Encounter With A Trail Anomaly
It was early one spring. We had only ridden a few times and were on our first ride of the year in the Talladega National Forest. The horse trail we were on was one of my favorites. I was several miles in on the trail and out in front of every one else. In summer we call the man in front "Spider Patrol" because he gets to knock down all of the spider webs. I was feeling fit for so early in the year and riding hard. The bike responded perfectly on the tight single track. I descended a short technical section into a wide flat holler. I crossed a small stream and started a climb up out of the holler. Yes, I was feeling dandy. I had ridden this trail before and knew I was setting the pace for those behind me. And a quick pace it was. I wasn't trying to ride fast, but I felt good and the bike just wanted to go. I just hoped I wasn't pushing my self too hard. No way; I felt too good. I looked back over my shoulder and could see the creek below and the others crossing it. I am still on the middle ring as I make the first switch-back around to the left. I stand for about ten pedal strokes and the climb levels out slightly. I sit again and continue to leave the stream below as the trail goes upward. The trail steepens a little and I decide to drop to the small ring in front. As I do I shift the rear one gear higher and make a split shift which yields a gear only slightly lower than the one I was in. I am breathing harder now as the climb continues.
This is a familiar trail and I know I am almost half way to the top. The trail seems steeper here than I remember from last fall. I shift to a lower gear on the rear and let up on the pedal cadence a little to catch my breath. My breathing doesn't get much better and I shift to my lowest gear combination. I slide forward on the saddle and grasp the bar ends where they join the bar. I need more power. I look back and can no longer see the stream or my friends because of the early spring greenery. I decide I must be only a few hundred feet from the crest, but something is wrong. My bike feels draggy and heavy. It felt so quick and responsive earlier on the trail. I look down at the brake pads to see if they are rubbing against the rims. They aren't. Then I think. Low tire! That must be it. NO! The tires are up. I don't know what is wrong. My legs can barely push the pedals down. I'm breathing very hard now, but my lungs don't seem to be getting any oxygen form the air. And I am taking plenty of it in. The hill is not very steep here, but something seems to be sapping the energy out of my legs. I push the right shifter. It won't move. I looked down at the OGI and both were on one. My lowest gear. I can't get anything else from the bike.
My mind wanders back to other times I have ascended this trail. I remember early last summer it was almost the same as today. Tough. Then it hits me. I have run into something strange. It may be some kind of energy sucking trail anomaly. That's it. It must live on this exact section of the trail. I remember one time a similar creature attached to the hull of the Starship Enterprise. But how? As I continued to push down on the pedals I reason it out. My bike tires are touching the trail. My energy is being drained through my contact with the pedals, through the bike and on down through the wheels and tires. Yeah, it's making sense now. Now I can feel it beginning to go through my arms where they grip the bar. That may be why my breathing is so hard. I am about to give up. I look back down the trail just in time to see another cyclist just coming into view. What to do? I am afraid to touch the ground. If this thing is sucking the life out of me through the bike, what would happen if my feet touch the trail. I don't dare put my foot down. My breathing is very hard now. I think, "I must sound like a train, huffing and puffing." I won't give up. I see the top. I slide even further forward on the saddle and almost stomp down on the pedals every time they come around. Suddenly a primal roar comes from deep down inside me. Determination swells. I have got to break free from this energy sucking anomaly. I've got to make it to the top. I can make the top. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can. The creatures grip seems to be weakening! My speed increases ever so slightly. I'm breaking free! My cadence increases. I go to one gear higher. Just a few more feet.
I've made it to the top. I'm loose. The bike lunges forward. The creature must have headed back down the trail to attack one of my companions. I don't know what I could to help. I think I may have seen a crack in the rocks where he must live. Hope they make it past OK. Oh well, every man for himself. I've got to remember to watch for it next time.
Wow! The speed breeze on the down hill sure does feel great today.
A truth-as-I-know-it Story
Written by: Aaron Bruce
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