How many circles of Hell were traversed on the Thursday ride? Was it three or four—no, it had to be more. The Fat Cat remembers dropping Virgil just after the anteroom. He was sure that they traversed a lake of souls, tires thumping from writhing limb to screaming skull. What level was that? One thing is for sure, the old lady on the porch in Pisgah who offered up life giving water (and put ice in it!) was Heaven sent. Those two hill-jacks sitting on a bench outside their backwater repair shop who refused an emaciated Cat libation— those two have a special place in Hell all ready for them when their cholesterol choked hearts finally give out.
Six riders, The Fat Cat, Legs, Aerobinator, Lord MonkeyButt, Sidewinder and new initiate, Mark G, made it out to the special road and trail edition of The Grimpeurs. The Fat Cat made many elaborate eleventh hour repairs to his 17 year old mountain bike, turning the last screw just in time to make the meeting place. Good thing too; every one of those 21 gears would soon be needed. Snake hill was knocked off in short order, a nice workout for the trailers and a happy spin for the leaders. Yes, it was all hunkey dory until the pavement gave out.
The descent down Mt Zion/ Ridge Road and especially Bull Run was a bone jarring marathon. The Cat sacrificed a full water bottle to appease the angry road. Alas, the accidental gesture was to no avail and only contributed to his later dehydration. Those with shocks were not spared the arm assault, those without felt large diameter nerves vibrate and fire off a heavy barrage of highly noxious impulses.
The Peleton (is a group of mountain bikers called a peleton?) reached the unfathomable depths of the Cheat Canyon and crossed the rickety old iron and wood bridge that spans the river. A cacophony of derailleurs sounded as all dropped into granny gear; the only defense against the onslaught of rocky 25 to 40% grades that defended the canyon’s other side. Despite the slog, Aerobinator broke momentum to befriend a little red salamander that crossed his path. He’s friendly to amphibians girls!
It is in the murky parts around Mt. Nebo and its tiny church that The Cat has often searched for the fabled passage to Pisgah. Utter failure and many hard extra miles were the only fruits his lonely efforts ever bore. Now, he knows why. A friendly local directed the Grimpeurs to a goat path that only qualified to be called a road by virtue of its lack of vegetation. It looked like a dry creek bed. The rewards for yet another gut wrenching descent were, however, great. The scenery in the bottom of the chasm was unmatched. Legs enjoyed a dip in the cool, green pool cradled among the rocks. Luckily, the group was able to dissuade him from going totally au natural.
Despite the melodramatic narration, the ride was actually quite fun up until this point. But, dehydration and fatigue started to set in and the somehow endless climbing across Pisgah and over to Coopers rocks took a toll. It became painfully obvious that The Flanders Fat Cat is the official lantern rouge in all forms of cycling. What an honor. MonkeyButt was kind enough to offer up a little Gatorade as the pilgrimage stopped for a little quasi-sacrilegious photography entitled, “Cross Bike.”
The pittance of drink did little against the gallons of perspiration that had come before. This is where Satan’s inbred sons and the angelic old Lady from paragraph one came in. After insisting that they had no source of liquid other than a beat up pop machine for which the riders had no change, they insisted that the trail that led across Coopers Rocks state park (which was in their back yard) did not exist. They sent us on our way with warnings of rattlesnakes and such. Bless that old lady just up the road. She didn’t know either, but she had rejuvenating ice water! Had we a mower we would have gladly done her overdue yard work.
Being that Birdman was the only one who knew where the trailhead was and that he was on his way to Florida, we abandoned the park. However, a merciful and quick drop down Quarry Road to home was snuffed out by Aerobinator. He hijacked the ride and led the group across Chestnut Ridge to a gravel road/ trail through the forest. Just as the weary band plunged down yet another descent festooned with softball sized rocks and past the point of no return, a terrible sight arose.
Apparently Humbaba was angry with the Grimpeur’s lusty trespass. He threw down countless arms of tall Oaks across the road as far as the eye could see. The ride degenerated into a series of bike toting hurtles and forays into the trackless forest. Unfortunately, no one thought to bring a machete.
Aerobinator was busted of rank and banned from leading Grimpeur rides after he again shunned Quarry run road for another “trail”. Down past another point of no return the group fell—back into the trackless forest. The Cat, with no thought other than liberation from the mountain’s grip, wrested back control of the Grimpeurs. The sounds of a nearby superhighway beckoned like the songs of sirens. The group fought through the foliage and jumped the fence guarding the highway. This is where Marc gets his Grimpeur name “Boy Scout”. He was the only one who gave voice to the blatant illegality to which the day’s endeavors had degenerated.
Nobody else gave a shit. The Grimpeurs were overjoyed to hit any pavement despite the inherent dangers. It has been a long time since The Fat Cat wanted nothing more than to get off his bike. No silly regulations were going to stop him now! Ten thousand feet had already been climbed and ten thousand more had been descended. Command decisions had to be made.
Everyone made it home alive. As sick as it may sound, given the long winded narrative just unfurled, it WAS a great ride. The Cat realized that he sorta missed the epic qualities of the winter rides and their snow squalls, sub-zero temperatures and other travails. Sometimes it’s not about average speeds and front running but more about survival. And, sometimes those are the rides you remember: especially when you had five great comrades to bleed with you.