It’s warm in the house, but there’s a sliver of cold that I can’t quite rub out. I sip coffee brewed at home, from beans I’ve ground by hand, in a stoneware mug with a mountain biker pressed into the glaze. I’m going to be sad if that mug ever breaks.
I can see that the air outside is cold and damp. I sip a little more coffee as I anticipate my forthcoming ride. I need some things from town, and I’ll take the cargo bike.
I can see my breath as I ready the bike. Then I’m off down the quiet street toward the center of town. There’s a hill, but it helps to warm me up so I don’t mind. I hit the post office, the bakery, the used book store, and then the grocery.
With a few essentials and the promise of an evening wrapped around a book of new pages I return home on the bike. As I cross a bridge over the creek snow begins falling in spits. My cheeks are freezer-burned. My ride is almost over, but I want an excuse to keep going. Maybe I’ll pull out the mountain bike and head down along the creek after I put away my things at home.
Biketopia. It’s out there somewhere. It’s not here. Here is home in Stanton. Here is at work in Lexington. Biketopia is elusive to me. Stanton lacks some key desirable amenities which I’ve alluded to above. It lacks a culture, a thriving heart, and it fails to deliver on even the simplest of expectations. I’m working on changing that. And there are others, too.
Alright, I guess I’ve been wallowing for too long. I need to come up with a silver lining to riff on. Let me tell you about my backyard project.
The Chainring family holdings were at one time rather vast. According to my best (though terribly inaccurate) calculations it seems as if Grampaw and Grammaw had 200 acres of bottom land and forest at one time centered around their old two story farmhouse which is now inhabited by my second cousin and her husband.
The land has been divided up between my great-grandparents’ children (6 total) and grandchildren (like, a gazillion). I think I may be the only great-grandchild (33 gazillion of us) that owns a portion of the old homestead. Well, I know of one other cousin that might own a piece. Not 100% sure.
|Chainring Ancestors. Grampaw Chainring is in the middle on the left|
Anyway, Grampaw Chainring sold off only small portions of the original plot; but one significant part was the upper slopes of the ridge behind our house. My dad says the rest of the family wasn’t happy about this. Just as an aside, that parcel once contained an orchard that drew people from as far away as Lexington.
If the family still owned that part I would have access to some fine mountain biking territory. As it is the current owner seems to be a rabid hunter and definitely doesn’t like the fact that he has neighbors at all. Not likely he’d grant me permission to ride on his land.
But to the southwest only a few measly yards from where I currently live is another 30 wooded acres that was inherited by three of my second cousins—sisters—who most likely don’t have an interest in inhabiting the property. Two live out of town and the other is quite settled with her family in town. They did have the property logged a few years ago, and for the most part the holler is intact with little ecological damage.
I asked the local cousin for permission to ride on the land and she gave me her blessing. This fall I got in there and worked on a network of rideable trails utilizing those old roads, some natural benches, and short sections of cut trail. It’s not finished, but winter is the best time for this kind of work.
While this doesn’t satisfy my desire to see a public mountain bike park in my home county it does satisfy some of my trailbuilding urges and the desire to have some decent dirt riding that I can hit from my back door. It also satisfies my need to one-up the Mozhican. While he has some fine quality riding in an amazing setting, he also lives a few miles away beyond a significantly steep climb and almost an hour of rolling terrain. It’s good to have trails close by.
There is also another development gurgling in the background. Hundreds of acres of potential mountain biking…I’ve mentioned it before, but refrained from divulging too much. I’ll continue refraining; but hopefully not too much longer.
The first passage of this post is pure fiction. Well, three things are fiction: 1) the bakery, my town has no bakery; 2) the used book store; and 3) a mountain bike trail by the creek. These things are not alien to my hometown. They’ve just vanished over time. I remember a bakery. I remember buying used comic books in town. And I remember riding my banana seat bike along the creek ages ago, before other Chainrings sold off the entire bottomland for a subdivision.
There is the Mozhican Mountain Bike Park and Flea Market. Jefe chides me for looking elsewhere to fulfill my mountain biking obsession when he has two miles of trails on his property right freakin’ now. He’s right. They’re good trails. It’s only ten miles from my house to his on winding roads over relentless rollers. What better training could I get? It’s all training after all.
I’m greedy. I want trails within a stone’s throw of my back door and I want dozens of miles of them. I’m just greedy. And I see potential everywhere.
[This is a robotic post from last week as I am attending the SOAR Summit in Pikeville today. I hope to have a transportation related write-up from the summit upon my triumphant return to the District.]