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July 24, 2004

A bit of wanderlust seeped its way into my ride today. Rather than doing my usual circuit, I set out on an exploratory journey across Walnut Creek. There are fifteen miles of trails weaving through the park, and I have not even come close to exploring all of them. So across the creek I went.

And which point I noticed that everything seemed to be uphill. Well duh, I WAS riding AWAY from a body of water, towards which the ground slopes. So I ride around for a bit, and then find this side trail that turns into a REALLY STEEP DESCENT. And nasty, criss-crossed by roots the whole way. Nothing long, maybe thirty or forty feet, but certainly treacherous. Being the balls-to-the-wall sort that I am, I walked my bike down it. I’m used to crashing, but have no real desire to experience my first OTB (over the bars) just yet. Of course, just as I get to flat ground, a biker comes off the trail to the left and up the hill. I feel like a tool.

Gathering myself, I turn right off the trail which jumps me up another steep, though smooth, hill. Back to the path I was on before. Curious where that rider came from, I turn back and go down the hill I just came up. The path winds and then descends precipitously before emerging on the limestone bank of the creek. I slow to a stop and then figure “what the hell?” and head down. Amazingly I made it down.

After some water and a rest, I turn and look up the hill. I figure I can’t get hurt that bad if I fall while trying to get up it, so I go for it. Put the gears low, stand on the pedals, and put my weight over the bar. And I got up it! The triumph surged through my veins, and I recklessly pointed my bike for the hill I had walked down. The front tire bounced and skipped and bucked against the roots as I push my way uphill. I had a scare as the bike ran off towards the brush on an overzealous pedal, but after that I was up! Two nasty hills in a row!

After my twin triumphs I scooted around for a bit, and found my way to another side trail. Nice and simple at first, but growing nastier. Lots of sharp undulations. I stop on top of one, and then shrug my shoulders and decide to go for it. I make it, and push on. The undulations turn to undulations with rocks. I make those. And then the rocks start to climb. There are ledges. Nothing my bike and my pumping legs can’t handle, though. I get tossed around every so often as my pedals ground out on the rocks beneath me (bikes have terrible breakover angles), but I keep going, look up, and see that I still have something like two hundred yards to go. I wanted to keep pushing, but by this point my lungs were on fire. My legs were at their breaking point. I’ve gained a lot of strength in the past few weeks, but this was far beyond my abilities. Pissed off, spitting mad, and disappointed, I clambered off my bike and gulped down my water, hoping my heart wouldn’t explode in my chest. But at least now I have a new goal. I WILL conquer that hill. Which, I found out later, is aptly named the “Hill of Despair”.

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