January 1st 2003, LMBC members and guests converged on the Lawrence River Trails for the annual New Years Day ride. 50 riders left the visitors center parking lot for a short pedal along the levy before threading into the twisty wooded singletrack. Front runners Dan Hughes and Larry Spray set a blistering pace quickly dividing the pack into smaller groups of varying speeds.
Early in the levy run, newly crowned LMBC president, Gerard Arantowicz hollered back to inform me this group would be setting a quick pace once they hit the trails. I was already pedaling faster in a higher gear than I had planned on using all day. I was kind of hoping the trees would slow them down a bit. They didn't. It wasn't long before I decided the back of this pack was not where I wanted to (or could) be for much longer. Gerard, Tony Smith, Thom Leonard, and the rest of the group continued making tracks while my mind started searching for an honorable reason to pull over. Both tires were still up, damn, no derailleur or mechanical problems, damn and damn. A little bead of sweat started trickling down my brow. SWEAT! Of course my jacket, I'm sure none of the Lawrence riders would think badly of me if I pull over to remove this purple cat backer windbreaker.
I straddled my bike alongside the trail rolling up my windbreaker and watching riders slice by on the smooth fast singletrack. Gauging the speed of passing bikes, I waited for a crowd to go by I thought I could keep up with. I saw a few familiar faces from the Fat Tire series, as JL and a few others went by. These guys obviously hadn't been on my cookies and milk diet since the series ended in October. They were all moving at a pace I just didn't feel appropriate for a cool winter ride. A couple female riders went by at a quick pace, a couple trail runners, a turtle, finally a rider went by with baskets hanging off their bike and loaded down with grocery sacks. My group has arrived! Okay so I'm kidding about the baskets and grocery sacks, but the turtle and I traded leads a couple of times. Fortunately, I was a bit quicker on the log crossings.
The smooth fast river trails are an invigorating ride. As you become accustom to the flow of the trails, riding alone, it is easy to get into a Zen like trance. Swooping through the rhythmic winding trails, around the perfectly bermed corners, my mind was only vaguely aware of the bright colored bikes and jerseys a few yards ahead of me. It was not at all aware of the stealthy group that had snuck up behind me. Ahead of me some trail runners were threading between the groups of bikes and heading my way. I decided to stop, then pullover to let them pass. I suddenly became keenly aware of the riders behind me, squealing brakes, a light tap on my rear tire, and a few expletives reminded me I was not alone. Oops! I'll install a brake light next time.
The trails were fast and hard packed. A little ground water made for some slippery footing at one point on the way back for a little more excitement. It was a great way to spend the first day of 2003. One rider went down drawing the new year's first blood, and it wasn't me. A group of riders had a little verbal altercation with some misplaced equestrians, and it wasn't me. Somebody finished last, and it wasn't me! (The turtle was still struggling with that big log crossing).
Most of the group convened at Johnny's Tavern after the ride for food, tall tales, and tall brews. I met a few more of the eastern riders, and learned of a new area LMBC is looking at for developing trails. Gerard and I talked about Team LATR's proposed events out here in the Wild West, (central) part of the state. Flyers were passed out for this springs inaugural Midwest Fat Tire race. Muddy Mudskipper is the rides cartoon mascot. I hope he stays high and dry this year. I also heard rumors of a single speed Clydesdale class with a winner take all purse. Hmm, I need to gain about 25 pounds, and lose 26 gears...