Don't Kiss an Elephant on the Lips Today
Mountain biking is like chicken soup for the urban cyclist. You might hit a tree, but the trees seldom hit you. Nor do they honk, scream, gesture wildly or cut you off. They sure as hell never drive up on the sidewalk after you.
Another appealing thing about mountain biking—especially within the city limits—is that you never know who or what you’ll find in the woods. Sure, the streets are filled with far more opportunities for road swag, but there’s something about the cover of foliage that causes people to get clumsy and reckless. Concomitantly, you could find a pair of sunglasses, or run across a bum shitting on a tree stump. Latent homosexuals leave behind remnants of their first encounters, and of course drug addicts make regular use of every city park in the nation. And you know what they say—only users lose drugs.
Buddy hits the beginning of the trail like a man possessed, gliding over the root section in anticipation of the impending drop. Stone cold sober, he’s suddenly pitched into the classic “yard sale” position, with his chin taking a divot out of the loamy trail surface and his bike splayed out to his left. I contain my laughter and roll down to help him up when I see his nose is just inches away from the end of a rainbow—so to speak. The plastic sandwich bag’s tightly knotted around a golf ball sized lump of plant matter, and the discarded cigar wrapper leaves no question as to the schwag’s authenticity. Though neither one of us cares a whole lot for the stuff these days, it’s decided that I’m more likely to put it to good use and I shove it in my pocket before taking the lead down the trail.
Buddy and I are pounding a few cold post-ride beers when my old roommate calls from the bar. It’s not everyday that I hear from old Wild Bill, and it doesn’t make me the least bit sad that he’s just calling to see if I can find him some fresh oregano.
“You’re in luck,” I inform him, and we settle on meeting for a beer after having one for the road. After another tough day on the trail, the slow, fuzzy road ride across town is like massage therapy for my throbbing legs. Against my better judgment I help Wild Bill test the herb’s quality out on his front porch. Buddy just looks on, contentedly knocking back another can of PBR.
We hatch a plan to take a joyride through Henry Park and then through the cemetery. I stuff our last three beers in my messenger bag and inform Wild Bill that he’s leading—him being the former professional cyclist and all. Unfortunately he takes his riding a little too seriously sometimes, and within ten minutes of entering the park I’ve lost sight of his blinking light. I keep looking back to see Buddy grimacing up the climbs, and I regret not taking the lead myself, if only to slow things down a little.
We reach the very top of the park, and with our fearless leader nowhere to be seen we bomb the hill at mach speed, hoping to regroup for a beer break. We reach the bottom and there’s still no sign of Wild Bill. Calling his cell phone ends up being a waste of time, so we turn around and climb back up to the top of the park. Unsuccessful, we turn tail near the very top and decide to go for pizza and beer. Thank God there’s a place in Sunnyside that serves both until 4:00am, because I’ve got a serious case of the munchies.
I get a text message shortly after noon, “I wrecked pretty bad last night.”
I suddenly feel like the world’s biggest asshole—I was cursing Wild Bill up and down last night for ditching us on the ride. I’d assumed he got tired of waiting for our slow, half-drunken asses and headed off to chase skirts at some Sunnyside watering hole. As it turns out, one of those rare vindictive trees stepped out of the dark and clocked Wild Bill right in the nose. I stop at the store on the way to his house and cram as much comfort food as I can fit into my messenger bag. He comes to the door and it’s all I can do to keep my jaw from hitting the porch. A jumble of butterfly bandages, stitches, cuts and bruises runs from his hairline to his chin.
In the interest of kindness I tell a ball face lie, “You don’t really look that bad.”
It’s hard to look him in the eye. Thankfully we’re both more than happy to keep our eyes on the television while we replay the previous night’s events. I apologize profusely with each subsequent beer I pull from his fridge, and when I ride home after midnight, I do so very, very slowly.