Bike Battles

“Okay, I say we have a nice picnic and then turn the bikes in,” Cain proposed.

It was 11:30 a.m., and we had rented bikes for a half day of exploring the Durango area. Before we left the bike shop, the employee, still attractive despite his tattoo-covered body and earring gauges, came around the counter to suggest a route off of the four by six foot map framed on the wall of Pedal the Peaks, Inc.
“If you go all the way down on East College Drive, take a right onto East Eighth Avenue, and head on for another three blocks, there’s a great trail head on the left. It’ll take you up into the mountains and you’ll see some pretty incredible views.”
Alright, I think. This sounds wayyyy cooler than the Animas River trail. Some real mountain biking! Heck yes.
“Okay, so how much uphill is that going to be?” my mother asks with hesitation.
“Aw, probably a straight thirty or forty minute climb at the beginning,” Mr. Earring Guages responds matter-of-factly.
“Are you out of your mind?!  We are from the lowcountry. We’re not doing that. Tell me more about that paved river trail.”
“Haha, okay. Well we’re right in the center of it, so you can take a right and…”
My heart sinks.
I take back what I said in the last post about coming to terms with the pace of Compton adventures. I still have a long way to go to ever really be content. I know I should be grateful that we’re biking at all. But these are the moments that derail my patience and good-spiritedness – the ones where I am so close to real adventure, literally only a few miles away, and yet, I remain inhibited by the limited abilities and desires of my family. Yesterday was full of such moments, and hour by hour, it’s as if the gas was slowly increased, turning simmering frustrations into a raging boil.
I make some guttural heave of exasperation after Cain’s proposition. “I swear I’m not from this family sometimes.”
“Well I definitely know where I’m from,” he chirps.
“That’s my boy!” Hoffa concurs.
Two hours into the rental, the rest of the family had managed to bike a whopping five miles. Once we started out on the Animas trail, snaking along next to the river, I relinquished the prospect of mountain biking, satisfied with the still-gorgeous panorama views, but I replaced it determined to bike all fourteen miles of the trail at a speedy pace, gliding along the path’s curves and hills. When I got to the first end of the trail, I waited for the others to arrive. After five minutes, no one had come. I decided to kill some time riding around the parking lot and ensuring this was indeed the end. It was, I returned, but still no one arrived. I sighed and began peddling back up the trail.
A couple miles up, I found everyone at the Durango BMX training course. They called me up, and we all tested out the hills. Well this isn’t something you find in Mt. Pleasant. I thought. Not bad. Pretty cool, actually! Honestly, peddling off the ramp for that first round through kind of scared me. But the adrenaline which quickly began pumping through my veins propelled me to try again. With each attempt,  I improved a little, gaining what felt like feet of air but was probably only a few inches on some jumps and getting the hang of the ten small, consecutive rolls in the track.
…Until I didn’t. Round four, halfway through, I ate it. In an instant of wrongly shifted weight, I was flat on the ground, forearms burning, as I sneezed through the dry clay swooshing up into a mini tornado around me. Ow. I cautiously stood up and examined the damage: scratched up knees, raw pink scrapes just under my elbows, and another on my hip bone.
I dusted off and biked through the course again, both to finish off on a better note and to assure my concerned mother that I was okay.
After the course, there was more fast biking along the trail (now with stinging arms), and more waiting. Then the call-it-a-day picnic proposition, quickly turning to reality. I tried to counter my dismounting family.
“Y’all. It’s not even noon yet.”
“Well, Jessica, you can go bike the rest of the trail. We’ll be sitting right here leisurely enjoying our picnic until you return.”
I know Hoffa was being facetious, but I gladly took up his suggestion. As my family rolled their bikes onto the grassy knoll, I threw my pack down, probably with a tad bit too much force.
“Sounds good. Y’all enjoy your picnic,” I responded bitingly, and then I was off.
I confess, I almost immediately got lost (only someone who inherited Mama’s sense of direction could manage that on a paved six-foot wide path), but I eventually found my way back on the trail, and it felt good to be independent for forty minutes, off exploring by myself, messing up, figuring my mistakes out, and re-discovering a little bit of freedom. And Hoffa was right. They were sitting there – lying, rather – totally content to just chill until I returned.
By the official end of our biking an hour later, I had pretty much progressed to full bi-otch mode. I knew it, but at that point I honestly could not help it either. As Rosa Marie, Cain, and I waited, Mama and Georgia joined us, but no one knew where Hoffa was.
Cain called him to investigate, reporting that he had been enticed by the free iced tea sign and entered a café along the river. You have GOT to be kidding me.
“You know what annoys me?”
“You’re annoying. No one wants to hear the stupid things you complain about anymore” Georgia snapped.
I clenched my fists and sighed. “I understand that. And I even am fully aware of the terrible mood that I’m in.” My voice rose as I gestured to the direction of the trail where I expected my lagging father would mozy along in another five minutes. “But I can’t help but be frustrated when Hoffa does stupid…”
 I sucked in a breath, but I began to giggle, a growing guffaw that does not complement the ability to explain very well. But I could not contain it: my terrible attitude, the meager distance we actually biked, the accident, the fact that my father has no regard for time. The whole thing is so ridiculous, and they all begin to laugh with me. I try to finish, slamming my fist downward onto an invisible table.
“…when Hoffa does stupid-ass things like get a freaking glass of iced tea while we’re supposed to be biking!”
It is not that I was actually outrageously mad yesterday. I can laugh, I can roll with the Compton family mishaps. After Saturday evening Mass, I apologized to everyone for my poor behavior, and they graciously forgave me. Yesterday reminded me how flawed I am and how selfish I can be, but also how I crave a more authentic form of adventure. I needed to get banged up on that bike course. I will be sporting these strawberry scrapes for a while, and I admit it – I am a little proud of them. I feel a teensy bit more B.A. displaying some wounds that testify to getting out and trying something that can cause injury, even if they are only there because I am terribly klutzy.
Most of all, these scrapes are a semi-painful reminder that all is in good time. Those more daring experiences will come. There will be more trips, more adventures, more opportunities to bike thousands of feet higher than Mama will ever be willing to go. But for now, even as I write and feel my raw skin rubbing against my shirt, these scrapes are a reminder to be present. Here, I am with my family, and at least they like to be outside and active. My frustrations do continue – I really want to climb Engineer Mountain, a hike with 2,400 foot elevation gain over a 2.5 mile span, and no one else is too enthusiastic about joining me on that venture. But as long as they are not lounging around the house all day (they have suggested it, and I have declared I will hike Engineer alone if that day comes), I choose to be with the Compton Clan, pursuing the quality time we have together over the next great excursion.




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