Thursday, August 11, 2011

Playing. Again.

What happens to me when I ride my bike is a miracle, an absolute miracle, I tell you. Nothing short of. It’s like getting in a time machine. The longer I ride, the younger I feel. Seriously. When was the last time you bombed a downhill? And splashed through water at the bottom? In shorts, so the water sprinkled over your hot dusty legs? And did it fast enough to pull yourself up the other side? And flew right past a rattlesnake while you did so?

OK, well, I confess that last bit about the snake was an embellishment, but still. There is a certain element of danger in mountain biking alone on a little-used trail. I kept looking over my shoulder for mountain lions.

I hope you haven’t forgotten the exhilaration of it, how you felt as a kid, whether you were a playing-cards-in-the-spokes kind of guy, or a sedate lady pedaling her powder blue Schwinn on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

I love it so much, you’d think I would ride more often. I own a Gary Fisher Rock Hopper with gnarly tires and front suspension. OK, now you’re thinking, ‘Why don’t you ride it more often?’ I’ve been telling The Grandson for a year I would take it in to the shop, get the back tire repaired, have it tuned up. And I finally did it this week. Booyah! Of course I had to give it a test run, so I took it out to Cow Canyon and rode it out to the Secret Waterfall. (Photo below.) Didn’t see a single person on the trail. Ah, solitude.

I have a Trek hybrid, too, that I love even more than the mountain bike. On a whim the other day, I put it in the truck and drove down to Yorba Linda Regional Park. The Santa Ana River bike trail begins east of the park, but you can park inside for a nominal fee and hit the trail from the park’s perimeter. It’s a fascinating experience. The trail runs along the Santa Ana River as it trundles along to the sea. (And you can ride the bike trail all the way to the ocean; it’s only about 20 miles from the park in Yorba Linda.) What’s amazing is what you see. In the distance, there’s the 91 freeway. Not interesting at all—though the morning of my ride, traffic was backed up for miles, moving at a snail’s pace, and I couldn’t stifle the urge to chuckle and gloat. Bad karma, I know, but having been in that spot so many times, I couldn’t suppress the joy of not being there on a cool, sunlit morning as I rolled along the asphalt trail above the river.

And on the river were seabirds. I saw snowy egrets first. “Wow,” I said aloud. “Snowy egrets!” Then I saw a heron. And a cormorant. “No way!” I said aloud. “A cormorant!” And a sandpiper. And a plover, hovering over the water, then diving in for something delectable. The grandest sight of all was the Great Blue Heron. They are huge, and so majestic, standing in the shallow water, beaks poised, ready to strike as soon as they see a crawdad or snake or anything else edible. I stopped when I saw the first one. And I stopped when I saw the second one about a mile further on. And then I stopped stopping and stopped counting and just got happier every time I saw another one. For a long time, the Great Blues were endangered, and were a rare sight in California, a very rare sight in SoCal. But they’ve decided to make a comeback. Yes, I know we dirty up the air and the water, and it’s so dang noisy what with the cars everywhere, but Southern California is still a nice place to live. So… thanks for staying, I want to tell them. Instead I just smile and pedal away.