he drinks and hands it back. "We got a quarter bottle left" I tell him.

 

For all the commando drama at the fence line, we just walked out to the road without anybody taking any notice. The road, however, was not what we were hoping for. It was a private farm road. Gravel road, rough and stoney, the kind of road you make Chevy truck commercials on. But we made better time than through the marsh.

 

It was getting close to sundown. We had found a County road, which meant smaller stones and fewer chuck holes, and our spirits and our speed had picked up. "What a day" D said. It seemed to the both of us that we were out of the woods, so to speak, and on our way back to the truck.

 

Then D's back tire started making a really funny noise, and I looked over and saw he had flatted again. This time, we're cooked. No more tubes, not much daylight and even less water. We decide to use my frame pump to inflate the tire as many times as it takes to get out to the main road, then D will take my bike and go get the truck. That’s our best chance to get out of here before dark. So much for being out of the woods.

 

As the sun was setting, a little pickup truck rumbled up the road behind us. We flagged him down and asked him where the road we were looking for was.

 

"You boys are way off. That's 10 miles from here. Where you boys tryin to get to?"

 

We tell him and he says "Y'all hop in back. I'll take y'all up there" On the way we were talking to the old fella through the cab window. He was saying how he felt bad making us ride back there, but he had a bunch of stuff in the cab and whatnot. We thanked him profusely for the ride. We would have been out there till midnight if he hadn't helped us.

 

It was nightfall when he dropped us back at D's truck. On the way back, D was talking about how epic a day it really was. How the honeysuckle field seems like years ago now. We laughed about my head-plant again. Then D says,

 

"It's always funny the things that happen to get you home sometimes. Like, if we hadn't got the last flat, we'd never taken a ride from that old fella. We’d still be out there trying to ride back to the truck. “

 

“And we were so far from where we thought we were, we’d have never made it by dark.”

 

“No way” 

 

“Hell, if we hadn't got lost, today wouldn't have been nearly as epic as it was.” then D looks over at me says, “You know, there was a couple times out there I was worried we weren't getting back."

 

"There were a couple times I was a little worried about that too"

 

"Hey, when we get back, let's get some beers. I got a few at my place. You can get a shower if you want. You can borrow a pair of shorts from Steve" Steve was an opera singer and D's roommate. D was way to skinny to be able to offer me anything beyond a towel.

 

When we pull up at D's house, though,  there's a small crowd of people on the front porch in formal attire, having a very civilized gathering.

 

"Dammit, I forgot"

"Forgot what?"

"Steve's having a wrap party for the opera people. They had their last performance tonight"

 

We were standing in the street in front of D's house. We were covered head to toe in mud. I practically started the day with that headplant, and D's long mane of hair was so caked with mud he looked like a Rastafarian. In fact, we both looked like we had just spent the evening dragging our bikes through a swamp. The opera folks were in tuxedoes and formal gowns. I said to D

 

"Let's just pick up a 12 pack and go back to my place" but D stopped, looked me strait in the face, and said with the most serious demeanor I'd seen all day,

 

“This is my house, too. I pay rent here, and I say we're going in!" and with that he headed for his front door.

 

I just followed him right through his house full of well dressed people, us looking like aborigines in comparison, and strait to the keg of beer in the middle of his kitchen. D grabs a couple cups and starts pouring. Steve comes in from the back yard

 

"Hey, you two clowns..." Steve is big fella, red faced and gregarious, his collar is open and he's smiling bigger than Dallas

 

"We were starting to worry about you two!"

 

It was a surreal end to an epic day standing there, drinking a beer, watching D tell our tale to a group of Steve's opera friends, D still covered in mud, they still in full formal attire and regalia.

 

And they were hanging on his every word

 

I've always been glad that the two of us shared that day together. It couldn't be planned and certainly never could be duplicated

 

It was an Epic Day

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Somebody should read Nate's story and provide a review.  I'll read it if it gets 4 stars.

I'll stick to his long rants which are maybe a 10th of that length, that's all the attention squirrel.

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"It's funny how we couldn't even smell this place until we were right on it" D says and when I look over, I see that he's now laying on his back in a big patch of honeysuckle flowers munching away. He looks so happy."

Nate, I'm not sure what to say here.
:)

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But it really was a good story. Do you stay in touch with D?
 

 

His name only started with a D, but no, not after I moved to Pennsylvania.

 

 I used to write a lot of short stories and all the characters only had one letter names.

 

But I got that from Kafka and Bukowski, you know, ....actual writers

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