The plan was for a mellow, 15-20 mile cruise at Phil's Trails on the edge of town where we would explore the network of swoopy singletrack, get a feel for the dry, dusty summer conditions and loosen our legs up for a longer, more epic-er ride on the following day. We suited up, adjusted tire pressure, installed smiles on our faces and rolled out.
For those who haven't been to Phil's Trails, they are a winding spirograph of criss-crossing dirt where any ambitious rider could ride until exhaustion without being more than 10 miles from downtown Bend. We headed in with no map, no plan and a full tank of excitement to ride some classic high-desert trails.
I was looking sharp, as usual in my classic Loose Nuts jersey.
The ladies were feeling chummy and happy to be riding together again. India and Laura have been shred buddies since they started riding off road way back in Athens, GA.
India rode some rocks...
then critiqued Chris's form over the chunky stuff. Clearly, he's doing it wrong.
Laura got rad, then got a little too rad and stuffed it in a dusty corner. High desert moon dust is good for the complexion.
We navigated with caprice and intuition, hoping to wander around for a while before finding our way to the top of Phil's legendary Whoops trail, a rollicking downhill joyride of jumps, bumps and berms that would be a perfect finish to our first day on the trails. We didn't think we could manage to get ourselves lost in a However, the trail gods were feeling mischievous and sent us down a track to the southern end of the network, far from the the Whoops trail and even farther from food and beverages. We managed to have some fun along the way, but the going got rough somewhere close to mile 30 when supplies of water and food dwindled or ran out entirely. The ladies were getting hangry, Chris and I were sharing the last drops of water in my hydration bladder and everyone agreed that we needed to get the heck out of there and to a brewpub in a hurry, Whoops be damned. Just in time to salvage the last drops of morale and pedaling impetus from our dusty and bedraggled crew we found our way to somewhere that looked familiar, got the heck out of the woods and pounded the pavement back to our abode for a quick cleanup of bikes and bodies before the zombie trudge to 10-Barrel's fabulous brewhouse where delicious combinations of meat, starch, hops and malt were consumed with zest. Chris and I made plans to return to the trails later that afternoon to get our dose of whoopiness, but returned to the house with full bellies and tired legs. Siesta time called out to us and we were powerless to resist.
When Chris rousted me from my slumber sometime around 5:30, I looked up at the sun-filled heavens and begged for a few more minutes of bliss in my laid-back lawn chair before our trip back to the trails. When I finally got my ass in gear and into baggies, the sky had turned dusky and India reminded me to take lights. "We won't be out long enough to need these, but I'll take them to make her feel better," I thought. I had forgotten to consider the fact that the sun sets rapidly in the desert and the top of Phil's Whoops was 10 uphill miles away. Chris and I kept the pace hot, racing the last bits of daylight until the morning's ride caught up with us and we were forced to slow it down or risk blowing up altogether. Then came the 3-mile slog up a powdery fire road to the top of the trail. If you've ever ridden mountain bikes with Mr. Chris Tavel you probably know that he hates climbing, especially on fire roads. I'm sure there have been some terrible ascents in Chris's past but that evening's climb must have been among his least favorite of all time. Ask him about it sometime.
When we finally reached the top in the last minutes of twilight and looked down the trail that twisted into the darkness between the trees, we knew we'd be descending in the dark. Sweet. We had left a warm house full of food, beer and pretty ladies, thrashed ourselves until we could hardly pedal anymore, dragged our asses up a double-track covered in 3 inches of chalky dust to the top of a ripping descent that we won't even be able to see. Nice work, dumbass. The temperature of the parched air was dropping rapidly and the forest wasn't getting any lighter, so we dropped in and used our zen master skills to navigate the swooping berms and invisible tabletops of the shapeless gray path through the black forest. Whoops, indeed. Somehow, we made it to the bottom unscathed. I pulled the little 3-LED headlight out of my jersey pocket, affixed it to the handlebars thinking, "I'm sure glad India made me bring this thing," and we set about picking our way out of the woods. After cussing our way down rocks and roots banging our shins, toes and knees on Ben's trail for who knows how far we came to a fire road, took a left and arrived at the pavement that would take us downhill and back to town. Despite the warmth of our relief and the heat still radiating from the asphalt, the chill in the air bit through our short-sleeve jerseys as we mashed our big rings towards home, taking turns at the front like breakaway companions.
We retured to a couple of mildly worried ladies with our tale of foolishness and pointless suffering, enjoyed a couple of beverages to take the edge off and made ready to hit the sack. We had been in Bend less than 24 hours and already had over 50 miles in our legs. So much for starting off easy with a mellow leg-stretcher on the first day... We were all feeling pretty beat up and the prospect of a truly "epic" ride tomorrow had everyone a little worried. To avoid repeating the mistakes of today, we opened the map, agreed on a solid plan and tucked the trail map safely into a hydration pack for trailside reference. I assured our sturdy crew that the trails would be radder, the views grander and the whole ride generally awesome-er than anything that we had ridden today and went to sleep dreaming of elk in alpine meadows.