Sarah and Hans, our spring camping partners at Pilot Mountain let us know they would be camping at Lake Norman State Park with their two girls, Reagan and Quinn, at the end of August and wondered if we’d like to join them. We jumped on the opportunity so Hans went ahead and reserved a couple of campsites for the group. Lake Norman is a great weekend camping location as it sits just northwest of Mooresville, about 40 minutes from home depending on the traffic, making it very convenient to access after work on a Friday.
Joanna and I left late in the afternoon, missing the worst of the traffic on I-77 exiting the interstate to make our way through the small town of Troutman and on to the park, about five miles away. We arrived at the campground and in short time were set up and ready for whatever the weekend might bring. We’d brought spaghetti sauce from a prior meal at home and combined with some refrigerated ravioli from the deli case, it made a fine meal as we sipped wine from our Tervis cups in order to circumvent the ban on alcohol in the park.
Sarah and Hans arrived with the girls just before dark and we all pitched in to get their tent set up and the campsite in order. We spent the evening around a small campfire, the conversation drifting over numerous topics as it often does in camp. Hans and I planned a bike ride early in the morning so we didn’t stay up too late, hitting the sack at a reasonable hour.
He and I took off the next morning for our ride. Hans likes to mountain bike and our destination was the Monbo Trail whose trailhead is a short distance from the Visitor’s Center parking lot. I haven’t done any mountain biking since our days in Los Angeles many years ago and I had my cross bike (Lemond Poprad) with me, not my mountain bike (Bontrager), but I was game to give it a go. We rode out of camp the mile or so it took us to get to the trailhead, with a detour to the Visitor Center having missed it the first time around as the sign points in the opposite direction.
My only goal for the eleven some miles we would do was to get back to camp safely. Faithful readers of this blog are aware of my penchant for crashing this particular bike in exotic locales (Seville, Munich, etc.) and this trail, while rated easy from a mountain biking perspective was plenty technical for me, especially given that the Poprad does not have a front shock. It was tricky riding, lots of short ups and downs on a trail liberally studded with exposed tree roots and given his more experienced handling of his bike, Hans easily pulled ahead of me.
I was managing the ride well, dodging numerous crash worthy scenarios (watch out for that tree) when less than a mile from the end of the trail I took a corner a bit fast, lost my back wheel and while it slid our from underneath me got dumped to the left of the trail, head first down an embankment covered in a cushiony floor of duff. With the soft landing, no injuries ensued but I was faced with the challenge of how to get upright with gravity pulling me headfirst downhill. Like a turtle lying on its back I struggled with this elementary exercise in overcoming gravity, but eventually figured it out, got upright on the trail and continued on down the trail.
I was a little spooked now and so became focused on riding cleanly to the finish, hopefully not too far ahead. As I approached a short steep incline hit the crest, I ran into a large tree root, the front fork taking the full force of the impact, wrenching the tire to the left, pushing the bike to the right, and pitching me off again, this time onto my right side, headfirst into another patch of duff. This one though contained a number of small branches and sticks and I caught a couple of scratches, one under my right eye and a long one on my right arm. I again pulled myself together, checked the bike for damage, climbed back on board and rode out to me Hans at the end of the trail. I’d noticed blood on my arm but it wasn’t until I could see the look on his face as I approached that I knew I must have looked like a disaster.
The ride back to camp went quickly enough, adrenaline helping me make short work of it. Once back, Joanna and I set about trying to clean me up, a struggle at first as my daily regimen of low dose aspirin slows the clotting of blood. We eventually got it under control and once tidied up, realized that the damage wasn’t as noticeable as it had first been. My body though would convince me otherwise in the following days as it would remind me that guys over 60 shouldn’t be crashing their bikes, even in soft dirt.
With an afternoon full of planned activities, we changed clothes and prepared for the fun to come. I looked forward to just about anything that wouldn’t involve crashing into duff. We’d see what new adventures awaited.
Lake Norman State Park: http://www.ncparks.gov/lake-norman-state-park
Monbo Trail Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk_CIOuPkD8
Bontrager Race-Lite: http://adventure-journal.com/2015/03/the-daily-bike-behind-the-cult-of-bontrager/