Haha! Still on the run from the proper authorities. I’ve covered considerable distance on my fat tired steed. Considerable. For all you “investigators” out there…if I were you I’d widen the search from about 78 miles out to about 450 miles; a nice big concentric circle. Yeah, I’d stop looking close to my house. Obviously I’ve gotten pretty far afield and there’s no use looking near home. And I haven’t been going in to work either, nor composing these blog posts from my office computer.
In fact, I was at Skullbuster yesterday. That’s a long way from home. I didn’t think anyone would look for me in rural Scott County. I evaded capture long enough to sample the fine riding to be had in the woods between Stamping Ground and Sadieville and to put my get-a-way bike through its paces.
Skullbuster. My father-in-law once (or twice) called it “Skullcracker” and that immediately invoked my movie quoting Rain Mania. I’ve never been able to think about the Scott County MTBing area without hearing the voice of fictional principal Richard Vernon saying: “The next time I have to come in here I’m crackin’ skulls!”
For the most part I had the place to myself, which was good, because I didn’t want to get caught for stealing the Krampus and cracking Jack’s skull. I saw one guy in the parking lot airing up a tire, but I bolted before he could get a good description, flinging up dust and detritus in his face as I tore away down the narrow paved road toward the trail with only a look over my shoulder that said: “Don’t mess with the bull young man, you’ll get the horns.”
I then had the entire trail system to myself until I was almost back at the end of my ride when I passed two jersey guys heading in. They startled me like non-poisonous snakes in the trail. I scowled inwardly knowing they were going to crush my Strava record for the day. It’s okay, I plowed both of them off the trail, and last I heard they were screaming as they tumbled down into a briar-choked ravine. That’s one ruckus I don’t want to describe, sir.
Anyway, I really liked Skullbuster. The character and scenery are constantly changing as you ride through heavy understory, open forest, hardwood and evergreen stands, open fields, along streambeds and over undulating and varied terrain. The one common thread through the whole system is the trail surface. Skullbuster is a rocky, rooty place where my speed could find no purchase. The trail is fraught with roots throughout. It’s frictive properties slowed me down to a 13 hour Leadville pace.
Also in abundance are tight squeezes between trees; pinch points where there is the distinct danger of busting your knuckles for certain, and potentially your skull as well if you don’t clean them precisely. Since the Krampus has such wide bars I had to cut most of them down to fit through, so you are welcome.
One thing Skullbuster also has in spades is trail ambiance…maybe you could call it trail culture. The signs and icons along the way make the ride more than interesting. At the Blue Loop junction there is a skull. I don’t think it was human, but it could have been from one of those people characterized as “horse-nosed” I guess. I might have been besettled with dread at the stark brutality of a cracked up skull on the side of the trail, except, in my newly attained status of “hardened criminal” and potentially “armed and dangerous” (It’s only legal in two states, and this ain’t one of them) I waved a hand dismissively and pedaled on through the Blair Witch-esque landscape.
Then there is the “Skullbuster” mailbox. What I’ve heard is that the name comes from a local church where the lintel of the door was so low that congregants often cracked their crowns. Of course that could be bunk to disguise the real danger to mountain bikers who ride without helmets.
Signs are posted to let you know about sights along the way—the names of ponds, a cemetery, and my favorite: the “hog waller.” Of course, I would have called it the “hog wallop” if I had made the sign. Wouldn’t I be outstanding in that capacity?
The cowbell hanging from a low branch over the trail was a nice touch. Clangy goodness always inspires cyclists to ride faster. I had plenty of motivation to ride fast as Roscoe and Flash were in hot pursuit. Well, probably.
Speaking of…about 8 miles into my ride I started thinking about how I used to seek out trails like this as a kid on my steel framed banana-seat tankcycle. I remember bombing down a path through the weeds in a huge field out beyond the suburb where we lived in Ohio. The local kids called it the “Dukes of Hazzard Trail.” At some point the developer had excavated flat homesites on a long downhill grade. We rode across those, dropping down 3 to 4 feet at the edge of every lot. Then you could turn around and climb back up to the ragged street end of our neighborhood. When I was a freshman in high school they finally built out that neighborhood. Back in those days I sought out scrappy dirt trails to wrestle, like a wee Andrew Clarke (not that one!) efficiently tackling a roughshod hoodlum John Bender. But ‘ware the surprise switchblade of inattention. As a kid I went down, breath effectively knocked out of me, more often than I care to recount. Never a busted skull though…
I hit a stride somewhere beyond mile six or so. I was finally comfortable rolling over the roots, whipping through the tight spaces, and staving off my weariness with growls of determination. The trail stretched long. I was racing the definition of “long lunch” (truth be told, I’ve not been on the lam at all, that was a complete and total fabrication designed to throw off the scent of my true demented and sad, but social sin of playing a skotch of hooky), and I was getting a little bored with having my teeth rattled so. I like mountain biking, I do, and I like it primarily because it does jounce me around and rattle my teeth in a highly proprioceptive kind of way. But enough is enough! I hadn’t had lunch, I was desperately hungry, and it was far too warm yesterday for soup.
The world being the imperfect, screw-dropping place that it is, I had to ride myself out of my Krampus-thieving fantasy and back into the la-la land of reality. It seemed unwise at this juncture in my career to flaunt personnel policies too much. Of course, I had my “professional development” spin in my back pocket just in case.
Krampus in disguise
My mile 6 – 8 reverie deepened into a endorphin-flooded, trance-like state where I hit a state of FLOW despite the growing hollowness in my legs and the crustification of the surface of my skin (it was HOT yesterday!) and I began pondering all I’d heard about Skullbuster and filtering through my own experience with the trails. Yes, it was a rocky, rooty place. But you could get around that by finding within yourself some quintuplets of power and throwing up a ladder to their nursery-room window and snatch one. They got more than they can handle after all. Once you got that Nathan Jr of experience you could find your speed and Skullbuster would be a fantastic place to ride. FLOW was there; elusive, but present.
Ghegh was somewhat disinclined to load up the MTBs on the vehicles for the indignity of being hauled to a far-flung trailhead in Scott County, but I think it would be worthwhile to spend a good long day cracking bones there. I was fortunate enough to find myself within striking distance yesterday and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I’m glad I did. It was a painful gauge on where I’m at in relation to the Mohican (I suspect the trails there are similar) and Leadville.
So when the Dick Vernon in my brain says, concerning my potential return to the place of the skull: "You might learn a thing or two about yourself. You might even decide whether or not you'd care to return."
I say: “excuse me sir, I can answer that right now. That'd be yes.”
Happy 1,000th post!