Apologies, my loyal spambot following, for being light in the blog recently. My time in Montana has been flying by, probably in large part because I actually have a full-time “job” again (for which I am blogging: check out my short history series called Backstories!). Another reason: the sun finally came out a few weeks ago! The 90 degree temperatures then necessitated the expansion of my wardrobe to include things that aren’t corduroy, so this past Sunday my awesome Missoula friend Sarah and I embarked upon Tour de Thrift Store on our bikes.
A women’s bike group? Mountain biking in Mountain Bike Town, USA? I’d been wanting to check out the Dirt Girls since I arrived and my wonderful coworker Julie (at left, in orange shirt) told me about the group. The problems: no mountain bike on hand, and no confidence in my skillz.
Julie generously loaned me one of her husband’s mountain bikes, a bright orange Trek which I’ve christened Orangina, which solved the first problem. And yesterday when Julie told me their weekly ride would be heading up the main Rattlesnake Trail, my confidence was high—I’ve explored the trail several times, including on my other bike, so I knew exactly what to expect.
However, I didn’t find out about the ride until I was leaving work, a half-hour before the meeting time. And Orangina? She wasn’t shifting. Being rushed as well as not having the luxury of downshifting to make it up the little hills to get out to the trailhead, things didn’t look good.
As 6pm passed and I was still in the grassy fields outside the forest, I suspected they wouldn’t wait for me too long before taking off. Since I was huffing and puffing, I decided my goal would be to ride to the trailhead and, assuming they’d be long gone, I’d ride back home and that would be just fine. Even if I missed the ride, getting out for a spin was better than sitting at home eating Ben and Jerry’s.
Amazingly though, when I pulled up to the trailhead at 6:15, the congregation was still there! When I confessed how exhausted I already was, a nice woman named April said she was slow too and I could just ride with her. Before we left I caught Julie’s attention and we spent the first half-mile of the ride figuring out Orangina’s shifting. Once I got it though, the world was my oyster! I was still pretty winded, but at least I could climb the trail without worrying that my heart would explode.
April and I did ride together, because she sounded like someone who needed encouragement and heck, I needed an excuse to catch my breath after the harrowing ride out on my inadvertant singlespeed. It turns out that April moved to Missoula a mere nine months ago from Olympia. She hasn’t been mountain biking for long, but had gone on a long road ride the previous night and was a little saddle sore. (Side note: I love newbies, because I love to talk to newbies and encourage them in any way I can!)
After bidding goodbye to April and another woman who had joined us, I headed home to try and get Atticus out for a walk before sunset (which didn’t happen, due to a thunderstorm).
I flew down the trail on the way back. Over areas which were completely covered with large rocks sticking up out of the dirt. Over large patches of thick gravel. Through mud puddles made from nearby farm irrigation. In fact, in some places I was aiming for the hugest rock in the road, just to see how I’d handle it. And every time, Orangina and I handled it just fine.
When I got home my voice was a little hoarse and my legs and messenger bag were muddy. The muscles of my lower back and neck were so sore it was hard to move. Clearly Orangina doesn’t fit me properly. I don’t think that’s a problem I’ll be able to solve in the next month, but when I’m trying to find a cross bike to use this fall for my new adventure, I’ll be paying special attention to sizing and comfort.
In the meantime though, I’m hoping to ride with the Dirt Girls again before I have to leave Montana!