Compromise is a hard trail to ride

There’s one perfect day each fall when a light breeze is just enough to loosen colorful leaves from their summertime perches and send them fluttering to the ground through bars of golden sunlight. That was today — before I ruined everything.

I made the mistake of thinking someone else would enjoy my kind of mountain biking as much as I do. When will I learn?

We drove to a place in a nearby town where an old silo is crumbling in weeds next to the road. A trail used by ATVs runs past it, through a field and and into the woods. As soon as we had our bikes off the car and orange “don’t shoot me” vests on, I was completely engrossed in the experience, zipping around the looping path across a hillside and down along a stone wall. Nirvana! But at the bottom of the hill there was a bit of mud. A lot of mud, actually, because (so cool!) we’d found an old mill dam that held back a swampy pond with multiple great blue heron nests in the trees. That’s when I heard doubt creeping into Mike’s voice (not cool!).

“Are you sure we can get through there? We could go back and ride on some of those back roads instead,” he suggested (sounding hopeful that I’d change my mind).

not Mike's idea of a fun place to ride

not Mike’s idea of a fun place to ride

I was sure there would be amazing trails beyond the mud, so I skipped ahead, crossed some railroad tracks and tempted Mike to follow me into the woods beyond. He was hesitant. He said he’d give me 20 minutes to explore this area because he had somewhere to be tonight, he didn’t want to get lost in the woods…. he knew better than to follow me but he did.

The trails looped, followed old walls and tumbled over rocks on big hills. I was in heaven, he was being tolerant. “This has to loop back to that field where we started,” I told him, taking off in yet another direction, following rarely-used dirt bike tracks that were buried in a month’s worth of autumn leaves. He went along with it again for a little while but finally called my bluff, telling me we had to turn back because we had no idea where the trail we were on would go. He was right, but… God, I hate to turn around, to purposely find my way out of the woods when the afternoon  promised many more hours of golden sunlight and peaceful woods and fun exploration. But I knew it was time to be a grown up and turn around. I didn’t want one afternoon to poison an otherwise great relationship.

Oftentimes when I’m mountain biking I find the zone and enjoy it so thoroughly that my mind wanders through a strange playlist of music, maybe starting with something I heard in the car and veering around my memories to bump against anything from Van Halen to Lyle Lovett to Joanie Mitchell. Today my subconscious was kicking in and the playlist included a lot of breakup songs as I watched Mike sullenly push his bike over stone walls and up big hills. He wasn’t noticing the majestic pine grove we were in, the massive stone walls or commenting on the warmth of this November afternoon. Did I really want to be singing along with Kelly Clarkson on “Since U Been Gone” or Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know”?

We eventually found the way back to the mud hole, back up the hills to the old silo and… to a nice, paved suburban neighborhood where he could enjoy a ride without worrying about ticks or hunters or getting lost and missing his engagement tonight. That’s fine, I thought, he’s going to be busy the next few days and I can ride to my heart’s content … alone.

that's okay, I'll get my fill of riding with my GF* when you're not around, honey *Gary Fisher

that’s okay, I’ll get my fill of riding with my GF* when you’re not around, honey
*Gary Fisher


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