Mountain Biking

By Matthew Botos

My brother Dave gets the credit for getting me into this one; prodding me back in high school to get our bikes out of the garage. Riding in South Jersey didn’t offer a whole lot, so we took some fun trips up to Mercer County Park in North Jersey. In college, biking was my Saturday morning escape to the trails in Shindagin Forest outside of Ithaca, NY. Now, it’s a regular passion and occasional excuse to travel far and wide in search of good dirt.

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Let It Run

Once I got my car up to school sophomore year, I was geared up for plenty of riding now that I had transportation. I also had plenty of time, since I had returned early for orientation. I had been hitting the local trails like a banshee for about two weeks, when another perfect Saturday found me out on the dirt.

I had just finished the initial uphill segment and was descending a nice, rock-strewn downhill stretch. After carefully picking my way down, I decided to “let it run” the last twenty feet. Two seconds later, as I augered into the ground, I decided it wasn’t such a hot idea. My left side was a bit sore and dirt-covered as I got up to shake it off and walk over to the stream to wash the dirt off.

As I cleaned myself up, I discovered that among the rest of the road rash on my left forearm was a good inch and a half long, half inch wide gash that had gotten stuffed with dirt. Cleaned that out as best I could and continued the remaining 2/3 of the ride with minimal bleeding.

Once I got home, my rig got a bath and then I got one. The cut, now thoroughly cleaned, still looked like it might need stitches. My residence hall director (I was living in the Cornell Townhouses at the time) was an EMT, so I took it to him. He, in turn, called up his on-duty buddies at the EMS, who came over, cleaned it out some more, wrapped it up, and offered me a ride to hospital to get it looked at. The ER in Ithaca is about as lively as the rest of the town, so it didn’t take too many eons of waiting before someone came in to stitch me up.

Between taking a little time to heal and going away the following weekend, I missed two weeks of riding, but soon returned to clean the same section I had wrecked on. The wound has healed up nicely, not leaving too much of a scar, though there’s enough there to concoct plenty of stories about my killer wipeout running the Kamikaze…

Are We There Yet?

Another one of my Ithaca-area riding adventures was a group ride that refused to end. We had gone out to Shindagin, about a half-dozen of us, led by a guy from the local bike shop. The ride of the day was the “Chair Trail”, so named for a rusty old office chair that sat trailside at one point. Not having ridden this one before, I was following the group’s lead and was well off the back, taking time to enjoy the scenery (likely excuse…)

Went by the chair and took a few forks when I started to wonder why I hadn’t caught up to the group yet. No sound or sight of them, I rode on a little more, and then started backtracking through the tree of forks I had taken. That became futile after a while, so I started to make my way towards the sounds of traffic at the base of the hill.

Easier said than done, of course; the closest thing to a path was something of a trail/ fireroad that had long been overgrown. After a cominbination of riding, bushwacking, and cursing my lack of a GPS unit, I popped out across a field from the road. Once on the road, I toured the country roads of upstate New York before finally giving in and asking for directions. Some miles of backtracking later, I was on course once again.

Got back to familiar sights; I was at least five miles out on the approach to the trailhead. Along the road, I ran into the bulk of the group ride, now heading back to town in a pickup. They told me the leader, Ed, was still out looking for me, so I continued onto my car, where Ed returned while I was recovering from my long and unexpected road ride. He was quite glad to see me; after covering the trail numerous times, he was about to call the state police to start a serious hunt for me. We tried retracing my route and determined I had just managed to get way off course.

I’ve done plenty of group rides since with Ed and crew and managed not to get lost in the woods again. Still would be nice to have a GPS on my handlebars, though. If only I could find room for it in the budget…

More recent stories are in the biking section.

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