The Charm is Back! Burnt Peak (5788')
A Mountain Bike Adventure
The peak guides says 5.8 miles r.t., 200' gain, 2-3 hours. The weather report said record heat. Did I want to hike a dry and dusty dirt road on an unusually hot day? Not really. I could detect no uncontrollable urge pulling me away from my fan, my chilled brew, and my Ministry CD ("Jesus Build My Hotrod"). A trail hike, a cross-country route, or a rock scramble might be engaging and rewarding -- especially solo where every decision and every step matters. But I must admit that, after exploring and enjoying the peaks on our list a few times, fire roads in summer are starting to lose some of their charm. Perhaps I should have considered a different peak -- something higher and cooler. But wait! I had a new toy -- a brand new red and silver mountain bike with matching helmet and gloves. The road isn't very steep and is in good condition to enable servicing of the signal towers. This could be an ideal maiden voyage for my bike and accessories. But what if pedaling a bike was harder than I thought. Let's be somewhat more sensible here. Let's wait until 5pm and try this experiment as things were starting to cool down. If it were a bust there would still be enough daylight to ignomiously push the bike out.
I arrived at the locked gate around 4:30pm, reviewed the manual for the safety check I was supposed to perform before every ride, hopped on the bike with a minimum amount of gear on my back, and circled around the parking area until I figured out the complex gear combinations. And then I walked it around the gate, remounted, and was off.
The Bike: A Specialized Stumpjumper FSRxc Pro. "Specialized"? Is that a buzzword of the new economy or what? But why humbly stop where they did? Why not exuberantly carry the buzz right over the top and call it the Specialized High Tech State-of-the-Art New and Improved Stumpjumper FSRxc Ultra Pro? Anyway, I fell in love with the name well before ever seeing the bike. I may be a clod-hopping slug in the flesh but in dreams I jump stumps with the best of them. If, like me, you haven't paid any attention to bikes since you were a kid, they've changed! Innovation is flourishing and the modern mountain bike has, in addition to the somewhat familiar lever brakes and multiple gears, both front and rear suspension systems. This one came with three separate manuals: one for the bike in general, a second for the front suspension, and a third for the rear. This bike is, in fact, so "specialized" that it had to be made in Taiwan -- the combined technological abilities of America, Europe, and Japan being not quite up to the challenge. I used to just jump on a bike and ride. Now I would need to read carefully before I could ride safely. So read I did.
The Rider: An absolute mountain bike beginner who should have gone out with training wheels on and a medical evacuation helicopter hovering above but who opted instead to trust an uncertain sense of balance in the vain hope of appearing "cool" to any mountain biking women he might encounter en route. But, oops, he forgot to remove a price tag and left it dangling from the rear of his color-coordinated helmet. Dweeb alert! Dweeb alert!
The Ride: An ear-to-ear loony bin grin affair lasting a mere 45 minutes instead of the usual 2-3 hours hiking time and working a surprising alchemy: the road experience itself, usually a monotonous trudge, became a desirable and sought after pleasure, equal to or perhaps greater than the joy of reaching the peak. So hold that condo complex and don't even think of setting this area aside as a training ground where Forest Service employees could practice setting fires to become heroes putting them out. I'd be on the phone complaining faster than you could say Senator Barbara Boxer. The charm is back! Explore, enjoy, and P R O T E C T those precious fire roads! I need them for my ride.