By three o’ clock in the afternoon, the sun looked like it had blown a hole in the sky for its golden shards to scatter in the cloudless cerulean. It was evident by all the closed garage doors that the surrounding houses were empty when Brad and I left our house and set off on our bike ride. I naturally lead the way whenever we ride bikes, so I put my mountain bike into gear and quickly checked to make sure Brad had done the same. He had.
We ambitiously pedaled down the quiet street, avoiding parked cars and glancing around at the various yards. We’d left without having applied sun tan lotion or bringing ample water, but with us we carried the resilience of youth, and that was sufficient.
After a sharp turn, we pedaled lightly on another sparsely travelled road where sunlight caused a front yard sprinkler to look as if it were spraying quartz. I looked over at Brad, who was momentarily riding beside me. Behind the dark translucency of our sleek sunglasses, we hid our mission. Today we would go exploring the unchartered trails that veer from the bike path.
Right turn, left turn, repeat, and then we were nearly at the beginning of the bike path. Brad rode fifteen feet back from me, sipping on the tube that extended from his Camelbak, which is basically a pouch that stores water and can be sucked through a tube; this arrangement prevents the biker form having to stop and take a drink.
The bike path is smooth and paved compared to potholes and patch jobs on roads, so it was a relief to finally get there. While the ride there was flat, the next three miles were hilly, testing our leg strength and determination. Along the way we passed several intriguing characters. Most notably was a man riding a pink banana bicycle/contraption; it even had electrical rear- lights and turn signals, and was pretty spiffy, I admit.
Our chains whizzed as we coasted down a slope that led into a tall forest, feeling the cool air and bugs alike, smack us in face. Inside the forest the path is curvy so we tried to exercise care when rounding turns. Meanwhile, all around us, the sun had created the illusion that the trees, leaves and plants emitted green light. To get to the secret trails, we endured a stint in the dark tunnel of leaves, with one bright-white sun flashing us through all the clumps of branches. Back in the woods we could see a dry creek-bed with stagnant-blue water that changed to purple as we flew by, eying the next section of trail.
“When do you want to stop,” Brad said, from behind.
A little winded, I was ready for a break real soon anyway.
“How about up ahead by the bridge, where we stopped last time?”
“Alright,” he grunted.
After a few twisty turns we approached a bridge. Magnificent cobwebs were strung like tennis racquets across the huge beams. Over the bridge was the dirt trail that took us down to one of our favorite spots, “the beach,” a pebbly deposition along a slow river. We parked our bikes and walked over to the water. Brown-green ripples were pulled upriver by the summery breezes and the crooked shadow of the old railroad bridge that stretched overhead, which we crossed to get there, fell darkly on the deposit and river. Upwards, the sun hung like a neon white monkey on the wrought iron bars of the bridge. Although we didn’t get wet, we were undeniably sure soaked in the majesty, the simple serenity of a river fraught with concrete pillars and discarded construction materials, leftovers from a project.
“Want to go on the trails,” Brad asked.
I knew what he meant: the trails that veer from the normal path. Honestly, I was eager to ride them, too. But first I needed a break.
“Let’s wait a while, rest, and then ride them.”
We skipped some rocks across the river and then sat on the beach for a while. The sun baked us for a couple of minutes until the heat was as unbearable as the silence.
“Alright bro let’s do this,” I said resolutely.
“Bout time,” Brad replied.
From the beach, a few of the unmapped trails are accessible. So, we approached them. Weeds grew all around and narrowed the trail, but it was traversable and added some suspense to the ride: to us, it meant who would get poison ivy the worst?
I pedaled hard since the trail started off upwards and then forked, disappearing into the entangled greenery. I could hear sticks snapping and dirt and rocks flying behind me as our bikes rumbled over bumps.
“Everything good back there?”
“Yeah just fine,” Brad said sarcastically.
“Let’s go right up here. I’ve never been this way.”
We took a right. Suddenly I saw a mound of dirt ahead. It was a makeshift ramp right in the middle of the path. To me, what I saw was a challenge. I pedaled furiously and gained speed. As I neared the ramp, to my shock, I noticed there was a landing portion, with space between. Even with speed I didn’t make the jump. My front tire went over the ramp and dove into a hole behind it, causing me to flip over the handle bars and complete a clumsy somersault on the landing side. I heard brakes squeak behind me as I stopped rolling and slowly got up, a little embarrassed by my clumsiness. Brad stood back about five yards, with a confused look on his face.
“Ya ok?” he asked.
“Ya … maybe I should follow you.”