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Dry as Dirt

Bettina Freese

The woods have been so dry that crashing from the mountain bike has become much more of a deterrent than usual.

It really hurts to land a hip or shoulder onto dirt so dry and hard that it’s crackled into a large puzzle. The moss is shriveled and brown, and there aren’t any mushrooms. The raspberries, which should be popping out all fat, red, and juicy are tiny morsels of hardening sourness, covered in little green hairs. Ew.

Hitting the ground now causes seismic movement, which on these __-year-old bones causes tiny fractures. Then again, maybe the high-impact will also create better bone-density?

But then it rained…it was a beautiful, slow, soaking rain that sprinkled on and off. It soaked gently into the ground, moistening the deep crevices and quenching the wilting rhododendrons. Then it would stop, with grey clouds hovering over the tree canopy to hold the wet inside.

It was Elijah’s first ride in the rain, and it was a long one. I schooled him on the treacherousness of the angled wet roots and how to keep the front wheel light. Few people, who aren’t from Oregon or England, can ride in these conditions. These mountains are known for staying slick. It doesn’t have to be raining for a front wheel to slide out, or for there to be a rocky creek to navigate.

It had been so dry that even after a few rain showers the bike was barely laying tracks. But it was enough to frustrate an 8-year-old who doesn’t yet know to distribute weight back and forth between the front and rear tires while climbing across a thin layer of snot and picking through wet rocks. He was smart to take the downhill conservatively slow and never once tested the ground for density.

We got back to the car soaked, with a thin layer of grit and shiny micah – far better than eye shadow. Now that we’d stopped, we were finally cold, grateful for the dry clothes and oatmeal cookies, but sorry to change while sitting in the front seat of a pickup truck. Maybe we should’ve rode naked.

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