Off the Map

Bettina Freese

It was one of those rides where we ran out of food, water, and legs, all in just 26 miles.

It’s what happens when you try finding new trails that are “off the map.” All I can say, is that we were “Hinkered.” Ben Hinker has this beautiful way of making any ride turn epic with a simple suggestion followed by, “Whatever you guys think…” He wasn’t even on the ride this time and managed to “Hinker” us. No, no. He was sitting back somewhere with his feet up, having a beer while we suffered on an endless climb, cursing his name with every pedal stroke.

Ok, so it wasn’t that bad, but he’s easy to rile, so that’s always part of the game. We relentlessly tease and blame him for our misery, only because we can never keep up with him. I think I’ve only ever out-climbed him once.

The only reason I succeeded was because I had anger to fuel my pedal strokes. I was mad that he‘d quit riding bikes for several months. I still had to be in really good shape. Maybe it’s all of those commuter miles he had under his belt after being carless for seven years. The other part is how he just keeps frigging pedaling, no matter what.

So there the three of us were, searching for the magical trail, which we’d passed miles back. We were looking for the second trail, because that’s what we swore he’d said. It wasn’t a steep climb, where you’d pretty immediately say, F*&% this, turning back. It was a slow, steady climb through brambles and tall grass. At one point I just lied down in the grass to watch the clouds pass. I should still be checking for ticks. I strategically saved my peanut butter and banana sandwich for a time that I needed it most, yet just 20 minutes later I couldn’t help but join the group fantasy about burgers. The funny thing is that by the time we hit civilization it was beer we poured into our bodies first – something to numb the legs.

By the time we hit a somewhat downhill stretch of grassy road I was so tired that I couldn’t really make physical decisions or changes. I’m pretty certain that I was asleep on the handlebars when my front wheel sunk into a slight divet that normally would have resulted in me quickly leaning my weight over the back wheel to wheelie over it. This time, for some reason, I felt that sailing over the handlebars was a much simpler option. It was more like a pile drive into the soft dirt, twisting my nipple on the handlebar and taking the headset into the pubic bone, which was already severely bruised from a slow-speed wreck a week back. By now you think I’m a totally idiot, but I swear, I’m just klutzy when I’m tired or not paying attention…

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