As 2002's end grew near Josh pondered the idea of winter romp through Wilson Lake's Rollercoaster. He thought the first weekend after New Year's Day would be an excellent time for it. At home, his fingers flew like granny gears on a downhill, e-mails were sent and the first annual "Icicle" ride was born.
January 5th a diverse group of riders showed up to brave the Icicle's freezing 57 degree temperature, terrible sunny skies and a horrible lack of strong freezing winds. Still the hardy group of souls braved the Icicle's balmy conditions and gathered at Hellcreek bridge for a paved warm-up ride to the trailhead. At least some of them did, I drove my wimpy butt up to the top of the hill and parked in the sheltered lot near the maintenance buildings. There really was a bit of a chilly breeze early on, plus I was on the top of the hill for the start.
Great Bend had 2 riders in attendance with trail builders Doug and Cameron Chambers. Salina had two riders with new Tracks readers Ryan Cole and Dave Swanson, both riders I hope to see on the Team LATR roster for 03. Team LATR had 3 returning riders from last year in attendance. Brian Holdsworth and I represented the team's homelands, while western chapter rider, and ride organizer Josh Davison rolled in with his up and coming protégé, Landon Heward. Hays participants win the best attendance award for this trip with three riders. Sara Kay Carrell, Bill Kennedy, and Bob Nicholson rolled the course while Bob's wife Sandy hiked the coaster's climbs. I heard she did it in 2hrs; I ride it in 2hrs some days. (When I'm alone and nobody is watching.)
The group started the ride at the hillclimb trailhead for a good burn right at the beginning. After getting everyone's heart rate up gaining elevation, the coaster rewards you with some speedy wide-open descents. It tends to end like a real coaster with a long semi flat section. Since we started on the backside the flats came early, Cameron, Doug, and I put on some speed through the twisty flatlands. I discovered you go a lot faster if you stay on the mowed part instead of crashing through the 3 foot tall prairie grass, but some habits are hard to break. Dave was struggling with a chain that had about seen the end of its useful life, so he was having no fun on the climbs. I think the downhills still made him smile some though. Bob zipped up behind our lead group while I was mowing grass. Ryan, Landon, Brian and Sara followed along at a safe distance with Bill riding clean up and Josh bouncing between the groups.
After regrouping at the official start/finish line, and waiting for Grandma Josh to adjust her stockings, garters, and whatever else we headed for the coaster's punishing start. Like any amusement park roller coaster Wilson's starts with some small grinder inclines, a short rest and then another climb. I fell in chasing Doug with Cameron scampering off far ahead. Dave was discussing his displeasure with his chain to the bike gods as I passed by. By the time we had bounced through some of the coaster's bumpy small climbs the group had spread out considerably. Ryan demonstrated some good basic riding skills climbing tower hill well and impressing me with a wheels up ledge drop on the back part of the trails. He told me later it was more self preservation than motivation that got the air.
We regrouped at various road crossings to rest and share stories, most riders completed 1 to 2 laps. The first annual brrrr, frigid Wilson Lake Icicle ride was on the books. Most of the group gathered at Hellcreek bridge after for some treats, and presentation of my Christmas Trophy. John McClure with Josh's help fashioned up a comical wire mountain biker in the early stages of a face plant, mounted to a nice size native Kansas rock. It was great! Sara broke out some excellent no bake coconut fudge cluster thingys that were also great. If you were thinking about coming and didn't, or weren't planning to come at all you should have. It was a nice day, on a nice trail, with a nice group of people. I hope it was another omen of a good year to come.
Interesting story about Sara Kay, I didn't realize it at first, but I had met her previously. A year or so ago I organized a Full Moon, Friday the 13th Midnight ride on Wilson's trails. Sara and another Hays rider John Schlitter, had been riding the asphalt roads in the area prior to everyone's late night arrival. A misplaced skinny stray dog drifted out of the moonlight's darkness to tag along at their heels for the night stroll. I joined them and we rode around for a bit before they headed off to decide what to do with the well mannered visitor. Sara told me at the Icicle ride that "Moonlight" went home with her that night. He is still there, doing great and no longer a "skinny" stray. After sampling Sara's treats I can guess why. Moon must have saw a Midnight ride flyer and just came out for the stroll. Glad to hear he ended up in a good home. See you on the trails. T~